WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Action Comics #1000, which is available now.
There is a lot going on in Action Comics #1000's 80 pages. It's not just a four-digit milestone for the DC series that started the age of superheroes, it's also a celebration of the 80th anniversary of Superman's first appearance, back in 1938's Action Comics #1.
As such, multiple different eras of the character are on display in the issue, with decade-spanning creators including Marv Wolfman, Curt Swan, Dan Jurgens, Louise Simonson, Jerry Ordway, Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, Olivier Coipel, Tom King, Clay Mann and more. And the very last story in the issue gives a glimpse of the future of Superman -- courtesy of new Action Comics and Superman writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist/DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee.
It's only the second DC story written by Bendis to date, following 2000's Batman Chronicles #21. It's also the superstar writer's first DC work since November's announcement that, after 17 years as one of the most prolific writers in Marvel history, he would move to DC in a "multiyear, multi-faceted" exclusive deal. The announcement was such a surprise, some fans legitimately thought DC's Twitter might have been hacked at the time it broke the news.
So it shouldn't be a shock that the writer of "Avengers Disassembled" didn't just contribute a nostalgic meditation on the character in his Action Comics #1000 story, somewhat ominously titled "The Truth." Instead, it ends with a major revelation that, as seems apt given the issue's scope, harkens back to the character's earliest origins: the destruction of his home planet Krypton.
Everyone knows that Kal-El was the last(ish) survivor of Krypton. While it's not as widely known what caused the planet's destruction, it's usually some combination of catastrophic natural causes, depending on the era. It's one of the most famous parts of the character's lore -- there's a show on Syfy now titled Krypton, after all -- so it's fitting that it's something Bendis, a writer who has long distinguished himself for subverting expectations, has chosen to reexamine.
The 12-page story introduces a new alien villain named Rogol Zaar -- named after a doctor who worked with Bendis during his life-threatening illness last fall, and intimidatingly illustrated by Lee -- who quickly establishes himself as someone with a major grudge against folks from Krpyton. As he puts it in his battle against Superman, "I cleansed the galaxy of the Kryptonian plague. And I am here to finish the job." (Supergirl shows up during the fight, too, but is easily dispatched -- twice.)
That alone sounds pretty threatening, but the big reveal comes at the very end, as he's plunging a sword into Superman's chest: "I destroyed the planet Krypton."
If true, this is a major change to Superman's origins, and immediately positions Rogol Zaar as one of the greatest existential threats in the Man of Steel's rogues gallery. There's no single act as fundamental to Superman's whole deal as the destruction of Krypton, and to pin that on a single villain rather than some type of scientific mishap is a major status quo change. what's more, it shows Bendis is not afraid to dramatically shake things up at DC as he so often did at Marvel.
Of course, there's a lot yet to be revealed. Comics readers are understandably skeptical, and have plenty of reasons to not take a mysterious new bad guy at his word. The story continues on May 30 with the first issue of the six-part weekly miniseries Man of Steel, where Bendis will be joined by a variety of artists. Then his run on both the Superman and Action Comics ongoing series starts in July, with a new Superman #1 and Action #1001.
Something else apparent from Bendis and Lee's Action Comics #1000 story: Bendis' signature style that made him a fan-favorite hasn't been lost in translation in the journey from Marvel to DC. The ground-level focus -- the story is framed by two civilian women who witness Superman and Rogol Zaar's fight on the streets of Metropolis -- the idiosyncratic dialogue ("He doesn't look like Superman without the shorts"), the self-aware callouts of comic book clichés ("In this language, I believe they call it stalling"); even in a short story, it's pure Bendis.
Keep reading CBR for more on Action Comics #1000.