WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Man of Steel #1
The first issue of Brian Michael Bendis's relaunch of Superman has arrived, wasting no time in rewriting the hero's origin story - by changing everything we know about the destruction of Krypton. And for fans who thought that the DC Rebirth mystery that revealed Superman's father didn't die on Krypton was a controversial change, Man of Steel #1 is even better fuel for debate.
The story marks the first of the weekly miniseries Bendis will use to lay the groundwork for his new Superman era, before taking the reins of both Action Comics and the main Superman book. As the creator of Ultimate Spider-Man, and architect of much of Marvel's Ultimate Universe and events that followed, fans have been eager to see how he would make his mark early. And boy, has he.
In the new canon being established by Bendis, the planet Krypton wasn't destroyed by the sun, over-harvesting of resources, or any other foreseeable disaster: Krypton and all its culture was murdered by a single enemy.
Meet Rogol Zaar, Killer of Krypton
Readers technically got their first introduction to Rogol Zaar, the brutal alien who "killed Krypton" in the pages of Action Comics #1000. Alongside other heartfelt stories from some of the industry's best, Bendis gave a tease of his Man of Steel debut. At the time, Rogol's claim to have destroyed Krypton was unexplained, and open to interpretation. But Man of Steel #1 shows he is being literal, asking the cosmic keepers of universal order for permission to wipe Krypton out of existence.
The five gods he appeals to appear to be The Quintessence, a select few who have rotated membership over the years (think Zeus, Highfather, a Guardian of the Universe, Shazam, etc.). Based on his argument laid out before them, the galaxy stands in a state of relative peace - hard-won through wars and battles he, presumably, fought in the name of these benefactors. Peace that he also claims will be threatened by the rise of a Kryptonian Empire.
At this point in the history of the universe, the case he makes isn't without merit. As Krypton spreads its culture in the name of science and expansion, Rogol claims, they will bleed weaker systems dry, leaving them all to grow violent and desperate, plunging the universe into chaos. In a broad sense, it's an argument against colonialism: if left alone, the universe's people and cultures may not 'progress' as Krypton has... but would be better off left alone. Doing that... means cleansing the universe of Krypton before it can do more harm.
Unsurprisingly, "The Circle" of cosmic authorities notes Rogol's hatred of science, reference to Kryptonians as "vile, insipid creatures," and determines that he has something personal against them. And since Krypton hasn't actually acted with aggression (Krypton is usually depicted as more idealistic than war-like) it would be unjust to interfere. Krypton will rise and fall on their own, the judges decide.
Apparently, Rogol Zaar decides to on his own.
Krypton Being Killed Changes Superman's Core Origin
The scenes of Rogoal Zaar arguing that Krypton is a plague could stand on their own - the empire rose, declined, then was obliterated due to their own hubris. But as Rogol made clear when he came smashing into Metropolis in the pages of Action Comics #1000, he claims personal responsibility for "cleansing the galaxy of the Kryptonian plague." Not only that, but he has tracked the very last survivors of Krypton across the galaxy to Earth with clear intention of killing the, as well. And if there was any ambiguity left as to Rogol's actual role in the end of Krypton, he tells Superman while preparing for a killing blow that he will complete his mission, "just like I once promised Jor-El... when I destroyed Krypton."
The surface-level story seems straightforward enough: Rogol defied the cosmic authorities he previously served, and saw to destroying Krypton along with the millions (billions?) of innocent people who inhabited it. Well, not innocent to him. And at some point along the way, came face-to-face with Superman's father to personally promise that his own bloodline would be ended. A straightforward starting point for Bendis's new origin - but already one that fundamentally changes the rest of Superman's beginnings.
Since Jor-El constructed a spaceship for his and Lara's son to escape Krypton's destruction, the removal of the natural/planetary threat raises questions about that entire plan. Not to mention the version of Krypton that Rogol describes is... well, a bit of a hard sell. Asking for Rogol to be compelling or persuasive in his first comic appearance might be a tall order, but Man of Steel #1 doesn't exactly sell his perspective.
After all, he's arguing against science, as well as progress... while simultaneously claiming the entire species of Kryptonians is inherently worthy of hate. He's also arguing for genocide based on what he personally thinks Krypton will become, long before they have a chance to become it. It's also unclear when he attacked, meaning the actual progress and empire of Krypton at the time of its destruction is now up to Bendis to reveal as new canon.
Hopefully, the rest of Bendis's Man of Steel can show Rogol's motivations or philosophy to pack some real punch, and use the 'REAL' destruction of Krypton to bridge the past with the future he has planned for Superman. Because a snarly, milky-eyed executioner claiming to have actually killed Krypton because he hated Kryptonians is... well, not quite the reinvention DC fans may be hoping for.
Man of Steel #1 is available now from DC Comics.