The identity of the Masked Superman may have been revealed in this week's The New 52: Futures End #17, but his exposure has led to even more questions, as the issue ended with Kal-El himself showing up.
Last week, readers found out (thanks to a break in his face shield) that the Masked Superman was not only human looking, but also appears Caucasian — eliminating some of the leading suspects for the future hero's identity.
This week, readers had their next best guess confirmed as the Masked Superman was revealed to be — last warning, there are spoilers here — Billy Batson. His true identity was seen by Lois Lane, as the Masked Superman yelled "Shazam" and transformed into his young (but not-quite-as-young-as-he-used-to-be-five-years-ago) human form of Billy.
Shazam was among the characters Newsarama had on its "short list" of characters we suspected to be inside the Masked Superman's suit. The character's blunt (and borderline rude) dialogue was a hint that the character was young, and the Masked Superman's tendency toward destructiveness showed that he might be someone as inexperienced as Shazam.
And the biggest hint was probably the lightning shown on the cover of Futures End #22.
But Futures End #17 didn't answer the mystery of why the boy is so protective of Lois Lane. Was he acting on behalf of Kal-El? And we still don't know why Billy Batson is wearing the "S" shield and the helmet— was it just to disguise himself, or is there more to it?
One clue: When the exposed Billy sees Lois, he weakly says to her: "Please. Help me."
And before readers could even begin to fathom a guess, the real Superman showed up. At the end of Futures End #17, Kal-El of Krypton came crashing down to Earth, his eyes aglow and his face sporting a beard (reminiscent, perhaps not coincidentally, of the beard Henry Cavill wore in the early part of Man of Steel).
The Kal-El crash landing happened in the Horn of Africa, in front of John Constantine, who's been tracking an evil that seems to be related to Brainiac.
We already know that Brainiac is behind the death of Stormwatch (revealed in last week's Futures End #16, and now it appears that Kal-El's absence — and reappearance — are related to Brainiac as well.
And true to his character, John Constantine doesn't seem the least bit surprised when Kal-El shows up. Were readers?