Superman #18 came out this week, the first part of the highly anticipated Superman Reborn storyline. This arc supposedly will answer all the questions about the nature of the current Superman ... or maybe I should say Supermen. Between the now dead New 52 Superman, the pre-Final Crisis current Superman, and the Clark doppelganger, it is hard to keep track of who is who and what is what. Added to all this mystery is the idea that has been floated around that maybe they are all the same person somehow split. Remember, the New 52 Lois actually said she understood everything that was going on, albeit right before she died.
To be honest, the mystery of 'Who is Clark Kent?' has been one of the more enjoyable aspects of the Rebirth run, mostly because I haven't been able to decipher the clues. Just when it all seemed to come into focus, that he is a depowered Superboy Prime, DC threw a curveball. Prime wasn't even listed as a candidate on an official house ad. Putting all this together with the growing and now lengthy Mr. Oz enigma and you have a gripping and very entertaining Superman Family of books. While I have been enjoying all this, I am eager to get to the end and have the curtain pulled away. I want to learn who Oz is!
It all starts in this great opening chapter by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. The creators have been focusing on the family life of Clark/Lois/Jon throughout their run and this issue is no different. We see just how their blissful their cozy life in Hamilton is, that is until disaster strikes. Those quiet opening moments make the rest of the issue feel that much more frightful. The Clark mystery remains just as baffling. All this blue energy crackling about - is it Dr. Manhatten? A Crisis riff? Magic? And the issue starts with another look at Oz's realm. There is some information given here, images that should be stirring the pot a bit. But I remain just as perplexed.
Gleason is on art here. His work has that Rankin/Bass gloss that works in some scenes but seems a bit too cute in others. Still, nothing is so offbeat to pull me out of the story.
Like I said, the opening scene starts out in Oz's realm. Is this simply a planet in the DC universe? A different dimension? A (dare I say it) Pocket Universe?
The opening page has some vague questions about space and time, matter and energy. We see blue energy crackling until it forms a 4 point star. My instinct tells me that symbol wasn't picked by chance. But I can't figure out what it should be leading me too.
We then hear Tim Drake cackling that someone has escaped Oz's cells. We know about Tim, Doomsday, and Prophecy. But in looking at the landscape, it looks like there are many cells dotting this place. Does Oz have this many people imprisoned? And who are they all?
I am assuming that this cell is where the Clark being escaped from. It appears to dwarf the others, making me think whoever this Clark is, he is someone incredibly powerful. It reminds me of the tower Validus used to be housed in on Takron Galtos. But why would a human Clark, with no powers, need this sort of prison? And does all that space/time/matter/energy blue power suggest Manhatten?
One of my earliest guesses about Oz what that he is the depowered Jon Osterman and that the power of Manhatten was locked away in that massive vault. Maybe that was right?
And then we see the inside of the cell. Visually, I thought these were the most striking pages of the issue.
Whoever it was, they are clearly a Superman fan. The images look fitting for the surprint of Supes' Who's Who page. We see him rocketing to earth, being found by the Kents, flying with Lois. And oh so many sets of glasses!
What power did they have to carve into stone like this? And how tall is he. Look at those pictures in the context of Mr. Oz's height. How did they know so much about Superman? Why did they think he would save them? Does Superman know who he is? Doe Superman have a relationship with the prisonser?
And I don't think a human Clark from another world could do all this or need that tower. So this is someone or something else.
After this otherworldly scene, we switch gears to an anniversary party for Lois and Clark in Hamilton. Hmmm ... how many years? Do they count the years they spent in the timeless Convergence dome??
Everything is pure Normal Rockwell there. Clark has made an pineapple upside down cake for the occasion. Everyone is hugging and loving. Jon gives the perfect anniversary gifts to his folks. They dote on him for the miracle he is.
One thing Tomasi and Gleason have done is bring back this sense of warmth to the super-family. Like the State Fair issue and the Clark/Jon heart-to-hearts, this is all wonderful. Almost too perfect.
But we knew that the 'other Clark' was lurking in the backyard. And he is still there. This time he left his own anniversary gift on the back step.
I did find it interesting that Krypto responded the way he did.
You would think if this was a true analogue of Clark that Krypto would be happy. Or at least confused.
But this is an aggressive response. This isn't Clark in any way. A dog would know.
So ... what/who is he??
The gift he left Jon was a scrapbook of the Kent's. Inside you see all sorts of photos. A descendant from Jon Ostrander's Kents Elseworlds series is there. Lana and Clark on a lazy summer day. Superman holding the car from Action Comics #1.
But are these pictures of the New 52 Superman? The current older Superman? Of the world where Clark came from?
And if it isn't this 'other Clark''s book, how did he get it.
It is a mystery. A delicious one.
I love the photos, especially the Clark/Lana one. And Clark in that Daily Planet staff picture looks almost ominous with his glasses.
Before Superman can find this Clark another disaster happens.
The Clark house and ultimately Jon get bathed in a blue flame which is erasing them from existence.
Whatever it is, it isn't just attacking Jon, it teleports him around the house.
What energy could do that? Magic? An antimatter wave like in the Crisis? Dr. Manhatten's mastery over energy and matter?
Seeing Superman chasing Jon around, trying to rescue his son, ramps up the intensity of the proceedings.
And then, while in Superman's arms, Jon is just unwritten. The last thing we see are his glowing eyes before he winks out of existence.
With Jon and the other Clark gone, Superman and Lois swear to track things down.
This sequence was very well done and pretty much devastating. Jon has quickly become a favorite of mine and you can see the terror in his parents eyes.
But I wonder if this is another nod towards Manhatten. Remember how in Watchmen he slowly rebuilt himself, at one point only being eyes and nervous system? Could this be his reverse making of Jon?
While overall this felt a little decompressed, it did what an opening chapter should do. It stoked the fires of mystery and made me want to read more right away.
And I still don't know who this Clark is!
Overall grade: A