How Deadly Should Superman Be?

In this month's issue of "Justice League," the Kryptonian hero of the comic book apparently follows the example set by the controversial climax of "Man of Steel."
DC Entertainment
In this month's issue of "Justice League," the Kryptonian hero of the comic book apparently follows the example set by the controversial climax of "Man of Steel."

The climactic battle in Man of Steel proved to be particularly divisive for many longtime comic book fans, with some going as far as to say that the Superman on show in Zack Snyder and David Goyer's movie wasn't the real thing because of certain choices the character made that the comic book incarnation would find some way to avoid. In a comic released Wednesday, DC Entertainment appears to have entered into the debate, albeit accidentally.

Warning: Go no further unless you're okay with being spoiled for not only Man of Steel, but also today's Justice League #22. Seriously, plot reveals lie ahead for both.

For those upset with Man of Steel, one particular element stood out as ringing untrue: Namely, that Superman would kill someone. Screenwriter David Goyer has already revealed that DC was initially against that latter decision, but as today's Justice League by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis demonstrates, the company isn't above having Superman kill for its own purposes.

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To be fair, when Superman kills new hero -- yes, hero, Superman is killing other good guys now -- Doctor Light in the issue, it's clear that something isn't right. He reacts with confusion, saying "N-No … I didn't mean to … What have I done?" while a mysterious villain all but twirls an imaginary mustache as he tells himself/the readers, "Thanks to me, everyone will actually believe that Superman's killed Doctor Light." But even with those two potential Get Out of Murderer Jail Free cards, the fact seemingly remains: To the world at large -- both in the DC Universe and in the real world of Justice League readers -- Superman just blew up some guy's head with his heat vision.

The idea of a mind-controlled, murderous Superman is nothing new, of course; less than a decade ago, the "Sacrifice" storyline that ran through the various Superman and Wonder Woman comics of the time centered around that very thing. In the past, Superman has killed willingly, if reluctantly. The comic book version of the character even killed General Zod more than a quarter of a century before the controversial Man of Steel climax.

Given his confused, upset reaction to apparently killing Doctor Light (and, for that matter, his earlier negative response in the same issue to comments from Wonder Woman about the need to kill enemies as a matter of course), it appears that this latest killing may be headed down the same direction as that earlier comic book's Zod execution by eventually leading to a point where Superman's code against killing is ultimately reinforced through an unfortunate, horrific, experience of the alternative. But given the fan furor that greeted Man of Steel's manslaughter, is that really what fans want to see from Superman in any medium?