Warning: SPOILERS for Superman #1
Writer Brian Michael Bendis stunned Superman fans when he announced that he was bringing the villain Nuclear Man from Superman IV: The Quest For Peace into the mainstream DC Comics continuity for the first time in history. Now it seems that Bendis is going a step further, lifting a major plot point from the same movie for his run on the Superman comic book!
Released in 1987, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace is not only considered to be the worst Superman movie ever made, but is widely held to be one of the worst movies ever made in any genre. This is partly due to a drastically lower budget compared to earlier films in the franchise (the result of the film rights going to the notoriously thrifty Cannon Films) and the original theatrical release of the movie cutting over forty minutes of story-related footage. This resulted in numerous plot-holes and a significantly reduced part for Lois Lane, in favor of a new love interest for Clark Kent, Lacy Warfield.
Another reason Superman IV: The Quest For Peace saw wide criticism was because of its plot, which many felt was unrealistic even by the standards of the more optimistic Superman comics that informed Christopher Reeve's portrayal of The Man of Steel. Inspired by a letter from a young boy who asks why Superman doesn't get rid of all the nuclear weapons before mankind nukes itself into oblivion, he goes before the United Nations and announces his intention to do just that.
Surprisingly, the General Assembly all erupt into cheers and soon every nation on Earth is shooting their nuclear weapons into space, where Superman gathers them up and tosses them into the sun. This leads to Lex Luthor's inspired idea to use the last of the nuclear missiles as a means of creating a clone of Superman under his control, a.k.a. Nuclear Man.
While Superman #1 doesn't depict The Man of Tomorrow throwing nuclear warheads into the sun, it does explore the idea of Superman taking a more active role in global politics. Early on, Superman muses on the words of his father, Jor-El, who suggested that he could be doing far more to help the Earth than thwarting criminals and averting natural disasters. This sentiment is later echoed by Martian Manhunter, who has a meeting with Superman regarding his own concerns that Earth is ill-equipped to handle the increasingly prominent role it has assumed on a galactic level and his belief that Superman is the best person to help bring about a global government built on noble ideals rather than money or war. Superman is highly skeptical, but promises to give the matter some thought - a wishy-washy response that does not please Martian Manhunter.
It is worth noting that idea of Superman taking an active role as a global leader has been explored countless times before and after Superman IV and it has never ended happily. Perhaps the most famous recent example lies in the Injustice series of video games, set in a reality where Superman established himself as the fascist ruler of Earth after deciding he had the right to act as judge, jury and executioner to Earth's super-villains.
It seems unlikely, based on this first issue of Superman, that Bendis' exploration of the idea of Superman as a shepherd of humanity will prove revolutionary or inspired.
Superman #1 is now available from DC Comics.
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