“DC Universe: Rebirth” #1 did a lot of things to the overall line of titles from DC Comics, but one of the most notable was once more placing “Action Comics” and “Superman” into the center of the shared universe. With the Superman and Lois Lane native to the New 52 DC Universe dying (in “Superman” #52 and “Superwoman” #1, respectively) and being replaced by their pre-“Flashpoint” counterparts, the titles have gone a long way towards establishing a new status quo even as new story elements were continually introduced. In “Action Comics” #967, some of those elements begin to bear fruit as characters and prophecies collide, complete with an ominous warning of a hero turning villain.
“Action Comics” #967 uses several key plot points in leading up to this revelation. Even as Superman and Superboy discover the Geneticron building in the Amazon, we’re reminded that this is the corporation that has been lurking in the background ever since Doomsday first escaped in “Action Comics” #957. Clark Kent was actively investigating its secrets in “Action Comics” #963, but before he could discover what was being held inside, someone mysteriously teleported the building away in “Action Comics” #964. As it turns out, not only was Doomsday being held there, but there were two additional pods in that section of the facility, one on either side and both of which were shattered.
At the same time, we’ve also been seeing two mysterious figures covertly spying on Metropolis’s finest for the past few issues. They could be the escapees from the pods (or that could just be a red herring), but here’s what we do know: they’re named Zade and L’Call, and they’ve been viewing a deadly image from the future. Namely, the planet Apokolips, only with Superman’s “S” shield burnt into its surface. Up until now, it’s looked like Superman’s future could involve becoming the successor to Darkseid. If so, it would certainly justify Zade and L’Call’s slow plans of attack.
Of course, there are other long-simmering plotlines which have continued onwards. There’s still the mysterious new, separate-from-Superman version of Clark Kent who in “Action Comics” #964 was shown to genuinely believe that the Superman of this universe had merely “borrowed” Clark’s identity, and that the two were always distinct individuals. While that’s probably not the case, this Clark Kent has the memories of such a sequence of events, as well as an overall drive to search for truth and justice just like his predecessor did.
Then there’s Lex Luthor, who’s been trying to redefine himself as a hero ever since the “Forever Evil” crossover. By the time that dust settled several years ago, Lex had strong-armed his way onto the Justice League, and he ultimately served a crucial role in “Darkseid War” in defeating Darkseid. In the process, he not only briefly took over all of Apokolips (before returning to Earth), but also gained his current suit of battle armor, complete with Superman’s “S” shield on its chest. He’s presented himself as Metropolis’s #1 hero ever since Superman’s death in “Superman” #52, even as there’s been resistance from the pre-“Flashpoint” Superman who has been less than impressed.
As it turns out, Dan Jurgens has had a few tricks up his sleeve. L’Call and Zade finally make their attack this week, as we’re seen more visions of the future. Apokolips is destined to attack Earth, with country-sized fire pits burning across our world’s surface, and with its heroes all slaughtered by the forces of Apokolips and its new red-caped overlord. L’Call is better known as the Godslayer, and his attempt to destroy this final evil being will be his greatest triumph.
This issue also has the pre-“Flashpoint” Lois Lane gaining an audience with Lex Luthor; we’re reminded that his sister Lena Luthor has gone into full-on villainy (in the pages of “Superwoman”), and that Lex’s armor is powered by New Gods technology. His energy blasts are able to wipe out chunks of concrete that weigh two and a half tons, and there’s even a Mother Box in Lex Luthor’s arsenal. Lex Luthor is at his most powerful, and that usually makes him his most dangerous.
When all of the story pieces collide, L’Call and Zade make their attack, with Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, and Clark Kent all in the immediate target area. But even as Superman and Superboy race to save their friends, Zade is tasked with taking down Superman, and we see here that he has the strength to do so. That frees L’Call to attack the future overlord of Apokolips, though, and it’s not Superman as has been hinted all along. It’s Lex Luthor. Absolute power, it seems, will corrupt absolutely.
With Lex Luthor’s potential future as the lord of Apokolips revealed (who knows how the baby Darkseid being raised by Grail as seen in “Justice League” #50 will feel about that), what does this say for Lex’s status in the present day as a self-proclaimed hero? Is this the first step back towards villainy for Superman’s #1 foe? Or can the future still be changed? For now, it seems, all of Lex Luthor’s claims of heroism are questionable at best, because as we know, you can’t keep a good villain down.