In an effort to find out if Mr. Oz was telling the truth about being his biological father, Superman went back in time to visit Krypton before it exploded. Now he’s stranded on his homeworld with no powers because of that pesky red sun. Fortunately, Booster Gold is on the case and he’s ready to bring the Man of Steel back home before he messes up the timestream even more.
Superman obviously knows about Krypton and he’s met others from that planet, but he hasn’t really lived there. He went back in desperation to search for answers and was quickly overwhelmed by seeing where he came from with his own eyes. So while he may have been looking for one thing, he found something else that he didn’t even know he wanted. Although he’s lived on Earth since he was an infant, he has never really fit in. He has been an alien among us. Here on Krypton, he is among his own people and culture. Clark – or rather Kal-El – is home in a way that is completely different than how he felt growing up with the Kents, or even now that he has a family of his own.
This is played out even more, later on in Action Comics #994 as Superman faces the possibilities of what he could do if he stayed on Krypton. He knows that the planet is going to explode, instantly destroying an entire civilization. Armed with that knowledge, he could aid his father and Zod in saving everyone. There are a heartbreaking few pages depicting flashes of this possible future. Dan Jurgens perfectly captures the look of shock on the Man of Steel’s face as he struggles to comprehend what he’s seeing.
What is perhaps even more heartbreaking is Jurgens’ narration that explains what the character is going through, specifically how this change would mean that he would never marry Lois and his son Jon would not exist. Is that a price he’d be willing to pay to save Krypton and all its people? For a hero with such magnificent abilities, how could he sit back and let all those people die if he knew he could do something about it? This gets to the heart of Superman as a character. This constant struggle to save everyone, whatever the cost, is central to what he stands for.
Jurgens’ artwork in these pages is incredible. We witness moments of glory as Krypton’s future expands and grows past its already impressive base. It’s a new age of enlightenment that could bring so much with it and Kal-El would be central to that, including a whole other family. The designs for the Kryptonian clothing is a nice evolution from what we’ve seen from them in the past, maintaining the alien and futuristic aesthetic while adding something new. If Superman’s symbol, the mark of the House of El, stands for hope, then this is hope personified.
While Jurgens did the pencil art for Action Comics #994, there are four different inkers involved (Art Thibert, Trevor Scott, Johnny Desjardins, and Joe Prado). This change is felt throughout the issue as the styles vary from scene to scene. For example, the opening pages with Booster Gold and Superman squaring off against a large Kryptonian robot feature very crisp, well-detailed lines. Meanwhile, the aforementioned flashes of possible Kryptonian futures are a little more blocky. It’s a noticable shift from each sequence. This is something I’ve criticized before in some of the DC title since Rebirth began. It’s one thing to have books out on time in such a demanding schedule, but it’s another when the shifts in artists affect the flow of the comic.
Superman’s actions, although well meaning, have created some potentially major problems in the timestream. His arrogance and ignorance about what he was doing could spell disaster. Booster Gold will hopefully work to put it right, although without any fanfare as he’s The Greatest Hero You’ve Never Heard Of. Booster’s internal struggle with this is shown in a single amazing line of dialogue as Superman angrily asks him if he knows what he’s doing. Booster quickly says “Yeah” followed by a quieter “I do.” The man has tried to change events in solidified time repeatedly and has been shown over and over again that some things are meant to be. If that means a lot of people have to die, then that’s how it is. It’s rough, but that’s the downside of time travel.
As with the previous issue, there are a handful of pages dedicated to Lois Lane and Jon as they look into her father’s disappearance behind enemy lines. This takes away all of the momentum from the main story, as it doesn’t add anything to it. Don’t get me wrong, I love these two characters, but it just doesn’t do much for me right now. I’m curious as to where Jurgens will take this thread, so I’m going to stick with it.
Action Comics #994 had me with Booster Gold as he’s one of my all-time favorite characters (largely due to Jurgens work on the character in recent years) so I was predisposed to like this book. I’m happy to say that it delivers on some high-stakes time travel adventure as well as some solid emotional drama, as Superman comes so close to saving his entire homeworld, including his birth parents, from complete destruction. It’s a bit of a bummer that he’s no closer to finding the answers he was looking for, though.