Action Comics #987, part one of The Oz Effect, gained media attention for a set of panels where Superman saves a group of immigrants from being killed by an angry white male American. The would be killer was of course working class, lacking a college education, middle aged factory worker who finds himself out of a job because the company he once worked for hired cheaper, non English speaking workers who would do what he did for much less without complaint. Of course this gained lots of mainstream media attention in the current political climate. But for comic book readers, this panel was just a piece of a much bigger picture. A piece of what may be one of the better Superman story arcs to be written for sometime.
Action Comics begins the arc of The Oz Effect. This tale asks the question, the big question, what if? What if a Kryptonian landed on Earth and was not raised by the Kents? What if, instead, the Kryptonian was instead subjected to and witness to the horrors of mankind. What if this Krytonian lived among the oppressed and tortured villagers of a war ravaged third world country. And it answers the very question, who is Oz?
I waited until Action Comics #988, part two of the Oz Effect was out before I wrote this review because I didn’t want to spoil the awesome and freaking cool reveal in #987.
Oz is Jor-El, Superman’s father! He survived the destruction of Krypton, was spirited away by an unknown entity and sent to Earth. But he was also shown all the evil that is humanity. The cruelty and tortures and then subjected to witnessing them done to the very people who tried to care for him. Jor-El is convinced that Earth is doomed and unworthy of the gift he has given them of his son. He believes that Superman must leave Earth forever.
This is the story I have been waiting for ever since Dan Jurgens took over the helm of Action Comics. I will even forgive the gimmicky covers, even that will not deter me from enjoying the story inside. For the record, I find gimmicky, or multiple variant covers like the ones that Marvel is vomiting out right now for all its titles, annoying. If the story is worth it, I will follow the book. Walk into any comic book shop and you will see the clients, “the regulars”, talking about this story arc or that story arc. I have never heard one say, did you see how the cover changes when you are looking at it different angles? Damn we need to pick that book up now!
Story. Story. Story.
Something that DC knows how to do and do well.
I have never been a big Superman comic book reader. I find the boy scout boring far too often. Unless he is Batman then there is a loss of dynamic. But with the Oz Effect Jurgens may change all that. In 2003, under their Elseworlds banner, DC released Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son. This three issue book (pick it up by the way!) asked the question: what if Superman had not landed in Smallville, Kansas; but in the Soviet Union. How would that have changed the world? In the Oz Effect, Jurgens raises the question; what if a super powered Kryptonian hand landed on Earth and was subjected and witness to all that is evil in man. How would that change his perspective of mankind?
Intentional or not, what Jurgens is really saying here is that traditional American values molded Superman into the hero he is today. Who Superman is has much more to do with Jonathan and Martha Kent and what they believed in than his super powers. Yes, conservative, church going, middle class Americans who believe in Truth, Justice and the American Way. Bet you couldn’t get that pass the crew at Marvel.
The Oz Effect is also about the anger and bitterness of a father pitted against the hope of a son. A hope that was taught to him by his foster parents.
Underlying this is also the comparison that has always been used between Superman and Jesus Christ. Jor-el sent his son to Earth to be hope and protector for the world and its inhabitants. God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son. The son who would be called the Savior. Christians speak of and wait for the second coming of Jesus that will take them to their salvation. What if…what if…what if….What if God said enough. Humanity is beyond saving and takes back his son. What if…
Yes, The Oz Effect is much more than gimmicky covers and cheap politically correct panels of saving immigrants over US citizens.
The Oz Effect is about a son and a father and the abyss that lays between them.
Its about story and Jurgens may just have the best comic book story of the year right here in Action Comics. Can’t wait for #989!!