WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Superman #15 by Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Brandon Peterson, Evan "Doc" Shaner, Alex Sinclair and Dave Sharpe, in stores now.
At the onset of DC's 2016 Rebirth relaunch (and even a little before that), readers had a mystery on their hands: Behind the scenes of the Superman titles, there was a hooded figure keeping an eye on the Last Son of Krypton. Calling himself Mr. Oz, this character would eventually, and shockingly, be revealed to be Superman's father Jor-El, who had actually survived the destruction of Krypton. As it turned out, mere instants before the planet's doom, Jor-El was taken away by an unseen force.
Next, Jor-El found himself on Earth, where he saw a world torn by hate and war. As Mr. Oz, Superman's father worked behind-the-scenes in the early days of Rebirth. He took characters such as Doomsday and Tim Drake prisoner, and he tried to prove to his son that the planet wasn't worthy of his protection.
Since then, Jor-El has been an on-and-off presence in the cast of Superman. But now, in Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis' Superman #15, the long-running Mr. Oz storyline finally comes to an end when the time-displaced Jor-El is brought back to the past, on Krypton, for the planet's fateful destruction.
Although he appeared as a villain at the start of Rebirth, Jor-El eventually turned into an uneasy ally this past year. The character returned looking to make amends, which he did by taking Jon Kent on a space trip to help him see the universe. However, the arrival of Rogol Zaar, the monster who destroyed Krypton, revealed Jor-El's dark dealings with an old cosmic order called The Circle.
Now, because of his dangerous manipulations of the time stream, as well as his creation of Rogol Zaar and his involvement with The Circle, Jor-El is sentenced for all his crimes by a council made up of all the heads of the newly-formed United Planets. Therefore, the council decides that Jor-El's sentence is to be sent back to his original place in time, seconds before Krypton explodes. As Adam Strange explains it: "The time stream anomaly -- that moment that brought Jor-El here from Krypton... Whatever it was... That moment has created nothing but chaos in the galaxy so it was decided to put him back exactly where he was originally taken from."
Unfortunately, Superman has no say in the matter. When he learns of the sentence, it has already been enacted. Next, we see the older Jor-El back on Krypton, as its cities crumble to the ground and its crust shatters. He is transported back to his home, where he sees his younger self in his wife Lara's arms, moments before their deaths. But just before the planet explodes, Jor-El tells his younger self a hopeful message: "He does it," he says of his son. "He brings the universe together. He does it."
Jor-El delivers a heartbreaking final message to his younger self by letting him know that his son does, in fact, grow up to be the greatest superhero in the universe. It seems like this end was how it was always going to be, even if we never realized it before now. Still, Jor-El's death isn't something to be celebrated. The character may have dealt in shades of grey, but he was still Superman's father, and a member of the House of El. Clark is obviously shaken by the loss, despite the antagonistic relationship he had with his time-displaced father.
Knowing that Jor-El's final words are meant to not only be of comfort to his younger self but to himself as well shows that although he appeared to be a villain, whatever he did was done out of love. Better yet, despite Jor-El's many efforts, his son managed to prove him wrong.