[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Story & Breakdown Art: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Viktor Bogdanovic
Inks: Viktor Bogdanovic, Trevor Scott & Scott Hanna
Color: Mike Spicer
“…a never ending battle….” That phrase might be associated with a Superman from a different era, but this issue encapsulates that aspect of his character. It’s also at the crux of this story line. Jor-El/Oz would say that this is a never ending battle in futility because of the nature of mankind. Is he right? Superman clearly believes himself to be a symbol of hope and he is happy and driven to fight that battle on behalf of mankind. But, Jor-El is trying to show him that it’s a hopeless battle.
The issue opens with Jon lobbying for Jor-El. He clearly believes Oz to be his grandfather. There is a philosophical battle at hand as Superman and Jor-El attempt to convince each other. In the process Superman learns that Jor-El held Mr. Mxyzptlk captive, but it’s Superman discovering Doomsday that turns things around. Superman realizes that Jor-El really does have his best interest at heart, and he also realizes that Jor-El has been corrupted somehow, by someone. Jor-El knows this being is coming and it will pose a threat to Earth and to Superman’s family.
Jor-El is plucked away by this unseen force and Superman is left to explain it to Jon and Lois. Which he can’t effectively. So, he turns back to that “never ending battle.”
If Superman is a symbol of hope, and he has been since his inception in Action Comics #1, he must always return to the “never ending battle.” It’s almost more important as a theme for the reader than as a story element. This should choke the reader up. Imagine, a man willing to sacrifice and fight for the good in the world against any and every threat. This issue gets at the very heart of Superman’s motivation. It effectively shows that the threat doesn’t really matter, it’s Superman’s outlook on life and belief in the good in people that makes him who he is.
It’s been written that Superman was a product of the time of his creation. I would argue that Superman is just as relevant now as ever, it sometimes takes the right story to demonstrate his value. This is one of those issues.
Jor-El is redeemed! Not a negative, but it had to go somewhere.
This issue gets at the heart of Superman’s character, despite placing him in an extreme situation. To challenge Superman effectively, the writer must find a way to make it about emotion or philosophical outlook. This issue manages to do both. As we approach Action Comics #1000, it is particularly appropriate that this story arc addresses the core of Superman’s values and motivation.