The betrayal of the Cyborg continues in Adventures of Superman #503.
Adventures of Superman #503
Triangle Number 1993 – 23
Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciler: Tom Grummett
Inker: Doug Hazlewood
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
With the reveal of the Cyborg as a villain and the return of the Kryptonian to the Fortress of Solitude, we move into the back half of this portion of the “Death and Return of Superman” saga. With the destruction of Coast City, the books begin the climactic action of the whole story, and with Adventures of Superman #503, the return of Superman starts in earnest.
The issue opens on the Cyborg patrolling the desolation and feeding misinformation to the White House. His deception is fully illustrated here, utilizing tactics he’ll use throughout the rest of the arc. He’s successfully pinned the blame of the destruction on the Kryptonian, and while he thinks that rival is dead, he knows there are two others that he must eliminate. As such, he specifically asks for the Kid to be sent to assist him.
One thing that all the writers do during this section of the story is to demonstrate exactly how cowardly the Cyborg truly is. He routinely waits until backs are turned, or blindsides his enemies. He tricks a family into looking away before he mercilessly slaughters them. In the previous issue of Superman, he attacked the Kryptonian only when the latter had his back turned. This is an extremely effective way to show that he has no actual sense of morality.
One of the harder things to reconcile looking at the stories with the Kid with the benefit of an adult lens and hindsight is just how inappropriately sexual the older women surrounding him are. Supergirl has flirted with him repeatedly as a means to woo him to Team Luthor. There’s romantic tension with Tana Moon that would eventually turn into an actual relationship when he would get his own book. And of course, there’s Roxie Leech, daughter of professional scumbag Rex Leech. Her age is never firmly established, but as she’s often depicted smoking cigarettes, one can safely assume she’s at least eighteen. The Kid is, by all intents, approximately sixteen years old physically, so absolutely none of these are age-appropriate relationships for him. It’s a gross and sexist double standard, where if the Kid were a female character each and every one of these relationships would immediately be labeled for what they are: creepy at best and predatory at worst. But because the Kid is male, it’s to show that he’s a stud playing outside his age range. There aren’t a whole lot of misfires in this Superman era, but this is something that stands out as a glaring one.
Aside from the destruction of Coast City, the other plot that establishes this as firmly part of the climactic act of the story is the introduction of the Kryptonian battle armor leaving the Antarctic and making its way towards Metropolis. Mimicking both the arrivals of Doomsday and Mongul, this is established with short sequences showing its progress.
As the Cyborg meets the Kid, Lois starts to make the connections that he’s not what he claimed to be, as he mentions wishing he’d had the same confidence in his powers at the Kid’s age. While the rest of the Planet newsroom isn’t privy to the same knowledge as Lois is, she knows that Clark didn’t really start developing his powers until he was older than the Kid is now.
The issue closes with another Superman versus Superman slugfest, as the Cyborg ambushes both the GBS news crew and the Kid. The fight is mostly one-sided as the Kid starts to put things together that his invulnerability doesn’t work the same way that Superman’s does and is subject to energy blasts and fire. The last panel of the issue is just a red and black splatter after the Cyborg apparently caves the Kid’s head in.