Friday, March 24, 2017

Review: Action Comics #976

What do you do in comics when character mistakes have been made?
Well, you can reboot an entire universe if the mistakes are continuity wide.
Or you can simply ignore the mistakes and have a new creative team just start writing the character a different way.
Or you can 'soft reboot' things, change a couple of key events here and there to smooth out some of the rough edges.

Action Comics #976, the last part of Superman Reborn, does the latter. And I loved it.

There was much of the New 52 Superman that I didn't care for. Outside of Morrison and Pak, the tone just seemed way off. The usage of the supporting cast, especially Lois, was terrible. And we went from an 'I'm here to help' character to someone who mercilessly beat his helpless opponents. It was wrong.

Then Convergence and Rebirth came along and a new/old Superman and Lois were brought into the fold. Building on pre-Flashpoint continuity, the two were in love, married, and brought a more classic feel to the book. Everything seemed to be clicking.

Unfortunately, it meant you were stuck with two of each of the characters. The New 52 Superman and Lois were killed off to make things easier to follow. But how could the older Lois simply step into the younger Lois' life. How could Clark White live on a farm while no Clark Kent worked at the Planet? How did other people handle a 'new' Superman being in the ranks?

It was getting a bit confusing. Even my reviews had to say things like 'pre-FC Superman' and 'N52 Superman' and 'older Lois', etc. Things needed to be smoothed out.

That's just what Reborn has done. It might seem a bit fast. It probable will leave a lot of continuity reshuffling to the readers. And it didn't really answer the how's of all this. We still don't know who Mr. Oz is or who the mysterious 'he' who is doing all this is. But we have one Superman now, disguised as a mild-mannered reporter working for a great Metropolitan newspaper, in love with Lois, and acting as a hero. And for that, I'm happy.

I'll add that Doug Mahnke is on art on the issue and brings a nice insanity to the proceedings. Energy beings, 5th dimensional imps, decaying fantasylands ... Mahnke brings a vibrancy to it all.

Enough dawdling, onto the book.

Remember, last issue the New 52 Superman and Lois arrived in Mxyzptlk's crazy world. Unfortunately, it looks like at the same time Mxy destroyed Jon's parents, the pre-Flashpoint Superman and Lois.

See, it is already tough to write the review.

The red boots on Superman show that he is the New 52 version but I also like that the panels are bordered in red, like the 'red energy' we saw last issue which became this Lois and Superman. It is a subtle clue for readers about which pair we are dealing with.

And remember, these two weren't parents. They think that Jon has been traumatized by Mxy into believing he is there son. They don't know him at all.

And as Superman battles Mxyzptlk, Jon continues to try and convince Lois that she is his mother.

Listen to the New 52 Lois. 'Superman and I are friends, nothing much more than that.'

I read that line and felt a little sad. Lois shouldn't be so blase or cold about not having a relationship with Superman. It encapsulated what I thought was wrong with the New 52.

I understand that not everyone thinks the Clark/Lois stuff is special. But for me, it is. 
 Nothing much more than that - sad

But the environment is falling apart around them. Mxyzptlk wants to take off and take Jon with him. After all, this much destruction is bound to get 'his' attention, whoever he is.

Whoever he is, he is the architect of all this weirdness.

So Mxy didn't split Superman.
So who did.
Who is this architect?

I have to go back to the Dr. Manhattan guess, the hand behind the darkening of the DCU. I suppose calling him the 'engineer of this weirdness' would be too on the nose.

The 'red' Superman is ineffective against Mxy.
Jon ends up seeing blue energy floating around as well. They call out to him and take humanoids shape.

Somehow he can absorb the energy and then turn it against Mxy. Finally something works.

Realizing the 'architect' is coming and hurt by Jon, he simply leaves.

You really get the sense that whoever 'he' is, 'he' is powerful. Mxy is a near omnipotent magical being and he isn't sticking around.

It also puts Mxy part in this story to an end. I have to admit, he was something of a catalyst for the story, pushing this forward. He helped erase the 'secret identity' problem we saw in The Truth. And he is a bit more malevolent. You have to love magic characters! They can make things happen.

Interestingly, the New 52 feel how earnest Jon is and start to wonder if he is telling the truth. At that point, the blue energy Lois and Clark appear.

Jon pleads for them to become who they used to be.

And then there is a ... unification.

The New 52 Lois and Clark and the pre-Flashpoint Lois and Clark merge.

They remember Jon. They remember everything.

Superman says that Lois and Jon mean everything to him.

Big moments deserve big art. This hug merited a splash page. The New 52 is behind us. We have one Superman. We have one Lois. They are together.

This makes me happy!

While I applaud the move, it just made the big story a little more confusing.

Mr. Oz, watching the whole thing, can't believe that the super-family's love could unite the two timelines. Even 'he' didn't think that was possible.

So is Mr. Oz working for 'the architect'? Or is he a lone wolf, doing what he is doing with his own agenda? Did he imprison Mxy because 'he' told Oz to? Or did Oz himself want Mxy off the board?

And why would the architect want to split Superman?
Was the architect aware of the Convergence worlds? Did he make them??

So while the end of a united Superman is great, I am still scratching my head trying to figure things out.

And then we get this great double page spread which shows  what the new timeline is like. There are classic elements. There are New 52 elements. Somewhere along the way Lois and Clark got married, moved in, and Lois had Jon. We see a clip from the Death of Superman. We see Imperiex. We see a classic Cyborg Superman.

What actually happened?

This is how I felt after Crisis on Infinite Earths with Batman. Which stories pre-Crisis happened post-Crisis? Whichever ones I wanted. Use your own filter.

The question is how this impacts everyone else. Think of the rocky relationship between Kal and Kara in the early New 52. Did that happen? Did this Superman let Kara go off on her own without being a friend? Will their be a new dynamic between the two cousins? I hope so.

How does this effect Lana? If the red energy was drained, does she still have powers?

And lets ask the big questions? Does anyone remember anything? Does Superman remember one life? Or both? Does Jon think he was raised by this couple who worked at the Planet? Or does he remember Hamilton? In fact, does the house in Hamilton still exist???

So hooray one timeline! But there is work to be done.

And even Oz wonders if it was Superman who bent the rules or did 'he' allow it?

And we see Mars.

Mars could mean Manhattan. I hope it doesn't mean J'onn.

Remember, the whole point of Rebirth was to get back to a classic interpretation of these DC characters. This fusing of the two Supermen and Loises does just that. But like any soft reboot (maybe this is a firm but not hard reboot), it opens things up to more questions. I'll be watching. I trust these creators. I think this will all work out.

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

On the one hand, great issue. It solves the trouble of two different Superman and Lois.

On the other hand, it brings new questions. And I really hope this isn't like the 1985 reboot, when a creative expunged everything he hated under the excuse of bringing Superman back to basics.

"Lois shouldn't be so blase about not having a relationship with Lois."

Well, I don't think Lois is so egotistical. :D

Cheekiness aside, I agree. Sidelining Lois was wrong.

And I hope DC finally gets through their collective heads that Lois, Kara, Jimmy, Perry, the Kents... Superman's main supporting characters cannot be sidelined, or the mythos suffer, the continuity suffers and the sales suffer.

"And then we get this great double page spread which shows what the new timeline is like."

I was actually annoyed over this spread. Why is Superman meeting Supergirl missing? Whatever DC thinks about Kara, Superman finding his last living blood family happened and it was important to him. So she MUST be a part of his history.

Supergirl as a character has historically suffered when she is missing from the Superman core books. She becomes less visible to the general public and it becomes easier for DC sideline her and for creative types ignore her (or kill her).

I guess I can find some hope in the fact that now he feels whole and loved by his family, Superman feels the need to reconnect with his cousin. I wonder what he'll want to talk about. He remembers the little girl who crash-landed into Gotham Bay and tried to save New Krypton? Or her Post-Flashpoint origin? Or maybe he thinks she also lost her memories?

Maybe Supergirl's origin doesn't appear in the double-page spread because it has been subtly rewritten, too?

Anonymous said...

Addendum: Apparently, this month Flash issue suggests that every characters were split during Flashpoint. Oh, God. I don't envy the administrators of the DC Wikia. This mess will be a nightmare to indexing.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if many people caught this but pretty sure that red headed kid passing teen Clark in the high school hallway is Lex.

Martin Gray said...

Great review, and yes, so many questions. So far as Kara goes, I hope it's basically the classic origin, but with Kara more independent rather than orphanaged (not a real word, I know!), and Superman giving her space. Now we can see that they're getting Bronze Age closeness back.

I can't see Superman having two sets of memories, just one lot encompassing the no-longer-compromised continuity.

I think Convergence was instantly wiped away along with the Crisis in Infinite Earths, leaving Lois and Clark with memories of having left their dying Earth but not coming via Tellos and Brainiac.

Jude Deluca said...

I'd have preferred it if the one timeline had just been everything before the Flashpoint. This is just me talking, but I'm still in the camp of wanting the old DCU back and my desire to destroy everything which came from the New 52 (while, everything that was done to the preexisting characters) and dance in the ashes is still strong.

Anonymous said...

"pretty sure that red headed kid passing teen Clark in the high school hallway is Lex."

It's likely. Geoff Johns' origin is still canon.

"I hope it's basically the classic origin, but with Kara more independent rather than orphanaged (not a real word, I know!), and Superman giving her space."

I think it'll be Loeb's.

That story had several troubles but I prefer it over "Let's dump my cousin into an orphanage" and "Let's fight and stay apart for no reason". Hmm... Do you think Superman sent his cousin to an orphanage because Robin living with Batman got DC into trouble and they wanted to avoid the possible implications of Superman living with a parentless teen girl?

"I think Convergence was instantly wiped away along with the Crisis in Infinite Earths, leaving Lois and Clark with memories of having left their dying Earth but not coming via Tellos and Brainiac."

I don't think I'd like that. Superman would have no memories from meeting Earth-One Supergirl and fighting the Anti-Monitor. I found that moment poignant given how he greeted that Kara when he met her in "Many Happy Returns". I want him to remember the Crisis and Supergirl's actual or intended sacrifice.

"This is just me talking, but I'm still in the camp of wanting the old DCU back and my desire to destroy everything which came from the New 52"

Speaking strictkly for myself, I cannot approve of DC wiping out a whole continuity I don't care for because then I'd have no right to complain when DC erases a continuity I happen to like.

Back in the 00's, the same people who applauded DC when they expunged the Pre-Crisis continuity ("Good riddance of that Silver Age crap. Superman was overpowered and boring, Supergirl was stupid, the super-pets were stupid, Krypton was stupid, everything was stupid") was disgusted and angry when DC retconned the universe they liked. The same people who praised DC for doing away with "stupid, washed-out, flat Silver Age characters that only a few old-timers cared for" (Kara, Barbara, Hal, Barry...) screamed blue murder when DC did away with characters they liked... Honestly, those fans should have known retcons and reboots don't always work to your advantage.

Rather than indulging in a "Good riddance of that trash" mentality I try to keep a "I didn't care for it but I'm sorry for its fans" mindset.

Off-topic, but check the first pages of this beauty:

I so needed this:

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

This was a great issue. Yes, I have a lot to reconcile and question. But we have the classic Superman back. I'm thrilled.

Interesting to think of everyone having been split in two after Flashpoint. Almost too big to contemplate. But can you imagine a complete scrubbing of the New 52 timeline. Crazy!

Martin Gray said...

I've just read this week's Flash issue, nothing in there about everyone being split in two... is this something you read in solicitations, Anon?

Anonymous said...

No, it was a theory I read in CBR. According the journalist, the Flash issue supported his theory. So we should take it with a pinch of salt. CBR, Bleeding Cool and the like are not reliable news sites, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

NOW I remember where I first read it:

If this true... I don't envy the task of the Wiki editors.

Martin Gray said...

Thanks very much, I think the CBR writer is extrapolating far too much from that Zoom appearance. For me, it's definitely a case of wait and see.

Anj said...

You can tell the creators are doing something right bas d on the amount of talk here and everywhere on the internet.

Great to see Superman getting people excited again.