The waning moments of Supergirl‘s Season 2 finale flashed back to Krypton’s destruction, showing a previously-unseen third Kryptonian pod carrying an infant-sized passenger away from the doomed planet. Unlike Kal-El and Kara Zor-El’s rockets, this little Kryptonian apparently had a taste for blood, its guardians wore hooded robes and their home base looked like an extraterrestrial castle.
We learned pretty quickly afterwards that Season 3’s main villain would be Reign, played by Odette Annable. Created by writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson and artist Mahmud Asrar, Reign first appeared in March 2012’s Supergirl #5. However, she was only in issues #5-7, and her fellow Worldkillers didn’t get much more exposure. Therefore, as we get ready for the TV version, here’s some background on Reign and her comics colleagues.
Zor-El and the Worldkillers
Before we get into the Worldkillers themselves, it’s important to note the context of the New 52 Supergirl series in which they appeared. While this version of the Girl of Steel was shot to Earth as a teenager, when she arrived she was not exactly thrilled about being stuck on a backwater planet. In fact, when she emerged from her Kryptonian capsule just before dawn, she didn’t know she wasn’t on Krypton until she saw the yellow sun. From her perspective, one moment she was with her friends and the next she was on an unfamiliar planet, being attacked by strangers in battle armor and defending herself with extraordinary powers.
The first few issues of this Supergirl series saw her meeting (and fighting) Superman and a diabolical scientist before coming to grips with Krypton’s destruction. In fact, Superman compared their powers to those of the Worldkillers of Kryptonian legend. Of course, there were real Worldkillers, genetically engineered by Kryptonian scientists to be living weapons. The scientists used embryos from different worlds to make the Worldkillers (named after the mythical creatures), and worked at a secret laboratory away from Krypton itself.
After the Worldkillers were banned by Krypton’s Science Council for being too dangerous to exist, a guilty Zor-El (who had worked on the Worldkiller experiments) sent Kara to Earth as part of his self-imposed atonement. Zor-El had also found a way to protect his home of Argo City, so that when Krypton exploded Argo survived. Unfortunately, its people didn’t; and the chunk of Krypton with Argo on it ended up in orbit around a blue star. Upon retrieving a Kryptonian Sunstone from her pod (in February 2012’s Supergirl #4), Supergirl used it to home in on the ruins of Argo. There, in issue #5, she met Reign, a super-strong, flying humanoid who spoke Kryptonian and was itching for a fight.
While Reign sought answers about her past, Supergirl wanted to know if Reign was responsible for Argo’s condition. After a brief battle, Reign overpowered Supergirl (who was weaker under a blue star), leaving her to die as Argo’s orbit decayed. Reign thought that since two Kryptonians had already settled on Earth, it could help her on her quest, and went there to conquer it.
Escaping to Earth just before Argo fell into the blue star, Supergirl met three more Worldkillers: The bulky, feline Deimax, geared for “mass terrain destruction”; the feathered reptilian Perrilus, whose poisons could wipe out entire populations; and the energy-projecting insectoid Flower Of Heaven, designed to “overload planetary systems.” As Reign explained to Supergirl, the Worldkillers were so powerful that they could only be killed by another Worldkiller.
Supergirl soon realized this was the key to defeating them. She stabbed Deimax with Perrilus’ poisonous talons, subduing the blocky Worldkiller almost immediately. Reign then called off the fight, ordering the Worldkillers back to their starship to tend to their wounds. “I cannot afford to lose a single one of my companions,” she told Supergirl. She then warned the Girl of Steel that they would return, since they were still “evolving” from the embryos the Kryptonian scientists shaped. She also teased Supergirl with the existence of a fifth Worldkiller, who escaped the lab before Reign and her colleagues.
Although Reign’s Worldkillers have yet to return, Supergirl did encounter the fifth Worldkiller during her time with the Red Lantern Corps. In Supergirl #30 (June 2014), the leader of a race called Diasporans turned out to be Worldkiller-1. Instead of being bred to conquer, he was designed to “empower,” but not in a Beyoncé/Patty Jenkins kind of way. As Worldkiller-1 told Supergirl, “Krypton’s destruction made you what you are.” August 2014’s Supergirl #32 revealed that Worldkiller-1 was actually a suit of sentient battle armor which eventually burned out its wearers, and its sights were set on Supergirl.
Realizing that Earth’s atmosphere had been poisoned with Kryptonite dust to try and stop Superman (who had been turned into a Doomsday creature as part of a massive crossover), in issue #33 (September 2014) Supergirl allowed Worldkiller-1 to bond with her; and then poisoned herself with Kryptonite to make her body “distasteful.” When Worldkiller-1 detached itself from her, she took the armor to the Sun. Its yellow rays rejuvenated her, burning out the Kryptonite but also destroying the Red Lantern ring which was keeping her alive. Although Worldkiller-1 recovered, the yellow-sun radiation had supercharged Supergirl, and she threw it into the Sun.
We note that the Worldkiller-1 stories were written by Tony Bedard and drawn by a handful of artists including Emanuela Lupacchino and Jeff Johnson. As such, they may not reflect Michael Green, Mike Johnson and/or Mahmud Asrar’s original plans for Reign and the Worldkillers. For that matter, we’ve seen Internet speculation that the fifth Worldkiller was actually Doomsday; but that doesn’t seem to have been confirmed by the comics themselves. After two crossover issues with the Superman/Doomsday event, and a storyline set in the “Crucible” super-school, the New 52 Supergirl ended with May 2015’s issue #40. So far the Rebirthed Supergirl title hasn’t tackled any of the Worldkillers.
With Reign appearing in only three issues, and only a few more devoted to the Worldkiller backstory, there’s not a lot of source material upon which the Supergirl producers can build. Certainly we’re not expecting them to incorporate the Red Lanterns. Nevertheless, they might still draw a few character arcs out of it.
First, the show could (and probably will) include Zor-El’s involvement in the Worldkiller program. So far Zor-El has appeared on the series only briefly, making him a pretty blank slate as far as TV’s Kara is concerned. The New 52 turned him into a sort of mad scientist who wanted Kara to love him despite his bizarre schemes. Supergirl #0 showed him drugging Kara to get her off Krypton; and when Alura found out she shot him. Later, it turned out that he was the New 52’s Cyborg Superman (which, of course, won’t work for the TV show).
While the drugging doesn’t fit with what we’ve seen of TV-Kara’s escape from Krypton, the mad-scientist bit is fair game. Still, the show should be careful not to repeat Season One’s “my aunt is a supervillain” subplot, or Season 2’s “my adoptive dad is working with a supervillain” subplot. If anything, a less-than-moral Zor-El should remind Kara of Lillian Luthor, thereby strengthening Kara’s bond with Lena Luthor.
Speaking of Lena, running through the story of Reign and her friends is the notion that they were born out of bad motives and never asked to be part of a larger, world-conquering scheme. Although the Worldkillers don’t exactly dislike fighting and carnage, mostly they’re looking for answers, and that should help make them sympathetic. Throughout Season 2 Supergirl teased Lena’s possible turn to evil even as it made her into a compelling character. While the Worldkillers might not warrant as much sympathy (since Lena can’t match their raw power), we suspect the show will reveal Reign’s backstory early on. This would make Supergirl question whether she should be fighting Reign or helping her. Again, if Zor-El is reminiscent of Lillian, Reign might offer a good contrast with Lena. Regardless, since they are set up as bad guys, Supergirl will no doubt balance the Worldkillers’ tragic past against their immense destructive potential and their casual attitude towards it.
In this respect Worldkiller-1 is kind of an outlier. It’s not part of Reign’s “family” and it just wants to rampage (as part of that Nietzschean “empowerment” strategy). Accordingly, Supergirl could get Worldkiller-1 out of the way early, by making it a formidable villain for the first few episodes and then revealing that there are more Worldkillers to come. Worldkiller-1’s unusual power set could also make it rather versatile. Since it might look human one week and alien the next, it could be played by different actors at different points in the season.
As for Supergirl and the Red Lanterns, clearly it’s very unlikely that the show would stay that faithful to the comics. However, since Supergirl’s fight with Worldkiller-1 was fairly cathartic (and ended her Red Lantern career), the show could do something similar with its final Worldkiller-1 fight. For example, if it’s at the beginning of the season, it might help bring closure to Mon-El’s departure. Heck, the show might simply nod to the Red Lanterns by exposing Kara to some rage-inducing Red Kryptonite.
The Villain You’ll Hate To Love?
What emerges from this scant backstory and attendant speculation is a villain who will likely push many of Kara’s more generous buttons. Although Reign has some familiar characteristics, we expect Supergirl‘s producers to acknowledge them and have Kara treat her appropriately. If Reign reveals that she was the product of Zor-El’s experiments, it will force Kara to re-examine her memories of him. By the same token, though, she’s already been through a similar situation with Aunt Astra, and that disillusionment can guide her through this one. Reign’s aforementioned similarities to Lena should also help Kara deal with the new antagonist.
Above all, TV-Kara is not the same confused, uprooted character as the New 52 Supergirl, so her response to Reign’s quest should be a lot less confrontational. Supergirl may even give Reign the answers the comics never have. This doesn’t mean that Reign and the Worldkillers must be any less dangerous. Indeed, we’d almost want them to be as committed as possible to their dreams of conquest. Having a quartet of foes who are each her equal, while simultaneously putting her on a mission to find out the truth about their origins, sounds like the kind of two-headed problem which would make an excellent season-long arc. It could take Supergirl not just back into Krypton’s history, but out into the depths of space.
Although Reign and the Worldkillers didn’t get a lot of exposure in their introductory arc(s), they could give Supergirl a multilayered menace. We were excited when we thought the bloodthirsty baby might have been Doomsday, and now we’ve got new reasons to anticipate Season 3. Instead of a different perspective on a Superman epic, a Reign-centered storyline could expand upon the character’s previously-unrealized potential. Since that’s something the Supergirl comics haven’t yet been able to do, we’re curious to see if the finished product can justify the producers’ interest. In any event, we get why they want to use Reign, and we hope she makes Season 3 memorable.
Do you think Reign will rule over Season 3 of ‘Supergirl?’ Let us know in the comments!