Action Comics #976 Review

The ‘Superman Reborn’ arc has had its fair share of ups and downs. The first big crossover between Action Comics and Superman hasn’t been the cleanest so far. Some of that is due to the plot around Mxyzptlk starting to get a bit old since he isn’t an antagonist that should be featured main bad guy for a multi-issue arc. Hopefully Action Comics #976 can rectify some of the issues with ‘Superman Reborn’ and we learn how DC is able clarify the confusing history created by having two different versions Superman being part of their new universe. Let’s find out if that is the case with Action Comics #976.

Writer: Dan Jurgens

Artist: Doug Mahnke

Inkers: Jaime Mendoza, Christian Alamy and Trevor Scott

Colorist: Wil Quintana

Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10

Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10

Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: Mxyzptlk calls Superman a cheater. Meanwhile Superman and Lois Lane are confused with the bizarre setting they are in.

Superboy welcomes his parents back but Superman and Lois do not recognize him as their son at all. Additionally Superman and Lois address each other as if they were never in a relationship, much less married.

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Mxyzptlk laughs at the situation as even with Superman returning he did not win. Superboy yells at Mxyzptlk for backing out of their deal.

Mxyzptlk says what happened with Superman and Lois returning to their younger forms was not in his control. Superman asks Mxyzptlk what he means by all this. Mxyzptlk explains that he only tried to exploit the setting they are in since he has no actual control over what happens. He goes on to say that whatever Superboy did to break free caused Superman to revert to his younger form.

Superman angrily grabs Mxyzptlk and orders him to clarify what is going on and who Superboy is. Mxyzptlk pushes Superman away and asks if Superman and Lois really know who they are.

Superman is confused by Mxyzptlk question. Mxyzptlk transforms into Clark Kent while stating that Superman doesn’t appreciate how he restored his secret identity.

Superman pushes Mxyzptlk to ground and says he passed his test. Mxyzptlk says that Superman may not want to leave since there are things left unresolved.

Superboy tries to talk to his mom but Lois does not recognize him as her son. Superboy desperately tries to remind Lois about him being her son and being married to Superman. Lois continues to push that she and Superman are just friends and turns her back on Superboy.

Superman wants answers on who Superboy is. Mxyzptlk starts to grow while saying that Superboy is just a wrinkle in the fabric of life that Superman does not know about. Mxyzptlk slaps Superman away and says that it is about time he and Superboy left because of Superman.

Mxyzptlk then shows Superman a contract he signed about the conditions being he’ll leave if Superman reached the top of the building. Superman rips up the contract as he still wants answers. Mxyzptlk is not up to answering to anyone, especially to “him” who has probably noticed what is going on.

Mxyzptlk reaches out to grab Superboy but Superman stops him. Superman still wants answers for everything that is happening and he starts trying to fight Mxyzptlk.

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Suddenly some blue energy orbs appear in front of Superboy, with some voices speaking to him. Superboy can barely understand what the energy orbs are saying. The energy orbs start reshaping themselves to have bodies, causing Superboy to realize who they are.

The energy orbs request Superboy to help them become whole again. Superboy absorbs the energy orbs and uses it against Mxyzptlk.

Mxyzptlk body starts disappearing. As he disappears Mxyzptlk tells Superboy that because of what he just did that other person will notice what is going on. Mxyzptlk offers Superboy a chance to join him but Superboy turns it down. Mxyzptlk tells Superboy to brace himself for what is coming and quickly disappears.

As the reality they are is crumbling around them Superman realizes that Superboy is the key to what is going. At the same time Superman still thinks Superboy thinking he and Lois are his parents is Mxyzptlk doing. Superboy tells Superman and Lois to believe that he is telling them the truth about them being his parents. Lois starts to believe that what Superboy is saying is genuine.

Superboy quickly goes over what he thinks happened to make Superman and Lois forget their histories. Superman wonders what they should do to fix things if that is true. Superboy believes that the blue energy orbs are connected to Superman and Lois. He goes on to say that they have to try hearing the blue energy orbs to become whole again.

The energy orbs go merge with Superman and Lois and they both suddenly remember who they are and that Superboy is their son. As Superman and Lois kiss reality around the three begins to reform around them.

While Superman and Lois regain all their memories of their lives together on Earth Mr. Oz senses all the changes that are occurring from his location. Mr. Oz recognizes that Superman and his family somehow repaired what was previously broken and is being rebuilt to be whole once again, something “he” didn’t think was possible.

As they return to Earth Superman emerges in his original costume and Lois returning to her previous appearance.

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The three land on top of the Daily Planet. Superman tells Superboy to take the lead on their return home. Superboy leaps ahead with Superman flying right behind him with Lois around his arm.

In his unknown location Mr. Oz watches Superman and his family doing what he thought was impossible through the power of their love for one another. He then states that the twin realities are now united as one. But even with the new unity Mr. Oz is left wondering if “he” will have a final say in what happens with the universe. End of issue.

The Good: ‘Superman Reborn’ hits all the right notes to final unite the two different versions of Superman that have been running around since the Convergence event. Dan Jurgens is largely successful in clarifying the issues with Superman’s continuity while building on the larger mystery behind DC Rebirth. At the same time, Action Comics #976 does suffer from the fact that a large portion of the story rehashes material from part 3 of this arc.

The biggest takeaway from Action Comics #976 is the ramifications from the New 52 and pre-Flashpoint versions of Superman and Lois Lane, respectively, merging back into one. Dan Jurgens handles the merger in such a way that leaves you as a reader salivating to find out what this means for the DC Universe as whole. The images that laid out the new and updated history of Superman and Lois Lane was a great way to quickly get some questions out of the way for the franchise moving forward. Every image worked to allow readers to understand how Superman’s history works now.

At the same time it does leave you wondering what Superman’s refined history means for the rest of the DC Universe. There are now a lot of angles that DC can go to showcase how the DCU’s history works after the two versions of Superman have now becoming one. I’m especially interested to see how the new unified Superman’s relationships with his Justice League teammates change now. Up until now the entire Justice League has kept the pre-Flashpoint Superman at arm’s length from a personal relationship perspective. Hopefully that is something that Bryan Hitch on Justice League explores along with all the Superman writers.

Action Comics #976 was a big turn around for Mxyzptlk’s character. Jurgens further clarifying what Mxyzptlk is doing and how his powers worked in the world he and the Superman family were in made everything that happened up to now make more sense. I enjoyed the turn that the world that Mxyzptlk took Superman’s family was not one he created. Instead this was a world that already existed that he slightly manipulated to play his game, even though he didn’t have full control. That was a very good way to further the bigger story while showcasing how Mxyzptlk powers work.

Jurgens also did a good job in not making Mxyzptlk look like the loser by the end of the story. Instead Mxyzptlk goes out in a way in which Superman, in winning back his family back, does lose a potential ally in the fight against Mr. Oz. I especially liked that Mxyzptlk never told Superman what was coming for him. This keeps the mystery around Mr. Oz alive so that he can still act on his own without the knowledge of other characters in the DCU.

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Speaking of Mr. Oz, it was interesting to see how much Superman’s full return brought the Watchmen connection to light. While it is no secret that Doctor Manhattan is involved in the creation of the current DC Universe it was cool to see that ‘Superman Reborn’ will act as a catalyst for his possible involvement moving forward. Seeing teases of Doctor Manhattan will provide Mr. Oz a foil of his own as they battle one another from the shadows of everyone in the DC Universe. It will at least create further interest in whatever Mr. Oz is planning with the people he is capturing and why he is watching Superman so closely.

The ending of Action Comics #976 also hit the right note of giving us a sense of hope for the future of Superman and his family. Jurgens is able to create an aura that Superman, Superboy and Lois are now a much stronger family after how the ‘Superman Reborn’ arc tested them. With Superman and Lois regaining their full DCU history I’m very interested to now see the direction Jurgens, Tomasi and Gleason go with the family, especially from a professional perspective.

Doug Mahnke once again does a stellar job giving ‘Superman Reborn’ a big event feel to it. With how much goes on any time Mxyzptlk gets involved in Superman’s life, Mahnke was able to bring a different energy to the story that showed off Mxyzptlk’s powers. At the same time, Mahnke is able to also handle the big moments such as the big double page spread where he was tasked with drawing Superman’s entire history in one go. The layout for the spread was impressive as it was able to tell a complete story without the dialogue being needed to narrate what Superman’s history is now.

The Bad: As much excitement as Action Comics #976 creates for the future of Superman and the entire DC Universe it was not without its fault. The biggest problem with this issue is the fact that until the blue energy orbs representing the pre-Flashpoint versions of Superman and Lois Lane the issue was rehashing things from the previous issue. The only difference with the battle between Superman and Mxyzptlk was that it was Superboy trying to remind his parents who he was this time around. This was too small of a change to the story that made the bigger Superman and Mxyzptlk feel like we were watching the same fight with nothing new to the conflict being added.

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This goes to the other problem with this overall arc being that too much of the focus was placed on Mxyzptlk as the main antagonist. It’s through all the rehashing of plot points that I wish we would’ve seen more of what Mr. Oz was doing during this period since Mxyzptlk is the first person to escape his prison. That is a major development that should’ve been made to be a bigger deal given the people Mr. Oz has captured. But since we don’t really see Mr. Oz until the end of the issue Mxyzptlk escape is not something that comes off as a big of deal as it should’ve been.

Overall: Action Comics #976 does a very good job capping off the ‘Superman Reborn’ arc. Rectifying Superman’s history within the new DC Universe creates a lot of interesting directions for the franchise to take moving forward. Even though Mr. Oz did not play as big a role in this arc as one would’ve thought, his involvement at the end of the issue does create further interest in the bigger story that was started at the beginning of DC Rebirth.