Since the DC Rebirth one-shot rebooted the publisher’s entire line-up, Mr. Oz has been pulling strings in the shadows, manipulating events and people around Superman (and Batman that one time). At long last, his true identity is revealed and it’s quite a shocker. (No, I’m not going to spoil it here. Go buy the book!) He does so by wreaking havoc all over the world in an effort to show the Man of Steel how wrong he is about the human race. This will prove to be a challenge unlike anything Superman has ever faced.
Mr. Oz’s plan hits at the heart of everything Superman stands for. He doesn’t specifically pull the trigger or kill anyone directly. Instead, he puts the pieces on the board that could allow chaos to thrive. If humanity is inherently good, as Superman believes and works to inspire in others, then nothing will happen. If they’re evil, then things will get a lot worse before they get better. Which way do you think they go?
There are a number of events in Action Comics #987 that are eerily similar to those in the headlines today. Topics like immigration and the environment are handled with deft precision. You’re not beaten over the head by the message, but it’s clear that the way these things are handled are in the wrong. There is no other way to look at them.
Despite Superman’s amazing powers and abilities, he can’t save everyone. That is a fear we’ve seen on display in the recent issues of the sister-series, Superman and it’s doubly true here as he tries to do just that. He may be faster than a locomotive, but he can’t be everywhere at once. People will die because he was unable to get there in time. That’s a weight that is constantly bringing him down. He has the best of intentions and it’s heart-wrenching seeing him trying and failing to do it all. One could argue that this is precisely the reason the Justice League exists, but his teammates don’t make an appearance in this comic.
Artist Viktor Bogdanovic captures this feeling of sadness perfectly in Clark’s face. It gets worse over time as he realizes the futility of his actions. None of his powers give him the ability to clean up an oil spill or save an endangered rhino from certain death. He cycles through determination, anger, and depression in quick succession, like he’s struggling through the stages of acceptance.
While Superman is the epitome of power and grace, Clark Kent is a buttoned-up nerd. Bogdanovic handles the transformation well, focusing on details like the jacket, the glasses, and finally, the wedding ring, although why Superman puts his jacket on before his shirt is anyone’s guess. There’s a nice little scene with Clark swinging by the Daily Planet after some super heroics and walking into a conversation between his son and former sports star / current reporter Steve Lombard. This guy is trying to impress Jon with his past exploits that seem to work on normal kids, but not on Superboy. I mean, if Superman was your dad, a football player has to be pretty far down on you list of heroes. This is a good bit of levity before the heaviness of this chapter hits.
There is some inconsistency when it comes to logo placement throughout the issue. These are things like an emblem on the side of a truck or a ship. They look like they were thrown on after the fact as they appear different than the rest of the artwork. They stand out as a little jarring.
The big reveal with Mr. Oz is completely satisfying and well worth the wait. It comes with its own set of questions that I can’t wait to see explored further. There are so many possibilities here. It’s also framed incredibly well as a final page spread. It’s pretty great that we have not one, but two consistently solid Superman comics right now that are only getting better. This storyline promises to be a personal, powerful tale that can have deep repercussions for the character for years to come. Writer Dan Jurgens is crafting a pretty big deal here.