The evil of one of the Supermen is laid to bare in Superman #80.

The Cyborg blows a hole in the Last Son of Krypton on Superman #80

Superman #80

Triangle Number 1993 – 22

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Penciler: Dan Jurgens
Inker: Brett Breeding
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: John Costanza

The cover to this issue is explosive in both a literal and figurative sense. As a cityscape blows up in the background under a mushroom cloud, the Cyborg uses his arm cannon to blow a hole clean through the Kryptonian. The cover does indeed spoil the interior of the book, but because of the books that have led into this, it was easy enough to believe that it may have been the Kryptonian that went over the line, and that the Cyborg was the one on the side of right.

As he ruminates about the four Supermen, and how he cannot rest until he proves them all wrong, Lex Luthor is alerted to the giant ship in orbit heading for Coast City. The satellite that captured it is immediately destroyed, but not quickly enough for him to report the danger.

The Kryptonian is still in Coast City after the events of Man of Steel #24 but has somehow managed to replace his broken visor. He’s alerted to the incoming threat of the ship. At the same time, the Cyborg is also made aware of the impending attack by the White House. The Cyborg immediately seeks to place blame onto the Kryptonian, by subtly implying that the aliens might be there at his behest. This is clever storytelling, because while readers have been given lots of reason to doubt the Kryptonian, there have been no reasons at all to doubt the Cyborg. After all, he’s the Superman of choice for the President, he can’t be bad, right?

The ship starts deploying thousands of green globes in Coast City, and as the Kryptonian investigates, he’s confronted by the Cyborg, who accuses him of being involved with the attack. As he brushes off the accusation he’s attacked by the Cyborg in a scene mirroring the cover. The Cyborg continues to assault the Kryptonian as the globes begin to link up in an energy grid. As a mushroom cloud decimates what was once Coast City, the Kryptonian is reduced back to the energy being he was in Action Comics #687.

Both the previous issue of Action Comics and this issue of Superman do a good job of misleading the readers into thinking that the man who hatched from the Regeneration Matrix might just be the Kryptonian. Their portraits were the exact same, and the suit that the man wore was traditional Kryptonian design. In this issue, the Kryptonian retreats back to the Fortress in his energy form, before the scene shifts to focus on someone thinking that with the Kryptonian Battle Armor they will survive.

The shadowed tyrant of the alien ship then deploys another series of orbs on the flattened cityscape that immediately begin rebuilding it into a massive engine. As the Cyborg lies to the White House, he approaches the monster behind this destruction, and the final page of the issue reveals that the shadowed figure has belonged to Mongul all along, as he bows to the Cyborg’s feet and kisses his hand, their plans in motion to destroy Superman’s home and desecrate his memory. The reveal of the Cyborg was villainous was remarkable at the time because of how the writers built up these characters. It’s easy to see hints of what was to come now that we know what Cyborg Superman has evolved into, but at the time it was absolutely shocking.

Miss any previous entries in The Never-Ending Battle? The early entries can be found at Comfort Food Comics, while more recent ones can be found here at The Beat.