This has been a really depressing week. Thankfully, there’s the delightful DC CW Superhero Mega-Crossover to think about. However, I then began thinking about the DCEU and Man of Steel 2 and what would have to happen for me to genuinely believe in the DCEU Superman as a symbol of hope. This is what I came up with.
The movie begins with a breakout at Arkham Asylum. Criminals and the insane are running around and right in the middle is the man who organized the breakout: Lex Luthor. He reaches the entrance just as a shadow descends from the sky and he looks up. “You can’t stop the revolution,” he says. “Even if you kill me, Clark, the people here will never accept you. They will never accept a tyrant-” And then he’s cut off as heat vision fries him to a crisp. And we see the man hovering above him isn’t the Superman we usually know, but one wearing a black suit with a U symbol on it. “Tyrant?” he says. “I’m not a tyrant, I’m a God. I am the Overman, the Ultraman. Let’s see these puny humans try to defeat me.” Arkham Asylum goes up in flames.
Back on the DCEU Earth, Clark Kent wakes up next to Lois Lane. He’s still getting used to being back from the dead and misses being at the Daily Planet, even though Bruce Wayne provided him with a completely new identity. After Lois goes to work, he gets ready for his job at the Daily Star when suddenly he sees a short man in a bowler hat in behind him. He turns around and the man in the bowler hat says, “No, no, no, this won’t do. This won’t do at all.” The world twists around him and he suddenly finds himself in his cubicle at the Daily Planet. Even weirder, nobody there remembers him being dead, not even Perry. The only one who remembers is Lois. Both of them are put on assignments and try to figure out what happened. Then there is a breakout at Arkham Asylum as Lex Luthor escapes and meets with mercenaries John and Roger Corben to build up an army — an army that Lex calls the “Superman Revenge Squad.” (“How very monomaniacal of you,” John Corben says. “Does exactly what it says on the tin.”)
Meanwhile, Clark and Lois are trying to figure out what’s going on with the world and meet two people that confuse them even further: Clark goes to STAR Labs and meets Dr. Hamilton, whom he knows was trapped in the Phantom Zone and probably dead, while Lois goes to the CIA to try and find out what Lex is doing and meets with Jimmy Olsen, whom she saw die. Both are oblivious to the fact that they should be dead.
The Corbens kidnap a scientist by the name of John Henry Irons to build them suits powered by Kryptonite. They hold his niece hostage in order to force him and he does so. Lex goes to Winslow Scott and convinces him to join the SRS, too, because he can test out his toys on Superman. Finally, the suits are complete — two Metallo suits for the Corben brothers and the classic purple-and-green suit for Lex. However, Lex is beginning to feel uneasy, saying that he “knew who Superman was before, but now I can’t. Like someone reached in my mind and took a little piece of me away. I don’t like being used.”
Clark and Lois go to STAR Labs since they piece together than John Henry Irons used to work there, too, but Lex and the Superman Revenge Squad are already there. Lois meet with Detectives Maggie Sawyer and Dan Turpin outside STAR Labs as Superman goes inside and uses lead sheets to cover both Metallo suits, but Lex almost kills him before Toyman shoots him through a portal — and the last thing Superman sees is a small man in a bowling hat waving to him goodbye.
Superman quickly finds himself on another world...a world of black and white, where he and Lois work for George Taylor at the Daily Star. This black and white Superman shakes DCEU Superman’s hand and says that he needs to move on, his world needs him. The portal appears and Superman goes through it and emerges in a world of bright colors, an animated world — here, he again sees another version of himself, a Superman in bright red and blue, who tells him that he needs to keep going and another portal appears. In the next world, Metropolis looks a lot like Vancouver, but he sees another version of himself standing next to a woman — she introduces herself as Kara Zor-El, “your cousin. Well, his cousin, but he’s technically you, I think, this whole Multiverse thing makes my brain hurt sometimes” and the other Superman tells DCEU Superman to keep going and good luck and Supergirl yells out “Say hi to Barry for me! If you guys have a Barry!”
The last portal brings Superman out into a devastated world and here is where he meets Ultraman and the Crime Syndicate. Ultraman sneers at him. “Who are you supposed to be? Some mirror version of me?” Superman fights him tooth and nail, but can’t win. “Don’t you understand?” Ultraman says. “In this world, there is no good. There is no hope. There is just-” “Us!” A revolution has happened behind Ultraman’s back. We see various supervillains who are superheroes in this world leading the revolution. “No!” Ultraman declares, “I am a God! They need me to rule them!” Superman holds him down, though, as the rebellion banishes him to the Phantom Zone.
In the Phantom Zone, both Superman and Ultraman are now trapped, but then a portal appears to the DCEU Earth and they rush towards it. Superman gets there first, however, and it closes behind him. Back at STAR Labs, he stops Toyman, but Lex still has the advantage with his Kryptonite-powered suit...which stops working at the press of a button when John Henry Irons arrives. “My suit, my design, my off switch,” he says. Superman brings him to his niece.
Resting back at home, Clark and Lois still don’t understand what happened, how the portals appeared, and who the man in the bowler hat was. Clark suddenly hears a girl about to commit suicide, so he intervenes and tells her that she is “stronger than you think you are.”
As Superman flies away, he sees the man in the bowler hat again sitting on the edge of the Daily Planet building. “Good work, Supes,” the man says. Superman demands to know who he is and he says, “Me? I’m from a higher dimension. This isn’t what I really look like. You all look like lines on a page to me and I’m able to twist and turn those pages however I want.” “So why did you want to make people forget I died?” Superman asked. “Why bring people back to life? Is this some sort of game to you?” “This isn’t a game, no, this is a story. This is the story of you, Supes. I brought them back to life, I gave you your job back because you needed it. There are times when you’ll want to mope around and be dark and broody — and you saw the world where you became the darkest and broodiest of them all. You don’t want to end up like Ultraman, now do you?”
“You have infinite powers and all you wanted to do was...give me a better life?” Superman asks.
“Not a better life,” the man in the bowler hat says, “just a different one. That’s why I showed you all those other versions of you. To show you how things turn out if events happened different ways. To show how you turn out. I can always make things go back to the way things were for you-”
“No, please,” Superman says. “Killing those people after bringing them back to life would just be cruel.”
“Well, technically, it wouldn’t be killing, it would just be reverting things back to the state in which they were still dead rather than alive. Right now, it’s like — have you heard of Schrodinger’s Cat? You are alive, Supes, but you didn’t feel like it, not without a job and friends and support. You were alive and dead at the same time. But now you aren’t. Now you can be the best you possible. Although the other yous are always trying to be the best them possible, so there’s stiff competition.”
“I thought,” Superman says, “I thought perhaps you would be my enemy.”
“What’s an enemy but an old friend?” the man in the bowler hat says. “Take it from me, sometimes you need friends. You’ll especially need friends for the dark days that are coming.”
“What dark days?” Superman asks.
The man in the bowler hat smiles. “I’ve already said too much. Wouldn’t want to give away the entire story now. Kltpzyxm.” And he vanishes.
Maggie Sawyer says goodnight to Dan Turpin and gets in a car and kisses her girlfriend. Doctor Hamilton looks at plans for a spaceship at STAR Labs. Jimmy Olsen sits at his desk at the CIA and looks at a camera. John Henry Irons kisses his niece goodnight and then goes to his lab to work on another suit. And in space, a small Kryptonian ship begins to crash into the planet Earth.
And Superman flies up, up, and away, the Daily Planet behind him.