WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Action Comics #979
Strange days ahead for DC's new Superman, as the stars of the 1990s storylines "The Death of Superman" and "Reign of the Supermen" are back with a vengeance. The Cyborg Superman reborn, the Eradicator returned to his pre-New 52 form, Mongul out for blood, and even Metallo and Blanque thrown in to spice things up. It's the latest event to spin out of DC's rewriting of Superman's history... but could provide even more of an explanation of how Superman erased his New 52 origin story, and bring his previous history back into play.
Those recent "Rebirth" moments may be confusing to readers who have missed just a handful of issues, but suffice it to say that DC's Superman comic is only going to become more important to the big picture - especially with Superman and Doctor Manhattan's Doomsday Clock approaching. Before we get to that, though, the Man of Steel will need to withstand the combined forces of the DC stars who once replaced him in death. If he's lucky, he'll manage to do it before they recruit their last Kryptonian member to tilt the odds in their favor.
The Return of The Pre-New 52 History
For fans mainly familiar with the New 52 reality of DC Comics, or those unclear on just how Superman's history from the 1990s has suddenly been returned to mainline continuity, the answer is actually pretty simple. And by 'simple' we mean 'it's as uncomplicated as DC wants it to be.' Long story short? The New 52 Superman didn't die, as assumed, but was later revealed to have been fractured off of the original Superman (the one that fans knew from the 1940s up to the early 2000s). The two Superman merged in "Superman Reborn" recently, forming a new Superman with a new suit... and the old Superman's history.
And we do mean most, if not all of that history. When the merge/reunification took place, it was seen as impossible - two distinct realities folded back into one based purely out of love (for Jonathan, Clark and Lois's son). In the issues that follow, as we mentioned above, it became clear that this new Superman lived through "The Death of Superman" event and the replacement heroes/impostors that followed.
He still couldn't remember Conner Kent a.k.a. Superboy, leaving us to wonder if that reveal is still coming. But if Clark managed to change the history of the DC Universe itself... would he change the memories or realities of the other characters involved in that past? Thanks to Action Comics #979, we have our answer.
Rebirth's Eradicator Has Become The Original
Prior to "Superman Reborn" and its rewrite of the DC Universe, the DC "Rebirth" saw the introduction of a new take on the classic impostor/villain The Eradicator, the Kryptonian sentinel taking the image of the deceased Superman. After threatening the life of Superman's son, Jonathan - and swallowing Krypto the Superdog whole - the Man of Steel drained him of all the Kryptonian souls that powered him, and buried him for good on the surface of the Moon. But when Superman rewrote history, making the Eradicator first arrive on Earth over a decade earlier... things changed.
He was still buried on the Moon, but when he was dug up by the strange, digitized, omniscient being seen in the image above, the changes became obvious. While the reader didn't know who this red-tinged computer program freeing Superman's enemies was, The Eradicator did - despite having only interacted with the Kents on Earth before being killed. In hindsight, it was a major clue. While the flashback sequence showed that the Eradicator remembered by Superman matched the pale-skinned version of the original 1990s arc, it is this Eradicator existing in the New 52 Universe that has... absorbed(?) those memories.
It was this Eradicator who lived through "Reign of the Superman" so many years earlier, who recognizes another disguised hero from the same massive event. Well, not so much 'disguised' as 'looking to return to his true form.' A form that Superman fans will be thrilled to see return to DC's Universe...
The Cyborg Superman Is Back!
That's right, Hank Henshaw the Cyborg Superman has been restored in all his glory. New 52 fans have gotten to enjoy an alternate take on the character in Supergirl, as the reanimated form of Kara Zor-El's father, but this version is the real deal. As part of the New 52 reboot, Hank Henshaw has only appeared in his fully human form in the Team 7 comic series, having never undergone the strange experiment and catastrophe that led to his transformation into the Cyborg Superman. Apparently, when Superman rewrote reality, he unlocked Henshaw's true past as well... leaving the good doctor with a new mission.
Since then he's set about recreating that past, breaking the psychic villain Blanque out of Superman's prison, resurrecting Eradicator to recruit Mongul (who once destroyed Coast City), and letting Metallo join in on the fun. Once his lackeys recovered the mystical 'Oblivion Stone' (which readers of Superman" Lois & Clark will already know), Henshaw can return to his true form - as the half organic, half robotic Cyborg Superman we know and love.
The only thing left to do before killing Superman as he failed to so many years ago is to recruit General Zod. Which could be easier said than done, considering he's currently serving as a member of the Suicide Squad. So, does this version of Hank Henshaw suddenly remember the rest of his comic book career, fighting as a member of the Sinestro Corps? Only time will tell.
Action Comics #979 is available now.