WARNING: This article includes major spoilers for Action Comics #1006 by Brian Michael Bendis, Ryan Sook, and Brad Anderson, on sale now.
Since taking over both Action Comics and Superman, writer Brian Michael Bendis has delighted in upturning every facet of the Man of Steel's origin story, and with Action Comics #1006 he and artist Ryan Sook seem ready to do it again. In a scene between the new villain Red Cloud and a just-introduced crimelord known only as Leone, it is revealed that not only has Leone just purchased the Daily Planet, she's also in posession of the car that Superman smashed on the cover of Action Comics #1, way back in 1938.
The image of crooks fleeing in terror as a strongman in wrestling attire crushes their motor vehicle against a rock is perhaps one of the most famous scenes in comic book history. And yet, this event appears nowhere in Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's original Superman serial, nor in any story the pair ever created. The aftermath does feature in a story by Geoff Johns, Richard Donner and Olivier Coipel published 80 years later in the celebratory Action Comics #1000, but the -- shall we say -- canonicity of that tale is ambiguous. In it, Superman wears his original Golden Age uniform, which, as far as we can tell, has never been seen in the post-Rebirth DC Universe. This week's story, then, may mark the first time the iconic car has been incorporated into modern continuity.
And all signs point to it being a big deal.
The car's reveal takes up a two-page splash concluding the issue, real estate the gives it extraordinary weight and importance. We know this isn't a throwaway... but it's also not clear what, exactly, this means for the Man of Steel.
In context, Leonne -- a character we have never seen before and whose name does not readily suggest connections to other major DC figures -- has just told us that there is a secret cabal that has run Metropolis for years right under Superman's nose, and that she has just bought the Planet. She also notes that she does not believe it feasible to ever kill or ultimately defeat Superman, only subvert him, which rather sets her apart from more public adversaries like Luthor. So she seems to know and understand Superman on a certain level. She may have sought out this destroyed car as a piece to study, or as some sort of memento. It's also possible there is some family connection to the ne'er-do-wells scurrying from the scene on Action #1's famous cover, but it's too early to make that leap.
The vehicle's appearance may mean that Leonne -- or the secret organization she represents -- has been mixed up with Superman from his earliest adventures. Perhaps the car pertains directly to the cabal, such as its owners' first encounter with the Man of Steel leading them to take their criminal organization underground. Or it may have been purchased as an emblem of their power, of their all-pervading knowledge of and influence over Metropolis.
There's an outside shot that it could also mean Leonne is aware of the Golden Age Superman.
It is, after all, a late-1930s model car -- likely a 1937 Chrysler DeSoto or Plymouth, per Jalopnik -- which even the most generous sliding-scale timelines would place decades before the post-Rebirth DCU Superman's debut. In other words, if Superman smashed this car in one of his first outings, it couldn't have been our Superman. Leonne suggests that she and her gang have been skirting Kal-El's gaze for quite some time, long enough for generational lessons to be learned. Does she come from Earth-2, home of the original Justice Society of America? The JSA have been long rumored for a return, with the original Flash Jay Garrick making a brief appearance in the Batman/Flash crossover "The Button;" the car would be a pretty stealthy way to build toward a new interdimensional Crisis.
Whatever the truth behind the car, it's clear that Leonne -- whose very name must not be spoken aloud -- is a powerful operator within Metropolis, someone with a depth of knowledge that could devastate the Man of Steel when she finally decides to strike.
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