Warning: This article contains spoilers for Heroes in Crisis #5, by Tom King, Clay Mann, Travis Moore and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Since it kicked off with a mysterious massacre at Sanctuary, a trauma center for DC's superheroes, Heroes in Crisis hasn’t been light on mysteries. While most of the series has revolved around figuring out whether Booster Gold, Harley Quinn or someone else was behind the devastating surprise attack, the story has posed a few other smaller questions that could have major ramifications around the DC Universe.
Commander Steel, a super-strong cybernetic hero who was killed in the attack, is the center of one of those smaller mysteries. While few heroes from DC's history have used that name, none of them have made an appearance in the main DC Universe since its most recent reboot, so it wasn't clear who this hero actually was.
Now, Heroes in Crisis #5 features a taped testimonial from the fallen hero, where Commander Steel spoke about his life, and his numerous deaths. While this scene seemingly confirmed that this Commander Steel was Hank Heywood III, it also seemingly brings some key older stories back into the DC's main continuity for the first time in decades.
In this interview, Heywood, who has also operated under the name Steel, describes his memories of dying while fighting one of Doctor Ivo's androids. That attack happened in 1987's Justice League of America #260, by J. M. DeMatteis and Luke McDonnell, when a robot posing as a police officer mortally wounded Steel on the street.
Steel's apparent death was also part the 1987 crossover "Legends." In that storyline, Darkseid and his minion Glorious Godfrey turned the public against superheroes like Steel and the rest of the Justice League members. Considering Steel's memories of his death, the events of "Legends" could still be part of DC's history, even after the reality-altering shenanigans of Infinite Crisis, the New 52 reboot and DC Rebirth.
While it's not the most well-remembered storyline, "Legends" still featured some key moments in DC history. It marked one of Darkseid's first major attacks on DC's heroes and featured the introduction of the Justice League International and the Suicide Squad.
"Legends" was also the first major crossover after DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline and reboot in 1986. Even though Crisis rewrote the vast majority of DC's continuity, it didn’t really affect a small handful of characters including Steel and his Justice League team.
While the League usually includes iconic DC heroes like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, Steel was part of an infamous Justice League team that was based in Detroit and primarily featured Aquaman, Martian Manhunter and some younger heroes.
Along with Steel, the Detroit Justice League was created by Gerry Conway and Chuck Patton in 1984's Justice League of America Annual #2. Given Heywood's comments, that relic of DC's pre-Crisis history could still be a part of the history of the post-Rebirth DC Universe.