The Mystery of Clark Kent, Doomsday & Rebirth Deepens in "Action Comics" #961

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for "Action Comics" #961, on sale now.

Doomsday is still on the loose in the fifth chapter of Dan Jurgens' "Path of Doom" arc, otherwise known as "Action Comics" #961, illustrated this time around by Stephen Segovia and Art Thibert. The path of the creature who once killed the pre-"Flashpoint" Superman has taken him from the streets of Metropolis towards the Man of Steel's rural home and his family, having caught the scent of Clark and Lois' son, Jonathan.

Meanwhile, Lex Luthor remains behind to clean up the mess the monster made of his city. Clark Kent has stayed behind, too -- that is, the mysterious and seemingly powerless mild-mannered reporter who clearly is not Superman continues to hang around in the battle's aftermath. This Clark is largely standing around and not really behaving like much of a reporter, either.

Bringing in some honest-to-gosh continuity between the Super-titles, Jurgens throws in an early and quick cameo of the new Superwoman, or at least a rainbow-colored representational blur by colorist Arif Prianto, swooping in for a last moment rescue before disappearing as quickly as she appeared. Of course, which Superwoman this actually is remains a mystery. In fact, the whole idea there even are multiple Superwomen will go unnoticed by readers who passed on "Superwoman" #1, allowing the focus of the story to remain firmly on Superman and his immediate family.

Doomsday's path upstate isn't without some pretty formidable obstacles, though; Wonder Woman has stayed over from last issue to help out, and Superman himself shortly joins her in battling the creature and doing what they can to defend Lois and Jon. Observing both the action here and the aftermath in Metropolis, the still-mysterious robed stranger who's been playing cosmic voyeur since the beginning of the story is finally compelled to take action of his own, with an apparent interest in confronting Doomsday himself. Could we be getting our first glimpse of how the Watchmen figure into DC's Rebirth continuity shifts?

Superman and Wonder Woman manage to hold the monster at bay, but their relative inability to gain any kind of advantage is punctuated by Jon unleashing his own powers against Doomsday, who surprisingly manages to put some hurt on the creature after Clark and Diana's multiple failed attempts to inflict any kind of real damage. With a momentary respite, Clark convinces Diana to look after Lois and Jon, while with renewed emotional strength he pursues Doomsday on his own.

Superman has no more luck this time than when he confronted Doomsday in 1991, except for the obvious exception that he's still breathing despite taking an impressive beating. Unlike his first and fatal confrontation with Doomsday, here he gets some unexpected help in the form of an intervention by a team of the robed stranger's armed minions. The black-clad soldiers, with a symbol on their chests that could be interpreted as the number zero, are presumably the enclave known as Black Zero, referred to only in solicitations and unseen until now.

Black Zero is a name familiar to longtime Superman fans as a solo villain, a malignant computer virus and several terrorist organizations. While a connection to any of those past incarnations remain unclear as of this penultimate issue of Jurgens' story, the name was surely chosen with the intention of getting longtim readers' imaginations flowing. The answers may or may not be provided in the arc's conclusion in "Action Comics" #962, on sale August 24.

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