Resourceful villains have recently discovered a highly effective strategy for attacking DC’s Superman that does not require the use of kryptonite, the infamous substance that is Kal-Achilles El’s heel, with its rapid repetition in the comics indicating that comic writers have embraced the unusual weakness. For most of his history, Superman’s near-godlike status has been tempered by the presence of kryptonite, which gravely weakens the Man of Steel. Both Kal-El and Jon Kent’s powers have lately been enhanced, as criminals have accelerated them to uncontrolled levels that endanger everyone around them.
Because of Superman’s international fame, kryptonite has become associated with the hero’s greatest vulnerability and is commonly utilized outside of comic books. Similarly, the Super-greatest Family’s vulnerability is well known to their adversaries, with Amanda Waller commanding her own Superboy clone through a kryptonite device. This crystalline element is a relic of Superman’s devastated home planet Krypton, and practically every hue of kryptonite has appeared in comic books. It’s been fashioned into weapons and chains, and villains like Batman and Lex Luthor keep it on hand as a backup plan for dealing with Superman.
But, while kryptonite is well-known, it is seldom an intriguing weakness, putting Kryptonian heroes in the position of ordinary mortals. Instead, more recent foes have concentrated on amplifying Superman’s talents beyond his control. In Superman: Son of Kal-El #4 by Tom Taylor and Daniele Di Nicuolo, Henry Bendix employs this new approach on Jon Kent, demonstrating that even Supermen may grow too strong for their own benefit. Bendix is striking Superman exactly where it hurts by making Jon’s talents too powerful while also burdening him with the capacity to hear even more victims in need of salvation. With Superman’s desire to save both people and the Earth, any failures are especially draining. This is psychological warfare, making Jon Kent uncomfortably aware of anybody he fails to save and significantly increasing the challenge of utilizing his abilities to save others.
Clark Kent’s abilities spiraled out of control earlier this year in Justice League #61 by Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez, and Tamra Bonvillain. Superman’s heat vision went berserk while meeting Brutus on his home planet, forcing him to rely on his other abilities to go through this powerful nightmare. The fact that both Supermen have been subjected to situations that enhance their powers beyond their control suggests that authors are looking into this as a new vulnerability. When Superman loses control of his distinctive superpowers, he transforms into the proverbial bull in a china shop.
This is intriguing since it works in such a different way than kryptonite, which reduces Superman and other such figures to weaker versions that even non-powered folks may expect to defeat. Superheroes may be rendered terrifying against their will by severing the narrow line of control that keeps their incredible powers in check. When fully explored, this might be a destiny even worse than Winter Soldier’s brainwashing, because the strong desire to assist remains, but the heroes are only positioned to make matters worse.
Bendix has discovered a weakness that is more physically and emotionally deadly than kryptonite with this cunning overflow of Superman’s powers. Given how seriously this is likely to affect Jon Kent, a Superman following in his father’s footsteps and attempting to show his mettle, exploiting this new weakness is expected to remain a devilish approach for Bendix and other villains bypassing kryptonite in favor of something more cutting.