Superman's 80th birthday bash doesn't exactly go off without a hitch.Image: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair (DC Comics)
Although Action Comics #1 launched in May 1938, DC Comics is celebrating 80 years of the Man of Tomorrow a little early with today's release of Action Comics #1ooo, a bumper collection of tales reminding us about why we love the last son of Krypton so much. But a future-looking tale in the issue adds a new mystery around Superman's origin.
Of course, this is nothing new when it comes to detailing how Krypton perished and an infant named Kal-El came to Earth. After all, 80 years is a long time, and part of the reason why Superman has endured over three quarters of a century's worth of adventures is that he has grown and evolved as a character over those years, as beautifully illustrated in Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Alejandro Sanchez, and Tom Napolitano's story in the anthology, "Never-Ending Battle."
Frankly, it's one of only a handful of stories in Action Comics #1000 that does something relatively interesting with the celebratory retrospective nature of this special issue - wildly, DC already released the far-and-away best story in the issue, Tom King, Clay Mann, Jordie Bellaire, and John Workman's "Of Tomorrow," over a month ago.
Superman meets a new foe in Action Comics #1000.Image: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair (DC Comics)
But Superman has also lasted so long because of fresh twists and takes on his own past, modifying it and adding layers of mystery to keep the age-old tale of a dying world and a little boy in a rocket still as fascinating as it was back in 1938.
The latest attempt at that shows up in the final story in Action Comics #1000, a preview of what's to come now that Brian Michael Bendis has taken on writing duties for the Man of Steel after he surprisingly jumped ship from Marvel late last year.
Featuring art by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair, and lettering by Cory Petit, "The Truth" sees Superman and Supergirl confronted by an unknown assailant, one that is more than happy to knock the pair about like they're not some of the strongest people in the DC multiverse.
Clark actually spends more than half of the issue knocked unconscious, while Kara battles the unseen foe and, weirdly enough, two civilians caught up in the fray drag Clark's unconscious body to safety to, err, discuss the return of his red underwear.
Priorities, ladies, please!Image: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair (DC Comics)
But when Clark wakes up and rejoins the fight, we finally get a look at who this powerful new threat is. And, if said threat is to be believed, they may not be that "new" — they have apparently hated and killed Kryptonians for a very long time.
The assailant is a hulking alien named Rogol Zaar, who reveals that it wasn't a natural disaster that wiped Krypton out of existence: He did.
Say hello to Rogol Zarr, the scourge of Krypton.Image: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair (DC Comics)
Zaar has apparently then spent the years since taking out Kryptonian survivors, "cleansing" the galaxy of their "plague" as he dramatically puts it to Superman as he bores a gaping hole in Clark's chest.
That's all we get, outside of a promise to learn more in Bendis' upcoming Man of Steel series, but once again, 80 years on, the real reasons behind the death of Krypton have been changed again. That is, if Zaar really is as sinister as he claims to be.