In Action Comics 987, the shadowy Mr. Oz, who’s been dogging Superman’s steps since DC’s Rebirth initiative began, took off his shadowy hood and revealed himself to be someone with a long, important history in the DC Universe. Obviously, spoilers ahoy, so continue at your own risk.
Let’s all remember, before freaking out too much about this reveal, that, like the “The Great and Powerful Oz” from the L. Frank Baum books, which his very name invokes, chances are very high that this “Oz” is not what he seems.
Again, to be safe, here’s a SECOND AND FINAL SPOILER WARNING.
So, this guy who’s endeavoring to show Superman that humanity is not worth his protection because they suck is, supposedly, his own father. Reactions are mixed, but here’s how we see it:
Can you say cliche? The old “Dad is back/alive and he’s evil” trope that we’ve seen time and again, famously in The Empire Strikes Back — which gets a pass, but the rest don’t. We’ve even seen it pretty recently in the pages of Supergirl (her pop, Jor-El’s brother!) and even Batgirl and the Birds of Prey (Huntress’ mom).
Or, simply put, our first reaction at this reveal was, “Don’t you mean Bore-El?”
Also, isn’t Jor-El someone whom Superman’s known only through Fortress of Solitude holograms? The emotional tension isn’t nearly as tangible as in the case of being a man who actually raised him (as was partly the case with Supergirl and Huntress) or, as in Luke Skywalker’s case, being the man who supposedly killed his dad, and definitely killed his mentor before the reveal.
One thing that was genuinely enjoyable about this issue was the scene at the Daily Planet when Lois brings Super-Son Jonathan Kent to work with her. The dialogue and interactions are genuinely funny, both Perry White’s self-directed intentions to turn Jon into a reporter, and at Steve Lombard’s expense when he asks Jon what his dad says about working with a star, and Jon asks “What’s your name again?” It gives a sense of family, of the fact that Kal-El/Clark has created a real family, both immediate and extended, in his adopted home. And this reminds that, even if the cliche of it being Jor-El holds true since Superman himself is a father with a family, the reintroduction of his own father makes different and perhaps more interesting dynamics than the examples cited above. Conflicting visions of family between a man who’s lost his and one who established his. That’s an interesting tension.
The whole plot — whether Mr. Oz is really Jor-El or not — is just weird and nonsensical. Oz seems to be able to be anywhere at any time (he showed up in Supergirl to kill off her dad/his bro); he seems to plant seeds of strife in such a simultaneous manner across the globe that crises can erupt all at once, all in an effort to disillusion Clark’s view of humanity. You know what? Clark knows people can suck. That’s why he tries to inspire them by deed and word. You aren’t going to teach Clark Kent — a grown-ass man — that people can be evil by inspiring them to do evil things.
And the actual incidents that Oz manages to inspire are just so hackneyed — an oil rig captain hitting the bottle and causing environmental disaster; a disgruntled factory worker blaming immigrants for the loss of his job. Real lowest-common-denominator stuff, not showing the deft writing that Jurgens is capable of. The man’s a legendary creator; please excuse us for expecting more.
THE GOOD . . . PART 2
We really came to enjoy Viktor Bogdanovic’s pencils on this book. A real J. Scott Campbell vibe. A little busy in some places, but overall a nice look for a Superman book.
We can’t say that we recommend this book, at least with anything close to a whole heart. But we’ll grant that future issues may well surprise to the upside — since there’s not much room to sink further.
GEEK Grade: C-
Images: DC Comics