WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Superman #8 by Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis, Brandon Petersen, Joe Prado, Alex Sinclair and Joe Reed, in stores now.
While Superman has been busy fighting Rogol Zaar on Earth (and in the Phantom Zone), Jon Kent has been away on an adventure in space with Jor-El. He's finally returned, but a lot has changed since we last saw him. The young boy we once knew is now a 17-year-old after some cosmic mishap brought him through both time and space.
After a few months of speculation, Superman #8 finally spills the beans about what Jon was doing out there in space. As it turns out, the explanation of how he grew so old in such a short amount of time may be more complicated that we initially thought. It's time to get out your map to the DC Multiverse again.
The Adventures of Superboy in Space
Most of the issue takes place in flashback. While Superman runs tests on his son, Jon recounts his time spent in space. He and his grandfather apparently went around the cosmos trying to keep the peace and intervening in political disputes. During these adventures, we see him fight Hawkmen from Thanagar and have a run-in with the Green Lantern Corps.
However, it's not all fun and games. Since his introduction, Superboy has always been all too eager to live up to his father's legacy. By aging Jon up, Bendis now gives the character the ability to question his place in the world. For the first time ever, Superboy actually acknowledges that his father being Superman is both a gift and a curse. He wants to live up to his dad's reputation, but how can you really ever be good enough while still being your own man?
It seems that an older Jon also has a better understanding of the people around him. His time with Jor-El goes from summer getaway with grandpa to cabin fever with a deranged old man very quickly. Jor-El begins to show signs that he has become disillusioned with his place in the universe, questioning what purpose he really serves by trying to make order out of so much chaos.
This sense of hopelessness and fear seems to revolt his grandson, which is what gives him the idea to return home in the first place. The two spend a significant amount of time not speaking to each other, and neither know how to get past the awkward situation. Just when it seems like they are about to patch things up, though, a black hole appears and sucks Jon into an unknown dimension.
A Son Meets His... Father?
This is where things get really wild. Superboy ends up coming to on an unknown world with the Crime Syndicate standing over him. It would seem that he was somehow transported to Earth-3, where good is evil and evil is good. This is a world where all sense of right and wrong are reversed, and its version of the Justice League are tyrannical dictators and criminals. It's hard to say how Jon will get out of this one.
What will be interesting to see is how Jon reacts to meeting a villainous version of his own father. Superboy is no stranger to alternate worlds following his run-in with the Bizarro family, but Ultraman is something very different. There's no telling what meeting a mirror image of his father will do to him, especially considering he's now 17 and openly questioning what it means to be the son of Superman.
It's also worth openly questioning how any of this is even possible. Going back to New 52 continuity, we know that Earth-3 was destroyed by the Anti-Monitor and the entire roster of the Crime Syndicate was killed off by the end of "Darkseid War." Yet here we are in that same world with a roster seemingly identical to the one seen in Forever Evil -- Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, Johnny Quick, Power Ring and Deathstorm.
Perhaps the world was recreated at some point along with all the characters. This wouldn't be the first time Bendis has blatantly ignored New 52 continuity in order to tell his story. We'll just have to see what this Crime Syndicate has in store for Jon Kent.