SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Superman #5 by Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Alex Sinclair and Josh Reed, on sale now.
General Zod first appeared in 1961 and made a few sporadic appearances in the various Superman titles for the next 20 years. He was then forever popularized in Richard Donner's film Superman II, and has subsequently become one of Superman's more popular foes.
While he has flitted between good and evil throughout his existence, his status as a villain has been cemented in recent years. But that might be changing. In Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis' Superman #5, Dru-Zod and Kal-El are brought together by a common enemy.
But there are other indications that the would-be ruler of whichever planet he can conquer might willing to change his ways.
Zod is Bad, Rogol Zaar is Worse
In the pages of the recent Man of Steel miniseries , Rogol Zaar had been tearing up the universe looking to stamp out any and all remnants of the planet Krypton. That rampage put him up against Superman, as you might expect.
In Superman #5, however, Zaar's tour of destruction has thrust him into conflict with another notable, much more dangerous Kryptonian – Zod. With Kal-El, Zod and Rogol Zaar all trapped together in the Phantom Zone, Kal-El and Zod are set to relearn the timeless adage, the enemy of my enemy is my ally.
Previous battles have established that Rogol Zaar can't kill Superman. They've also shown Superman can't -- or won't -- kill Rogol Zaar. But Zod certainly will kill Zaar, and in actual fact, would very much like to.
Circumstance has allied Superman and some of his enemies before, and an alliance one day doesn't necessarily mean that one party will come around to the other's way of thinking on the next. However, Superman #5 shows a side of Zod that's rarely, if ever, been seen – one willing to concede for the betterment of his surviving people.
As the issue opens, Zod is seen presiding over a potential alliance of three houses of Krypton – the House of El, his own, and the city of Kandor. The scene, though, is just a vision experienced by Zod – but one uncharacteristically showing him willing to compromise in the interests of a united Krypton.
Zod speaks of New Krypton being home to "a new race of space gods that can reshape the galaxy for a better tomorrow."
Those aren't exactly the words of benevolent leader, considering Zod's fascist-like history. The "New Krypton" he mentions also happens to be the planet Jakuul – one he recently conquered, as seen in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps.
Zod's vision might simply be more like a delusion, but it could also be interpreted as a shift in his thinking.
In Zod We Trust?
The villain has already established a foothold on Jakuul, with the help of only his existing allies. The destroyed city of Kandor certainly couldn't help, and Superman didn't lend a hand, either. Zod's in total control, so why would he envision allies helping him cofound a new society? Does it further his dreams as a Kryptonian nationalist to not only conquer new worlds, but to do so with his former enemies at his side?
A true delusional vision would likely show the other houses of Krypton simply following him blindly, but Zod's actual vision is conflicted, not idyllic. His wife Ursa expresses uncertainty, which requires his assurances. And in his vision, neither Superman nor anyone else in his strangely altered House of El is shown to respond to his proposal for an alliance. Most notably, he receives a horrific vision of Rogol Zaar murdering his family – hardly the stuff of a utopian fantasy.
The nightmarish ending to Zod's dream not only plays a part in him standing with Kal-El against Rogol Zaar, it also might have galvanized his ultimate life goal. Faced with a creature who wishes to exterminate the remainder of his race, Zod's intent might have now shifted.
His desire to rule might now be mitigated, if not outright demoted, by a newfound desire to simply preserve what is left of his people and culture. If seeks to ally himself with Superman, there's sure to be a lot less bowing, yielding and kneeling demanded by Zod in the future.
If there is a pending alliance with Kal-El, Zod most assuredly will be a good guy, as Superman would stand for nothing less. Whether such an alliance would last, however, is a different story. After all, Superman's arch-enemy Lex Luthor was a good guy, too – for awhile. Some villains are just meant to stay villains – whether Zod is one of them looks like it will be determined soon.