General Zod has sent Superman into the Phantom Zone along with Steel, Superwoman, New Super-Man, Lex Luthor, Cyborg Superman, and the Eradicator. Meanwhile, Blanque struggles to maintain a psychic link with his villainous colleagues across the dimensional plane and Lois tries to keep her son safe. All of this is going down in the Fortress of Solitude.
Writer Dan Jurgens has been steadily building to this climactic showdown on the top of the world in Action Comics. Here in issue #984 from DC Comics, Superman’s villains stand presumably victorious with almost all of the Super Family banished to the Phantom Zone. After the awesome, albeit short-lived fight in the previous issue, I was hoping for one more final showdown as “Revenge” comes to a close. Instead, we get something a little different, although not unsatisfying.
There’s a reason why there isn’t really a Justice League of Evil. Yes, there are groups like the Crime Syndicate and the Legion of Doom that have popped up over the years, but for the most part, villains don’t make good teams. They’re too selfish and single-minded to work together. Cyborg Superman has spent countless issues assembling a team of bad guys to take down his foe only to have all of his carefully laid plans thrown out the window the moment Zod shows up. Zod is a General. He’s not a follower. He’s a leader. He does not take kindly to being told what to do so the first chance he got, he kicked Hank Henshaw to the curb. Unfortunately, that also decimated the team of villains.
What is particularly interesting is how this issue frames General Zod as a legitimate mirror image of Superman. Slight spoilers here for what Zod was really after. We were led to believe that he wanted to rescue his army from the Phantom Zone. Instead, it was his wife, Ursa, and his son, Lor-Zod. He has been willing to fight through Hell, survive the Suicide Squad, and take over this group of evil men to set his loved ones free. Does that sound like anyone else you know?
Now we’re in a world where Zod is looking to rule the world with his wife and son by his side and on the other end of the spectrum, you have Superman with his wife and son trying to save it. I will be very interested to see how this rivalry continues, especially how Lor-Zod will interact with Jon.
Artist Patch Zircher returns to Action Comics with this issue and is a welcome sight. His work captures the larger-than-life adventure that fuels Superman’s life. He balances the closer, more intimate moments with the bigger, showcase scenes such as the Superman family hurtling through the Phantom Zone or Ursa’s appearance.
Zircher contributes so much to the characters in their design and facial expressions. Zod and his family don’t have to say a word for you to know they’re pure evil. Although they’ve been in the Phantom Zone for ages, they are confident, cocky, and condescending. Even Zod’s facial hair is evil. Lor-Zod looks like the mean kid in a Problem Child movie. He’s the bully that will steal your lunch money and then give you a swirlie for good measure. All of this can be assumed based on just a handful of panels. The kid barely says anything in the whole book, but you know he’s going to be a pompous jerk.
Zod and Ursa’s uniforms are also particularly fitting to their characters. They appear militaristic and powerful, much more intricate than Superman’s design. They also give off the feeling of royalty, which makes sense given Zod’s high opinion of himself.
When people think of Superman’s greatest enemies, they often go right to Lex Luthor. After the events of Action Comics #984, General Zod takes his rightful place as Superman’s nemesis in more ways than one. This is what it would look like if Clark really took matters into his own hands and decided to conquer the world. That’s a terrifying thought. Now we have to hope that the Superman Family is up to the challenge.