Kneel Before…Lar-Zod?! – Action Comics #996 Review

by James Ferguson

Superman and Booster Gold continue their wacky ride through time and space. They’ve landed on the planet Jekuul several years in the future, when it’s called New Krypton. General Zod rules the planet with an iron fist. His drones find the duo quickly and demand them to kneel. Is that all Zod knows how to ask for from his enemies? Clark and Booster have to find parts to fix their busted time machine and get out of Dodge before disrupting too much and while avoiding confrontation with Zod’s forces. Of course, you know that’s not going to happen, right?

As with the recent issue of The Flash, the big reveal of Action Comics #996 is spoiled by the cover. Zod’s son, Lor-Zod, recently released from the Phantom Zone shows up to fight Superman at the end of this issue. This would have been a pretty cool cliffhanger had it not been spoiled so early. Lor-Zod shows up as a blur, quickly knocking out Booster and dropping Superman to the floor. The final page shows him standing triumphantly over an unconscious Man of Steel in a powerful shot.

Lor-Zod looks like a leaner, meaner version of his father. Zod always seems like a brutish warrior, solving problems with fists and rage. His son is full of confidence and strength. You get the feeling that he’d rip you apart and then brag about it to his friends.

Although Booster frequently explains that every mission through time should be a stealth one where interaction with the public should be minimal, it doesn’t stop Superman from lashing out against injustice. He can’t allow tyrannical rule from one of his greatest enemies stand. This creates some awesome action shots from artist Will Conrad as Superman makes quick work out of some Eradicator droids. My favorite is a panel that spreads across two pages as he literally rips one in half. It perfectly captures the strength and power of the character and underlines what he stands for.

It’s interesting to see someone like Superman try to keep his anger in check. He’s wrestling with what is right. On the one hand, he can’t just walk away knowing that Zod is treating this planet’s residents as slaves, but on the other, he could go back to his present day and work to prevent this from ever happening. You’d think he’d have a better understanding of that, but it’s easier said than done.

The Eradicator himself (itself?) shows up to fight Superman, too. I love the contrast between the two characters. You have Clark as this force for justice, fighting for everything that’s good in this universe. Then there’s the soulless, emotionless Eradicator that sees the world in black and white, yet bears some resemblance to Superman. It’s like a dark version of him.

While all of this is going on, Lois Lane is heading into Logamba to try to rescue her father. Unbeknownst to her, her son Jon has tagged along to protect his mother. Up until now, this side story has only had a couple pages dedicated to it in each issue. In Action Comics #996, it receives a much larger page count and it’s a real distraction from the main story. Lois and Jon are major characters in Superman’s life and they are incredibly important, but I’m just not invested in this plot line at all. This might change when Lois finally finds General Lane and presumably introduces him to his grandson, although I’m not holding out hope. It might not be so bad if the main thread with Booster and Superman traveling through time wasn’t so cool.

After reading through “Booster Shot” up until this point, I would be all for a time-traveling buddy comedy series starring Superman and Booster Gold. If I’m being honest, I’m all for anything that gets me more Booster Gold. In any case, the idea that Zod has conquered a whole planet out there is a terrifying one, although I’m interested to hear his side of this. Maybe he was a benevolent ruler and brought peace to Jekuul. OK, that’s rather unlikely given his story, but anything’s possible, right?

This arc has shown Superman a number of horrifying possibilities in time and space. If anything, it should re-energize him in his fight for truth and justice as he has to work even harder to make sure these events don’t come to pass. In order to do that, he has to get home first which is proving to be increasingly difficult with each obstacle he comes across.

Action Comics #996 is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.