Superman Kills Again!--Kind Of.

Whether Superman should kill or not has been a huge topic of conversation on the Internet over the [...]


Whether Superman should kill or not has been a huge topic of conversation on the Internet over the last several weeks. In the interest of providing a spoiler warning, we have left the title of this article a little vague. We could be talking about a past Superman comic book, a Superman movie, the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game, or an upcoming comic book title. If you want to find out exactly what we're talking about, then keep reading. Odds are if you're on the Internet, then you've already been spoiled, but don't say we didn't warn you.

Superman vs Doctor Light

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Justice League #22, currently on sale digitally and available in stores in just a few hours. Spoily, spoily spoilers. Throughout the week, rumors have swirled online that the Superman of the New 52 would do something he hadn't done yet--kill somebody--in Justice League #22, as Trinity War kicks off. That somebody, many fans intuited immediately, was likely Doctor Light. A former Teen Titans villain, Light was given a "grim and gritty" reinvention in Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis, but it backfired and rather than doubling down on how menacing he is as a villain, it simply made him the most loathed villain at DC, with fans wishing he would just die and go away and each new appearance being greeted with a chorus of disapproval from Silver Age fans, feminists and a handful of other groups of fans in between.


His return in the New 52--and as a character who wasn't particularly evil, yet--has been a bit difficult to understand. Still, it's he who steps in as the battle between three Justice Leagues really starts to heat up, and who tries to take the situation in hand and keep things from escalating. Unfortunately, he also escalates the conflict beyond control, as he steps too close to Superman and his body--which absorbs and redirects light energy--reacts with the solar energy that powers the Man of Steel and involuntarily launhes an attack on Wonder Woman. To which, perhaps not surprisingly, Superman reacts poorly (as you can see both above and at right). Suddenly, the Big Picture that Geoff Johns and company have been working on for about a year begins to take shape. Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship has compromised the Justice League in a major way; while Superman was under the influence of Pandora's box, an evil put into his hands by the mysterious Outsider (as we predicted more than a month ago, by the way), it appears to the world that he basically just lashed out because somebody was mean to his girlfriend. The controversies coming off of this will be at least twofold: Superman, regardless of mitigating factors, has killed someone...and has done so shortly after Man of Steel's controversial ending (in fact, the heat vision involved here probably will become a punchline somewhere as a result of that movie). People--especially those who have spent the last month bemoaning Hollywood's need to "change" what they see as a fundamental aspect of Superman's character--will not be pleased by this development. And then, of course, there's the fact that Wonder Woman was involved. There's still a pretty healthy chunk of the fandom who aren't thrilled with the notion of Superman and Wonder Woman having a relationship to start with.


Will they be done for after this, incidentally? It seems hard to come back from, and Geoff Johns did say that it would be messy when they broke up. It's hard to say, though; again, it comes down to the fact that if Superman's not actually responsible for what he (his body?) did in this issue, making a breakup that revolves around these events and keeping it true to both characters could be difficult. In any event, Johns seems to have laid some of the groundwork for giving DC an "out" in terms of dealing with controversy, as The Outsider appears in the final pages and declares himself to have accomplished something by fooling the world into thinking Superman's a killer. How that will play out, and whether fans will forgive this first chapter once the full extent of what happened is revealed, is anyone's guess. And we've got the tantalizing message from the August solicitations that Trinity War will hinge on a Justice Leaguer's soul. Up until now, we had assumed that it would be a character who was killed, and whose soul the inter-League strike force had to recover (Catwoman was the odds-on favorite for a while, having appeared to have died). What if it's Superman's? That seems increasingly likely. And what role will Booster Gold play in all of this? It seems likely he'll be key to these events, since he vanished just as Superman and Wonder Woman became a couple and has recently reappeared in All-Star Western in time for Trinity War to begin. Coincidence? It seems unlikely.