It seems as if Dark Nights: Death Metal is trying to rehabilitate the Superboy-Prime character. Is that even possible? I don’t know, but they sure did try here.
Issue: Dark Nights: Death Metal The Secret Origin #1, December 2020
Writers: Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder
Artists: Ryan Benjamin, Francis Manapul, Paul Pelletier, Jerry Ordway, Norm Rapmund, and Richard Friend.
The Plot: Superboy-Prime looks for redemption. Or his Earth back. Or something.
Commentary: Is it possible to rehabilitate Superboy-Prime? This is the whiny jerkass who just went around killing anyone who pissed him off even a little, or at least threatened to. But unlike, say, Homelander in any version of The Boys, there didn’t always seem to be a purpose to it. He’s not doing violence to get something back or anything along those lines. He doesn’t seem to really care about anything. He just, well, breaks stuff. Accidentally at first, but then a lot more intentionally. He mostly seems to represent that certain breed of DC fan that hates change.
So, here he is trying to be a good guy again. With Geoff Johns, the writer most responsible for the whiny jerkass version of the character on board, co-writing this story, can he be redeemed?
Well, maybe. I wasn’t overly impressed one way or the other. Part of this may be due to Death Metal fatigue. The other part is it is really hard for me to care one way or the other about Superboy-Prime, even as this single issue takes time to use one of Prime’s more ridiculous powers–changing reality by punching it–to allow the character to actually make the Batman-Who-Laughs/Darkest Knight pause while fighting him.
Here, instead, the story opens with Prime’s origin as the lone superhuman on his Earth, a teenager who loved Superman comics, whose parents named him Clark Kent when they adopted him, and whose only friend was a neighbor girl that became his love interest. And, as soon as he discovered he had superpowers, the Anti-Monitor’s wave came through and destroyed the Earth with only one of the various Supermans being quick enough to grab the newly awakened Superboy-Prime before he’s wiped out with everybody else.
As such, everything he did was to bring back that world, particularly his parents and girlfriend.
Does that excuse his actions?
Is it supposed to?
Regardless, there was one moment in this single issue I liked. It’s just before the Darkest Knight’s final attack, and all the different factions that will be united to fight him are gathering. There’s the Superman family, but they don’t want Prime around because he’s a killer. Meanwhile, the various Superman enemies are gathering someone else, and they don’t want Prime either because he’s a Superman, one that can’t be hurt by kryptonite either. The only one who seems to accept the lad at all is Krypto, and that even gets a bad reaction out of the Kon-El Superboy.
The issue ends in a way that suggests Prime got his redemption, but did it come across that way to me, the reader?
Eh, I don’t know that I really care.