Ok, who here remembers Superman IV: The Quest for Peace? Yeah I know it was bad. Really bad. Who remembers the villain? Yup, equally bad, but he reminds me of somebody (but more on that in a second). The fact is, The Nuclear Man put a whuppin’ on Superman that was more legendary than what he got vs the Kryptonians in Superman II.
The only problem with this movie, was that by the time Superman IV had come around, the production was farmed out to the now-defunct Golan Globus group, which was famous for its low budget productions. Thus the end result was probably one of the worst Superman movies on record. I remember seeing it in the theater and saying to myself that this easily could have been a good movie with a big budget and a better story. Heck, Nuclear Man was nothing more than an evil version of Superman without the weakness of Kryptonite, who went toe-to-toe with Supes. This movie is what killed off the franchise for nearly 20 years.
So here we are thirty years later and Nuclear Man is set to make a comeback under the direction of Brian Michael Bendis. Depending on where you stand, this could be a good thing or a bad thing. Some people aren’t all that crazy for lots of exposition. On the other hand, it’s the perfect time for Bendis to bring Nuclear Man aboard, as he has experience doing a similar established character in Marvel Comics: The Sentry.
Bendis had a good long run on the Avengers and New Avengers. He really put Sentry into the spotlight, and while he is more or less a Marvel character with a similar power set to Superman, all of the flaws that he has are what separates him from Superman: drug addiction, fighting the Void, murder, and mental issues – especially dealing with his internal conflicts of good vs. evil. Let’s be real here; the Sentry had some demons!
Now, I am not saying that Bendis needs to recreate the Sentry in Nuclear Man. But it’s just that with his experience in building a story around such a flawed character with that power set, he (in some ways) made Sentry more credible than Superman. So, it is going to be interesting seeing how Bendis builds Nuclear Man. Thirty years ago, he was a mostly mindless blank slate set to kill Superman just because he was ordered to do so. Now we have a chance to see if Bendis can work his magic to give a fresh start in a villain tossed aside long ago. Given proper motivation, conviction, and background, we can see Nuclear Man become more than a one-note flunkie. What will even be more interesting to see, is if Lex Luthor will figure into Nuclear Man’s comic appearances as well. If done properly this could be a compelling villain along the lines of General Zod or Doomsday. It’s what we need in a villain: someone who can take Superman to his limit, with a good reason to boot. If it fails…well…it won’t kill the franchise like the movie almost did, but it may be a long time before we see his return.
Superman #2 is set to drop in August.