SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Superman #36 by Patrick Gleason, Peter J. Tomsai, Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza, Wil Quintana and Rob Leigh, on sale now.
Apokolips is one of the scariest, deadliest and most dangerous places in the DC multiverse, and for the past year and a half, it’s been without a leader. Since the death of Darkseid and his reincarnation as a baby, Apokolips has been embroiled in a civil war as different factions once loyal to the destroyer have sought to take control for themselves and through the lying and scheming of Lex Luthor, the Superman family found themselves trapped in the middle of it all.
However, this week’s issue of Superman — the conclusion to the Apokolips based “Imperius Lex” arc — sees a new leader assume the throne of Apokolips in an attempt to bring peace to the war stricken world: Superman himself!
As shown in the pages of Wonder Woman, Darkseid is currently on Earth in the body of a teenage boy as he and his daughter Grail seek the children of Zeus in order to steal their power and age him back up to adulthood. This, of course, has left a real power vacuum on Apokolips. There are two factions vying for control, both with legitimate claims to the throne but no way of seeking a compromise; the planet is called Apokolips, after all.
On one side, Darkseid’s son Kalibak sees himself as the true heir tot he throne, but unlike his father, Kalibak lacks the cunning and the guile to command the armies of Apokolips. On the other side, Granny Goodness is almost an equal to Darkseid in terms of pure inherent evil, but requires the might of her Female Furies to fight her battles for her.
In the midst of the civil war, there’s a third party who believed in a prophecy that would see a man from Earth bring Apokolips into a new age. Led by Adora of the Forgotten People, they believe that Apokolips is destined to be saved by an outsider who will claim the throne of Darkseid. This man their prophet foresaw was from a city known as Metropolis; the son of farmers who stood for truth and justice. Unfortunately for them, they ran into Lex Luthor who convinced him that he was whom the prophecy spoke of, so when it came time to stake their place in the civil war, they journeyed to Earth to bring their savior only to find Luthor less than willing to tag along.
Lex Luthor sent for Superman’s help, dragging Lois Lane and Superboy into the mix as well, as the three of them were Boom Tubed to Apokolips and separated. While Lois got mixed up with the Female Furies and Superboy faced off against Parademons, Luthor confessed that he wasn’t the savior the prophecies spoke of: Superman is. This forced the Man of Steel into an uncomfortable situation as hundreds of Apokoliptians were now looking to him for guidance, all while his wife and son were still missing. Eventually the Kents found each other as the war reached its final battle and the fire pits of Apokolips were snuffed out.
In defeating Kalibak and capturing Granny Goodness, Superman thought he would be able to leave the world to its own people to rule but quickly realized that without his presence as lord of Apokolips, it would quickly fall back into civil war.
Thus, in an unprecedented move, Superman assumed the throne of Darkseid and became the new ruler of the planet, but with some caveats of his own. Now that Superman is the man in charge, he plans to unite the world and usher in a new age of peace for the first time on the once hellish planet. The red skies of Apokolips have been replaced by a cold blue dusk, representing the shift in balance. As for Superman himself, he still has a life to live on Earth but has access to a Boom Cube to bring him to his new world whenever they need his aid.
There must be something in the air, because it’s becoming a theme in superhero comics that archaic and somewhat tyrannical systems of power are being dismantled and replaced with something else; or at least the people are trying to do just that. In the pages of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze’s Black Panther, an unsuccessful coup led to T’Challa installing a constitutional monarchy, allowing the people of Wakanda to have a voice. Medusa of the Inhumans abdicated the throne and left her people’s future in their own hands, while in the television adaptation, Maximus attempted to overthrow his own family in favor of the people. Christopher Priest and Phil Noto’s Inhumans: Once and Future Kings examines the slavery inherent in their society which once relied on the labor of the Alpha Primitives to function. Even one of the biggest films of the year Thor: Ragnarok, was a film about the sins of colonialism coming back to haunt the descendants of the colonists.
Superman plans to install something approaching democracy on Apokolips, but it’s going to be a long road. Even its sister world of New Genesis doesn’t have that, as we’ve seen in the pages of Mister Miracle, which explores the increasingly tyrannical nature of Orion as Highfather and Forager’s attempts to deny his rule to provide his people with a better life. They say that art reflects the times that it’s lived in, and right now it seems like a lot of people are upset with the current institutions of power and wants to overthrow them to bring some balance to the world and stop the little people being stepped on all the time. While in cases like the Inhumans and Black Panther, it might be successful, it’s important to remember that Darkseid is still out there actively seeking ways to return to full power and when he does, he’s going to want his world back.