Review: Action Comics #975

by Matthew Lloyd
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[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Jaime Mendoza
Colors: Wil Quintana

Last week in Superman #18, Jon disappeared with apparently no trace and it appeared that he was being removed from reality as the photo albums the Lois and Clark had no longer contained pictures with him as it should have. Superman and Lois believe the “other” Clark Kent is responsible. They of course go to his apartment to look for clues.

They find an oddly stocked refrigerator and cupboard and finally, the man himself. When Superman confronts him, Clark accuses Superman of caring more about his son than him. So, we collectively asks ourselves, just and Superman and Lois are asking themselves- What’s going on?

Subsequently, Clark starts shape shifting through a series of Superman’s foes until finally ending on his real self…Mr. Mxyzptlk!  Enraged, Superman demands that Mxy tell him where Jon is, but through a little verbal bantering, Mxy tells him no and disappears.  As Superman soliloquizes about finding Jon, Lois simply asks, “Jon who?”

The reveal of Mr. Mxyzptlk works well and he is about the only villain around who could believably bend reality in Superman’s mythos.  This is also the first real appearance of Mxy post-Flashpoint, he had no full appearances during the “New 52.”

While the tension is maintained as Lois and Superman search for Jon, it all goes by a bit quickly.  It really feels like the end of the last issue.  It feels like an incomplete chapter in a story.  While the content is fine, the pacing seems off, which makes it easier to like the back up tale…

“The Man in the Purple Hat”

Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Ian Churchill
Colorist: Mike Atiyeh

Jon is in Mxyzptlk’s 5th dimensional world.  He relates to the imp that Superman would tell him of his confrontations with Mxyzptlk over the years.  Mxy then explains to Jon how he was abducted by Mr. Oz and that he’s basically been out of the way since the beginning of the “New 52.”  Mxy is furious that Superman doesn’t come to rescue him.  Jon argues that Superman didn’t know and that if he did know he would’ve looked for him.  Mxy finally gets out of his cell and appears on Earth after the “New 52” Superman has been revealed as Clark Kent and that he’s died.  Mxy uses his powers to become Clark Kent and save the post-Crisis Superman’s identity.  Mxy then offers Jon a chance to go home, but doesn’t play fair in order to force Jon to play more games with him.

This is one of those tales that while expands upon the main story, delights in its references to past stories and the role Mr. Mxyzptlk has played in Superman’s history, including the original spelling of Mxyzptlk, “Mxyztplk.”  The multiple incarnations of Supes and Mxyzptlk in the style of artists such as John Sikela, Wayne Boring and Curt Swan is truly a treat, as are the toys that are shown as well.  Fun.  This story actually functions better than the main story in the issue, it makes the most of Mxy’s dimensional powers as well as expands the overall story.

This story has two distinct tones, and it is a bit jarring as Mxy switches from sympathetic misunderstood prankster to vindictive villain.  Is Mxy getting remade for a modern audience or will he come out recognizable on the other end of this story arc?

Despite revealing the identity of Clark Kent in the main story, this back up is the better of the two.  It is a good idea to split up the story lines into distinct stories, but it could’ve been more effective with better pacing.  Perhaps, a extending the tension of the reveal through a harder search and let the back up stand on its own in a separate issue.  Overall, the story line maintains the reader’s interest, but the execution is uneven.

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