NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for “Superman” #6
There are plenty of stories that begin with a single idea, scene, line, or image, sparking its creator into fleshing out the story before and after. And in the DC Comics “Rebirth” so far, there are plenty of candidates in the world of “Superman: Rebirth” alone. While Superman is forced to do battle with Doomsday (again) in the pages of “Action Comics,” the “Superman” book has given Lois Lane her own memorable moment as the Man of Steel and his leading lady seek to protect their son – the new Superboy – from even more alien threats.
But to be fair, that’s kind of what fans expected – it’s infinitely more entertaining to see an unlikely character be given an unforgettable moment to reward their most devoted fans. And with Alfred Pennyworth stepping into the Batsuit, storytellers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason turned to Superman’s trusted, beloved, and fearlessly loyal protector and sidekick.
That’s right: one of the most epic moments of the DC Rebirth is reserved for Krypto, the Superdog.
The Last Dog of Krypton
On the off-chance that newer readers aren’t already familiar with Krypto, his origin is actually quite simple, owing to the obvious fact that any superpowered young boy needs a loving pet. In the pages of “Adventure Comics” #210 (1955), the canine possessing all of Clark Kent’s alien powers arrived with little warning, eventually explained to be the childhood pet of Kal-El (before the Baby of Steel could actually recall it). And with Krypto used to first test the rocket technology that would take his master’s newborn to Earth, a comet strike was all it took to knock him off course, eventually landing on Earth years later.
In the time since, Krypto has existed among the roster of DC characters that, according to the individual writers, either exist… or don’t. So even though readers would choose to have a superpowered dog at their side every minute of the day, comic writers are free to acknowledge, include, or completely ignore Krypto entirely. And the same goes for the Superhorses, Superchimps, and any other Super animals. And in “Superman” #3, Gleason and Tomasi call upon the Man of Steel’s best friend like never before.
To get everyone up to speed (particularly those who haven’t read the issues in question), the first “Superman” arc has focused on the arrival of The Eradicator, a character originally introduced prior to, then returned to prominence in the “Reign of the Supermen” following the 1990s “Death of Superman” event. In this version, The Eradicator is still a highly skilled search-and-capture drone, only here that’s by design (in the original version, it had been corrupted for nefarious purposes). The Eradicator actually delivers his own origin story, explaining that he was one of many Eradicators serving under General Zod and tasked with tracking down suspects, and absorbing them into his body (something of a Phantom Zone on the move) for later judgment.
Why does that matter to Superman and his family? Because his programming to track down criminals in pursuit of Kryptonian excellence has brought him to Earth in search of a living member of the race – and with young Jonathan Kent, he found more than he bargained for. Acquiring the scent of the Human/Kryptonian child and taking on the form of Superman, The Eradicator reveals his plan to “purify” Jonathan’s physiology by “eradicating” half of him – the human half – by first swallowing him whole.
And when he jumps into action before Superman can react, a nearby ally makes a split-second decision…
The Death of Krypto
In an act of bravery only possible by a Superdog (or any dog, probably), Krypto takes the Eradicator’s tractor-beam-esque attack head on. And just like the countless Kryptonian souls before him, is absorbed body and soul into his form. The moment is treated as fans would hope, with Superman immediately launching a new assault on Eradicator, filling the page with countless “WHAM”s – drifting to the background as the sacrifice is most strongly felt by Jonathan. Picking up Krypto’s detached cape, the moment is used to give Superman’s son another push towards becoming DC’s new Superboy, fusing the cape onto his own jacket with heat vision, and hitting Eradicator with all he’s got.
The actual… “interior” of Eradicator is explored when Superman follows his dog into the Phantom-Zone-esque prison, coming face to face with the “spirits” of the countless Kryptonians acquired by the villain before their final trial and judgment could even be decided. It’s a little hard to follow, but it becomes clear soon enough that the more souls swallowed, the more power and emotion Eradicator has to draw on and use as fuel for his attacks. And when Superman finally escapes, he doesn’t do it alone.
As much as we would like to say that the following issues see Superman and an entire army of imprisoned Kryptonians erupt out of Eradicator, the truth is, depending on your tastes, either more or less awesome. Superman asks for the Kryptonian spirits to lend him their strength and essence, essentially overpowering him, allowing him to breach the Eradicator’s containment, and take most of his powers with him when he escapes (and granting the Kryptonian souls freedom at the same time).
And finally, we arrive at the moment of truth. With Eradicator boasting that the one soul left within him possesses more than enough emotion to fuel his mission – a soul the reader knows is furry, white, and wagging – Superman shows the Kryptonian drone that there’s no accounting for the loyalty of man’s best friend.
Calling to Krypto, the dog lets its fury fly on the nearest limb, letting Superman make the final move, tearing him out of The Eradicator like only he can.
Now if, somehow, that moment isn’t enough to get every Superman fan’s jaw dropping or fists pumping, the ensuing fight pitting Superman and Krypto against Eradicator should do the trick. And as the above image shows, The Eradicator’s fight is essentially over from that point on. Left little more than a burned out husk, he has no choice but to wonder if he has, finally, understood the feeling of doom and loneliness that Krypton’s last son must endure daily.
Of course, this is Superman. So not only does he correct the dying machine by explaining that he has never felt alone, but gives Krypto one last command: to “sit”… on top of the foe he helped vanquish. It’s a moment of victory for fans, and some well-deserved gloating for the Last Pet of Krypton – having proven himself to be a very good dog.
Superman #6 is available now.