Action Comics #987 Review: Superman’s New Enemy Is...
Spoiler Warning: this review will be discussing the big Superman twist from Action Comics #987, which is out now!
Whenever there’s a shocking moment in fiction, you have to ask two questions. Is it really a surprise? And does it work within the context of the larger story? This week’s Action Comics #987 revealed the identity of Superman’s new enemy, Mr. Oz. And it was a surprise, just not for the intended reason. Because if we’re really meant to buy into this plot twist then everything we know about Superman’s origin and where he comes from are in question.
So, it’s Jor-El. Superman’s biological father from Krypton is Mr. Oz. That’s going to be a shock for some, but it also flies in the face of everything we’ve seen and heard about Jor-El throughout all of the various reboots and universes. Jor-El died on Krypton, period. Jor-El only managed to save his son...or did he? And most importantly, Jor-El was a good man whose example influenced and inspired his son. The Jor-El in this comic is far from a good man, and in fact, he goes deep into “mmmmmwwwwahahahahahaha” territory without actually doing the evil laugh. Previous appearances by Mr. Oz did suggest that he had a vested interest in keeping Superman and his family alive, but his decision to essentially tear humanity a new one feels very...comic book. It’s a poorly motivated turn and it doesn’t ring true even with what little we knew about Mr. Oz.
There are a few things that Dan Jurgens’ script handles very well. Superman’s relationship with Lois and their son, Jon, has been one of the most refreshing aspects of the current reboot. This issue brought them back to the Daily Planet, and it seems to once again give the classic supporting cast a bigger role in the book. That’s good. Less good are the heavy-handed parts of the script where Mr. Oz exposes humanity’s dark side. White supremacy, animal poaching, ethnic cleansing, and other evils are touched upon, but the presentation cheapens these very real world problems into something less than two dimensional. Should a Superman story tackle these issues? Absolutely. But this story seems to trivialize them by making them simply a symptom of Mr. Oz’s larger plan to turn Superman against humanity. Hey, we don’t need any help in that department. We can collectively let down Superman every day.
Viktor Bogdanovic’s art shows a lot of improvement over his previous issues of the series, and a few of his pages really capture the essence of Superman. Bogdanovic’s best work seems to be the pages when Superman is in costume and taking action. However, his pages dealing with Superman’s time with his family and friends just don’t have the same kind of life to them. Some of Bogdanovic’s choices also make the sequential storytelling difficult to follow as Mr. Oz unleashes his plans. There’s definitely some strong stuff here, but maybe Bogdanovic should work with a layout artist on some of these pages.
The next chapter of the story could better explain the Mr. Oz twist, and we’re willing to give it a chance. But judged on the basis of this first part, it feels like it was designed only for shock value instead of giving fans a genuinely suspenseful and thrilling turn in Superman’s life. It’s not a great start.
Images: DC Comics