Action Comics #988
Written by Dan Jurgens
Art by Ryan Sook
Colors by Hi-Fi
Cover by Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques, and Jason Wright
Previously: After watching Superman for years, the mysterious Mr. Oz finally revealed himself as Jor El, Superman’s father. His plan is to prove to Superman that humanity isn’t worthy of him or his family.
What happened: After the big revelation at the end of the previous issue, it’s time for an explanation. Superman immediately insists that the man claiming to be Jor-El is lying, but Jor-El isn’t without proof. The crystals in the Fortress of Solitude carry the history of Krypton, and with his knowledge of kryptonian technology, Jor-El knows exactly how to access the history that he’s looking for. He grabs a crystal, and both Superman and his alleged father are able to witness Jor-El’s final days on Krypton.
We are then witness to the new history of the death of Krypton, complete with plenty of name drops. The story begins, as usual, with Jor-El working on a secret project to save his people from the death of the planet. Rather than just building a single rocket, however, we learn that he’s working on an ark-like project, giant ships to carry as many refugees as possible. Lor-Van, Jor-El’s financier and father-in-law,warns him that he could be arrested for this by Zod or the Science Council, reminding Jor-El that space travel is illegal due to the crimes of Jax-Ur. Jor-El’s wife Lara, still pregnant with Superman, arrives and pleads with the two of them to stop fighting. Lor-Van won’t be swayed, however, and destroys the entire project. With the limited time left, Jor-El was only able to make one ship big enough to fit his son, sending Kal-El to Earth to become Superman. Meanwhile, on the dying planet Krypton Jor El watches his wife died as he is miraculously saved by an unknown being, capable of bending reality. Jor El believes he was saved to witness the truth of human nature.
Whatever being saved Jor El deposited his body, riddled with shards of kryptonite, in a war torn city on Earth. A family saved him and tended to his wounds, and their son reminded Jor El of his own. Once he became well enough to leave, Jor El decided to thank the family by stealing full dinner for the family from the local warlord, which inevitably led to violent retribution. In his anger, Jor El discovered his powers as he lashed out at the attackers, and was promptly taken back by his mysterious controller, who showed him the history of humanity on Earth. This caused Jor El to come to his damning conclusion about humanity, and he demands that he has come to take Superman away from them.
Thoughts on the issue: Considering the big reveal that Jor El was Mr. Oz, the subsequent story explaining it didn’t have a lot that was too unique. The big “change” to the origin story was that Jor El didn’t initially plan on just saving his son, but that’s just how it turned out. Then we have a competently written but admittedly obvious anecdote about cruelty, which seemed redundant when Jor El got the human history brainwash session. The combination of the underwhelming reveal, the basic origin story, and the added element of the “mysterious being” that is almost definitely Dr. Manhattan gave me a sense of whiplash. After all this time, the big reveal turned out to be a tease for Doomsday Clock, which is a bit of a let down.
One last thing: Ryan Sook draws the hell out of this issue, I don’t want to let the art get forgotten.