Are heroes made, or are they born? What about superheroes? That’s the question I pondered as I read this fascinating, Elseworlds annual as a kid. I never came to a concrete conclusion truthfully. What about you? Read on, Unspokenites, and then see if you can decide. Here’s my look at “Superman: The Man of Steel” annual #3…..
Batman knelt in the circular entranceway to the secret tunnel within the aircraft carrier he now occupied. He waited a few moments for the cybernetics built into his spine to realign before continuing onward. Silently, he exited the passage and entered an office. Spying a file cabinet, he opened it, picking the lock with ease. The Dark Knight smiled to himself as he saw the paper blueprints. Paper. An invention of humans. How long since the invasion had it been since he’d seen actual paper? The Earth’s “friends from beyond the stars” only used their ultra-net for information, thus making paper illegal contraband. He tucked the document into his cape and turned to leave. That’s when the blinding lights hit him from the windows and a voice commanded him to surrender! (Man, if paper ever became contraband, I’d be sitting in the big house, sobbing as the powers-that-be burned my beloved comic collection. I hope you choke on the smoke, you invading bastards! Sorry. I may have taken that last bit too far…..inhuman monsters!)
It was Team Luthor, human servants of the planet’s alien oppressors. Once again came the mechanically amplified order to surrender. Bruce waited and smirked. He then pulled a device from within his cape and pushed the button. The aircraft carrier exploded, momentarily knocking back the armored Luthor drones upon their hovercrafts! They waited in silence. Perhaps the old man had done himself in. No such luck! Batman burst to the surface, aided by a large rocket-pack! Team Luthor had little time to react as he shot off into the sky! They recovered however and flew off themselves in hot pursuit! The cat-and-mouse, aerial chase only lasts seconds before Batman’s pack is hit by lazer fire! He drops and rolls onto a platform upon a nearby island military base and looks up only to see Lex Luthor himself, lounging in a lawn chair, drink with umbrella in hand! He raises his glass in salute. (Damn. That’s a pretty nonchalant way to greet a guy that can make you eat out of a feeding tube for months after a brief exchange of blows! Thoughts, peeps?)
Luthor gives his usual speech about how old Batman has gotten, his many physical ailments, and the large number of times that Bruce has escaped, only to have Lex capture him yet again. The Dark Knight seems to consider Luthor’s words this time. Surprisingly, he takes a glass of refreshment himself! Has he finally admitted defeat? Never! Batman smashes the glass into Lex’s faceguard and holds him hostage as Luthor’s troops rush to intercede! Lex orders them to halt, but all too late! Batman throws a grenade that splashes a freezing compound all over the soldiers’ armor, shorting them out! Batman then drags Luthor to a large drop-off and dangles his enemy! Lex merely comments how Batman has a code against killing with a sly grin. Bruce drops him! Shocked, Luthor barely has time to activate his armor’s energy net! The Dark Knight then walks away with a knowing smile. (Man! I thought Luthor was done for for sure! Okay. So the man has always has a contingency plan for everything. Ugh! Batman fans…..)
He turns as he hears the click of a readying weapon. A young Luthor trooper holds an aimed lazer rifle at Batman’s head! The hero speaks in a calm voice. He asks the soldier’s name. Shaking with obvious fear, the man answers. Batman then uses this name and states that he’s now going to leave. The young man yells for the superhero to freeze. Batman states that he needs to calm himself, especially because his weapon isn’t even loaded. Shocked, he checks his rifle. That’s when the batarang smashes into the trooper’s faceplate, shattering the glass! The Dark Knight hears Lex Luthor comment about never turning your back on an enemy. He turns and is assaulted with sound waves so intense, Bruce can almost feel his bones break! Luthor then finishes his attack by using the butt of his sonic blaster to beat Batman into unconsciousness! (Umm. The Team Luthor guy checked his lazer weapon because Batman said it wasn’t loaded…..Loaded with what? Lazers? Yeah. Ponder that one for awhile. Lol!)
Moments later, a helmeted figure swoops down into a waiting window in a structure situated within a grand metropolis. The figure seems distressed, agitated. He had tricked the room’s security system in order to fly, undetected, and follow the Batman at a distance. Why did this man fight on, so determined, against his people? The Kryptonians had occupied this planet ever since Kal-El had been born. Yet this lone man’s struggle compelled him to learn more. Kal removed his helmet, revealing a full head of dark hair. For whatever reason, he was the only Kryptonian with hair. No sooner had Kal-El donned his usual attire before his father, Jor-El’s, image appeared upon Kal’s holoscreen. The man looked displeased. (I’m thinking that the full mane of hair is concealed to quell possible Kryptonian attacks upon Kal’s person. I, as a balding man, understand this completely. Down with those with luscious locks! Revolution!)
Kal-El greeted his dad. Jor-El scolded his son for the “dad” comment. He was his elder and should be spoken to with respect. Kal let this comment slide, asking what his father wanted. And if it was so urgent, as the man’s tone suggested, why not simply visit his son’s room? Jor-El once again scolded his son. He knew the Kryptonian protocol against physical contact. He then continued that the problem with Kal’s room security was solved. The systems should be functioning again soon. The holoscreen then switched off. Kal lowered his head, sighing with obvious relief at the call’s end. It’s then that a friendly and familiar voice from behind him spoke. He’d been caught acting out once again? Kal nodded in agreement as he turned to see the Kents, the elderly human couple that had been assigned to raise him. (But his Kryptonian father seems so kind and fatherly. Weird. I must have misunderstood that part. I mean, where were the clues? Oh well.) Kal told them that Bruce Wayne had been captured again. Why did he continue this seemingly impossible fight? Pa Kent answered. Why not ask the man himself?
After he told his parents how much he loved them, Kal-El walked throughout the city. He was in deep thought. He finally made a visit to his father. After Jor-El scolded him for not only visiting in person, but calling him “dad” once again, Kal asked about the Kryptonian occupation of the Earth. He needed answers. Jor-El answered that the people of Krypton were dying, the result of a microbe used in chemical warfare during the planet’s Clone Wars. (Clone Wars. Ha! I wonder if the Jedi knew of this tactic? Lol! So I’m a nerd. It’s been well-established.) Jor-El had discovered this first and talked the Council into evacuating the planet. Earth seemed a better option as Kryptonians would become strong under this planet’s yellow sun. When they arrived, they discovered that Earth was horribly polluted, nearly always at the brink of world war, and suffered from many forms of disease. The people of Krypton soon took over and eradicated these problems. Were they not the Earth’s saviors? Kal asked why the Batman fought them so furiously then. Jor-El’s reply was that Bruce Wayne was a madman.
Kal-El expressed his desire to speak with Wayne in person. His father’s reply was that that would be out of the question. Such a thing would humiliate a man of his social standing. Furthermore, he also didn’t appreciate his son sneaking off to follow this Batman in his idiotic exploits. (Oh! Busted! I remember sneaking out in my teens. Of course, the only “madman” I was pursuing was the one in my own head! Ahh. Memories of a rebellious youth…..God, I’m old now…..sniffle…..) The conversation was over. Kal returned to his chambers only to be greeted by a holoscreen message from his mother. She stated that the Kents had been reassigned. He was an adult now afrerall. End transmission. Kal looked deeply saddened at this. He turned in his chair and discovered a book. “The Scarlet Pimpernel”. A gift from the Kents.
Having been almost completely healed through the wonders of Kryptonian science, Bruce Wayne spent his time in prison getting back into fighting shape. While he exercised, he sensed Kal-El approach. He turned cold, menacing eyes on him. Nervous, Kal cleared his throat and asked why Batman fought against the Kryptonians when the fight cost him so much. To this, Bruce gave a sly grin and answered, “You know.” That was all he said. But that was enough. Kal-El spent the rest of the night in deep contemplation. (Smooth. Batman’s too cool for school in this scene. And I know what’s smooth. Yep. I’ve seen a lot of movies.) Kal was startled from his thoughts as the holoscreen began to broadcast an emergency news report the next morning. It stated that the Batman had escaped prison once again! Kal was relieved until the report continued. As Bruce Wayne had caused acts of terrorism and violence continually, as well as escaped from prison countless times, he would now be brought in by any means necessary! Kal knew what that meant. They were going to kill him!
As the Team Luthor soldiers prepared for an all-out war upon the island military base, they were taken by surprise as a blur of motion began destroying their weapons systematically and attacking them physically! Batman wasn’t surprised to see that this “blur” was in fact Kal-El. Kal shouted at the Dark Knight in anger. Why did he keep breaking into this specific installation? Was Kal’s father right? Was Bruce Wayne a madman after all? Batman ignored this sudden angry outburst and tossed a package to Kal-El. Before he could comment, Bruce said how that his body had been through a literal hell since he began this one-man-war against the Kryptonians. He was growing too old for this too. He then looked Kal in the eyes and said that it was now his turn. Kal-El didn’t know how to respond. (Awww! Batsy got his bestie a present. I bet it’s Legos. What? That’s a genuinely cool gift amongst bros! Sheesh!) As it turned out, he wouldn’t get the time.
Lex Luthor himself turned the corner just then, energy pistol aimed at the Dark Knight’s head! Kal-El throws himself in front of Bruce, ordering Luthor to drop his weapon. Lex complies but only momentarily. He raises it again and fires a stun-ray at the Kryptonian! He then knocks Kal into a wall! He can only watch in horror as Lex Luthor opens fire on Batman at point blank range. When the smoke clears, the hero lies motionless. His body is transferred to the Kryptonians greatest city for burial. This was most likely in the hopes of halting a human uprising before it could begin. Kal-El remained in his room, staring at the red cape that came with the costume Batman had gifted him. (I’m not gonna cry. I’m not gonna cry. I’m not…..sob.)
This injustice did not go unavenged. In the next few months, several key ultra-net installations were destroyed. This saboteur was becoming such a problem, that Jor-El himself contacted Lex Luthor. He demanded that this criminal be stopped. Luthor merely replied that Jor-El knew damn well who it was. It was his son. No need to worry though. Luthor would be ready when the time was right.
To be concluded…..