SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Action Comics #988 by Dan Jurgens, Ryan Sook, Hi-Fi and Rob Leigh, on sale now.
DC Comics and especially the Superman line of titles have been building up to the big reveal of “who is Mr. Oz” since 2014. Two weeks ago, that question was finally answered when The Man of Tomorrow discovered that his own biological father, Jor-El of Krypton, was the mysterious man under the green hood.
Now that the who is dealt with, this week’s Action Comics #988 dug into the how -- specifically, how did Jor-El survive the explosion of Krypton, and what has he been up to for the last thirty-or-so years since?
Action Comics #988 starts with a killer splash page that sets the tone for the issue and serves perfectly as a response to #987’s splash page cliffhanger, with Superman flat-out calling Mr. Oz a liar. At first, The Man of Steel refuses to believe that Mr. Oz is in fact Jor-El and points out the many times he’s been fooled or misled before, most recently with Mr. Mxyzptlk masquerading as the Clark Kent doppelganger.
However, Superman begins to have doubts when Kelex, his trust robot comapnion and caretaker of the Fortress of Solitude, defers to Mr. Oz over himself. As the creator of Kelex, Jor-El takes priority in all requests and the fact that Mr. Oz is able to supersede Superman’s commands to the robot is enough to give the hero pause that this may actually be his biological father back from the dead.
However, it’s a little bit more complex than being back from the dead as Jor-El never died on Krypton. Accessing the crystals which store the archives of Krypton’s history, Jor-El takes his son on a journey to the last days of Krypton, allowing us to have a fuller picture of what happened that led to the planet’s death. Unlike previous iterations of Krypton’s demise, it wasn’t a simple case of Jor-El giving one big warning and the leaders of the planet giving one big refusal to act but instead it was small warnings, here and there; reminders that things were getting worse and if they didn’t act soon they wouldn’t have a planet to call home anymore.
Despite the council not taking him seriously, Jor-El’s research was funded by his father-in-law Lor-Van, who was dismayed when Jor-El concluded there was no way to save Krypton and instead they should evacuate. Unfortunately due to the crimes of Kryptonian criminal Jax-Ur, space travel was illegal on Krypton and Lor-Van erased all of Jor-El’s research, supposedly to save him from the Phantom Zone should anyone get wind of his work. Unable to save his people, Jor-El built one ship for his newborn son Kal-El and sent him to safety as Krypton burned around them.
Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van embraced each other as the flames of Kyrpton’s dying day engulfed them but for Jor-El this would not be his final day alive. Something saved him and trapped him in time to watch his love and his world die, before casting him down to Earth to the most dangerous city on the planet. When asked about who saved him, Jor-El is coy — if not completely unaware himself — but he describes his savior as “something beyond us. A being to bend reality to his very whim though I didn’t want it.” Considering the bright blue light that engulfed Jor-El as he was saved, it’s easy to assume that his savior was in fact Doctor Manhattan, but DC has had several Watchmen related red herrings in the past year and a half so there may be someone else behind it.