What's So Funny About Truth, Justice & The American Way?
A new group of meta-humans, calling themselves "The Elite," begin making headlines as they battle terrorists threats around the globe with lethal force. Coldcast, Hat, Menagerie and their leader Manchester Black are hailed as superheroes despite their brutal methods, and Superman becomes increasingly concerned with their collateral damage and perverted view of justice.
The Man of Steel initially befriends the group and tries to reason with them, insisting that there are alternatives to killing. He later manages to subdue and arrest two rogue DEO agents and a pair of aliens without harming them or any civilians, and suggests The Elite follow his example. Unconvinced, Black orders Hat to kill the prisoners, as well as their families, to deter any future rogue action (and to provoke Superman). When Kal-El intervenes, Black insists he now has the “just cause” he needed to end the Kryptonian. They will showdown tomorrow.
That night Clark lies in bed with Lois, and while she worries about his safety against the powerful team, he worries about his dream he has been fighting for on Earth. Inspiring hope and compassion, preserving civil rights and not giving in to anger and fear through bloodshed.
At Superman’s behest, the fight will be on the Jupiter moon of Io, away from civilian populations, but televised live through floating video cameras. In turn, The Elite each take their shots, pulverizing the Man of Steel until the final blast leaves nothing but his shredded cape. Then, a distant whisper of a voice explains he “understands now” and systematically incapacitates each member, seemingly killing them. A bloodied Superman finally confronts Black from the shadows, and using his heat vision disables the part of his brain giving him his powers.
Without his team or abilities, Black finally knows the despair of loss and Superman frightens the world as he “crossed a line.” Everyone now realizes that living in fear isn’t the answer and Superman’s dream and methods are preferable. The Elite are in fact only unconscious, and with the Justice League en route to collect and imprison them, Superman declares that “Until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice becomes the reality we all share, I’ll NEVER stop fighting.”
This story was an allegory and response to the growing popularity of anti-heroes and the seemingly “old-fashioned,” costumed superheroes remaining relevant in today’s culture and media. It was reprinted in “Superman: The Greatest Stores Ever Told, Volume One” and “Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years.” It was also the basis for DC’s 14th animated feature film “Superman vs. The Elite.” The title is a play on the Nick Lowe song “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” made popular by Elvis Costello.