The Anti-Superman Army that was teased at the end of the previous issue appears at the beginning of this issue. It appears that the Dealmaker from the first issue (who has popped up a few other times throughout the run in cameo appearances) is in charge of the Anti-Superman Army and now that they have recovered the engine from the Kryptonian rocket in the previous issue, they will be able to synthesize every form of Kryptonite imaginable. In this way, this Kryptonite is like the gun used to kill Orion and wound Darkseid in Final Crisis; this isn’t just Kryptonite – it’s the very idea of Kryptonite. The Kryptonite by which all forms of Kryptonite will evolve from. Also, it is like Superman – the hero that all other heroes will evolve from in the New 52.
Much like in his first appearance in the series, the little man is ready to make a deal. With the ultimate Superman-killing weapon, the Dealmaker asks the Anti-Superman Army, “I give you Kryptonite . . . what will you give me?” Angered by the Dealmaker’s presumption that the Kryptonite is his to give, the Anti-Superman Army threatens him, but the Dealmaker isn’t so easily scared. First, he refers to them all as Superman’s “greatest enemies” and then he promises to give them Kryptonite, but they must each “perform one task in my name.” This motif of making deals will be present throughout the run and it’s a curious idea that Morrison has decided to meditate upon, but we will discuss this more in depth after the Dealmaker’s big reveal. For now, it’s worth noting that Lex Luthor isn’t a member of the Anti-Superman Army. While this could be because editorial mandate of the New 52 was to create new villains rather than relying upon the classics, we could further read into it that Luthor won’t always be a villain. Or, given the Dealmaker’s trustworthiness, maybe he is just lying to all of them in order to play upon their egos.
The narrative shifts to Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes investigating the rocket. Superman says, “This was my original fortress of solitude, where I came to be alone in those early days” and sharp-eyed readers will notice that the Fortress is the same as the spaceship that Luthor was speaking with at the end of issue #2. In a way, this spoils the ending to the first arc with Superman battling the Collector of Worlds. No one questioned that Superman would save Metropolis, but the plot point that Superman would be taking over the Collector’s ship wasn’t as obvious and comes off as a bit of a spoiler.
Cosmic Man explains the ominous conclusion left by the rocket at the end of the previous issue by saying that if the rocket dies, “the Collector A.I. will re-infect this station and the Earth’s computer network.” As the Legion try fixing their Time Bubble (wherein there is a bit of foreshadowing and a subtle Doctor Who reference as Superman remarks that he can “never understand how the time bubble can have more room inside than out”), Erik Drekken of the Anti-Superman Army attacks the team. Saturn Girl explains that Drekken can “evolve and devolve his genetic material” which makes him an interesting foil for the Man of Tomorrow because Drekken can literally be a man of tomorrow by evolving his genetic material. In his squid form, he declares that he has, “Nu e/motions u n1vir uhmagine! NU ZENses NU APPetiteS. !NU KROOLties!” showing that his evolution goes beyond just physical appearance, but in mind and personality as well. So, not only has Superman battled a man of steel, but now he has battled a man of tomorrow as well.
Saturn Woman connects the location of the Anti-Superman Army to the Time Bubble tesseract technology that she mentioned earlier when she explains, “Nimrod the Hunter used a teleport rifle to fire a microscopic lead pellet into your brain. The pellet’s hollow, and inside, there’s a tesseract space big enough to fit 30 people.” Mostly, this is an excuse to access Superman’s memories to show readers what he was like as a boy on the Kent farm and thereby establish more folk hero roots. As a young boy, Clark single-handedly wrestled farmer’s Murphy’s bull. It’s a moment that really feels like a folk tale in the same vein as Pecos Bill wrestling the deadly horse Widowmaker. Afterward, Clark remembers the first time he met the founding members of the Legion and it shows that Clark’s influence will be felt throughout time.
Then, the Legion jumps into their time bubble to travel in Superman’s brain to stop the Anti-Superman Army. As they confront the Dealmaker, he mutters something that sounds like to Saturn Woman, “’Give in! Kent next!’” but we won’t understand the full implications until the end of Morrison’s run. Before he disappeared, the Dealmaker shatters the Kryptonite and infects Superman’s body. Superman then must battle Drekken as he tries to use the K-radiation in his body to continue powering the rocket so that the Fortress of Solitude isn’t infected. As he powers the ship, the rocket responds, “my life restored – - my mission continues – - to protect the son of Krypton.” Even though the rocket completed its mission bringing Superman to Earth, it is still compelled to protect Superman at all cost and does so by blasting Drekken away from the dying Superman.
The issue ends with the Legion returning the rocket’s power source, some foreshadowing of new villains Susie and “Earth’s first Superman” and also Superman’s greatest battle. But, the emotional resonance in the end comes when Saturn Woman explains that the day Clark Kent met the Legion was “the greatest day in his life” because it proved that “planet Earth had a future worth fighting for.” It’s a sweet conclusion and one that does much to show that no matter how alone Superman may seem, he is never really alone. While issue #5 stated that the battle with the Collector will bring about the age of heroes, it’s the Legion that really shows the influence that Superman will really have.
Structurally, issues #5 and #6 begin with Superman’s past and the destruction of Krypton (a utopian society of super-heroes) and ends with Superman’s future which will be a new world of super-heroes. Therefore, even though Krypton is destroyed, the Kryptonian ideals never really die; they live on through Superman and the world that is created by his influence.