(Editor’s note: This is another in a series of irregularly-scheduled columns by Managing Editor Byron Brewer, mainly dealing with cosmic comics and their many denizens. Mr. Brewer’s opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CosmicBookNews.com. He welcomes both raves and opposing views.)
By Byron Brewer
General Zod has always been an odd character and villain for Superman in that his existence came before the explosion of Krypton when Kal-El was just a child.
I really did not appreciate Zod until that bone-chilling speech before the Krypton Science Council in the first Christopher Reeves Superman movie, which of course became the basis of the sequel. Chilling!
Now Zod is slated to return to the New 52 this September during Villains Month in Action Comics #23.2: General Zod, written by Greg Pak, with art by Ken Lashley. Previously, a character resembling Zod made a cameo in Action Comics #5 (March 2012), as a prisoner in the Phantom Zone. Later, in Action Comics #13 (December 2012) a ghost in the Phantom Zone says "Kneel before..." multiple times while attacking Superman, a reference to Zod's iconic saying. But Pak and Lashley will bring us pure Zod in a few months.
So who is he? Well, remember the reality-changing ways of DC Comics and take nothing for canon as we examine this Kryptonian.
Dru-Zod was a megalomaniacal Kryptonian in charge of the military forces on Krypton. He knew Jor-El, Superman's father, when Jor-El was an aspiring scientist. When the space program was abolished after the destruction of the inhabited moon Wegthor (engineered by renegade scientist Jax-Ur), he attempted to take over Krypton. Zod created an army of robotic duplicates of himself, all bearing a resemblance to Bizarro.
He was sentenced to exile in the Phantom Zone for 40 years for his crimes, but was eventually released by Superboy when his term of imprisonment was up. However, he attempted to conquer Earth with his superpowers acquired under the yellow sun. With his threat now obvious, Superboy was forced to oppose him and ultimately returned him to the Zone.
General Zod appeared as a primary antagonist in the “Superman: Last Son” storyline. In a similar story to that of the movie, Superman II, Zod, Ursa and Non escape from the Phantom Zone and come to Earth to try to turn it into a "New Krypton.” This incarnation is the first Post-Crisis Zod who came from Superman's Krypton, and not from an alternate reality.
The back-story for the three Kryptonians was revealed in Action Comics Annual #10. Prior to the destruction of Krypton, Zod and his wife Ursa rebelled against their planet's oppressive government, but soon became lawless would-be tyrants who lusted for power. The government sentenced the trio to death, but Superman's father Jor-El pleaded for them to mitigate their sentence to imprisonment in the Phantom Zone, accepted on the condition that he would assume responsibility as their jailer.
While in the Phantom Zone, Zod and Ursa were able to have a child who was born immune to the Phantom Zone's effects, ultimately facilitating their escape, and named him Lor-Zod. On Earth, the boy was discovered by Superman and his wife Lois Lane, who adopted him as their own son and named him Christopher Kent.
For the duration of the "Last Son" storyline in Action Comics, Chris Kent is depicted as an adopted son of Superman and his wife Lois across DC titles. Alongside Zod, Ursa and Non, 25 other Kryptonian criminals also escape the Zone and defeat a number of Earth's heroes, beginning their quest to conquer the planet. Zod ambushes Superman in revenge for Jor-El's actions and traps him in the Phantom Zone, which he later escapes the help of the heroic Phantom Zone prisoner Mon-El.
With assistance from his traditional enemies Lex Luthor, Metallo, Parasite and Bizarro (cool, eh?), Superman takes on Zod's army. Out of nearly thirty Kryptonians, Superman's temporary allies successfully kill several, driving the rest back into the Phantom Zone alongside Zod and Ursa, who take Chris Kent with them.
In the later “New Krypton” storyline, however, Zod is freed from the Phantom Zone once again by Supergirl's mother Alura. The bottle city of Kandoris transformed into a populated Kryptonian planet (New Krypton), and Zod is appointed the leader of its army. In the "World of New Krypton" Action Comics storyline, when Superman decides to see what life is like on New Krypton, he is drafted into the Military Guild under General Zod.
Zod and Superman maintain a mistrustful professional relationship. Despite their past, neither seems prepared to behave with marked aggression toward the other. Later, during a Kryptonian ceremony, Zod is shot by the Kryptonian Ral-Dar (who is working with Lois's father General Sam Lane), leading Zod to appoint Superman as temporary General until his recovery.
The two are involved in a Kryptonian political plot, but ultimately apprehend the planet's traitor and see a reform of New Krypton's Council. Peace is short-lived, however, due to an attack by the alien Brainiac, who had been responsible for the bottling of Kandor in the first place. In "Last Stand of New Krypton," New Krypton comes under attack by Brainiac, and Zod engineers a plan to defeat him; Zod is driven by an urge to avenge his prior defeat at the hands of the Coluan Brainiac, when Kandor was bottled from Old Krypton.
The storyline ends with the planet's destruction, leading Zod to declare war on Earth, sparking the "War of the Supermen" storyline. After a fierce conflict between Superman and Zod in defense of Earth, Zod is pushed back into the Phantom Zone by his son, Chris Kent, who had freed himself from the Phantom Zone and became active as an adult superhero on planet Earth.
What new wrinkles will Zod bring to the Man of Steel and the New 52? See you in September!