Action Comics #976 review

Ever read a comic that goes exactly where you expect it to... and you couldn't be happier? That's me and Action Comics #576, which wraps up the Superman Reborn story arc and along with it, the short, rollercoaster lives of the New 52 Superman and Lois Lane. 

But they're not gone - the Lois and Clark who supplanted the ones we knew in 2011 are back, summoned to Mr Mxyzptlk's cosmic games room by new Superboy Jon Kent just as the versions he knows - his parents - fade away. And they're confused. 
Mxy, though, is happy, as he plans to take Jon away to be his eternal playmate; after all, this Lois and Clark don't know him, they've no reason to care. 

Oh Mxy, it's like you've never met them. They may not be the Lois and Clark Jon knows, but that doesn't mean they'll let you steal a kid. And when the shades of parents past appear on the scene, Jon gains the power to defend himself. 
Mxy gives up. He figures that fighting of this order is bound to get the attention of someone more powerful even than him. Who?
Mxy retreats, and Lois, Clark and Jon have a chance to really talk. Jon's story is crazy, but they've lived crazy. The facts can't be checked but Lois does have an unerring test of truth - her reporter's instinct. 
There follows a merging, a rebirth. Lois and Clark are back and their returned truth has consequences for the whole universe, as explained by the mysterious Mr Oz
A few details aside, the separate lives of the New 52 Clark and Lois are forgotten, the history of Superman and Lois is the history of the pre-Flashpoint versions, with the addition of the years after Jon's birth. This latter point is smart, as it allows the Hamilton County storyline to continue. Presumably, Lois and Clark and Jon live in Metropolis during the week but have a place out in the sticks; we'll find out soon. 

For now, I'm just delighted that we have the loving Kents underlined as the true first family of the DC Universe, without the New 52 Lois and Clark being entirely rubbished; they were part of the originals, but split off by whoever manipulated reality. It seems clear from last year's DC Rebirth special that this being deleted Love from the DC Universe equation as part of an experiment. Well, Jon just brought it back, and who knows, the 'architect' may not be displeased; scientists sometimes just want knowledge, not a particular result. 

So who is the cosmic tinkerer? This image accompanying Mr Oz's musings seems to give rather a large clue. 
A red planet? That has to be Mars, last known whereabouts of Watchmen's Dr Manhattan. But zoom in, and look at what seems to be a pictogram, pointed out to me by Twitter chum @zoraida_merlo. Anyone recognise it?

Writer Dan Jurgens hits the story ball right out of the park. As I said up top, this closing chapter went where pretty much everyone I've talked to expected it to, but reaching the destination and providing a magical mystery tour are two different things. The characterisation of Lois, Clark and Jon; the surprising deviltry of Mxy; the clues of Mr Oz; the scene in which New 52 Lois and Clark allow the walk-ins... it's a stylishly told tale. Jurgens has been getting plenty of praise since DC Rebirth began, but he's still not getting enough, he really knows how the DCU should feel. I've said it previously but just in case Dr Manhattan needs a new project - should Jurgens ever retire from writing and drawing, he'd make one heckuva DC editor-in-chief. 

As for penciller Doug Mahnke, his work is equally exemplary - he finds a note where the epic meets the personal, nailing every emotion from Lois's concern for a lost boy to Mxy's Loki-like tantrums. The depictions of Mxy going large are especially great but my favourite visual moment is Mr, Mrs and Master Superman reunited in a gorgeous splash I'll not spoil here. Jaime Mendoza, Christian Alamy and Trevor Scott split the inking honours and while I can see the different finishes, it's no huge deal, especially with the unifying colours of the ever-excellent Wil Quintana. And the letters of Rob Leigh remain a welcome visual unifier. Patrick Gleason and colour artist John Kalisz are behind the terrific main cover, while Gary Frank and Brad Anderson give us a glorious variant. A tip of the hat, too, to the Superman creative team of Peter J Tomasi and Gleason, and editorMike Cotton, Paul Kaminski and Eddie Berganza for delivering this smoothly into my hands
So there we have it, the Saga of the New 52 Superman is over. The Superman and Lois everyone likes, the post-Crisis Kents, have gone through a kind of cosmic coronation, crowned the optimum versions. The New 52 versions, who weren't so much terrible characters as puppets at the mercy of Dr Manhattan/editorial mandate, are seen to have mattered - they were the real thing, just not the whole deal. Jon is here to stay and who knows, if previous continuity is back in play we may even see Ma Kent again. 

Heck, throw in Pa Kent too, we'll call it a blip. 

As for Dr Manhattan, that's a thread that's going to continue through DC books awhile yet, and I'm OK with that, I'm enjoying the mysteries of the slow build. 

So what did you think? 

Comments

  1. Great review Martin!

    As much as you, I can´t describe how happy I am with the way Reborn was handled from the start. It has been a long, long time since I have read a crossover worthy of Superman´s myth and I almost can forgive DC for past mistakes such as Truth, Savage Dawn and pretty much everything about New 52 involving Superman.

    I am glad that the New52 Lois and his Clark FINALLY got to be together, as apparently was always the plan and that their love is DCU´s foundation. There´s a reason why this couple have lasted almost a century, from the very beginning. It is such a powerful statement from DC Comics to say that the love Lois & Clark, Clark & Lois share, that history is being rewritten because of them, and that universe suffers or something big is missing when these two characters, are being separated by evil forces. I was reading this last chapter of this story with a big smile on my face. Dan Jurgens made the "impossible", he repaired what the New 52 tried to break, he redeemed that version of Superman, that now we know acted the way he did during 5 years because someone else manipulated his memories and altered his reality (wondering when THOSE stories will be told).

    Jurgen´s love for both Lois and Superman is amazing. And I completely agree with you, he should be editor in Chief for the Super books! I don´t think there is anyone else, with the exception of Geoff Johns, that knows that much DCU and the way it should work.

    But I can´t forget Peter J Tomasi, Gleason and the rest of the artists who collaborated in order to make Reborn the success it is. Hopefully this will be launched soon as a Graphic Novel.

    According to some interviews, next issues will explain more about what Superman remembers and the influence it had on people´s mind. can´t wait for April! It is an awesome feeling to finally buy a Superman book without fear of reading something that would make us see red! Ha! These are great times to be reading DC Comics again!

    Thanks so much for the credit in your review! Hope anyone could decipher what that pictogram means, I think it could be a clue of what´s next for Superman and even for the DCU.

    Zoraida

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, the creative teams really have turned the books around, everyone seems to be delighted. Now, I wonder what we have to do to get a Metropolis book that's a steal Lois title...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great review.

    I'm just glad this is finally over. I hope this taught DC a lesson that sidelining Lois is a big mistake. Her purpose to the story goes beyond the love interest role that the publishers dismissively called her in the run up to Flashpoint. As if she was expendable. They wanted to make to decouple Clark from Lois.

    The problem,in my opinion, she and he were created together for a reason. She has a narrative purpose to the story that when removed shakes the foundation.

    She is the bridge between Clark and Superman. We see both people through her. Without her, as the New 52 showed, we don't see Clark in his Daily Planet life. Part of his life is closed off to the reader. I think they realized it and tried to shove Jimmy in to that role but it didn't work.

    I wasn't upset by the nullification of the marriage, I was upset that they sidelined her and in doing so the story suffered.

    I'm actually hoping for a miniseries which will tell us these two people's past. I'd love to see their early years written with modern sensibility, the way I hoped it was going to go post Flashpoint until the rumors of that horrible Wonder Woman/ Superman pairing made the rounds.

    I'm happy that this looks to be wiped out and never to have happened. I'm also glad to see Steve Trevor back in his pre crisis role as Diana's love.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the wonderful reply, Mays. I really like your idea of a miniseries telling the story of Clark
      and Lois from a modern perspective. (It's funny how weird it seems now to give Clark 'top billing', when the Lois and Clark TV series began that felt new... in the UK the show was called Lois and Clark: the New Adventures of Superman because the BBC wasn't sure people would know who Lois and Clark were!

      Delete
    2. sorry. Should read "They wanted to decouple Clark from Lois" and to expand on that? I think they wanted to do this beyond the marriage. They wanted her out of the story. This is why she rarely interacted with Superman or Clark. She was "promoted" out of her investigative reporter job so she didn't work with Clark or have cause to run in to Superman as she ran around the city investigating.

      I said then and I will say it again, I think they were trying to do to her what they did to Steve Trevor post crisis.

      Delete
    3. It's mind-boggling to think they tried it once before, it didn't work, and then they did it again – I suppose we should be grateful that they didn't age Lois and marry her off to Jimmy ...

      Delete
  4. Good review and good issue. I enjoyed it. Post-Crisis Lois and Clark are back, but their New 52 counterparts have not been erased. It would be a disservice to their fans.

    But it annoys me Kara was completely absent from the scenes narrating the lives of Clark and Lois. DC, I don't care what you think of Supergirl, but Clark meeting Kara happened, and if you seriously think finding his last living blood family wasn't an important moment in Superman's life, then you have truly learned NOTHING of the messes stemming from the 1985 and 2011 reboots.

    "Heck, throw in Pa Kent too, we'll call it a blip. "

    I approve of this. Throw Pa and Ma in. They have to be introduced to their grandson.

    "sorry. Should read "They wanted to decouple Clark from Lois" and to expand on that? I think they wanted to do this beyond the marriage. They wanted her out of the story."

    Do you want to hear something funny? Back in 1985 John Byrne wanted to dump Lois altogether.

    http://www.byrnerobotics.com/FAQ/listing.asp?ID=2&T1=Questions+about+Comic+Book+Projects#142

    And don't even get me started on Marv Wolfman -who wanted to turn her into Lex's mistress-, Chuck Austen or John Romita Jr.

    The bottom line is a good number of creators have always hated Lois and wanted her gone for years or even decades. And they hated the marriage. Coincidentally a lot of them are always talking about bringing Superman back to his Golden Age roots, conveniently ignoring Lois was his first supporting character.

    Every time someone wants to "bring Superman back to basics", they ALWAYS throw the baby out with the bathwater. And most of time important characters like Lois or Kara are sidelined by people who hate them and refuse to acknowledge their importance to the mythos.

    Sigh. People, it's not so hard. Superman's birth name is Kal-El. His parents Jor-El and Lara sent him from Krypton to Earth, he landed on Smallville and was adopted and named Clark Kent by Jonathan and Martha Kent. His childhood friends are Lana Lang and Pete Ross, and he joined the Legion during his teenhood. As an adult he lives in Metropolis and works as a reporter for the Daily Planet. His boss is Perry White, his friend Jimmy Olsen, his love Lois Lane, his cousin Kara Zor-El, his dog Krypto, his worst enemy Lex Luthor and his team the Justice League. He regards himself as human but he honors his heritage.

    THOSE are the basics. Remove some of this and you make a mess. Removing Kara, replacing Lois or turning Krypton in a dystopia because you hate Superman's official love interest, don't care for Van-Ze or find the Super-Monkey stupid is asinine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your thoughts. I love your 'basics', I meant to applaud you when you posted something similar over at Supergirl Comic Box Commentary the other week... let's spread your gospel at every opportunity!

      And I'm ashamed to say I never noticed the absence of Kara in the flashbacks, but I suspect we'll get a focus on their relationship in the next Supergirl issue...

      Delete
  5. I honestly didn't expect this outcome even though it's what I dearly wanted. Since Didio took charge, there's been a general problem with what to do with Superman. Most have thought the character too overpowered to be relatable and have done terrible, non-Superman things to him. The only run I'd enjoyed in years before this current one was Lobdell with the way he just embraced how crazy you could get if you just accepted Superman as is. Family man Superman was finally a set up that worked and was being embraced by creators and fans in a big way. Of course DC's powers that be would screw it up, right? I honestly suspect all three of those in charge of DC were overruled here since it's free of grimdark (Didio) and gore (Johns) and whatever the hell it is Lee adds to the mix...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lee adds collars, straps/seams, and generally bad costume designs. 😀

      Delete
    2. H'el apart, there was a lot to like in the Lobdell run, I could happily have seen more from him. I'm glad to see Shay Veritas has become a member of Supergirl's supporting cast. And one day I shall convince someone else to try the short-lived Doomed series!

      Delete
  6. Thanks for the great review. It is like Jurgens is acknowledging the mistakes of the New 52 and erasing them. There is a weird deja vu to the time immediately post-Crisis where readers sort of got to decide what was in and out of continuity.

    It'll bring a lot more questions about whether or not the lives they have lived prior to this still happen. Do they commute from Hamilton? Is Jon in school in Metropolis? I hope we get a sense of things soon.

    As for people pulling the strings. Mxy isn't a player. I don't know if Mr. Oz is a lackey of 'the architect' or if he is a solo player. And I hope the Mars reference is for Manhattan and not J'onn. I don't need a villainous Manhunter.

    But I am burying the lede. We get Clark and Lois together again. I am thrilled!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh scary, I never thought of J'onn... mind, we have seen him here and there throughout the New 52. Dr Manhattan has big event value, it has to be him.

      And yes, Clark and Lois. And Jon!

      Delete
  7. The final piece, righting a wrong that has endured for far too long, was exciting. Lovely see Mxy pixie in rare form as well, a legitimate threat rather than an inconvenient annoyance. The contract replacing Kltpzyxm was a nice touch as well, without eliminating the reverse-name schtick.

    I particularly like how Reborn validates Phil Jimenez' work on Superwoman these past several months. While the rushed and cramped nature of his last issues speaks to more editorial conflict, the Lois/ghost Lois aspects of his story folds into Superman Reborn quite well. There was a mission to his story he couldn't spoil, in spite of the editorial bait-and-switch tactics of the advertising. Hope to see him acknowledged the credits of the Reborn collected edition.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent point re: Superwoman.

      Delete
    2. I'm a big Phil J fan but I'm a tad more ambivalent than you about Superwoman. The ghost Lois business seems muddled... why would she keep appearing near Lana making cryptic comments, annoying her, rather than give her helpful information, encourage her? But points for that final panel with Lois Brown/older Lois at the end of #7, when she says 'the same thing that happened to me'.

      And a million points to you for the rhyming 'Mxy pixie'!

      Delete
  8. I couldn't be happier about how this seems to have shaken out. Now to reinstate the JSA and the Legion, and we're all set!

    Also, a couple of the guys at my LCS are suggesting that Mr. Oz might be the Time Trapper...last seen, I believe, in Legion of Three Worlds, where he was revealed to be Superboy Prime. Knock down one Prime speculation, he appears in another! I don't really see it though -- while Oz could be the Trapper, I guess, he's got a far more patient temperament than Prime ever had.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I mentioned the Time Trapper as a possibility in a review ages ago, well, robes! It seems too obvious, I can't see DC presenting this as 'Who is Mr Oz' unless he's someone other than who he basically looks like. Mind, he has different coloured robes and we see a face. If it was the Trapper, he's going to have lots of Legionnaires in his cubicles. Hmmm.

      Then again, has DC presented Mr Oz as an enigma or is that coming from us fans?

      Delete
  9. really hope Mxy does come back but as his usual self

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment