Spoilers for Justice League ahead. Last year's Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice ended on a bittersweet note. Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman worked together to stop Doomsday, which inspired Bruce Wayne to create the Justice League, a group of metahumans protecting the world together. But defeating the creature came at a stiff cost; weakened by a kryptonite spear that also worked on Doomsday, the Man of Steel lost his life. The new movie Justice League opens on a world without Superman, a demoralized place where citizens have lost hope, and crime of every kind is on the rise. Things take a darker turn when alien god Steppenwolf invades Earth with an army of parademons, seeking an ancient and powerful artifact called a Mother Box. Clark Kent is dead and buried, though a coffin-shaking teaser at the end of BvS hinted the Caped Crusader would make a comeback. But just how does Superman return in Justice League, and what does it mean for the DC Extended Universe?
Early hints and teaser promos suggested that Superman would make a big return, and now that the film is out, rumors have become fact. How it works is like this: when even the combined powers of The Flash, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg can't hold back the attacking hordes of Steppenwolf, Bruce Wayne begins to think that adding one more superhero to the mix might be the solution. Though the rest of the League doubts it's a good idea, the seemingly unstoppable Steppenwolf's march of destruction convinces them that it's time to bring back Superman. But how exactly do you resurrect a dead Kryptonian? Turns out the real ingredients were the films they made along the way... well, the various MacGuffins scattered throughout the DC Extended Universe, at least.
First, you need a body. That's right, the team heads back to Kansas to dig up Clark Kent. Next, think back to Batman vs. Superman. Lex Luthor broke into Superman's Kryptonian ship and used its Genesis Pool to create Doomsday from General Zod's corpse and his own blood. You can see where this is headed. In a bit of double-irony, the technology that created the creature that killed Superman is the very thing that will help resurrect the Man of Steel. The League place Superman into the pool, along with a photo of his father, Jor-El. This does not turn Superman into Russell Crowe, fortunately. They still need some extra oomph though — it takes super power to bring back a super man. That's where the Mother Box comes in.
Steppenwolf is an Apokoliptian, a near-immortal race with deity-level powers and a hankering for war. They came into being, along the equally powerful but far more benevolent New Gods, from the destruction and remnants of the Old Gods. Both groups have the ability to create Mother Boxes: sentient, immensely powerful "computers" that bond with their users and have wills of their own. These objects are so powerful, even their creators don't know the extent of their abilities, but they're known to communicate telepathically, evolve non-sentient objects, help sustain life in harsh environments like space, merge beings into single, more powerful beings, and... wait for it... heal grievous injuries. Conveniently, in Batman vs. Superman we see one of these Mother boxes attach to chosen host Victor Stone, creating Cyborg. The Justice League gets their hands on another Motherbox and utilizes it.
In keeping with a tradition stretching back from Frankenstein to the dawn of Man, the final touch needed to give life is a jolt of electricity. If only there were someone on the League whose very outfit incorporated lightning, symbolizing their bolt-like powers... hmm. Yes, the final touch comes from The Flash, who uses his superpowers to spark Superman back to life. Much like Frankenstein's monster, the initial wake-up doesn't go smoothly. Superman is disoriented, shocked, and confused. He lashes out, and it's not until he sees Lois Lane that he comes to his senses and calms down.
From there Superman is officially back, and according to actor Henry Cavill, better than ever. Many fans knocked the gritty take on the normally earnest, upstanding superhero, and with his return, it looks like a return to form. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Cavill said, "This is the first time we see the true Superman. The Superman who is confident, and sure, and full of hope and joy". Justice League seems to mark a turning point, with the franchise moving away from the "dark and twisted" superhero takes seen the last decade. It's a new era for DC, and for Superman as well.