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In Superman vs. The Elite

Manchester Black executes Atomic Skull for his crimes

For the rest of the movie Superman fights with the Elite

and eventually mutilates them depriving Manchester of his powers

As I understood the movie, the Elite are British secret agents. They seem like James Bond, with a license to kill. Superman is just a guy with no jurisdiction. To me the only people Superman could be mad at is the British government.

Is there any moral or political ground that Superman can stand on for his actions?

  • Considering that all morality is subjective anyway, why would Superman have to? The story itself is a morality tale that chooses the side of superheroes like Batman and Superman who catch but (for various reasons) do not punish criminals. That society itself does not then apparently adequately deal with the criminals is a more of a commentary on society itself, rather than the superheroes. Superman isn't obligated to help anyone at all, much less go around executing criminals - all that he did in the movie was prevent the Elite from harming people he thought were innocent. – Phyneas Aug 29 '15 at 16:19
  • Also, although Manchester Black was trained by the British government and worked for them at some point, I did not get the specific impression that he worked for them during the events of the movie. – Phyneas Aug 29 '15 at 16:43
  • The understanding I got was that they were active agents. This could be part of the answer – Andrey Aug 29 '15 at 18:30
  • In the comics on which this is based, The Elite are not operating with any visible connection to Her Majesty's Government. They are pretty unambiguously free / rogue agents. – Politank-Z Aug 29 '15 at 21:58
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I can see both sides of the argument because the lines are definitely blurred in terms of jurisdiction, who works for what agency in what capacity, etc. That being said, Superman doesn't condone murder / deadly violence / capital punishment in any shape or form.

This is the rift between Supes and the Elite: He holds life to be sacred, they do not. He believes no one has the Authority (COUGH) to take a life, even to save another (or many others).

The jurisdiction argument is interesting, but doesn't hold weight after thinking about how many times Supes has gone after the President of many countries, including the US, to put a stop to bloodshed. Even when a Superman is driven to kill (no spoilers, but JLA has tackled this), and we eventually see our Superman driven to the same extreme, our Supes always finds another way beyond killing.

To my knowledge, that's the only ideal that Superman never deviates from, and cannot deviate from, lest he lose his identity altogether (and easily become like Black, or Lex, or even Doomsday).

As for why he took it upon himself to stop Black and the Elite, for the same reason he stops anyone causing death and destruction, even in the name of justice: Earth is his home and he has vowed to protect its people, even peices of crap like Atomic Skull.

EDIT:

This question reminded me how good this movie was, especially the ending, so I was inspired to rewatch it. Just to directly address the jurisdiction issue, I noticed in the beginning that when Black tells Superman his team's supposed origin stories, he says:

...after that, it's the usual fishtale: Her Majesty's Secret Service took notice, gave me a bed, and taught me a thing or two about hurtin' bad people in the name of freedom. I met this lot [gesturing to his team] during a particularly disenfranchising tour in Africa, and we decided to make a go of it freelance, like yourself. The rest is current events.

Later, when Lois tries to publish the truth about the Elite, she says Perry was shut down by British Intelligence before the story left his computer. She also implies that it was done to conceal the fact that British Intelligence trained Black, but it could be interpreted that they are still covertly active agents.

I personally believe they're freelance though, since they're never seen reporting to anyone, or discussing any kind of orders.

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