DC Comics has made it official, by revealing that the Man of Steel's son, Jonathan Kent a.k.a. Superboy is the most important hero in history. Not just Earth history, either: he's the one person who saved the entire universe. Yes, really.
The last few years have seen the Superman comics universe transformed, beginning with DC's "Rebirth" reboot. Clark Kent and Lois Lane returned as part of an official family unit, with their son Jonathan Kent at their side. More recently writer Brian Michael Bendis has enjoyed charting Jonathan's growth to become a hero of his own. To Clark and Lois' heartbreak, that journey included a time travel adventure that meant they missed years of their son's childhood--leaving a child, but returning as a teenage Superboy. At the same time as they faced personal challenges, the Superman family also struggled to learn the truth behind Krypton's destruction years ago. Finally, those secrets have set the entire galaxy on a path to cosmic war.
Fortunately, Superman #14 sees Jonathan Kent come up with a solution. Inspired by the example of Earth's United Nations, he suggests that the races of the galaxy should band together into the United Planets. All the cosmic powers should work together, settling their differences in public discussion rather than risking bloodshed. It may seem like something of a naive proposition, but its advocates - Superman and the House of El - are able to make a persuasive case.
Fortunately, their case for a solution so simple, only a child could think of it is immediately bolstered by the unexpected arrival of the soon-to-be-rebooted Legion of Super Heroes from the 31st Century. The heroes tell the assembled galactic dignitaries that this is the day that history changed, and honor Jonathan Kent as the man who dreamed up the United Planets that achieved the feat. And to top it all off, they extend and invitation to join them in the future.
It's a fascinating twist, in that it transforms Superboy into DC's most important superhero. He was young and idealistic enough to come up with a proposal for races across the galaxy to make jaw-jaw not war-war; given the House of El had unwittingly triggered this crisis by discovering the truth about Krypton's destruction, he was uniquely well-positioned to make the case. At the same time, though, it's interesting to note that Superman and Superboy weren't easily selling the gathered parties on their idea. The very fact the Legion of Super Heroes chose to intervene and tip the scales raises the question: would the House of El have failed to found the United Planets if the galactic leaders hadn't been granted a glimpse of the future they could create?
Time travel is always prone to such loops of logic and causality, and the Legion's invitation to Superboy to join them in the future seems to have profound implications. It suggests either that Superboy proposed the United Planets and then disappeared from history, or preferably, that he will go to the future for some adventures before ultimately returning to his own time. If the latter is true, then the Legion's time travel has created a time loop, with Superboy at the center of it. Which may imply he has an even greater role in the future of the DC universe.
Perhaps the immortal mystery woman of Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium may be coming face to face with a descendant of Superboy, and not just his cousin President Supergirl. All mysteries further explored in the coming Legion reboot from Brian Michael Bendis this year.
Superman #14 is available now from your local comic book shop, or direct from DC Comics.