Superman’s invulnerability has its limits, even if his heroism doesn’t, and the Man of Steel already knows a simple trick that would kill him.
Warning: contains spoilers for Superman #31 and Justice League: Last Ride #1!
There’s a foolproof and extremely ruthless plan that would send Superman to his grave, and the Man of Steel knows what it is. Death famously isn’t a stranger to Clark Kent. His violent demise at the hands of Doomsday is one of the most widely sold and controversial comic stories of all time. But there’s another, better method to take out Superman that doesn’t rely on access to a relentless Kryptonian abomination.
Post Future State, Superman has found himself in an interesting and very different new status quo. Given a peek into a possible future that doesn’t include his father, Clark’s son Jon Kent is reluctantly preparing to shoulder the mantle of Superman. And in a world where the Justice League has shattered following the death of a beloved member of the team, Superman has a newly strained relationship with Batman that’s left him with nightmares about his limits as a lone hero.
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Superman #31 by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Scott Godlewski & Justice League: Last Ride #1 by Chip Zdarsky and Miguel Mendonca illustrate a simple strategy for killing Superman. In the former, Jon Kent (still Superboy at the moment) confirms that his father would give his life to save anyone in a heartbeat. The best way to truly catch Superman off guard is to wantonly target civilians – something that’s later proven when Superman’s oldest enemy defeats him by hurling the innocents it has possessed from a cliff, forcing the Man of Steel to get in close where he can be infected by its influence. But this logic is also borne out by Justice League: Last Ride #1, which sees Superman experience a particularly bad dream. Metropolis is burning, and the Daily Planet’s signature globe falls towards Jimmy Olsen and a group of civilians below. Superman frantically flies in to catch it, only to find that the globe is packed with kryptonite.
There’s a goofy, almost comical, Looney Tunes quality to the idea of dropping a kryptonite-filled Daily Planet globe on top of Superman. But looking past the cartoonish concept, there’s a cruel efficiency. Superman always has his eye on Metropolis, and would immediately swoop in to help civilians in crisis. Using one of the greatest symbols of Clark’s life outside his caped career is downright diabolical, but would also help guarantee that he’d choose to catch and preserve the hidden weapon rather than just swooping anyone in danger out of the way. Similarly, unlike the kryptonite restraints or blades used on Clark in the past, this is a danger that no human civilian could help him escape.
Both issues paint a revealing and sad picture of Clark’s inner psychology. He truly loves and cares for every living thing and deeply fears for their safety. Superman also knows that there is an inevitability to what he does. When the villains keep coming back and the conflict never ends, there’s only one way things can conclude. Superman’s humanity is what makes him special, but it also makes him vulnerable, especially in situations where his response to danger can be predicted in advance. Superman knows all this, but he’ll never let it get in the way of saving others, even as he can so clearly see how his heroism might be used against him.
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