Mild Mannered Reviews – Action Comics #976

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Action Comics #976

Scheduled to arrive in stores: March 22, 2017

Cover date: May 2017

“Superman Reborn” – Part 4

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Penciller: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Jaime Mendoza, Christian Alamy and Trevor Scott

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

The New 52 Superman and Lois have returned, which makes Jon happy until he realizes they aren’t his parents. Superman demands to know what is going on but Mister Mxyzptlk doesn’t give a straight answer. All Mxy wants to do is take Jon and leave but Jon refuses to go with him. As the world around them starts to fall apart Jon sees two glowing blue balls of light and recognizes them for what they are. Mxy leaves and with Jon’s help the balls of light merge with Lois and Superman and put right what once went wrong. The timeline is reset and restored. In the end Superman, Lois and Jon return to their rightful home with Jon leading the way.

5Story – 5: This is an odd review to write because while it is the conclusion of the story it is also a massive change to Superman and his world. It forces me to look at it on both levels because both deserve that attention.

Let’s tackle the story first because, in all honesty, that’s the easier one to discuss. Mxyzptlk continues to be that mix of funny and dangerous that has made him so entertaining through this storyline. I continue to almost feel bad for him and to be honest none of what happened could have happened without him so as much as he is the antagonist to this story he’s also almost the hero. The hints to a larger threat is enticing and while I normally don’t like one story to end only to lead into another the Superman creative teams have been doing their jobs so well that I can set that aside and roll with the punches.

Jon was the heart of this issue and watching him deal with the fact that his parents might be gone was heartbreaking. Again, Jurgens (and Tomasi) did a great job of tugging at my emotions throughout this story so Jon feeling like he’s lost his world played nicely against Superman feeling the same thing in the last chapter. It was neat seeing the New 52 Superman get to come out and play for a bit and while I liked seeing Lois it also felt like a bit of a cheat because in all honesty Lois wasn’t a big part of the New 52. I hated that but this story seemed to make her more of a player than she was.

Not that I’m complaining. Fixing Lois was one of my favorite parts of Rebirth. It was just a thought that crossed my mind as I was reading this issue.

Which brings us to the second level of this story. The big one. The “This changes everything!” level.

Thanks to several interviews I read online the biggest questions I had have been answered. The two Supermen have merged, the timeline has changed and this is how it is going to be for the foreseeable future. Knowing that saves me a lot of time because now I don’t have to devote part of this review to asking those questions.

So, what about the big picture? I mean this issue changes everything or at the very least it appears to change everything.

I think it is fair to say that revealing Superman’s identity to the world presented a host of problems that could not be easily fixed. To me it was a bad idea from the start but it also seemed to be incredibly short sighted. Revealing Superman’s identity is like ripping out all of the cabinets and fixtures and appliances in your kitchen; you need a plan for what you’re going to do next otherwise eating breakfast is going to be a problem. It’s easy to tear something down and to remove a sacred cow but you better have a plan and I get the feeling that DC didn’t have a plan beyond “We’re getting rid of Clark Kent and depowering Superman!” Again, it’s an interesting idea but what do you do after that? How do you fix that?

The answer; take your time and use Mister Mxyzptlk.

It’s such an elegant way of getting back to the normal paradigm. By saying that somehow Superman was essentially split into two and now they are back together. I’m not entirely sure how that works but by coming back together it reset something in the timeline. I’m fairly sure this has to do with the Watchmen and its connection to Rebirth but this is the cosmic out Superman needed. It doesn’t completely discount the New 52 Superman but it does bring Superman back to where he ultimately needs to be.

This isn’t just my personal opinion either. If you look at the various attempts to “fix” of “update” Superman over the past forty years it never takes. In 1971 Denny O’Neil wrote a storyline that took half of Superman’s powers and turned all of the Kryptonite on Earth to iron while at the same time he and other writers changed Clark from a newspaper to a television reporter. The lowered powers and Kryptonite thing did not last all that long and eventually Clark was back behind the typewriter while still doing the evening news. John Byrne revamps Superman and takes away a lot of the trappings of the Silver and Bronze Age but once he was off the books a lot of those trapping started to creep their way back into the stories. It’s almost like if you try to change Superman or at the very least try to mess with some of the aspects of Superman that all you’re really doing is pulling on a rubber band. At some point, it is either going to snap or go back into place.

By having Mxyzptlk serve as the catalyst for change you’re giving Superman a cosmic out. Mxy has the power to change reality. Read the EMPEROR JOKER storyline and see what someone can do with a fraction of that power. I’m not suggesting that Mxy waved his hands and suddenly it was all back to the way it was before but having him involved gives the scenario plausibility.

This whole thing also puts to rest the lie that Superman needs to be young and edgy to get people to read his books. If the sales figures are accurate SUPERMAN and ACTION are selling consistently well, usually within the top 50 out of the top 100 books. Jurgens and Tomasi have been delivering good stories week after week and it’s about a Superman that is married with a kid. Maybe the world was ready for it. Maybe the world is tired of seeing a Superman just figuring it out. I’m not sure because I haven’t done an official study but if I had to make an educated guess the lesson from all of this is that Superman is not the problem. The problem is cracking the code to telling good Superman stories and it looks like for the moment DC has managed to figure out that particular enigma machine.

And I’m not even going to try and hide how excited this change makes me. I have been chomping at the bit for over a year for them to get back to having Clark and Lois at the Planet without having to lose Jon in the process. On a personal level I am very happy at this turn of events.

Congratulations, Dan and Peter. You managed to deliver a major Superman storyline and you totally stuck the landing. Bravo.

4Art – 4: Some of the faces were a bit off in this issue but overall I like the art quite a bit. There were points where the story could have gotten lost but Mahnke and his inkers kept the ship going through choppy waters. It was neat to see Mahnke drawing the New 52 costume and while it was never a favorite I ended up sort of, kind of, maybe just a little bit liking it. The two-page spread of the Supermen coming together and history righting itself was fantastic. I especially liked S shield shaped panel in the center containing Superman’s rogues gallery. In one image, everything that I like about Superman and his world was returned leading to another fantastic splash page showing off the revamped costume. This ended the issue on an epic note and made me hopeful for the future of these characters.

5Cover Art – 5: The red and blue around the two Supermen led to some speculation that we might be seeing a return of Superman Red and Superman Blue. That didn’t quite happen but this was a nice cover. Both Supermen look fantastic and it fits nicely into the cover scheme they were going with for the two Superman books.

5Variant Cover Art – 5: On one hand this cover completely spoils the ending. On the other it is an epic shot of the reborn Superman. Frank manages to have small echoes of Christopher Reeve while not drawing a direct likeness, which I prefer.
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lovecats
Member

Does that mean the stupid power super flare is back? I hope not

Supreme
Member

The super-flare is still here. The solicitations for the next story hints that Jon has the super-flare now and is having trouble controlling it. Superman himself will probably never use the power again tho. Since he has all the memories of n52 Clark, including the events of Final Days of Superman. I’m betting he has learned his lesson. LoL

MattComics
Member
I don’t think the art was really a good fit. That’s not to say I think the artist can’t draw, I’m not playing that game. For me this is just more a matter of how the aesthetic marries with the character. It’s more a case of bad casting IMO rather than any lack of skill if that makes sense. In particular Mxy looks like he’s been given Smylex injections during his time in Mr. Oz’s prison to the point of having visible gums. I kind of feel like this is coming from some need to make Mxy feel more threatening… Read more »
s-shield
Member
I loved this story, and am excited for what’s to come. But at the same time, I LOVED the Rebirth era (?), and am sad to see it go. The idea of Clark being a stay-at-home dad, training his son on a farm, while Lois was a big-time reporter in the city was a great evolution of their dynamic. Given DC’s inability to focus on “Clark Kent, Reporter,” type stories, going thru New Krypton, Grounded, ClarkCatCo (whatever it was called) and Truth, I’m not moved by the notion of that aspect returning. That said, I have complete faith in the… Read more »
Supreme
Member

To be honest Michael, I actually think mxy was the plan all along. I remember reading interviews with Gene Luen Yang while he was co-writing “Truth” and he hinted that there was a “back door plan” in place down the road. I imagine Mxy was the key, seeing that he is the only reality-warper in the DCU that isn’t EVIL. Thats just speculation on my part tho. But even the most recent interview with Jurgens says that it was thought up “way back during a super-summit”…. but all in all, this was a damn good review to an incredible story.

supertorresmo
Member

So, the 2 Supermen are merged and both chronologies are valid. How will the recent romance with Wonder Woman fit? Very creepy!

MattComics
Member
I don’t think it’s both chronologies are valid so much as the separate timelines merged into a new one that has familiar aspects from both but does not match up exactly to either. So if that relationship is still there at all (and it might not be because Wonder Woman’s own history is in flux at the moment from what I understand) I imagine it would be at a much earlier point in Superman’s history and it ended at some point before Clark and Lois started dating. So maybe they did have a romance but it wasn’t recently and it… Read more »
Supreme
Member
The thing to remember about comix is the time difference against our real life time. To us, Clark and Diana dated for about 3 years. Thats how long it took for those stories to be told. But in comic time, it could’ve been only about 3 months, which is essentially a BLINK in someone’s adulthood. Here are their adventures: The tagteam fight against Zod and Faora, then Magog and Circe, then the Doomed storyline, then the Truth arc. Thats it. 4 stories. As for the merged timeline. I like to think that the n52 era replaced all the 80s stories.… Read more »
kal-bert
Member

In fact I’m pretty sure that the rebirth Superman is exactly the Byrne version. All his memories shown in these Rebirth comics are from that version. Also the way he thinks and acts is closer to the Byrne era than the rest versions.

Beef Bourguignon With Ketchup.

Supreme
Member

Everyone is thinking that the Secret Origin is replacing the Bryne Origin becuz the designs for Jor-EL and Lara (shown at the end of ReBorn) are the ones from Gary Frank’s artwork in Secret Origin. Also, Geoff Johns is pretty much running the show now in DC… and he wrote Secret Origin.

kal-bert
Member

Yes, but that’s just with Jor-El and Lara. The whole rest of the characters’ designs and memories are completely from before the Byrne era so judging from a 1% and ignoring the rest 99%…
Edit: Sorry I didn’t mean “before the Byrne era”. I wanted to say during the Byrne era and before any S.Origin/Birthright “soft” reboots.

fab-el
Member

In your face, Grant Morrison! I hope nobody allows that guy never ever to be near a Superman title again. EVER.

sundevil82
Member

I’ll take 100 grant Morrisons over 1 Scott Lobdell. He’s the main reason I stopped reading new52 for awhile. I enjoyed the first few Morisson Action Comics. It was cool to see the old school superman and I was surprised I didn’t hate the t-shirt and jeans look, but Lobdell’s run and take on Superman was absolutely horrendous.

supermanofsteel
Member

You can’t really blame Grant Morrison. It wasn’t his idea to change Superman after Flashpoint (that was Didio and Lee). Morrison was just doing the job he was paid to do.
Sure he put his own creative twist on it, but just like Geoff Johns, he still had to work under the strict guidelines that Didio and Lee gave him.
It’s like telling a painter to paint a mural, but he can only use these specific colors and these specific shapes.

fab-el
Member
Even when the editorial line is defined by the editors in chief, the creative team has a lot of creative freedom. Most of the decisions made with the character were made by Morrison himself, as he explained it a lot of times: “Now what we’re seeing is a Superman who slightly embodies the alien a little bit more, who stands for counter-culture or what remains of the opposition — because there’s not a lot of opposition in the world that we now live in, to the monoculture; now everyone’s under surveillance, everything’s under control, they know what we’re doing and… Read more »
supermanofsteel
Member

Oh i dont disagree that he had creative input, particularly with the plot and superman’s origin and mythology. But i firmly believe he was basing those off of an editorial edict, especially concerning superman’s overall characterization and the direction they wanted to go with the character. Which is why DC had so many writers resigning from their books during that time period.

BBally
Member

Why single out Grant Morrison? If anything he written some of the better New52 Superman stories and I dare say they were better than several Pre-Flashpoint Superman stories too.

Supreme
Member
I agree with Bbally completely. The Superman stories from 2006-2011 were utter garbage. In fact, I whole-heartedly believe that the creation of the n52 was from how bad the Justice League and Superman titles were doing. I actually hated Grant Morrison’s run at first. It was really hard to digest his writing style, and Rags Morales’ artwork was very lackluster IMO. Couple this with my initial anger at the reboot in general. LoL. But after awhile I went back and binge-read his entire run. I was beside myself to admit it was incredible. And to Bbally’s point, it was definitely… Read more »
fab-el
Member

Grant Morrison made two crucial mistakes on his take on Clark Kent/Superman: believe in the lie that a younger Superman is more relatable and work with the conviction that despoiling him from everything that makes him human was a great idea because “Superman is an alien”. Both things worked really bad from the very beginning.

With that base, I doubt anybody else would have done a better job than Lobdell and the rest that worked on the N52 version of Superman.

supermanofsteel
Member

I wholeheartedly agree in your assement of what was wrong with the character. But i believe you are incorrect in assigning (full) blame to Morrison.
If he truly believed any of those aspects best represented Superman, he could have easily applied them to All Star Superman where he was unconstrained by continuity and free to reinterpret and divert from conventional mythology (which he did pretty liberally).

BBally
Member
Grant Morrison made two crucial mistakes on his take on Clark Kent/Superman: believe in the lie that a younger Superman is more relatable and work with the conviction that despoiling him from everything that makes him human was a great idea because “Superman is an alien”. Both things worked really bad from the very beginning. That was what DC editorial wanted, not Morrison, in fact the concept behind Superdoom was him taking a shot at DC editorial and they’re attempts to make Superman edgy. It’s also quite obvious that by the end of his run, his Superman started acting like… Read more »
s-shield
Member
I love Grant Morrison’s Action run, but it doesn’t really “feel” like Superman to me. More like a Superman-type, like Hyperion or Supreme. He had mentioned before the New52 that he had an idea for an All-Star prequel, featuring a rough, “socialist” Year One Superman. I’m sure he combined that with the edict from on-high that they had to change everything about the character, either for the sake of being different to try and appeal to the “kids” or for fear of the never-ending Siegel lawsuits. If Morrison had stayed on the book longer, he hinted that you’d have seen… Read more »
Supreme
Member

I’ve never heard this before. But I’ve always seen the connection. In fact, being the only superman-fan in my nerd circle, I’ve given out superman “reading assignments” to my friends. LoL. I make them read the Morrison action run, then the Hybrid story written by Diggle that came after. Then Unchained, then All-Star Superman. Its a complete life cycle of Superman! I include Hybrid and Unchained because there is alot of good Lex elements in there, and you get to see why he is in Jail at the start of All-Star.

s-shield
Member

Yeah, Morrison has said that he tries to make all his DC books fit into one personal mini-continuity. Basically, Action Superman grows up to become All-Star Superman, who grows up to become DC One Million Superman.

NeoRanger
Member
Sorry, hi, why? Grant Morrison also gave us One Million and All-Star. His early Action Comics run in New52 was the highlight of that entire timeline. He got the chance to write Golden Age Superman in the modern era and he was the only one that got to do this, since all the other books fast-forwarded to armor-wearing Superman. He had a line from editorial and he did the best he could with it. Don’t forget they outright relaunched Action Comics at the time. For them it wasn’t just a reboot, it was a complete brand relaunch. Good idea or… Read more »
BBally
Member

So basically we got the One True Superman To Save Them ALL!

LarGand
Member
I have so many questions … First, I’m glad that New 52 Superman didn’t just cease to exist, but what we have now raises complications. In Jurgens’ words, quoting directly from the comic, we’re getting Clark and Lois’ “lives realigned, consistent with the memories and experiences of all”. Really? That’s not possible, is it? You can’t just blend Superman Redboots’ history with Superman Blueboots and say everything that happened to either one, happened. There are too many contradictions. Did we ever have a young, brash, T-Shirt Superman or didn’t we? Did the Kryptonian armour exist or not? Are Ma and… Read more »
supermanofsteel
Member

Yeah it sounds ridiculous, but unfortunately i’ve grown used to it by now.
Introducing new continuity and implying that it seamlessly fits together with older stories isn’t a new concept to DC editorial or to Superman comics. Everything from the Byrne Era origin, to Birthright, to Infinite Crisis (Superboy Prime was punching the walls!!!) to the New 52.

MattComics
Member
My take-away from that line is not *literally* everything that happened to both New 52 and Pre-Flashpoint Superman happened but as I was saying in my previous post this is a new timeline with familiar aspects. There are parts of each that make up the whole and even those parts may have slight alterations or been moved to different points on the scale as a result of the fusion. I won’t shed one single tear over the armor being gone from history but hey maybe in this timeline those nanites just have much a better design sense. ..and yes I… Read more »
NeoRanger
Member
There is an extra problem that this timeline merge may fix or break even more; pre-Flashpoint Superman isn’t Byrne Superman. Let’s not forget that after Infinite Crisis, Superman did get a soft reboot (which eventually got Secret Origin as its origin story), the comic books were just never kind enough to tell us what was still in continuity and what was out. They went with the Brian Singer “vague history” direction from Superman Returns and it was one of the reasons that era of Superman books makes me livid (and New52 was an enticing prospect, at the time). New52, *somehow*,… Read more »
MattComics
Member
The way Jurgens writes Superman personality wise though is very much Byrne/Crisis To Crisis era whatever you want to call it IMO. (Give or take variables that always come when a character is passed between various creators even if they’re working form the same basic matrix.) Really they’re kind of in a position to cherry pick from more than just New 52 and Secret Origin. It will just depend on how good they really are at choosing what to keep, what to tweak, what to add, what to move and what to throw out. But clearly two major components from… Read more »
NeoRanger
Member
Losing the Matrix Supergirl was a considerable blow to me post-Infinite Crisis. There were a lot of fun things in post-Crisis I wish they had kept. But yeah, you’re right, they’ll pick and choose; that was their SO plan as well, as far as I remember; mixing Donnerverse, Silver Age and Post-Crisis into one, but at the time they didn’t go to great lengths to set anything in stone. Of course, this raises other questions too; is the Silver Age Superboy back in the mix? He was sort of there in the Secret Origin timeline already, but New52 wrote him… Read more »
LarGand
Member

Really like the new suit, by the way … Glad to have the classic boots back, and the red belt with the gold buckle works – retains the feel of the classic suit with a modern spin and balances the colours better than the N52 and Rebirth suits did. I actually liked the New 52 armour – but this just feels better.

Supreme
Member

Agreed. I have one problem with it tho. The buckle is gold, but his crest has yellow. They either need to both be gold, or both be yellow. I have a feeling that most artists will probly just make it yellow on their own.

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