SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Superman #25, by Patrick Gleason, Peter J. Tomasi and Doug Mahnke, on sale now.
The "Black Dawn" arc running through the past handful of issues of Superman has offered up an explanation for the strange occurrences in Hamilton County, until recently the adopted home of Lois and Clark "Smith" and their young son Jon. Things looked dark indeed with the return of superpowered vigilante Manchester Black and his subsequent possession of Jon and his abilities as Superboy as shown last issue, with "Superboy Black" having apparently been transformed into Manchester's new protégé.
Superman #25 wraps up the saga with an unexpected and inglorious fate for Black, all while setting up a new yet familiar status quo for Superman and Lois. It also serves as a new starting point for Superboy's fledgling career, and might have even offered DC readers a glimpse at what's to come when the Dark Multiverse arrives in Dark Nights: Metal.
Superboy Has Visions Of … The Dark Multiverse?
While in Manchester Black's thrall, Jon attacks Batman, Robin and other heroes trying to stop Black, including Superman himself. Despite appearing to be physically overpowered by his son, Clark is able to reach Jon on an emotional level, piercing through Black's control. This allows Jon to have a lucid moment despite Black's influence and ultimately save the town of Hamilton. Proudly yet painfully noting the strength Jon is demonstrating, Superman delivers his own son a powerful blow intended to take him out of the battle and prevent further damage, but the decisive move has an unintended consequence; it ends of rupturing the reactor of the long-hidden ship belonging to the aliens inhabiting Hamilton.
The damage to the spacecraft has unexpected side effects of its own – when its energy makes contact with Superman and Jon, both experience a number of rather surprising visions. Among them are alternate versions of Batman, Superman, and another who could be an alternate version of Wonder Woman, as well as a very familiar cube-shaped iteration of the planet Earth – or perhaps more appropriately, htraE, the classic Silver Age Bizarro homeworld. Jon also speaks of "worlds beyond days, nights beyond worlds," in what could be a foreshadowing of the so-called Dark Multiverse, a highly anticipated and important component of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's pending Dark Knights: Metal event.
The light that Jon perceives from these worlds lead him to the conclusion that the darkness (perhaps another indication of his vision being of the Dark Multiverse) of Manchester Black is a threat, providing him the resolve to go after Black himself despite the villain's lingering control over him. The subsequent reappearance of his mom Lois, fully recovered, further strengthens him, and upon joining hands with his alien friend Kathy Branden, creates a psychic backlash that not only frees Jon, but separates Black's consciousness from his body – but more on that later. With Black defeated, the aliens residing in Hamilton vow to rebuild Superman's trust, and rebuild the community.
Goodbye Hamilton – Superboy Takes A Big Step
In one of the issue's epilogs, Jon and Kathy resume being normal childhood friends – as normal as the son of Superman and a child who's secretly an alien stranded on Earth can be, anyway. Jon reveals to Kathy that the visions he experienced instilled him with a sense of courage, although his subsequent actions served as convincing confidence builders in their own right. While most of Jon's powers seemed to have vanished in the aftermath of the battle with Black, he demonstrates that he can still fly, as he and Kathy joyfully take to the skies. This final sequence has the feel of a new official starting point in the life and career of Superboy.
With the threat to Hamilton now over – or at least, seeming that way – the Smith family is free to ditch their aliases and move from the open country to the shiny skyscrapers of Metropolis. The Superman family isn't likely to forget about Hamilton, though – as Clark states, Hamilton will always be Jon's equivalent of Clark's own hometown of Smallville, and by extension, Kathy's friendship with Jon is akin to Clark's own childhood relationship with Lana Lang. Plus, a town populated with aliens only a few hundred miles from Metropolis seems to be a likely source for future storylines.
Manchester Black Is A Cow. Really.
When Manchester Black's mind is ripped from his body, a seemingly inconsequential but hapless cow on Cobb's Dairy Farm is seen taking the backlash, but quickly forgotten amidst the further developments noted above. That is, until a group of Hamilton teens looking to sneak a smoke from a lost pack of Black's own cigarettes are confronted by said cow, replete with one of those very same cigarettes dangling from its bovine lips. Yes, Manchester Black's consciousness now resides within one of Cobb Branden's cows on his dairy farm, subject to a very humiliating fate like one first seen in comics over fifty years ago, when a crew of Skrulls found themselves living out their lives in a similar manner. Unlike Marvel's shapeshifters, though, Black's memory and powers remain intact, and somewhat functional, although not enough to avoid becoming victim to every rural kid's favorite prank: cow tipping.
No one in Hamilton better drink any milk from Cobb's farm, either. Though he won't suffer the same fate as his Marvel counterparts, who were eventually slaughtered and fed to the public, thus resulting in the eventual arrival of a number of C-list heroes who gained superpowers from the contaminated meat, who's to say dairy products derived from the Black-possessed cow won't have unexpected side effects on anyone who consumes it?
In the aftermath of the events in Hamilton and elsewhere, the Superman family is owed a vacation, one that's slated to begin in Superman #26, on sale July 5. Some additional peeks at what's behind Clark and Jon's visions might be forthcoming in Dark Days: The Casting, on sale July 12.