By Jarrod Jones. It has been nearly an entire year since DC Comics kicked off its highly successful Rebirth initiative — and it’s bent over backwards to make sense out of the murky Superman canon along the way.
Now that the definitive Superman lore has finally been settled upon — think of all the events from 1986 to today that sold particularly well and connect the dots to now — we can finally sit back and thrill to the adventures of Superman. Like we’re supposed to!
This week saw Dan Jurgens and Patch Zircher unleash “Revenge” on Action Comics with a newly-minted Superman Revenge Squad. (That ought to inspire either reverence or an eye-roll from ardent Superman fans, considering the myriad forms this team has taken since it was first introduced to the lore back in Action Comics #287 in 1962.) With its roster filled to the brim with A-list Super-heavies (and also Blanque), all of whom can boast a serious beef with the Man of Steel, this all-new Revenge Squad promises to put a serious hurtin’ on Action.
Let’s take a look at Action Comics #979. Needless to say, big time spoilers ahead.
Action Comics #979
Written by Dan Jurgens.
Art by Patch Zircher.
Colors by Hi-Fi.
Letters by Rob Leigh.
Revenge, Rebirthed. “Revenge” seeks to do a couple of things. First, it’s set out to re-establish the bullpen of Superman’s A-list villains, and it’s calling out the real heavies: Mongul, Metallo, the Eradicator… each character on their own would be an Omega-level threat to Superman’s overall happiness. Together you can almost hear the thunder of their steps coming off the pages.
Second, and perhaps most promisingly, the storyline looks like it’s going to install Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman, as the primary nemesis for Superman (and perhaps the wider DCU) for the foreseeable future. That’s a damn fine thing, considering that in the Superman books there remains a Lex Luthor-sized hole where a supervillain ought to be.
The potential for Henshaw to become the DC Universe’s very own Doctor Doom has been there from the very start: following the death of Superman back in ’92, Henshaw stole Superman’s identity to earn public trust — he even went so far as convincing President Clinton that he was the genuine article — only to destroy Coast City in a sinister plot to turn Earth into a newly-forged Warworld. All for revenge against Superman. That’s a special kind of megalomania.
He even turned Mongul into his own rabid dog while he was at it. The image of Mongul subjugated under Henshaw back in Superman #80 is beautifully recaptured in this issue by artist Patch Zircher, who payed brilliant homage to the Dan Jurgens/Brett Breeding original splash page from 1993. So Henshaw’s back, and Rebirth or no Rebirth, there is revenge to be had. Hopefully Jurgens (and DC) see the worth in turning Henshaw into a Darkseid-level threat, because he’s earned it.
Squad Woes. The Superman Revenge Squad has taken some peculiar forms in the 55 years they’ve been bombing around the Superman books. Created in 1962, the original Revenge Squad was comprised of an armada of alien warlords who had found their world-conquering ambitions stymied by Superman at one time or another. (Some of these beings were defeated when Superman was Superboy, a particular indignity that is both worth noting and hilarious.) Organizing originally on the planet Wexr II, the Squad spread throughout the cosmos, uniting really crummy people who wanted nothing more than to get theirs over Earth’s greatest superhero.
Equally peculiar were the original Squad’s methods. They used covert means in combating the hero, exposing Superman to Red Kryptonite radiation to inspire nightmares, and later hypnotizing him into becoming a massive dick to his adopted homeworld. In his warped mindset, Superman destroyed the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Sphinx, and even moved the Moon out of orbit, which cased tidal waves and a calamity over in Atlantis. (All this just to, and I’m quoting here, “humiliate Superman beyond his endurance,” so abject humiliation turns out to be just another idea from Superman history that Zack Snyder has grossly misapplied.)
The Squad dressed in Superman’s garb with a Kryptonite ‘S’ on their chests, and all of them shaved their heads in a show of solidarity with Lex Luthor. (Some of the members had some pretty wild names: Scout 627, Dixo, Dorx, Dramx-One, Jumrox, Klakok, and let’s not forget about their leader, Rava.)
In 1997 — which was most certainly a challenging year for the Man of Steel, at least creatively — the name was adopted by Morgan Edge, who united a few D-list Super-villains and sicced them against Superman. Featuring the likes of, um *flips through DC Encyclopedia* Misa, Barrage, and also, um… Riot and Maxima, Edge wanted to permanently get rid of Superman with this laughably inadequate super-team and obviously that did not work out the way he wanted. (Edge would try this again later that same year, only this time with the Parasite in tow.)
This latest incarnation of the Squad seems pretty set in the brute strength department, and since the albino telekinetic known as Blanque is tagging along too, the need to smash Superman with an actual mountain shouldn’t be a problem. But it seems that Henshaw’s crew of ne’er-do-wells don’t just have one ace-in-the-hole (y’know, beyond their combined might), they have two.
The Oblivion Stone, which is not just something Dan Jurgens swiped from Magic: The Gathering, is a vaguely defined McGuffin that seems designed to give Henshaw absolute power over his rag-tag team of baddies — chief amongst them Zod, who has made his very loud return to the DCU in the pages of Suicide Squad, of all things. That means Action Comics is about to run into Suicide Squad, and it also means that the Superman Revenge Squad is about to become a six-man group of ludicrously over-powered proportions.
Home. Action #979 finds Lois and Clark finally returning to Metropolis for good. It’s been a long while since the Kents made the Big Apricot their home — for us readers, anyway; the post-Crisis Superman and Lois haven’t had a permanent residence in Metropolis since just before Flashpoint back in 2010. And look — I know all that got fixed after Mxyzptlk’s shenanigans in Superman Reborn, but this kinda stuff takes a second to adjust to, okay?
(Boy, you think Lois and Clark are going to have a heck of a time explaining their move to little Jonathan — spare a thought for us die-hard Superman fans when we end up explaining the Superman canon from 2011 to 2017 to our kids. Good lord.)
7 out of 10
So what did you think about the first chapter of “Revenge”? Sound off in the comments below.