Val was never one to stray from where he felt comfortable. Whenever he found a place he loved—a comfortable chair, or a room hidden away from prying eyes—he stayed put. Perhaps that's why it was always so difficult for him to get used to the idea of leaving his own room.
He had lived in a room, given to him by Terry Sloan, shadowed beneath miles and miles of earth and concrete. Batman and the rest of the Justice League called it a prison, but Val never really felt like he was trapped. Sloan had told him, time and time again, he was free to leave whenever he chose.
But why would Val want to leave? Out into a world that would fear his power? Why would he wish to stray into the unknown where, even he, with his strength, his durability, could be injured by something as small as a word or an action?
His parents had taught him that violence was the worst way to solve a problem. Pacifism was the way of the wise, and the only path to peace. On this planet, violence was a way of life. It was a religion, there was more blood in the air than moisture, and more dead bodies littered amongst the floor than blades of grass.
Like the conflict on Krypton that had pulled Val's own family a part.
But when Merella, Kendra, Jimmy Olsen, and all the rest came to Val's home, asking for his help…he couldn't refuse. Not really. He didn't believe in violence, but he also didn't believe in turning his back on those who needed him. That was worse than killing, worse than spilling blood onto his fingertips. It was being a coward.
And Val Zod was no coward.
So the man from Krypton left his sanctuary, out into a world of blood and red skies. Off to fight a monster who was once a hero, and a god that knew not of broken lives. When the dust settled, and the war ended…there wasn't anything left but a sullen grief that Val had never known. There was blood on his hands now, and sand in his throat, and the stink of regret in his breath.
What was he now?
"You're a hero, a symbol of hope and peace," Jimmy Olsen said as he snapped a picture, and grinned. "You're Superman."
Superman was a symbol of peace? A man who rampaged down through the world, taking lives faster than a speeding bullet, was meant to be a symbol of peace.
The world was changing around them, with the fall of Kal-El and the defeat of Darkside, the earth became distrustful of the "Miracles" the men and women who could fly, and fight, and change the world's landscape with but a thought.
And who could blame them?
The S Val wore on his chest generated more fear in the common man than a knife in a dark alley, or a gun in a school yard. How could hope be inspired through something bloodshed had tainted so completely? Val sighed.
Kal-El was gone now. As was Terry Sloan.
But even with Sloan gone, Val always found himself returning to the place where he began. A sullen room beneath miles and miles of earth and concrete. A place where his chair sat in the corner, and his tea came from a kettle. He was comfortable there…and that was something he needed now more than ever. Not a prison to keep him secluded, but a fortress that housed peace.
And even with Kal-El vanquished, Val still found himself wearing the symbol of the fallen hero. Striving for an ideal that, if he were being honest, could never be reached. Not in this world, at least. Peace, in the face of fear. Trust, in a world that learned to live without it. These were all impossibilities, even for "Superman."
He was Superman now and honestly, Val wasn't really sure what any of that meant now.
But, in spite of it all, Val was still willing to try and perhaps, just maybe, that might be enough.
It had to be.