[Editor’s Note: This review contains major spoilers for this issue of Action Comics. Do not proceed if you do not wish to learn Mr. Oz’s identity yet.]
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Viktor Bogdanovic
Inks: Jonathan Glapion, Jay Leisten & Bogdanovic
It can be difficult, sometimes, for a writer to devise a situation that is truly a challenge for the Man of Steel. It is rarely a physical challenge, but most often an emotional or psychological challenge. Rarely do these challenges contain both aspects. Mr. Oz has presented Superman with such a problem. Oz has put overwhelming numbers against Superman that he can’t hope to defeat physically. It’s clear Superman will have to attack this problem from a philosophical perspective.
The issue opens with a quick Super-rescue of medicine that needs to be transported to a third world country. The story then proceeds to remind the reader of the current status quo of Superman and friends – Lois and Clark are married, have a son Jon, the couple works at the Daily Planet with Perry White and Jimmy Olsen.
We finally see Mr. Oz at an A.R.G.U.S. location and he’s essentially torturing Metallo and then apparently kills him. In his soliloquy, Mr. Oz reveals that he has a number of follower’s that can be identified by a stylized marking of a “Z” in a circle. He proclaims that the world just isn’t good enough for Superman. And he’s going to prove it to the Man of Steel by exposing the true nature of humanity. His agents are prepared to begin tomorrow, not 20 minutes ago.
The next day, Superman is faced with all sorts of disasters and tragedies and he cannot stop them all in time. Interestingly, Oz’s agents are involved in the incidents, yet these are things that have happened in our world without a manipulator. Eventually, as Superman tries and fails, he comes face to face with Oz. In another monologue, Oz shows his true face as he pulls back his hood and utters that iconic phrase, “I am your father.” Standing before Superman is Jor-El, damaged, but alive.
Maggie Sawyer’s reaction to the people on the street at the medicine rescue is a clever way of tying in what’s going on in Metropolis with Mr. Oz’s larger effect. Of course, it all plays on real world situations that are current or memorable news stories from years past. Essentially, Sawyer is faced with citizens of Metropolis who can’t see others as people and don’t appear to care for others’ well being.
Mr. Oz’s follower’s are marked with a symbol that is remarkably similar to Adrian Veidt’s “Nostalgia” perfume logo turned on its side. This is a clever ruse! Up to the last moment they are pushing the idea that Oz is Ozymandias from Watchmen, hard. Even Oz’s outlook on humanity is similar to Veidt’s in Watchmen.
Not telegraphing the reveal is huge. The heavy misdirection should’ve been obvious. And while it wasn’t a lock that Adrian Veidt was under that hood, no one saw Jor-El coming.
It just seemed right that Veidt was going to be Mr. Oz. It’s a little disappointing and quite disturbing to see Jor-El under the hood. This would be a complete rewriting of Jor-El’s traditional characterization. There is still a chance that it’s not really Jor-El. If there isn’t more to it, this story line is derivative of the challenge Supergirl faced in the first arc of her Rebirth title when Zor-El was a cyborg Superman who had a similar view of Earthlings. It’s possible that this is Veidt under the assumption of one reason or another that he is Jor-El.
There’s a lot of relevance to the real world in the attitudes that Oz is trying to nurture. It’s easy to blame those attitudes and outlooks on an outside force. However, it’s us in the real world that are to blame. Superman will have a much easier time defeating Oz in the comics than we will of turning around those xenophobic and selfish outlooks in our world. This issue makes one think. It’s disguised as a super-hero comic, but it’s really about the challenges we face in our own world.