SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Action Comics #987, now on sale.
Working in the shadows since Superman #32 of the New 52 era and rising to become one of the most powerful figures of DC’s Rebirth, the identity of Mister Oz has finally been revealed in Action Comics #987 by Dan Jurgens and Viktor Bogdanovic. While readers had largely suspected that Oz was in fact Adrien Veidt, Ozymandias from Watchmen, due both to the cloaked figure’s name and Rebirth’s larger interest in the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons classic, the first chapter of “The Oz Effect” story arc revealed the character to be someone else entirely. And… it’s not good.
There are a few problems with the revelation that Mister Oz is in fact Superman’s father Jor-El, who somehow survived the destruction of Krypton. More than a few, really. But my overwhelming feeling on finishing this issue was not shock, or excitement, or disappoint, but rather… this is gross. “Gross” was the first word I thought, and it remains dominant in my mind. However, bear with me, there may be some value to this after all, if DC successfully grows flowers out of the dung heap of this revelation.
Let’s start at the surface level, why this reveal doesn’t work, how it will be defended, and how that defense circles back into the problem itself. First and foremost, the reveal is simply unbelievable. What I mean by that is, it would be too easy to swerve and say that, somehow, this isn’t Jor-El, or this isn’t the “true” Jor-El — thanks to Rebirth shenanigans, he could be from another reality, he could be mind-controlled (what’s going on with his eye?), or he could be the “real” Jor-El, but erased by the end of Rebirth. Any of these options, any story that negates this being the “real” Jor-El, would almost necessarily make the whole Oz arc meaningless. Folks who say, “It’s just comics! If you don’t like a story, don’t worry, it’ll be reversed in a year” — that isn’t a defense, it’s a statement of the problem. Why should I care that this is Jor-El, if it doesn’t have lasting effect? But the alternative, that this is, enduringly, Superman’s father escaped from Krypton, is worse. We’ll get there in a moment.
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