Zod will not be starting his life in the Drewniverse as a true villain. When I say he's a hero of Kandor, that's true. Brainiac's attack on Kandor almost destroyed the city - were it not for Zod the alien collector would have a bottle of rubble, not a fully-realized urban environment. It was Zod who rallied the city's defenses and even lead a few counterattacks on the invader.
Once Kandor fell, Zod took on the role of protector of the city, leading the remnants of the local Military Guild as a sort of defacto police presence. His no-nonsense approach to keeping order helped to keep Kandor from just crumbling into a panic of riot and decay. After all, somebody had to do the hard job of keeping the population steady, allocating resources, and so on.
The more he thinks about it, though, the more Zod realizes that he was betrayed by the bureaucrats and politicians of Kandor. They were the ones who came to terms with Brainiac, who agreed to submit their homeland to the humiliation of being reduced in size and left to sit on a pedestal somewhere like some sort of trophy. They are the ones who knelt to Braniac, not Zod. Yes, his insurgency against the AI would likely have been doomed, but at least the people of Kandor could have died in honor, not trapped like insects. That Dax-Ur, the elected leader of Kandor, has been playing a long game with Brainiac, trading Kryptonian secrets for his city's longevity, doesn't impress Zod at all.
Zod gets his chance to dwell on this betrayal, and many more both real and imagined, when he's put forth as the first test subject for size restoration. After Kandor has been wrested away from Brainiac and safely stored in Superman's Fortress of Solitude, Supes and the city's scientists begin to work on a solution to the fixing the city. One early option is to use the strange physicals of the Phantom Zone to alter the spacial properties of the city and thus restore it an its inhabitants to size. Since the laws of time and space are different in the Zone, it's theorized that by setting up modified Phantom Zone Projectors could embiggen Kandor in one fell swoop.
Well, they're sort of right, as Zod will learn to his misfortune. Nominated as Envoy, Zod steps through the Phantom Zone portal in the Kandorian lab. Though the portal, it's easy to see Superman, standing in front of a similar one in his Fortress. Heck, Zod can even see little Kandor sitting on a pedestal next to Superman. All he has to do is walk some ten steps through the Zone and foom, he's out and restored to normal size.
Yeah, about that. Turns out the laws of time and space are well and truly messed up in the Zone. What looked like a mere ten paces is actually thousands and thousands of miles - the scale of the exit portal just made it look like it was normal sized. And the few seconds that pass for Kandor and Superman while Zod crosses through the Zone? That's millennia for Zod. Thousands and thousands of years of Zod walking alone through a flat, barren landscape towards a giant, smiling image of Superman. Zod never tires, never gets hungry, never changes or ages in that time, but he is left alone with his thoughts.
By the time he reaches the exit, Zod has gone mad and sane and back again a few dozen times. He's had nothing to do but dwell on the circumstances that brought him to the blasted plain of the Phantom Zone. Clearly, he was picked for this punishment by those kneeling scientists and politicians of Kandor. They knew this would happen. Superman knew too. See how he mocks Zod? Standing there with that vacant, human smile on his face. If Zod was in charge, things would be different...
Zod gets out, his size restored. He also starts to develop the customary powerset that all Kryptonians get beneath our yellow sun - first thing Superman does when Zod steps through is to bring the General "into the light" in hopes that would restore any lingering traumas from passing through the Zone. When he and the Kandorians learn about Zod's experience, they are shocked. Clearly that approach will not work.
It will not take long for Superman and Zod's relationship to devolve. Their first fight takes place, what, weeks after Zod comes to Earth? Zod may be better trained in combat, but Superman has had more experience with his powers, so the first few conflicts are a draw. It takes the involvement of the rest of the Justice League to really see Zod off, but then the best they can do is chase the General off of Earth. Zod retreats to Mars' moon Phobos where he sulks and starts to build his own base of operations. His plan? Revenge on Superman and the craven fools of Kandor, the restoration of his loyal soldiers from Kandor's Military Guild, and finally the conquest of Earth as a new home for the Kryptonian people. The Earthlings can stick around, of course, provided they kneel.
Zod is a villain of the Drewniverse, but like Black Adam, he'll be one of those villains you can negotiate with. In return for freeing two of Zod's loyal supporters, maybe the General will help out when Mongul shows up with the host of Warworld to bust some heads? "Both of them are insane," Superman says, "But at least Zod doesn't want to destroy the planet. We don't have a lot of options here." This is how Ursa and Non get free, each undergoing a similar (though substantially reduced due to advances in technology) experience as Zod.
Superman feels a log of guilt over both Kandor (one of the reasons the Justice League exists is to free up Supes' time to work on Kandor) and Zod. This may be why he limits his response to Zod to exile as opposed to imprisonment or death.
|Zod, waiting for Superman's arrival.|