As readers begin to understand the strange changes coming to the world of Superman during DC's Rebirth event this summer, the current "Final Days of Superman" story has taken on a whole new meaning.
Not only does the storyline insinuate that "New 52" Superman is going to die — in fact, he's tying up loose ends in anticipation of his demise — but "Final Days" gives clues about other situations that appear to lead into other Rebirth titles.
For folks who haven't picked up the first couple issues of the storyline — Superman #51 and Batman/Superman #31 — let's run down a list of what we've seen so far, and how those story elements might match up with the solicitations for Rebirth titles.
Death of Superman
In the first two issues of writer Peter J. Tomasi's "Final Days," "New 52" Superman is convinced he's dying. His terminal illness is the result of, as Tomasi put it, "the ARGUS Kryptonite chamber room, the Darkseid War and the trip to Apokolips where he was affected in the fire pits, the battle with Rao that really kicked the hell out of him, the identity stuff — just all the things that have gone down on poor Supes has basically metastasized."
It's a cancer of sorts, and it's killing him.
Or is it?
After Rebirth begins, the Superman who's starring in both Superman and Action Comics is the older, post-Crisis Superman. There's no mention in the Rebirth solicitations of New 52 Superman, lending credence to the claim that he's about to disappear somehow.
But upcoming Action Comics writer Dan Jurgens has said his series will have a separate Clark Kent and a separate Superman. He said it's "not how you think."
Well, here's what we think: Could Jurgens be talking about "New 52" Superman playing the role of powerless Clark Kent? And the post-Crisis Superman playing the role of super-powered Superman? If it's not what we think, then maybe that's not accurate. But it sure seems like it would work.
The two characters — "New 52" Superman and post-Crisis Superman — will meet "in a big way" in "Final Days," according to Tomasi. "They have a very integral part in the story as the chapters come by," the writer said.
Tomasi himself isn't saying whether "New 52" Superman survives into Rebirth.
"At the moment, he's not getting any better, is all I can say," Tomasi said. "Obviously, Superman has his ways of dealing with these things. He's strong of heart and he's strong of purpose and mind. So he's going to still try to do what he can do, the best that he can do, with what possibly is his very limited time left."
Since we're on the subject of a "Death of Superman," readers will remember that the last time Superman died for a while, several other Supermen emerged, claiming to be the new Superman. That storyline was called "Reign of the Supermen," and in this week's DC Comics Previews catalog, a two-page spread advertising Action Comics, New Super-Man, Superwoman and Supergirl comes with the headline text: "Reign of the Supers." That could be just a coincidence, but DC is smarter than that, right? Or are they intentionally showing their hand somewhat?
Either way, there are echoes of that storyline, as several newly powered characters will be starring in Super-titles with Rebirth, and will apparently be operating with some of Superman's power (more on that later).
In Superman #51, readers were shown a character in China named Dr. Omen, who was hacking into the Fortress of Solitude. (Apparently, there was a compromise created by the fusion of the Justice League and Stormwatch operational bases, or maybe it was because of Vandal Savage.) Superman's system booted Dr. Omen's system out, but not before she apparently got enough info to do whatever it is she was trying to do.
She then refers to a figure who's in some type of stasis chamber, "Your time to shine has come. All my dreams are on their way."
Then in Batman/Superman #31, "New 52" Superman is talking to Batman when they're both attacked suddenly by the "Four Pillars," the "embodiment of the Chinese zodiac." They're yelling some words in Mandarin Chinese (and Google Translate says the words mean "reward" and "mother," but we all know how reliable Google Translate is… not).
One of the creatures draws blood from Superman with a claw, then teleports away.
It's all very mysterious. But it's probably related to the upcoming new title, New Super-Man, which launches in July and stars a Superman in Chinese culture who has been "infused" with Superman's powers.
Tomasi acknowledged that the New Super-Man is related to what's happening in China in "Final Days."
"Everything out of Superman #51, from the China stuff to… these are all threads that are all now tying together, right into all the Superman books coming out of Rebirth," he said.
So is that in-stasis figure the new Chinese Superman? And what does Dr. Omen have to do with it?
And how does he get infused with Superman's powers?
Speaking of Superman's powers…
Meanwhile, in Minnesota, Superman #51 has shown a very bad man being hit by a bright energy-type projectile and emerging with Superman's powers. "I'm Superman," he says with a smile, glowing with the energy that just hit him.
In Batman/Superman #31, when this new glowing Superman meets Jimmy Olsen, he acts as if he knows him. And when the man temporarily loses the power, he turns bad again.
In a preview for next week's Action Comics #51, the artwork shows this glowing guy even walking into The Daily Planet as if he actually is Clark Kent.
So it's obvious that the energy blast not only infused the man with Superman's powers, but he's somehow been infused with Clark Kent's actual personality.
"The guy that we see who gets blasted with the energy and believes he's Superman… he's almost this dual personality at this stage," Tomasi told Newsarama. "His one side, his bad side, is fighting with the good side now that has hit him — the Superman side."
So how does this tie in to Rebirth Superman stories?
It's not clear yet, but it's possible the story's introduction of the concept — people being infused with Superman-type powers — is connected to the upcoming Superwoman title, where Lois Lane is "imbued with the powers of Superman," according to solicitation copy.
The character appears to be the "New 52" version of Lois Lane (as evidenced by the post-Crisis Lois appearing on a different cover with a different haircut, as well as the mention of Lana Lang being her friend). And she's got Superman's powers. But they're killing her.
And let's not forget the language DC used when describing the chinese Super-Man — that he was "infused" with Superman's powers.
There's also a new Supergirl title coming in September, and the copy for that story says that Supergirl was "depowered" and is now "repowered." Could her change in powers also have something to do with to Superman's powers?
It all seems connected, but only "Final Days" will explain how. As Tomasi told Newsarama, "Final Days" is an eight-part story that serves as a "prologue to the super-stuff coming out in Rebirth. All these pieces are just being put in place right now for June, for Rebirth. And it's a lot of fun to be table-setting these bits for the Superman world, and then see where we're spinning it out of afterwards, come Rebirth."