SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Batman: The Devastator #1 by Frank Tieri and James Tynion IV, on sale now.
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s far-reaching, multiversal series Dark Nights: Metal has centered around perhaps the most unlikely hero for such an event: the traditionally grounded Batman, whose sphere of influence generally doesn’t reach far outside Gotham, let alone across the multiverse. Just as the known DC Comics Multiverse is home to countless other heroes, though, the Dark Multiverse houses variants of these same characters – some of which have been featured in the various one-shots spotlighting each of that newly-discovered reality’s Dark Knights.
Readers finally get a look at DC’s other flagship hero in Batman: The Devastator #1, where Superman and Batman – who eventually becomes The Devastator – go head-to-head in a brutal and ultimately fatal encounter. In this issue, the Man of Steel is shown to have turned evil, for reasons that are speculated but never fully revealed, and while Frank Tieri and James Tynion IV’s story provides plausible reason for Batman’s turn towards darkness, the scenario begs the same question for Superman. Just what would or could make the Man of Steel of Earth -1, or any incarnation of the character in the Dark Multiverse, evolve from his role as the template for all superheroes into something darker, if not an outright villain?
Is Superman Really a Good Guy Gone Bad?
The Dark Multiverse has been presented as a reality where nightmares that shouldn’t exist are given form, if only temporarily by way of its seemingly unstable nature. One of the most pervasive fears throughout the population of the normal multiverse is that of its greatest and most powerful hero going rogue and using his tremendous powers and talents against them. Kal-El himself has even shared these fears over losing control of his abilities, or somehow having them turned against others. These fears are certainly the grist for the birth of one, or more, worlds in the Dark Multiverse – a world that by anyone’s standards is most definitely one that should not exist.
The Superman of Earth -1 is clearly one who at one time bore no difference from his mainline Earth-0 counterpart, and was regarded by Batman as the best of the world’s superheroes. In the Dark Multiverse, though, heroes don’t always stay heroes, and the darkness at its core has already shown seven different ways that Batman can be turned from an extraordinary hero into a despicably evil villain. This inherit darkness has apparently found a way to corrupt Superman, as well – whether the mechanism was a solar storm, Lex Luthor’s machinations, or Darkseid’s influence as postulated in Batman: The Devastator, evil triumphs in the Dark Multiverse, in ways that would never happen in a multiverse where the good guys come out ahead on a regular basis.
The sampling of histories shown across the Dark Multiverse in the various Metal tie-ins points towards the idea that these histories largely started out similar – Superman becomes the world’s greatest hero, Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered, etc. Like most what-if scenarios, though, a singular moment creates a divergent path that changes a character’s future, and in the Dark Multiverse, that moment is a catalyst that transforms seemingly flawless heroes into tried and true villains. On pretty much any world in the “bright” multiverse, Superman would have ultimately overcome whatever evil had possessed him before he took a life, but in the DM, he not only succumbs to this darkness, but causes his strongest ally to embrace a form of evil himself. The corrupt heart of the Dark Multiverse seemingly has the power to likewise corrupt even the purest of heroes, like Superman.