SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for “Action Comics” #975 by Dan Jurgens, Doug Mahnke, Paul Dini, and Ian Churchill, on sale now.
Clark Kent’s doppelgänger has been running around Metropolis for months, nearly as long as DC Comics launched its Rebirth storyline, and the mystery behind faux Clark is finally solved in “Action Comics” #975.
Dan Jurgens and Doug Mahnke’s leadoff story presents the big reveal as Lois and the real Clark search for Jon after he vanished in “Superman” #18, while the extra-sized issue’s backup feature by Paul Dini and Ian Churchill provides the backstory leading up to the character’s transformation. But while the issue answers the increasingly-asked question “Who Is Clark Kent,” it also manages to raise several more that beg further explanation as “Rebirth” continues to unfold.
Fake Clark Is Actually…
DC’s house ad in “Superman” #18 promoting this issue postulated that the false Clark was one of six possible characters who have menaced the Man of Steel in the past, and one of those characters is indeed the culprit. As Lois and Clark begin searching for their son, they leave their similarly-vanished Hamilton County home and journey to pseudo-Clark’s apartment in Metropolis for some answers. As Superman confronts the imposter, his double changes form multiple times and misleads Superman, and readers, into thinking that he is actually one of any number of the Man of Steel’s foes. The feint begins with the shapeshifter transforming into Lex Luthor, followed by Bizarro, Brainiac, Mongul, Parasite, The Eradicator and Doomsday before ultimately revealing himself as the duplicitous Mr. Mxyzptlk.
Upon the revelation of his ruse, the trickster from the Fifth Dimension disappears, albeit in atypical fashion as he does so willingly, rather than via his traditional method of being tricked into saying his own name backwards. Prior to his exit, however, the imp makes Lois forget the existence of her own son, presumably in retaliation for Mxyzptlk’s own belief that Superman had similarly forgotten about him – the reasons for which are explained in the issue’s second story. Curiously, Clark’s memories of Jon remain intact, while Lois’ are not only erased, but seemingly altered in other ways. She believes Clark and herself to be in “his” old apartment, indicating that she either believes them to be back on their pre-“Flashpoint” world, or that her memories have possibly been juxtaposed with that of her now-deceased “New 52” counterpart.
The Origin Of Mr. Mxyzptl-kent
The revelation that Mxyzptlk has been serving as Clark’s stand-in also comes with the discovery that it was he who broke out of Mr. Oz’ other-dimensional prison in last week’s “Superman” #18. Having taken Jon at the end of that same issue, this issue’s second storyline features Mxyzptlk and Jon in Mxy’s Fifth-Dimensional home, where the imp explains to Jon the events that got them there: Oz intercepted Mxy the moment the imp reappeared on Earth to initiate his quarterly menacing of Superman, transferring the tiny-yet-powerful imp to Oz’s prison. The hooded figure explained that Mxy’s chaotic nature threatened his still unknown plans for the Man of Steel, thus it was imperative to remove him from the field of play.
Mxy goes on to explain to Jon that he (incorrectly) believed that Superman would eventually rescue him from his imprisonment, and over time his overconfidence turns to desperation as he comes to realize that his hopes will not be realized. The change in his outlook explains the scribblings seen on his cell wall after his escape in “Superman” #18 – an escape that Mxy himself orchestrates with his detested magic word: “Kltpzyxm.” Believing himself to be abandoned by Superman, he escapes to Earth and assumes the guise of Clark, in part to hide from Oz, and in part to get closer to Superman’s world and restore his misguided kinship with the Man of Steel. Much to Mxy’s dismay, he discovers his perceived bond with Superman has been supplanted with a much stronger one: a family bond, especially the one Clark has with his own son, driving Mxy to remove Jon from Clark’s life.
Mr. Mxyzptlk Can Transcend The Multiverse – Who Knew?
Whatever Mr. Oz’ mysterious plan entails for Superman, it’s clear that he sees Mxy as a threat to it, as witnessed by his immediate capture of Mxy the second he popped back in this dimension. As a being from another dimension who can travel freely back and forth and create havoc with a mere shrug, the extent of Mxy’s powers have historically been implied more than explicit, due to the character’s whimsical and childlike nature, and could already have been construed as a sufficient threat to Oz. In Mxy’s dialogue with Jon, however, he reveals that his dimension-hopping abilities allow him to do far more than travel to and from his own dimension – he can also freely travel the multiverse, and in fact demonstrates knowledge of other incarnations of both himself and Superman’s cast from other realities. Ian Churchill conveys this with vignettes of Superman from past eras, and even other media, essentially bringing LEGO Superman and “Superman: The Animated series” firmly into Rebirth canon.
Mxy apparently has some other unexplained powers that either allow him to bend the rules of time, or perhaps otherwise explain away a seeming continuity glitch. His escape from Oz’ otherworldly detention facility is now known to be a flashback predating the appearance of fake Clark, yet it’s shown to have occurred after Oz had imprisoned Prophecy, which was well after not-Clark had established his presence. Mxy could have escaped some time ago, with Oz only recently noticing, although that lapse seems to belie Oz’ implied all-seeing abilities. While time travel doesn’t seem all that far an extension of Mxy’s newly-revealed travel capabilities, that possibility is one that potentially creates more problems that it would solve – it would indicate that Oz has the same capability, for one, and puts into question why Mxy wouldn’t just try to stop Oz before his own capture, for instance. The rest of the story has been so tightly plotted and unveiled, however, that we’re confident an in-story explanation is likely forthcoming.
“Action Comics” #975 serves up the big reveal as promised, but also serves up several new mysteries ripe for exploration. The third chapter of “Superman: Reborn” stands to either address some of these, or perhaps even pose some further questions, when it continues in “Superman” #19, on sale March 15.
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