Monday, September 18, 2017

Review: Action Comics #987

Action Comics #987 came out this week finally answering the question of 'Who is Mr. Oz?'. The story is titled 'The Oz Effect' which is appropriate given how Oz manipulates events on Earth to bring about a face-to-face between Superman and him. And the answer is ... well ... interesting if not already hinted at.

The idea has been percolating through the book since the Johns/Romita Jr run. Who is this character sitting behind a wall of TV screens, talking about how he taught lessons to Superman, and capturing Doomsday, Mr. Mxyzptlk, and Tim Drake? And why is he doing all of that.

Between the name Oz and the Nostalgia symbols everywhere the initial guess was Adrian Veidt, Ozymandias. Then I thought it might be Vyndktvyx back to teach Superman more hard lessons from life. And then Bleeding Cool came out with the guess of Jor-El or even Zor-El. For me, I can't help but imagine that the identity of Oz has actually changed over time. I wish I could give Geoff Johns truth serum and ask who he planned Oz to be. I doubt it's who Oz ends up being at the end of the issue.

And even now I am not sure if there isn't one more reveal to come. Maybe this reveal is a feint for an ultimate reveal. "Pay no attention to the man behind that curtain!"

The art on the issue is by Viktor Bogdanovic and he really shines here. Between big panels, wavy panels, and super narrow panels, the pace of the story speeds up with the art. And there are great images of Superman throughout. If Bogdanovic is being added to the stable of folks who work on this book, I'll be happy.

On to the story ... spoilers ahead.

The story opens with us seeing Metallo suspended in pieces inside ARGUS. Oz arrives, stating he won't let Metallo use a chunk of Superman's home planet against him. In a very John Byrne Luthor move, Oz rips the Kryptonite heart out of Corben's chest, effectively killing Corben.

So a couple of things to note in this scene. This is very very similar to what Luthor did back in Byrne's Superman #2!  But it is very reminiscent and reminded me that Oz is a villain here.

Second, it is odd that Oz seems completely unaffected by the Kryptonite he is now wielding. Hmmm ...

Oz is hellbent on teaching Superman that the people of Earth are misguided and don't deserve Superman's protection.

In Metropolis, Superman is called on to retrieve a truck of vaccines which had been hijacked and ultimately went off a bridge. He takes the driver into custody and grabs the vaccines for delivery.

Oz's men are there to fuel the fire, telling Maggie Sawyer she should let the criminal die. It starts like this.

Meanwhile, Superman is oblivious and seems quite happy. He gets the easy job of flying medicine to those in need. No major threat. This won't last.

After a funny scene in the Planet where Steve Lombard tries to hard to impress a very unimpressed Jon, we see the fruits of Oz's labor.

Unrest and anger is spreading across the globe. Suddenly there are multiple major events around the world. Oz's men fueled hate in factory workers who have been laid off, telling them to blame immigrants. A prison riot is started. An oil tanker captain is liquored up. Rhinos are poached for their horns. The base where the vaccine was delivered is being bombed by insurgents. Everywhere the worst in people is coming out.

It is too many problems even for Superman ... or is it.

We see Superman head to the factory to save the immigrants from being shot by the addled worker who has been laid off.

Given the political climate in America right now, this was appreciated.

But Jurgens doesn't stop there.

The oil tanker crashes and the spill is too great and too far gone for Superman to help. The rhino has been killed.

And thankfully Jurgens shows that wanton destruction like burning down a rich person's mansion for no reason other than anger isn't a worthy cause either.

But you can see the dismay on Superman's face. It is like all the hate in the world has bubbled to the surface. Bogdanovic shows us it all in that expression!

Finally we see that the military strife in Logamba has peaked. All sides are on the offensive. The medical tent where the vaccines were delivered by a smiling Superman earlier? Levelled.

And in that burning camp, Mr. Oz arrives.

He teleports Superman and himself to the Fortress, a place worthy for the two to talk.

And Oz puts lays his cards out on the table. Sure he was responsible for the mayhem ... but it only took a nudge for mankind to get there. Humans don't deserve Superman's respect or protection.

And Oz should know ...

Because Oz is Jor-El.


Okay, let's unpack this a little.

I suppose that Jor-El could be upset at the place he sent his son. He might wish that Superman took over. But that all sounds Zod-like.

And how did he survive? And how is he unaffected by Kryptonite? And where is his lair? The Safety Zone? And why grab Mxy and Doomsday unless he felt those were the villains most likely to hurt his son? But then why grab Tim Drake?

I don't know if I am 100% sold on this being Jor-El. Or at least maybe not this universe's Jor-El. Maybe this is a Jor-El from another universe, one who selfishly got in the one-person rocket and now wants to engage his (possible son)? Or one who missed Krypton's explosion like Jur-Ll? Or maybe it's a villain in disguise?

There are few folks I would like to keep sacred as good guys and Jor-El is one of them. I'm hoping this gets explained away.

Plus, there is something about the scared face/glazed eye look that carries some baggage.

That usually connotes some grim/gritty/anti-hero character like Kingdom Come's Magog or X-Men's Cable.

Do we need a grim and gritty Jor-El? Seriously?

Well, at least the mystery is over. We get an origin next issue.

And I have to admit the buildup to the reveal, our seeing the underbelly of humanity and seeing Superman's shock at all of it, made the reveal stand out.

I guess we'll see.

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

" I wish I could give Geoff Johns truth serum and ask who he planned Oz to be. I doubt it's who Oz ends up being at the end of the issue."

I highly doubt it, too.

"So a couple of things to note in this scene. This is very very similar to what Luthor did back in Byrne's Superman #2!"

Jor-El is being compared with Lex Luthor. Am I the only one who sees the trouble here?

"And how did he survive? And how is he unaffected by Kryptonite? And where is his lair? The Safety Zone? And why grab Mxy and Doomsday unless he felt those were the villains most likely to hurt his son? But then why grab Tim Drake?"

Excellent questions.

"There are few folks I would like to keep sacred as good guys and Jor-El is one of them. I'm hoping this gets explained away."


I'll give this story the benefit of the doubt, but I'm afraid it'll be nothing but character assassination comparable with Emerald Twilight, Avengers: Dissassembled and other stories where a usually heroic character goes heroic, evil or asshole and then it's tainted forever.

Let's remember an egregious example: "Girl Power", Post-Crisis Supergirl's first story arc, introduced evil murderous Zor-El who resented his brother and wanted his teenager daughter to murder her baby cousin. Even though it was eventually retconned, the damaged was done. Most of Zor-Els since have been terrible people.

So... yes. Even if it's explained away and he's been brainwashed or is an alternate version or something, I'm afraid this "Jor-El hates humankind" nonsense will stick around for a long time.

Martin Gray said...

As I said in an earlier response, Jor-El never taught Kal anything. And would Superman really not have recognised Jor when they were up close and personal in Hamilton? Plus, would Jor be dumb enough to think that bad behaviour that he's caused proves people would ever be that bad without him?

This smacks of a late change.

Terrific catch on the Corben heart rip.

Anonymous said...

There is almost nothing in this issue that I liked. I don't like Jor-Els motivation, I don't like his character, I don't like that he is that character, I don't like the shoddy plot in which a world full of heroes that handles interstellar armies can't handle a handful human incidents, I don't like that Superman doesn't call for help when he is overwhelmed, I don't like Jor-El's appearance, I don't like his dialogue, and to be honest I don't even care much for the art. Judging by the reviews this issue generally got though, this is what most people wanted. So in that way I guess it was a successful issue.

Comicbookrehab said...

It looks like this Jor-El MIGHT be a creation of Dr. Manhattan, constructed to influence this version of Superman that replaced the New52 one.

Anonymous said...

Jurgens claims Oz is the main Jor-El and that Oz was always meant to be him but I wouldn't be surprised if this is a white lie on his part. Some things don't add up all the way. As for why he grabbed Mxy and Doomsday, he probably does believe they pose great threats to Superman. Mxy for his unpredictable reality warping and Doomsday for killing Superman. And who else could intercept a Phantom Zone portal than the man who created it? The intelligence required for Mr Oz always made Jor-El a candidate.

As for whether Mr Oz being Jor-El is character assassination, it depends on how the story progresses. Yes Jor-El hating humanity and manipulating events to show what he believe is true human nature is a stark change but it's not on par with Zor-El making Supergirl a weapon to kill Kal-El. His reasons were always shaky whereas Jor-El being Oz could be due to eventual corruption and exposure to man's worst actions. That could be interesting. Plus other versions of Jor-El such as the Smallville version have been grade A dicks to Clark so he hasn't always been a golden idol of Kryptonian society.

Besides, it sounds like there's more mystery to whether Oz really is Jor-El in the December solicits so the mystery continues. For the most part, I dug this issue, it's an improvement from Jurgens' Action Comics writing last year. Art was gorgeous too.


Anonymous said...

So...Jor El snuffed his own Brother?


Sadly everyone gets thrown under the bus in the DCU sooner or later, Supergirl has been under there a good three times already...I suspect an editorial fatwah prevents all and sundry from truly darkening Jor El's character...I think a misprogrammed clone or some such is in play here.


Anj said...

Thanks for all the great comments!
The fratricide makes me hope this isn't Jor-El. I understand wanting to get Zor off the playing field. But that's rough.

So who will it be?

Anonymous said...

Mr Oz true identity - the man behind the curtain - is none other than...

Dan Jurgens of Earth-33

While others may have the means and opportunity - no other character has or can even begin to comprehend the motive behind trapping Tim Drake and Doomsday and killing Zor-El and Metallo, while pretending to be Jor-El.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

So is Mr. Oz really Jor-El? Dan Jurgens would like us to think so, at least for now, but DC may have hinted at the truth in the solicitation for Action Comics 991:

"After being revealed as (REDACTED) Mr. Oz makes his last moves against the Man of Steel and his family and leaves the Man of Tomorrow wondering what other secrets and lies await him in the future as "The Oz Effect" comes to a close."

Is the redacted name "Jor-El"? Could be, but it sounds more like another big revelation is coming up in Action 991.

I will be very surprised if Mr. Oz turns out to be Jor-El in the end.