WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Justice League #44 by Robert Venditti, Xermanico, Romulo Fajardo Jr., and Tom Napolitano, available now.
Arguably, Superman is the greatest superhero in the DC Universe, and he’s quite possibly the most powerful member of the Justice League. While he’s far too modest to actually admit that on most days, he is apparently abundantly aware of that fact.
In Justice League #44, the heroes face a group of mythical beasts that are being manipulated by a magical force to erupt into a vengeance-seeking rampage against Wonder Woman. After the League sends the creatures back to Tartarus, the magical force reveals themself to be the Spectre and attacks their minds as well. The resulting scuffle is the members of the League engaging in a round of hateful bickering while simultaneously giving voice to long seated feelings of resentment toward one another.
Batman expressed resentment over Superman revealing his secret identity to the world without consulting him first. Green Lantern complained about Batman’s need to be the focus of attention and unwillingness to accept him as team leader. Aquaman expressed his anger at Wonder Woman’s lack of trust in him, and Wonder Woman felt like there were too many men on the team.
Finally, Superman revealed his own deep-seeded resentment. While he didn’t have a gripe against any particular member of the team, he had harsh words for them all. In a blow sure to be felt for a time to come, Superman revealed that he feels like he has had to carry the other members of the team.
In this moment, Superman says out loud what many fans have been saying for years. Even comedian and noted Superman fan Jerry Seinfeld joked about this idea, describing Superman as the main dish and the other members of the team as merely garnish on the side.
Truth be told, most of the other Justice League members are unable to match Superman in terms of raw power. He is as fast as the Flash, can stay underwater as long as Aquaman and his strength can only be matched by Wonder Woman. These factors bring to light the question of whether or not Superman needs the other members of the team or if the team really does need him to “carry” them.
On the one hand, it would appear that Superman’s statement is true. He is, without a doubt, the powerhouse of the team. In many cases, he could probably handle the threats they face as a team by himself.
However, his acting alone would most likely increase the danger to the people around him. When Superman uses his great powers to deal with a threat head-on, his teammates are usually dealing with collateral damage, figuring out a more permanent solution to take down their foe or clearing the field of bystanders, which Superman would not be able to do while battling a powerful foe.
By working as a team, Superman is also able to benefit from the attributes of his teammates. While Batman is no match for the Man of Steel when it comes to physical power, there are very few who can approach his cunning and tactical skills. The team’s current leader, John Stewart, offers an array of leadership skills and experience garnered from his military experience and time spent as a part of the universally respected Green Lantern Corps.
The team also balances out the Last Son of Krypton’s glaring and well-documented weaknesses to Kryptonite and magic. While Kryptonite is a notably rare substance, magic users exist all over the DC Universe, and the other members of the Justice League are far better suited to handle mystical threats.
While Superman’s boast may have the ring of truth, it isn’t a fair representation of all the facts. While the Man of Steel is a very formidable force for good, he would do well to remember that no matter how much good he can do alone he can do even more with the help of his equally super teammates.
After an encounter with the Spectre, Superman tells his Justice League teammates what he really thinks about their working relationship.