Action Comics #975 Review

The first part of the ‘Superman Reborn’ arc started with the fake-Clark Kent seemingly blinking Jon Kent, Superman and Lois Lane’s son and the new Superboy, out of existence. With the fake-Clark Kent making his presence known in a new Superman crossover so quickly will we finally learn who is? More importantly what is Mr. Oz real ambitions with Superman and the entire DC Universe as a whole? These and more are questions that hopefully we get answered during ‘Superman Reborn.’ Hopefully Dan Jurgens and Doug Mahnke start answering some of these questions with extra sized Action Comic #975. Let’s find out if that is the case right now.

Writer: Dan Jurgens (Superman Reborn); Paul Dini (The Man In The Purple Hat)

Artist: Doug Mahnke (Superman Reborn); Ian Churchill (The Man In The Purple Hat)

Inker: Jaime Mendoza (Superman Reborn)

Colorist: Wil Quintana (Superman Reborn); Mike Atiyeh (The Man In The Purple Hat)

Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: Superman and Lois Lane fly through Metropolis in search for “Clark Kent” and clues on where their son, Jon Kent, is. They finally make it to “Clark’s” apartment and bust in, demanding to know where Jon is. They find no one is in the apartment.

They search every inch of the apartment for clues on where Jon is. When she opens the refrigerator Lois finds it filled with soda and candy. She then takes a look at the pantry and finds more junk food, making “Clark” look more like a six-year old rather than an adult.

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“Clark” suddenly appears behind Lois. Before “Clark” can do anything Superman quickly gets in-between the two.

Superman demands to know where Jon is. “Clark” cryptically talks about Jon as the son that Superman never told him about and likes more than him. Superman wonders why “Clark” would talk the way he is.

“Clark” is able to break Superman’s grasp on him and talks about how Jon is the reason Superman never saved him. As Superman goes to punch him “Clark” catches the punch with his hand and says that Superman let him down by not saving him.

Superman is just further confused by each thing “Clark” is speaking. “Clark” says that he did everything he could to solve the problem with Superman’s secret identity being revealed to the world, including convincing himself to be the real Clark Kent to fool everyone they were two separate people with his spell.

Superman has no idea what kind of enemy could have such powers. Hearing Superman call him an enemy pisses “Clark” off and says he is the only one that can help Superman. Superman doesn’t understand what game “Clark” is playing.

This all sets “Clark” off even more. He suddenly transforms himself into Lex Luthor and grabs Superman while asking him who he is. Superman wonders if he is “Luthor.” “Clark” goes on to transform himself into Bizzaro, Brainiac, Mongul, Parasite, Cyborg Superman and Doomsday, each time asking Superman who he is.

With the final transformation Superman finally realizes that “Clark” is Mr. Mxyzplk. Lois asks Mr. Mxyzplk where Jon is. Mr. Mxyzplk said he took Superboy as someone he could play with since Superman forgot him.

Superman tries to fight Mr. Mxyzplk while saying that Jon did nothing wrong. Mr. Mxyzplk that Superman is the one who forgot about him so he is going to make it so Superman and Lois forget about Jon permanently.

Superman demands to know where Jon is. Mr. Mxyzplk plays dumb and acts like he doesn’t know who Jon is and disappears.

Superman says he doesn’t know where Mr. Mxyzplk went. Lois, calling Superman by Clark, doesn’t understand who he is talking about since they are in his old apartment. Superman wonders if Lois is okay and reminds her that they got to search for Jon. Lois is confused and asks Superman who Jon is. End of Superman Reborn main story.

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Elsewhere Jon tells Mr. Mxyzplk he was his favorite stories to hear from his dad, Clark Kent, where Clark called him Ruppletat, which was an easier name to say. Mr. Mxyzplk compliments Jon on being able to say his name so well.

Jon wonders if that means they are friends. Mr. Mxyzplk says it does. Jon then asks if he can leave the place they are. Mr. Mxyzplk says he cannot since they just started to play together.

Mr. Mxyzplk then explains how the place they are in works as each door goes somewhere and choosing wrong could make them end up anywhere or nowhere. Jon wonders what Mr. Mxyzplk means.

Mr. Mxyzplk sits Jon down and explains how the last time he popped into the DCU thinking he would “play” with Superman he somehow got sucked into somewhere else. He goes on to explain how he ended up in a place that had nothing but Mr. Oz.

Mr. Mxyzplk tried to use his powers but they were ineffective against Mr. Oz. Mr. Oz explains that the negative space they are in nullifies Mr. Mxyzplk’s powers for the duration of his sentence. Mr. Mxyzplk wonders what he did to get imprisoned. Mr. Oz says he is not in the negative space for what he did but what he has the ability to do in the future.

Mr. Mxyzplk demands more answers. Mr. Oz pins Mr. Mxyzplk down on the ground and explains how Mr. Mxyzplk is chaos and is disrupting his plans for Superman. Mr. Oz goes on to say that until he is done with his business with Superman that Mr. Mxyzplk will be off the field.

Mr. Mxyzplk says that there are people who will miss him. Mr. Oz reminds him that two thousand Earth years will pass before Mr. Mxyzplk’s girlfriend and Bat-Mite remember he disappeared in the Fifth Dimension.

Mr. Oz then opens a door and tells Mr. Mxyzplk to enjoy himself in his prison while closing the door.

Left alone Mr. Mxyzplk is confident that Superman will remember his scheduled visit and when he doesn’t show up Superman will come looking for him. As time passes Mr. Mxyzplk uses his powers to keep himself entertained but as the day passes he goes crazy wondering where Superman is. He starts freaking out and enters a state of depression when he realizes Superman forgot about him.

As Mr. Mxyzplk explains to Jon about how he started to think of all the times he visited Superman he goes over various versions of Superman including The 90s Animated Series, Bizarro Superman and Lego Superman.

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Jon says things were different in Superman’s stories. Mr. Mxyzplk believes this means Superman told him about his magic word that would send him back to the Fifth Dimension.

Mr. Mxyzplk goes back to his story about being Mr. Oz’s prisoner and how when he finally gave up on Superman showing up he said his own name backwards. Rather than taking him to the Fifth Dimension it caused an explosion in his cell. That explosion opens a small hole in his cell. Mr. Mxyzplk decides to risk death by reciting his name backwards multiple times until a hole big enough appears for him to escape.

After escaping Mr. Mxyzplk goes back to Earth Prime where he disguised himself as Clark Kent. In order to make people believe he is a human Clark Kent and different from Superman he mindwiped himself so no one would find out the truth. The mindwipe ended up making Mr. Mxyzplk fully believe he was Clark Kent. Though that happened as Clark, Mr. Mxyzplk still had gaps in his memories, like how people knew Superman and Clark were the same person.

Because of these gaps Mr. Mxyzplk as Clark went to the Kent’s new home to find answers. When he arrived outside the house he finally remembered everything about Superman and himself in the process, including being imprisoned. Jon realizes that is when Mr. Mxyzplk kidnapped him.

Jon says that Mr. Mxyzplk is not the playful guy his dad told him about. Jon goes on to say his dad would’ve helped Mr. Mxyzplk if he knew he was in trouble. Mr. Mxyzplk doubts that but Jon defends his dad, who probably though Mr. Mxyzplk grew up and decided to stop playing games like a kid.

Mr. Mxyzplk laughs at Superman thinking him not showing up is a sign he became an adult.

Mr. Mxyzplk transports Jon to a room of doors where he explains his new game where Jon gets the chance to guess which door would take him home, while guessing wrong would take him to completely different realities. Mr. Mxyzplk goes on to explain how Jon has one chance to guess the magic word for the door that will take him home and only gets one minute to guess.

Jon thinks for a bit and says “Tatelppur,” which is the correct word that opens the door to Earth Prime much to Mr. Mxyzplk frustration.

As soon as Jon goes inside his house Mr. Mxyzplk transports Jon to another reality for them to play more games. Jon accuses Mr. Mxyzplk for cheating. Mr. Mxyzplk says Jon did get to go home but he never said it would be permanent.

Jon says that Mr. Mxyzplk is a bad guy unlike his dad said. Mr. Mxyzplk says he is what the cosmos turned him into. He then shows Jon some cards for them to play more games. End of issue.

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The Good: Even before beginning ‘Superman Reborn’ had an aura of being extremely complicated. The first issue of this Superman and Action Comics crossover showed how complicated trying to bring in all the confusing elements and make everything clearer. So far that seems easier said than done but finally solving the fake Clark Kent mystery with Action Comics #975 was a big step forward in clearing things up.

Bringing Mr. Mxyzplk back into the fold through the ongoing mystery behind who Mr. Oz is and what he is planning. Given the character’s nature of living outside the DC Multiverse he is the type of wildcard that Mr. Oz has been plucking from existence. What was surprising was to learn that he was playing the role of the fake human version of Clark Kent since DC Rebirth started. Mr. Mxyzplk is the last character that I would’ve guessed for the big reveal but given the backstory Dan Jurgens delivered in Action Comics #975 it does make some sense.

Making the core of Mr. Mxyzplk role in the ‘Superman Reborn’ story be based on him giving into the despair of the thought his “friend” Superman forgot about him is an interesting take. It not only highlights who Mr. Mxyzplk is but the mentality of the people that Mr. Oz has captured so far. Because as we saw with the brief glimpse from seeing Tim Drake in Superman #18, it’s clear that the nothingness prison Mr. Oz is using is getting to all his prisoners mentally. It further brings into question who Mr. Oz has stolen from existence and if we will be surprised how they act when the DCU characters find and free them.

Using that as the bases for the Mr. Mxyzplk more villainous turn as it creates more interest moving forward for a character that is childlike, even with an old man appearance. And given how powerful Mr. Mxyzplk is already adding now that he is finding his own loop holes in his games gives him a much more unpredictable characteristic. With us being still early on in this ‘Superman Reborn’ arc it is still left to question if Mr. Mxyzplk will serve the main villain role for the story or if he somehow sees the error of his ways with Jon’s help.

Though Mr. Mxyzplk definitely had the spotlight on him Jurgens and Dini were also able to use Action Comics #975 to further show us how strong the Kent family unity is. Superman and Lois’ desperate search for their son shows us how serious of a situation all of this is. This is where the time we have spent getting to know Jon and his relationship with his parents already makes the desperation much more relatable. It also made Lois forgetting who Jon is after Mr. Mxyzplk went through his plan to erase Jon a strong hook ending going into the next part of ‘Superman Reborn.’

Doug Mahnke does a really good job continuing to make ‘Superman Reborn’ feel like a major event. With the nature of Mr. Mxyzplk in particular I enjoyed the use of giant candy in the background of each villain transformation he went through. It’s a small thing that helped show us how angry Mr. Mxyzplk was at Superman as with each transformation there was less and less candy. And given that there was very little in the form of action Mahnke also does a good job in delivering on showing us how Superman, Lois and Mr. Mxyzplk continue to react to what they are saying to each other.

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Similarly, Ian Churchill does a very good job stepping in to help tell ‘The Man in a Purple Hat’ back-up story. Like Mahnke, Churchill delivers on showing us the emotional state Mr. Mxyzplk is at. He also does a great job in the brief page where we see the various versions of Superman that Mr. Mxyzplk has visited.

The Bad: The one danger that ‘Superman Reborn’ needs to avoid is making the franchise feel overly convoluted. Even though we have seen Superman and his family have bigger adventures since Rebirth started they have been able to be more grounded thanks to the family dynamic that has been created.  The Kent family dynamic has given the franchise at least something we can relate to but as Action Comics #975 brings Mr. Mxyzplk into the fold we see how things can easily go off the rails. As enjoyable as it is to see the different versions of Superman it does bring into question what is really in continuity. And all that makes the Superman franchise a lot harder to feel like it is easy to access since there is a wall of continuity that is confusing, especially to new readers.

While I understand that the need to clarify everything with who the fake Clark Kent was it would’ve been good to see other story elements explored in Action Comics #975. Given that this was an extra sized issue it would’ve helped the general pace of the story if we saw clues into who else is involved in this story outside of just Mr. Mxyzplk in the main story. Even hints of Mr. Oz possibly seeing all of these current events unfold would been nice for the story’s progression. Because now that everything has been revealed with the fake Clark Kent we need more characters involved with the story, especially on the villain side, as Action Comics #975 burnt out all the interesting material with Mr. Mxyzplk.

Overall: Action Comics #975 was a fun comic book even as we get some answers while adding more questions to what we already know. The heavy focus on Mr. Mxyzplk and why he would turn out to be the fake Clark Kent was a necessary story to be told. It at least puts a stamp on the whole fake Clark Kent mystery and gave us more insight into Mr. Oz’s role in the story. There are still some execution problems with the general concept of ‘Superman Reborn’ that need to be solved. If not this arc may end up doing more bad than good for the long-term future of the Superman franchise.