Superman #19 came out this week, the third chapter in the 4 part Superman Reborn, and it moved the story forward somewhat nicely. There are several storylines running through this issue and these titles right now and everything seems to be interconnected. Dr. Manhatten pulling the universe's strings. Mr. Oz and his machinations. Mr. Mxyzptlk and his revenge. The current split in the Superman identity. Who has done what ... if anything?
So now it is a matter of sifting through all the clues, teases, and feints to try to figure out what is causation and what is association. I am more informed, no doubt. But I don't think I actually know more. But it sure is fun trying to figure it all out.
And there is definitely the sense that we are going back to Superman Red/Superman Blue. From the next chapter's cover to the 'red energy' of Superwoman, to the coloring we have seen from the pre-Flashpoint Supes, maybe the 'split Superman' concept is back.
My review therefore will be trying to point out some of the images and interesting tidbits, both story based and metatextual, that were dropped in this issue. Creators Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason bring us an insanely fast moving and surreal book. The art is wonderfully bizarre. And I ate the whole thing up like an eclair.
But how is all of this going to be wrapped up in one more issue??
Last issue we learned that Clark was Mr. Mxyzptlk and he wasn't happy with how long he was imprisoned by Mr. Oz. How could Superman forget about his old pal?? Suddenly the playful imp is after revenge. And his first blow is taking away Jon and ripping memories him from Lois' mind.
This issue starts with Jon floating in some sort of interdimensional void. The only thing present are photos of Lois and Clark together, perhaps from the photo album Mxy brought to the house last issue.
But there is definitely something very Watchmen about this, isn't there? Blue tinted photos slowly floating/falling? But Mxy isn't Manhatten. But is he being manipulated by Manhatten?
Or is the blue energy just a marker that Jon is associated with the 'blue energy' Superman.
Our current Superman pleads with Mxyzptlk to restore Jon. Superman even says he'll play a game with Mxy like they used to do.
But that happy imp is gone.
Gleason gives us a wonderful view into the anger and malevolence in Mxy now. The red tint of the panel adds a devilish flare.
But doesn't that second panel look absolutely Grinch-like? I wonder if Gleason was influenced by Seuss.
This says it all. Gone is the playful prankster.
Mxy decides to give us his backstory again.
First off, he echoes Lana's frustrations from Superwoman #8, noting that Lois and Clark always end up together. In a brilliant little sideswipe at the creative powers behind the New 52, Mxy says 'those tinkering busybodies couldn't keep you apart.' Yep, despite all the stories in the New 52, fans want Lois with Clark and we finally got it. Boy, the Super-books in #Rebirth don't mind taking shots at their predecessors.
Then he again laments being imprisoned and abandoned. Neither Superman came to save him.
In what has to be more metatextual jabs, Mxy mentions how the hope and optimism of Superman was split. And the death of the New 52 Superman resulted in red energy exploding. As for the emotional oomph of Superman's death, Mxy can only say 'meh.'
Whoa. Serious shade.
That said, the Superman Blue/Superman Red storyline from the late 90s broke the Supermen out into emotional beings. The Superman Red was angry and action-oriented. That *could* apply to the New 52 Superman, aloof and judgmental.
Meanwhile Jon hopes his parents will find him. When he voices that desire, two balls of red energy appear before him. In his mind, they speak in the voices of his parents. They bring a photo to Jon of the New 52 Superman and Lois.
Folks who read Superwoman #8 could see this coming.
The idea that the color of the energy associated with the New 52 is red seems apt. Think of all the emotions red evokes ...
As for Mxy, he actually agrees to play a game with Superman. He creates the Infinite Planet, a bizarre version of the Daily Planet. If this Superman can reach the top, Mxy will bring back Jon and restore Lois' memories. If Superman doesn't, Mxy will rip the memories of Jon out of Clark and never free Jon.
There is a lot to like about this interaction. Mxy makes Superman sign a contract. It is a devilish flare. Second, even though this Lois doesn't think she is in a relationship with Superman (even those memories were pulled), Superman insists she join him. He needs her.
But it is all showed in a brilliant 2 page splash (sadly cropped by my scanner). I love Mxyzptlk looming over a hellish version of Chutes and Ladders, including shots of supporting cast members and pictures of key moments in Superman's history ... especially with Lois. (You've got me? Who's got you??)
Somehow, despite all that Mxy puts in his way, our Superman is victorious. He makes it to the top.
But this isn't the happy-go-lucky Mxyzptlk. He assumes Superman has cheated. And he isn't going to give up Jon. And he is going to remove Superman's memories.
But viewing from the ether, apparently inside the Infinite Planet's globe, Jon isn't going to simply bear witness. He asks the red energy to help him. And imbued with the red energy, he smashes the globe, surprising even Mxy.
I love how determined Jon is. He is going to rescue his family. Wonderful.
And then, the red energy manifests itself as the New 52 Superman and Lois. Neither are dead. They are crackling with red energy.
Shattering the crumbling the fourth wall, Mxy even says 'New 52'.
But what does it all mean.
Who split Superman? I don't think it is Mxy. I'm not sure it is Mr. Oz. I do think it is this whole Dr. Manhattan stuff simmering on the back burner.
So maybe we will get some understanding about Superman. My guess is the Superman will somehow merge. We will come back to one Superman. The DCU timeline will retroactively rewrite itself, making this a universe that has only had one Superman. The world now has a Clark/Lois married couple. And they have a kid. Somehow the 5 years of the New 52 will need to be massaged to fit in this new history. It will sort of be like the days immediately after the Crisis. What is in and what is out ... we'll need to wait or decide on our own.
So the 'Super-MEN and Lois-ES' conundrum will happily fade away.
But I don't think we are going to get the 'why this all happened' next issue. Or 'who made this all happen'. My guess is we need to wait.
Still, this was a hallucinogenic flight of fancy with plot progression and metatextual body blows. I was entertained!