Monday, September 26, 2016

Real Name: Dru-Zod
First Appearance: Adventure Comics #283 (April, 1961)
Fight Club Ranking: #189

Featured Fights:
- vs SUPERMAN: Action Comics #846 (Feb 2007)

In recent weeks we've been talking about additions [Ghost Rider] and subtractions [Hawkman] made to the major comic book universes. Today's Hero of the Week comes with a little bit of both: General Zod making an ominous return to the DC Universe in the pages of Suicide Squad #2!

Comic Book Resources reported on the return a couple of weeks back, breaking their story into two major headlines. The first was simply Zod's return from The Phantom Zone. Surprising -- only in the sense that you don't usually expect to see a major Superman villain make a return in Suicide Squad!

It strikes me as a premise that sits quite well with the Hollywood conscious Squad, whose film incarnation was formed to counter the threat of a rogue Superman. General Zod certainly fits that bill quite well, both as a similarly powered Kryptonian with destructive urges -- and as a character whose most convincing history comes from cinema, not comics.

For many, Terrence Stamp's commanding presence in 1980 sequel Superman II is the definitive vision of General Zod. 2013's Man of Steel suffered for the choice to repeat the villain in the first DC Extended Universe film, played unenviably to conclusion by a committed Michael Shannon.

Comics have struggled to match the charisma of Stamp's performance, too. Attempts to make something significant of Zod have gone wrong with overwrought stories about a New Krypton, or the invention of similarly named facsimiles hailing from Russia and other misguided sources.  Bizarre and confounding errors for what amounts to a fairly straight forward idea: An evil Superman!

The appetite for "Evil Superman" stories is always there. It's the schoolyard question of who would win in a fight -- minus the tether of knowing that Superman will never callously fling his opponent into the sun.

That intrigue has fuelled a heckuva lot of awkward, lazy attempts to reenergize Superman in a mainstream context. The ill fated New 52 Superman spent as much time causing problems as he did fighting them - even becoming Doomsday! Other parallel versions, like the evil Regime Superman found in Injustice: Gods Among Us, go a long way to showing just how unsatisfying the concept is when the sole goal is to make Superman the bad guy. Unconvincing and shallow, it rings false and quickly becomes uninteresting.

General Zod is an evil version of Superman you can get behind! He's the militant sun-powered menace who would create an army to forge a Regime of power through conquest! He scratches a completely different itch than Bizarro, but has more star power and untapped potential than other equivalents. Ergo, Zod sounds like a terrific addition to the on-going saga of the DCU to me!

Which makes what happened in the second big story of Suicide Squad #2 a little disappointing...

Zod's arrival comes with the apparent incineration of Captain Boomerang, leaving only a pair of smouldering boots after a blast of heat vision.

Honestly, I find it difficult to believe there isn't some sort of twist coming to explain the 'shock' moment away. I wouldn't be all together surprised to learn the good Captain is perfectly fine in the next issue. It's just not a good time for these types of fake-outs - and an even worse time for a genuine, frivolous extermination! He was our Hero of the Week only a month ago!

With any luck it'll all work out in the end, but I'd really love to see DC Comics retiring these kinds of cheap tricks. We discussed the diminishing returns of cheapening death in our Hawkman HOTW. The message of today's entry, and last week's, is the joy of accumulating strong characters into the living, breathing superhero universe. Here's hoping General Zod can exceed all expectations, instead of living down to ultimately meaningless sound and fury.

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