We’re 9 issues away from the big Action Comics 1000. Time to start the countdown. But more importantly, this issue seems to conclude The Oz Effect, a story with several twists and turns, that began with a massive reveal. Stop reading right here if you don’t know the reveal and don’t want to know it yet.
Oz is Jor-el, Superman’s Kryptonian father.
Over the course of this arc, we’ve learned that Oz was somehow rescued from Krypton’s destruction, and was sent to a very rough part of Earth. Whereas Clark Kent grew up amongst the best of humanity, Jor-el was introduced to Earth in the very worst parts of the world. He personally witnessed the depths of human evil. This forged him into someone who, while not quite a villain, is someone who actively puts people in the position where they can commit great evils, and watches as many of them choose to go through with it.
Written by Dan Jurgens, Action Comics 991 pits Superman against his father, and … it’s kind of underwhelming. It clearly shows how Jor-el is not the one in control here, but someone far more powerful is pulling the strings. In case you haven’t been paying attention I won’t say who is, but at this point it’s kind of obvious. It’s also made clear that there is at least some level of manipulation going on behind the scenes, affecting Jor-el’s actions. It makes his bad experiences feel less important to Oz’s emotions. The fight scene is also a bit underwhelming, with only a couple strikes here and there, and a brief moment where Jor-el blasts his son with some sort of kryptonite eyebeam, with a cliché “I’m doing this for your own good” style comment. Actually I think he says something like that multiple times.
The art by Viktor Brogdanovic is good. There’s a fair amount of detail in the environments, like Metropolis’s skyline on the opening and closing pages, even planting the story arc’s title on the top of a building like it’s a company logo. The environment also shows some of Oz’s actions that have affected both Action Comics and Superman up to this point, like Mxyzptlk’s prison (from Superman) and Doomsday’s cage (from the Detective Comics story arc that finished today as well). Jor-el’s scars look like they’re kryptonite related injuries. Facial expressions do a good job at conveying emotions, especially how varied Superman’s expression get during the conflict. He shows anger and confusion throughout, and there’ s a brief moment before Jor-el’s whisked away when they both show concern and fear for each other.
For the conclusion of a major story arc like this, The Oz Effect doesn’t really end. It just kind of stops. It’s clearly something that will affect Superman from an emotional standpoint, and that part of the comic works. Yet there’s a lot more about this comic that feels underwhelming and I’m not sure how to place it. For a story that had a lot of potential, it both began in a bit of a convoluted way and it ended in an underwhelming fashion. There were some intense points in-between, and the last issue where Jor-el spoke with his grandson worked really well, but the most important parts to nail in a story are often the beginning and the end. Neither of them worked all that well in this story arc compared to the middle. If you’ve enjoyed The Oz Effect up to this point, this is still worth a read, but I wouldn’t recommend buying it until after you’ve read it.
At this point I’ll probably stick around with this series until at least issue 1000. I hope it impresses me somewhere in there, or I may drop it again and just stick with Superman.