SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "Superman" #14, on sale now.
In a post-"Rebirth" DC Universe, where the publisher's flagship hero is a strange visitor from an alternate universe, it was only a matter of time before Superman found himself dealing with his counterparts from still other parallel realities. "Superman" #14 by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason kicks off its new story arc ("Multiplicity") with appearances by the Red Son Superman, the Justice League Incarnate led by Superman of Earth 23 (from Grant Morrison's "Multiversity"), and many, many more.
It's Raining Supermen
The Russian Superman of Mark Millar and Dave Johnson's Elseworlds series, "Red Son," appears near the Kents' rural home in Hamilton County, seeking aid after escaping an entity called Prophecy, intending to "process" his power in some way -- the issue concludes with a look at what that means, though it raises even more questions than it answers. The Red Son Superman indicates that another Superman of this earth has been targeted -- not the pre-"Flashpoint"/post-"Rebirth" Kal-El, but the Chinese New Super-Man Kenan Kong.
After Prophecy's "Gatherers" attack, the Justice League Incarnate, a team of multiversal protectors, arrives. Their Superman (who is also the President of the United States on his Earth) describes our Man of Steel as "something of an anomaly."
That's three Supermen gathered, plus a Batman, a Green Lantern, and some others. But they're not quite quick enough to protect Kenan Kong, who is already under attack in China. The New Super-Man is captured after a brief but valiant struggle, as all signs of him are removed from "the Multiverse map."
And then we see some more Supermen, in cages:
- Bizarro Superman of Earth 29
- Vampire Superman of Earth 43
- Superman/Martian Manhunter of Earth 32
- Sunshine Superman of Earth 47
- Superman of Earth 2 (not clear which version…)
- Superwoman of Earth 11
- Justice Lord Superman of Earth 50
- Pirate Superman of Earth 31
- Superman of Earth One
- Kingdom Come Superman of Earth 22
- Superdoomsday of Earth 45
- "Generations" Superman of Earth 38
- Captain Carrot of Earth 26
Poor, poor Captain Carrot…
Though the story arc is just getting started, in the space of 22 pages, "Superman" #14 has done more with Morrison's "Multiversity" characters and concepts than any other DC Comics title has even attempted since the series concluded a year and a half ago. It's also possibly the first, or at least most blatant confirmation that DC is now operating according to the taxonomy of worlds set out in that series, rather than any previous system.
"Our" Superman, the one inhabiting but not native to what the others refer to as New Earth, is notably not a target of Prophecy and his Collectors. The Collectors tell him directly "you are not on the Lyst," and mark him for termination rather than harvesting. But once he's drawn into the fray, he'll fight for what's right. A reality-hopping adventure immediately preceding March's "Superman Reborn" crossover, it seems likely that "Multiplicity" will offer some early clues about the true nature of the once and future Man of Steel.
Prophecy's Collectors use an unusual though appropriate word for the heroes they collect -- "commodities," whose only purpose are to be "processed" and "consumed." Does this industrial thinking provide a hint as to the villain's identity?
And what does Prophecy gain from this "processing?"
In the final pages, Captain Carrot is plucked from his cage and shot through with some sort of energy, transforming him into what appears to be a normal bunny, though one wearing a pretty slick costume. He sits within Prophecy's hands.
Many villains have used the "massive room full of glass cages" trap, and still others others have attempted to extract superheroes' powers for their own uses. Prophecy could be Professor Ivo, bent on the dual purposes of extending his life and building a better Amazo. But it seems likely there's also a multiverse connection. She could be Harbinger, declaring a new name and a new purpose, gathering only the heroes she needs for the mission at hand. Or he could be "Watchmen's" Ozymandias, stepping out of the shadows to bend the universe to his will. He did have a fondness for animals, after all.
"Multiplicity" part one raises just the right sort of questions for this type of story arc, and makes use of some prime pieces of recent and classic DC history.