Superman is famous for his boundless optimism, however, after the Justice League disbands, even the Man of Steel is nearing his limits.
Warning: contains spoilers for Justice League: Last Ride #1
In DC Comics, Superman might as well be the physical embodiment of hope, but a new comic reveals that even he loses hope without the Justice League backing him up. Though the loss of key friendships and partnerships is a major factor, the real reason the League matters so much to the Man of Steel is much more practical than ideological.
The Justice League’s last adventure begins in Justice League: Last Ride by Chip Zdarsky and Miguel Mendonca. This alternate universe is a world where the Justice League disbanded after a mission ended with Martian Manhunter’s death. As a result of this, Superman has been running himself absolutely ragged, constantly abandoning domestic life with Lois Lane to handle crisis after crisis. Though each individual League member still appears to be an active crime fighter, they don’t unite, leaving wold ending threats entirely in the hands of Superman. Privately, to Lois, Superman explains how tired he is, and how he’s reaching his limits. That’s why it’s almost a relief to him when John Stewart summons all former League members to the Justice League Watchtower.
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Superman is relieved to meet Flash and Wonder Woman, happy to see his old comrades, though the tone changes significantly when Batman arrives. It’s not initially clear exactly what happened, but Batman and Superman both seem to blame the other for Martian Manhunter’s death. Once best friends, Superman and Batman are reduced to petty bickering until John arrives. He and a few other Green Lanterns show up to make an offer to the League. The Green Lantern Corps has been in shambles, but if they can protect a captured Lobo until he can stand trial for killing the New Gods, then they’ll earn enough respect to reestablish themselves. Hal Jordan says that their goal is to rebuild the Corps with Earth as their focal point, making them the Earth’s protectors. Batman initially refuses, leaving the meeting immediately. A desperate Superman arrives in the Batcave though and convinces Batman to help. But Superman may just want to hold back on hope, as Batman reveals that he wants to hide Lobo on Apokolips.
Despite Superman’s nearly limitless power, his biggest weakness is his inability to be everywhere at once. This is one of the reasons that the Justice League is so important, not just to Superman, but to Clark Kent. There is always some disaster going on in the world, and the Justice League ensures that there will always be at least one hero to save the day. Without the League, each hero is relegated to protecting their own home cities, every hero except for Superman that is.
Superman being tired of constantly protecting the Earth is hardly a new concept. Countless comics have explored the concept, whether it’s DC’s Superman or another universe’s pastiche. What Justice League: Last Ride shows though is that this drive to save all of humanity isn’t inherent to Superman. The Justice League are some of Superman’s best friends, but they’re also Superman’s only way of ever having any time off.
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