Should this Superman kill?
- Not as a plot gimmick just to get him Super-pissed
- Not as a plot gimmick just to inject extreme emotion
- Certainly not as a reckless consequence to his actions, even if those who dies were his enemies...a la SR and the pillar.
- Not without it respecting the extreme cost of losing a life and presenting a situation where as ultimately painful as it is, we couldn't blame anyone for having to make that choice with no other available.
That said here was a story idea I had for a long time....
I always had this story idea of Brainiac in full-attack mode on Metropolis...and since he can control all earthly technology he's creating numerous disasters at the same time. So much so that even Superman can't be all places at once. As fighter planes are sent in to fight Brainiac, he takes control of one and sends it screaming towards a highly-populated building. Superman is occupied on the other side of the city holding up a skyscraper that's about to topple over with one hand, and suspending a cable-car full of passengers whose cables had snapped with the other....high above the ground. He can't let go of either one. The fighter jet is just seconds away from hitting the building on the opposite end of the city, Superman can't get there in time.....so he does the only thing he can do to save the people in the building....
....he vaporizes the fighter plane with his heat vision from miles away...including the pilot inside....mere feet away from hitting the building...saving hundreds of people from certain death, but ending the life of one. And Brainiac mocks Superman for it....which fills Superman with a nearly helpless sense of rage, horror, and guilt. Brainiac then stops and disappears...his current plan complete: break Superman's spirit.
This was before TDK came out, and I felt that the most effective thing about the Joker as a villain wasn't his murderous lunacy, but his cruelty...creating impossible choices with unthinkable outcomes on both sides. I also said to myself..."Darn...I was hoping Brainiac could do something like that."
Superman made the right choice, the only choice he could...but it doesn't make him feel any better. He wills himself to attend the funeral of the downed pilot, trying to keep his composure as he approaches the pilot's mother....but he can't. He wants to tell her he's sorry, but he can't get the words out. He doesn't have to....because she comforts him...she tells him she knows he made the right choice, just as her son made the right choice by defending his country.
Superman tells her that her son is a hero....through her tears, she replies "that means a lot coming from you." She hands Superman her son's military dog tags...which Superman wears when we see him next....looking out over the sea as Brainiac approaches over the horizon. "This isn't for revenge...", he thinks to himself as his fist clenches, "...this is for justice. This is for those who make the right choice."
Cheesy...but something along those lines.
Edit: Wait...CRAP! That's from that TAS episode when Turpin gets fried by Darkseid, right?