Visions of Something Greater in Superman 5

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis open Superman 5 with a vision. Zod fantasizes of a New Krypton, of a world where all of Krypton’s survivors have united, where Zod and Superman have made peace despite their “ideological divide.” Superman, too, experiences a vision in this issue, one just as lofty. While these two men may share visions of something greater than themselves, though, it’s those pesky ideological differences that continue to drive them apart. Just because you dream of something better doesn’t mean the steps you take to get there are justified.

Superman, though, nearly loses sight of this, even if for only the briefest of moments.

I’ll admit, as a Superman fan it rankled me, even if only just slightly, to see him contemplate murder, even if only just for a moment, but it shouldn’t have. One of the things I most appreciate about Superman is his humanity, and there’s nothing more human than becoming enraged over injustice, especially an injustice that strikes as personally as Rogol Zaar’s attack against his people, family, and culture. What saves Superman is a vision of his parents reminding him of his core values. Part of what makes Superman such an inspirational character is that he’s not infallible, that he finds as much inspiration in us, in his family, in society, in all of our collective potential, as we do in him. And nothing drives that home more than the question Clark asks himself next.

When Clark sees a vision of something better, it isn’t the end product, as Zod sees — Clark sees the work and values that goes into it. Zod sees a united Krypton, no matter what compromises need to be made to get there; Clark sees a world where people act on their values even when it’s hard, when they follow the examples of the people who inspire them and show them how to be better. He doesn’t need to see the end product; he already knows its something better, because that’s just what happens when you aspire to follow in the path of greatness.

So, ultimately, Superman and Zod both share visions of a better future, but their paths there are irreconcilable. Both their final confrontations with Rogol Zaar make that clear; robbed of Kandor, Superman still approaches Zaar with kindness and understanding, while Zod has only revenge in his heart. Superman’s methods allow him to continue to aspire to a better future no matter what form it takes. When the better future Zod dreams of, meanwhile, is shattered, he has nothing left but hatred and murderous rage. Given his own journey of anger and acceptance in this issue, Superman should be better suited than anyone to teach Zod to rise above; given their history, Zod seems unlikely to follow Superman’s example. That certainly would never stop Superman from trying, though, and I can’t wait to see how he approaches both Zod and Zaar next month. Whatever path he chooses, it will be one Lois — and thus us, as well — would be proud of.

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