SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Superman #4 by Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Alex Sinclair and Josh Reed, on sale now.
The situation looked pretty dire for Superman at the end of Issue #3, when one of his deadliest new enemies teamed up with one of his oldest. Rogol Zaar, who’s a match for Big Blue on his own, now has mass-murderer Jax-Ur at his side. In Superman #4 by Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis, Supes figures out quickly this isn’t a situation he can punch his way out of. He has an idea, though, and his key to dealing with his foes might contain a lesson for all of us in dealing with our own, real-life adversaries.
Before Superman comes to that realization, but while still getting trounced by Rogol Zaar, he has a flashback to a defining and previously unseen moment with his son, Jon. In the flashback, Jon takes his frustrations out in a junkyard, wishing he could inflict the same kind of bashing on his critics, instead of junked cars. His haters are unseen, but the reasons for Jon’s anger are clear — he’s frustrated with the lies pointed at him and his father, lies that go without reprisal for their originators.
Think Before Punching
It’s a familiar mantra to any public figure, or just to anyone who dares post their opinions on social media. Individuals who face unwarranted, slanderous criticisms and only make the problem worse by engaging whenever a gauntlet is casually and thoughtlessly thrown down. Jon wants to pop whoever ticked him off a good one, or at the very least engage in one super-heated argument.
Superman’s sage advice to his son is: Don’t. Don’t engage. Superman readily admits to wanting to knock Batman’s block off on occasion — a revelation that genuinely takes Jon by surprise. Supes’ point, though, is that as much as he wants to, he won’t — because he knows that Batman ultimately will do what is right. Good people sometimes do or say things that drive others crazy, he tells Jon, but in the end they will still do good.
Superman’s faith in humanity might be a little optimistic — Batman is a hero, not a faceless internet troll with a big mouth and no filter with nothing to contribute but hate and vitriol, but his point holds. While it’s all too tempting to engage in a war of words, or worse, the best course is often just to let it go. His ultimate point to Jon is that we’re best defined by our own words and actions, not our responses to others. And as anyone who has engaged in a political argument should know, no one’s mind will ever be changed anyway.
As the character has done for 80 years, Superman sets a standard of behavior that we should all aspire to follow. Only now, he has demonstrated it in the age of social media, where stepping away for a time out is always more beneficial than pounding away on a keyboard.
What About Rogol Zaar?
Or, pounding away on powerful supervillain, as is the case here. It’s actually Superman who’s the one getting pounded on, so while he communicates telepathically with the Justice League to hatch a world-saving plan, he momentarily leaves Rogol Zaar and instead confronts Jax-Ur. And this is where Superman puts his lesson to Jon into play.
Rather than engage Rogol Zaar in battle, Superman engages Jax-Ur with a potentially game-changing question. That question: Why would Jax, a Kryptonian, ally himself against another Kryptonian, with a villain who wants to destroy all remaining Kryptonians? His question is enough to give Jax-Ur pause, allowing Superman to then lead Rogol Zaar away from Earth while the Justice League implements their plan to try and save it.
Had Superman just continued to battle Rogol Zaar, he probably would have been simply been beaten into unconsciousness, and therefore unable to help the Justice League rescue the world. No, fighting doesn’t always work — sometimes it’s necessary to step away and do the right thing, even if it means taking a beating to do it.
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