Will the unkillable Superman villain in fact be killed? We have answers to this and more questions about Doomsday.
Doomsday has a singular claim to fame among the DC villain line up: he killed Superman in the Death of Superman. (I would argue this is unfairly awarded in that Superman sort of died of his own volition from working too hard to stop Doomsday, but that would be splitting hairs.) Apart from the fact that Superman never quite died thanks to some narrative nonsense involving space heaven and the fact that “his soul” never died (or something), this is a pretty impressive feat for any villain. So, it’s no surprise that Doomsday is the major antagonist of Batman v Superman.
But with such a major, unstoppable villain to appear in the film the question arises: will Doomsday die? That’s not to ask will Doomsday be defeated or overcome, that mostly goes without saying, but since we know from his comic origins that the only thing able to stop Doomsday is death itself, can we expect to see him die in Batman V Superman? The short answer is yes. But, even then more questions arise…
Will Superman kill Doomsday?
In the comics the answer was simple: Doomsday is the most powerful thing ever (literally it was designed to be) and Superman is the only hero strong enough and selfless enough (the more important and often skipped over superpower) to defeat the creature. It was the one time in the comics that Superman was allowed to kill, since he technically wasn’t trying to kill the beast, but rather keep fighting him until he was defeated to keep the monster from harming anyone else.
Since it’s unlikely that Superman will die in Batman v Superman, the battle will obviously take some diversions from that most famous Doomsday story. There are other stories featuring different versions of Doomsday that don’t end quite so morbidly, so it’s not unheard of to not kill the monster.
Since the Doomsday of Batman v Superman seems (based on the Frankenstein motifs in the trailer) to be a bastardized and reanimated form of General Zod, it would almost feel redundant to have Superman kill the creature again. I’m betting there is a very good reason the film is subtitled Dawn of Justice: the combined might of the heroes will prevent Superman from having to take such drastic action again.
Would killing Doomsday reinforce or reshape the Superman of the DCEU?
The entire foundation of the DCEU Superman, at least to many, is now, “He killed Zod.” That is a wholly separate version of Superman than we’ve seen in the comics, and since it was a part of the origin of Superman in the DCEU, killing Zod will affect who the character is for the rest of the EU canon.
With that in mind, here’s the root of the different arguments on how this could play out:
1. Because he killed Zod, Superman WON’T kill Doomsday.
Superman has already made the grave decision to kill a seemingly unstoppable villain (so it wouldn’t really have the same narrative weight a second time). Because of the emotional toll taking Zod’s life had on Supes, not to mention how the public now fears him, he will refuse to kill again in Batman v Superman even if that choice would make victory easier.
That matters when you look at how Batman and Superman might finally come together. Refusing to kill Doomsday would be the defining moment in the relationship between Batman and Superman, making Bruce realize that Superman is a moral being who understands the power he wields. It would essentially solve the title conflict between the heroes, leading to enough common ground to found the Justice League. The effects the death of Zod had on Superman could lead him to become the hero we know from the comics, leading into the rest of the DCEU.
2. Because he killed Zod, Superman WILL kill Doomsday.
On the other hand, since Superman has already made the choice that killing may have to be the answer when a villain is unstoppable and dangerous on a massive scale (the textbook definition of Doomsday as a villain), he will do it again if he must. This would cement the Superman we’ve seen so far in the DCEU as a very different one from the comics. The choice to kill Doomsday would not be the selfless act that it was in the Death of Superman arc, but rather a further indulgence in his power as a Kryptonian and as a hero of Earth.
This route would actually lead to an interesting dynamic in the conflict between Superman and Batman, in that it would likely not be resolved by the film’s close. If Superman choses to kill, even a monstrous creature like Doomsday, Batman’s concerns about the Kryptonian would be reinforced. This makes it sound unlikely that Superman will kill the monster since we already know Superman and Batman have to put aside their differences enough to join the Justice League by the end of the film.
Still, having Superman kill again could open up some really compelling thematic ideas about gun control…if Zach Snyder and co. were concerned with putting that kind of social commentary in the movie. That’s not to say Snyder’s adverse to the idea of thematic depth – for all its failings (and there were many), Sucker Punch actually hinted at something compelling psychologically. (If only it had followed through.)
Superman will have to allow his teammates to help.
In the Death of Superman, the title hero comes not only to the rescue of innocent bystanders, but also of many other heroes who are trying and failing to stop the creature themselves. For all the nonsense that happens in the story after Superman dies, the battle between him and Doomsday serves a very effective theme. It shows that Superman’s ultimate (literally in this case) purpose is to give all that he is to defending everyone else that calls Earth a home.
At this point, we could see that identity come through in the DCEU Superman by having him take sole responsibility for Doomsday and defeating the creature, but that seems unlikely. Whether he choses to kill Doomsday or not, one thing is clear: all three initial members of the Justice League will have a hand in the creature’s downfall. Batman v Superman will be all about bringing Superman down to Earth and leading Batman to trust someone other than himself (it’s unclear what lesson Wonder Woman will have to learn).
So no matter what happens with Doomsday, victory for the heroes implies that the two (three) have come together, which is exactly what we see in the trailer. .
What does Doomsday’s death mean for the Justice League?
Superman has always been the “head” of the Justice League – he is the moral center, and he is friends with most of the members on a personal level, enough that he can organize the team from the ground up. But in the DCEU, the Justice League begins from a place of uncertainty about Superman. Batman fears he is too powerful, therefore too dangerous, and that doesn’t seem like the appropriate leader for a league of heroes.
So if Doomsday dies, it doesn’t seem like it could be at the hands of Superman. There is always the possibility that Wonder Woman takes the lead and kills the beast herself, leaving Superman and Batman morally free of blame, but that seems too simple for what is a rather complex (and possibly convoluted) moral struggle between the two male heroes. What it all boils down to is that Doomsday will be the first threat the Justice League has to face as a team.
The monster is nigh invincible, so it would make perfect sense that the three main heroes will have to fight together to reach victory. This will serve to iron out the differences between the heroes and bring them permanently together as a team. If Doomsday is killed, all three heroes will kill him. There can’t be any doubt between the heroes as to whose makes the call to take the creature’s life. If any one of them makes that choice free of the others, there would continue to be a rift between them and all of the DCEU films would be “_____ V _____ “, which we thankfully know isn’t the case.
What if Doomsday doesn’t die?
With a villain so powerful, it’s hard to imagine a final resolution that doesn’t involve Doomsday dying one way or another. But finding a way to resolve unresolvable conflict without killing the bad guy has been exactly what Superman writers have been doing for 82 years in the comics. While Doomsday may be the one wreaking havoc on Gotham/Metropolis, we do know Lex Jr. is the one pulling the strings. It’s easy to imagine a resolution that involves defeating the mastermind instead of killing the puppet.
Maybe if Lex is taken down Doomsday will become inactive. Or maybe Doomsday will turn on Lex (more Frankenstein parallels?). There are plenty of clever options available to see the heroes victorious without killing anyone. That doesn’t mean leaving Doomsday alive is without risk. It would be easy to picture Batman v Superman ending with the heroes satisfied in saving the day and thinking Doomsday is no longer a threat only to see the creature back in Lex’s lab ready to wreak more havoc in a sequel.
Allow me some extra slack in my conjecture for a moment to give a possible ending that will tie neatly into the Justice League film. Batman v Superman could end with Doomsday being defeated not by the heroes, but by accidentally being teleported through a Boomtube as the next threat arrives on earth, the alien god Darkseid. If Darkseid is the villain of Justice League it would make plenty of sense to introduce him in the final moments of Batman v Superman. The Boomtube would actually replicate the narrative device that the Phantom Zone is used as in many Superman comics as a way to rid the world of the Doomsday threat without killing.
Doomsday is Only the Puppet
How the films heroes deal with Doomsday in Batman v Superman will have a heavy effect on the rest of the DCEU for it’s entire run, meaning whatever happens it will MATTER. But there is always the possibility that Doomsday isn’t the true concern in the film. After all, Lex is the one pulling the creatures strings, therefore Lex is the one who must be defeated. It’s also possible that Lex will be the one to kill Doomsday in order to earn status challenging Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Lex Luthor, Savior of Metropolis? …A dark thought.