T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
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Action Comics #975 burst forth on Wednesday as a double-length anniversary edition showcasing two related tales and an earthshakingly major revelation in the Superman: Reborn arc. Dan Jurgens wrote the main adventure, Paul Dini fleshed out the backstory in a bonus feature, and ComiConverse contributor T. Kyle King brings you his review of the blockbuster issue.
(WARNING: 100% ABSOLUTE TOTAL SPOILERS FOLLOW!)
Action Comics #975 Review:
Who is the mysterious Clark Kent duplicate? Where has Superman’s and Lois Lane’s son, Jonathan, gone? What prisoner was powerful enough to escape incarceration by Mr. Oz? Superman: Reborn — Part 2 offers answers to all these questions!
(SERIOUSLY, IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT YET, TURN BACK NOW!)
Action Comics #975 Synopsis:
Superman and Lois race to Clark’s apartment in Metropolis to look for Jon. They find the place largely vacant and stocked with nothing but junk food. Kent enters and accosts the Action Ace for failing to save him. Clark reveals that he is really Mr. Mxyzptlk and explains that, because the Man of Tomorrow forgot him, the Fifth Dimensional imp is going to make everyone else forget Jon. When Mxyzptlk disappears, Superman tells his wife they must retrieve their son… only Lois responds: “Jon who?”
Tucked away in the Fifth Dimension, Jonathan recognizes Mr. Mxyzptlk from his father’s bedtime stories. The boy’s captor has a tale to tell, as well, as he relates how his last visit to Metropolis was interrupted when Mr. Oz trapped him within a negative space prison to prevent Mxyzptlk from disrupting his meticulous plans. The magician in the purple derby was unconcerned, as he was confident Superman would come looking for him. When that didn’t occur, Mxyzptlk spoke his own name backwards to escape and evaded Mr. Oz’s pursuit by casting a spell to disguise his appearance and trick everyone — including himself — into believing he was Clark Kent. When the spell was broken by the sight of the actual Kent family in Hamilton County, Mxyzptlk determined to take his revenge for being abandoned.
Action Comics #975 Analysis:
The 975th issue of the original superhero comic book paid appropriate homage to the publisher’s history, not least of all by including separate stories in a single edition. Superman: Reborn — Part 2, penned by Jurgens and pencilled by Doug Mahnke, continued the ongoing crossover, yet The Man in the Purple Hat, the backup feature authored by Dini with artwork from Ian Churchill, filled in the missing pieces in a coherent, charming, and menacing manner. Wrapped in a cover by Patrick Gleason and John Kalisz that featured Clark Kent clad in a Death of Superman T-shirt, Action Comics #975 delivered the answers it promised in a satisfying way by moving the story forward while tossing nods to the long legacy of the Man of Steel.
Gleason’s and Kalisz’s cover is not the issue’s only allusion to The Death of Superman, as Jurgens’s page-turn reveal required five turns before the truth was exposed; in between, a series of splash pages tracing the way through the Metropolis Marvel’s rogues’ gallery replicated the outsized imagery of Superman’s fatal final battle with Doomsday. Mahnke’s artistic style is suited to such large kinetic action sequences, but it is Churchill’s work that steals the show in The Man in the Purple Hat, where he exactingly crafts recognizable replicas of classic scenes from the Golden Age, the Silver Age, and other media. This visual signature impressively connects Action Comics #975 to Rebirth’s restorative central mission of reviving and revitalizing DC Comics’ tangled yet essential continuity.
Mr. Mxyzptlk is a surprisingly ideal villain for achieving this objective. Although the Zrfffian’s continuity-hopping is introduced in amusing fashion, his reality-spanning interdimensional abilities make him the perfect figure to bridge the gaps, allowing Action Comics #975 to serve as the scaffold on which to set the upcoming Watchmen tie-ins… and it is the unspoken Alan Moore connection that makes this particular resolution work so well. Even after being kidnapped and told he cannot leave, Jonathan isn’t frightened by the whimsical figure of his childhood bedtime stories. “Dad always said you were playful,” Jon explains, “kind of like a kid.” Nevertheless, Jurgens and Mahnke successfully deliver an ominous montage of intimidating evildoers assailing the Action Ace, building to a revelation that is anything but anticlimactic.
The storytellers’ ability to present Mr. Mxyzptlk as the creepy culmination of a litany of such genuinely dangerous antagonists as Brainiac, Mongul, and Doomsday hinges on the sinister endgame Moore presented in the seminal (and transitional) Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? It was there that the mischievous imp shifted from twenty centuries as a trickster to twenty more of wickedness. (Action Comics #975 explicitly nods toward this history when Mr. Oz tells his captive: “Two thousand Earth years will pass before it occurs to them you are gone.”) Moreover, the implicit indictment of simplistic Silver Age morality in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? introduced an element of realism, which Moore would explore much more thoroughly in the forthcoming Watchmen.
Superman: Reborn — Part 2 and The Man in the Purple Hat fulfilled their mission of bringing a long-simmering mystery to a convincing resolution, but they did so with a keen consciousness of the whole heritage to which Action Comics #975 pays fitting tribute. For the Man of Steel, Rebirth has been literal: Superman is undergoing a genuine renaissance… and, given the opportunity to sink or swim with this critical story arc, the creative talent behind the Big Blue Boy Scout soared.
We invite you to ComiConverse with us in the comments concerning Action Comics #975!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
This super-sized special edition offered appropriate nods to the past while advancing significant existing plotlines toward a triumphant resolution.