After 5 years of silence, Rocksteady finally announced their next game, Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League, at DC’s Fandome event. The game is still at least two years out, and details are scarce, but the short teaser trailer made a powerful impact. The Suicide Squad (Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, and King Shark) are sent into war-torn Metropolis during an alien invasion to find and neutralize the “Alpha Target.” By the end of the Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League’s trailer, it becomes clear who the Alpha Target actually is: Superman.
Seemingly mind-controlled, Superman saves a pilot from a helicopter crash then ruthlessly kills him. The Suicide Squad, by no means allies of Superman, are nonetheless disturbed by the incident. Superman, even to the villains, represents a beacon of hope and goodwill. When the Suicide Squad’s King Shark initially spots the superpowered boy scout, he gleefully shouts, “Look its Superman: The mighty Superman has just rescued that pilot!” His fanboy enthusiasm quickly turns to horror, however, when Superman nonchalantly vaporizes the pilot with his heat vision. Brainwashed or not, Superman has just killed an innocent.
The helicopter pilot Superman kills in Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League has no individual importance. He is just a pilot. But it is preciously in his not mattering that he becomes important. In killing an innocent, Superman demonstrates the extent of the mind-control and establishes a context that may be impossible to come back from.
Superman is being brainwashed, most likely, by Braniac, but that matters very little considering the gravity of Superman’s actions. Most stories that portray an evil Superman either have it contained to a special side-universe, like the Injustice series, or make his actions inconsequential, like when Darkseid brainwashes Superman in Superman: The Animated Series. In the former circumstance, the narrative plays out in another dimension that is defined by Superman’s evil behavior, while, in the latter, Superman is forgiven for his actions since all he did was destroy some buildings. Neither of these hold true for Suicide Squad Kills The Justice League. First, the game takes place in the Arkham universe, meaning its part of a continuity that will not be cast aside. Second, Superman is not just destroying buildings, he is killing people, innocent people. Even if the incident is somehow covered up, Superman will have a stain on his conscience he’ll never be able to remove.
The ruthlessness with which Superman kills the pilot also says a lot about his mental state. Not only is the pilot unarmed and helpless, but he was also rescued by Superman. Superman downed the pilot’s helicopter and then saved him just prior to the crash. If the intent was to simply kill the guy, Superman could have let him go down in the crash, but he doesn’t. Superman pulls the pilot from the wreck to either enjoy the act or to make a point to the Suicide Squad. Either sadism or power play, the murder demonstrates the extent of the brainwash’s effect. Superman has become cold, calculating, and vicious.
Suicide Squad Kills The Justice League has certainly raised more questions than answers, and fans still do not know the status of the other Justice League members, so perhaps some of them have not turned. But, regardless of what the future holds, Superman has crossed a line and his story will be something unlike any that have come before, at least in video games.