After the events of “The Oz Effect” where Superman’s biological father, Jor-El was revealed as the manipulative Mr. Oz, the Man of Steel has some soul-searching to do. Everything he’s learned about Jor-El up until this point has shown him to be a good man. His actions in the present are in direct opposition to that. Now, Superman has to figure out his next steps. Can he accept that his father was a horrible person? Or is there more to this story?
I think everyone gets to a point in their lives when they realize their parents aren’t perfect. We look up to them from birth as these benevolent and altruistic people before learning any of their flaws. Superman never went through that adolescence with Jor-El. He probably had it with Jonathan and Martha Kent, but never with his biological father. All of this is hitting him at once in Action Comics #992.
Since he’s Superman and he believes that people are inherently good, he refuses to believe that Jor-El could have done this. There has to be some other force at work here. We can see a little farther down the line thanks to news of upcoming issues to know that he’s not wrong, but he doesn’t have that luxury. This need to know takes him all over the galaxy as he searches for answers. It becomes a real crisis of consciousness for Superman.
You can see this doubt on his face. Artist Will Conrad makes Superman appear human and vulnerable while maintaining the larger-than-life stature that has defined the character for decades. He shows frustration, smashing up a room in the Fortress of Solitude as there is no one else to take this anger out on. This is an emotional scene that leaves Superman defeated. He is capable of so many extraordinary things, but he just can’t figure this out.
This leads to a great sequence between Superman and Batman that shows the softer side of the Caped Crusader. Bruce recently went through a similar experience as he came face-to-face with Thomas Wayne from the Flashpoint universe during “The Button” storyline. He has an idea of what Clark is going through right now and, perhaps more importantly, he can see the bigger picture to know that something else is going on here.
This scene showed that Batman is ultimately human and cares deeply for his friend. He takes down his cowl to look Clark in the eye and have a heart-to-heart with him. There’s a great set of panels where the two men are looking at each other as they realize how completely bizarre their lives have become. If they didn’t laugh about it, they might cry, right?
Action Comics #992 may be billed as the aftermath of “The Oz Effect,” but it should be the prelude to Doomsday Clock. There is clearly something pulling the strings in Superman’s life and dramatically affecting time itself, going as far back as the destruction of Krypton. Dozens of issues have been building to this point and it could not be more exciting. Plus, the final page features the return of one of my all-time favori te DC characters so I cannot wait to see what happens next.