So something is happening to Superman’s origin. The four #0 issues tell one interlocking story — as was normal for the Super-books at the time — introducing a new villain called Conduit. Beneath the mask, Conduit is Kenny Braverman, a high school rival of Clark Kent who resented him for always coming in first. This resentment grew when Kenny discovered that his chronic childhood illnesses were the result of radiation from a rocket crashing nearby, the rocket that brought Superman to Earth — and learned that Superman and his old buddy Clark were one and the same.
As the story shows Clark’s and Kenny’s shared history, readers learn a bit about Clark’s social life in Smallville, as well as his travels between leaving home and arriving in Metropolis. To be fair, there isn’t a ton of revelatory material here. Publishing this trade could be as simple as bringing another take on Superman’s origin back into print, to shelve alongside Birthright, Byrne’s Man of Steel, Rebirth, and so on, as Bendis picks and chooses elements from each.
But there are a few aspects of the collection that seem more tantalizing, especially given recent DC history.
The Oz storyline introduced a Jor-El who survived the destruction of Krypton; should we be looking more closely at the Zero Hour timeline where Krypton survived? In the New 52, and in the Rebirth universe that subsumed it, both of Clark Kent’s parents died when he was a teenager; but pre-Flashpoint they were a major part of his life well into super-adulthood. How much attention should we pay to the multiple iterations of the Kents in this collection? Is the Alpha Centurion due for a return, reality-warped into taking over the Super-family of Lois and Jon so Clark can be young and single again? (I kid. I hope.)
Or is the most straightforward answer the right one, that Conduit will play a prominent role in Bendis’ early stories? Conduit was only around for a couple arcs, though Kenny Braverman has popped up as a background character a couple times over the last twenty-some years. Here’s a character who, on the one hand, is an established part of Superman’s origin story, but who on the other hand is a relatively blank slate for someone like Bendis to build into a compelling villain.
A revamped Conduit could lend thrilling conflict to Bendis’ take on one of comics’ best-known origin stories, setting it apart from other versions of this well-worn tale.
A return of Jimmy Olsen’s Nine Inch Nails belly shirt, however, is to be avoided at all costs.
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