Tuesday, 28 June 2016

A DC Rebirth Theory: Why are there two Supermen?

In 2011 DC Comics revamped their line of superhero comics under the New 52 banner. Superman became a younger, slightly more lonely & aggressive hero who was no longer married to Lois Lane. This year DC are shaking up their continuity once again, and this time they're calling it DC Rebirth. The previous version of Superman is back, along with his wife Lois and his son Jon, and New 52 Superman is dead! As of last month, DC's main Superman is not just a strange visitor from another planet, he's a strange visitor from a defunct timeline too! Is this the permanent status quo for the Man of Steel? Will New 52 Superman ever return? And how does the mysterious Mr Oz fit into all this?

In Superman: Men of Tomorrow (2014) we saw a mysterious gentleman named Mr Oz observing New 52 Superman's actions. During the course of his cryptic monologues he claims to have taught Superman in some way.

At the end of that storyline Mr Oz sends a notebook to Clark Kent with a Superman symbol on the cover and empty pages within.

In DC Rebirth #1, following the death of New 52 Superman, Mr Oz appears before pre-New 52 Superman and tells him that he and his deceased counterpart are not what they seem.

And then in Superman #1 pre-New 52 Superman leaves a glowing blue handprint on the grave of New 52 Superman.

Several clues in DC Rebirth #1 have led many to believe that Mr Oz is actually Ozymandias from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen, and that Watchmen's Dr Manhattan is actually responsible for the creation of the New 52. But what's interesting is that this act of "creation" didn't actually seem to involve making a brand new timeline. In DC Rebirth #1 we discover that rather than being a separate timeline the New 52 is in fact an altered version of the previous timeline. Characters memories of the previous timeline are beginning to return, and the original version of Wally West AKA The Flash has appeared, claiming that he and his fellow superheroes have been robbed of ten years! This raises a big question. How are there two Supermen, one from the New 52 and one from before the New 52, if the New 52 is actually the old timeline but with a few alterations? *

The obvious answer is they're both the same Superman!

If ten years has been removed from the timeline could the pre-New 52 Superman and his family actually be from within that ten years? New 52 Superman was supposed to become pre New 52 Superman and New 52 Lois Lane was supposed to marry Clark Kent and become pre-New 52 Lois Lane and give birth to Jon. Then the ten years in which that was supposed to happen was removed from the timeline (possibly by Dr Manhattan). However something or someone (possibly the events of Convergence) removed Clark and Lois from that ten years and deposited them back to a time before the ten years was removed where they found themselves living alongside their younger selves.

Perhaps Mr Oz has been battling against the force that removed the ten years? Perhaps he has been somehow teaching or manipulating young Clark to ensure he becomes the version from the ten year gap. The empty notebook was sent as a clue. The future is unwritten because the future (that ten year gap) has been stolen! Could the blue handprint be a sign that the missing ten years is returning and that Superman is placing his hand on the grave of his younger self?

I predict that the whole Rebirth arc will end with the resurrection of New 52 Superman and the reinsertion of the ten years into the timeline, enabling New 52 Clark and Lois to grow naturally into their older counterparts. This solution would please everybody. The adventures of New 52 Superman still "happened" but he eventually married Lois and had a son. Everybody wins!

What do you think? Am I right? Am I talking bibble? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

*Originally we were led to believe that the Flash (Barry Allen) created the New 52 by messing around with time travel in a story called Flashpoint. But perhaps Flash's meddling only created minor changes (costumes, origin details etc) and Dr Manhattan took advantage of this instability to make bigger changes and remove ten years. This would explain why Wally West's memories in Titans Rebirth #1 differ slightly from the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

DC REBIRTH: Action Comics #957 - Review


DC Comics are persevering with their plan to rearrange their universe of superhero characters until everybody on the internet stops shouting at them. Their latest attempt involves using Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons's Watchmen characters (that's a whole can of worms in itself) to merge the best of their old stuff with the best of their new stuff. It's called DC Rebirth and I'm pleased to say it appears to be working! Sales are up and reviews are good, so let's hope it lasts (it won't).

But how does all this affect my favouritest superhero of all time, Superman? Well, quite a bit actually.

Superman is dead and has been replaced by a previous incarnation from a parallel world. The recently deceased Man of Steel is the revamped version who first appeared in 2011 as part of DC's last big revamp, The New 52. New52 Supes has been dispatched to make way for an older model, and to be honest it's hard not to view it as a big middle finger to fans both new and old who'd grown quite attached to him. But to be fair Supes the Younger was given a decent send-off in the recent Final Days of Superman storyline, as well as Superman Rebirth #1. Also, the aforementioned older model is a pretty awesome incarnation of the Last Son of Krypton, who comes complete with a wife (Lois Lane, of course) and a son (Jon Kent, the new Superboy).

Action Comics #957 (they went back to the original numbering, hurray!) marks our older Superman's return as the star of his flagship title. How did our comeback kid do?

Pretty darn well!

The issue begins with Lex Luthor, clad in Apokoliptian armour, attempting to take the place of the dead Superman in the hearts and minds of the people of Metropolis. This rubs the other Superman up the wrong way, and so he rushes to Metropolis in a new costume to confront Luthor, exposing himself to the world in the process. A fight ensues, and the two new/old adversaries slap each other around for a bit until a new threat suddenly drops from the sky - Doomsday, the monster who killed Superman in the '90s!

Despite my hurried summary this is a packed issue. One of the things I love about writer Dan Jurgens is his ability to juggle several ongoing plot threads in the same issue without losing the momentum or the clarity of the story. This issue is no exception. Jurgens' gives us the return to Metropolis of Maggie Sawyer - a fan favourite supporting character, another cameo by the mysterious Mr Oz, and an appearance by yet another Clark Kent (?!?!), and none of this distracts from the main action of the story.

One of my favourite bits in this issue was Superman and Lois attempting to instill their super-powered son with the same values and wisdom that was passed to Superman by his parents. I think the image of an innocent being given great power and not being corrupted by it is a big part of what many of us find so appealing about the Superman story. It's nice to see that story playing out in a slightly different way. I also love Jurgens' depiction of Luthor. Being a superhero is just a big ego trip for Lex, he wants to be Superman not to help people but to prove he's the best. It's difficult not to see real world parallels with the odious Donald Trump and his attempt to become President of the USA.

The art is absolutely amazing. Patrick Zircher has recently finished working on Green Arrow, where he did very well, but Action Comics with it's splash pages and, well, action, is much more suited to Zircher's style. Zircher has made each character clear, distinctive and realistic without sacrificing any of the dynamism of the art or the iconic nature of the characters. It really is top-notch superhero art.

Despite all the good stuff there were a few things about this issue I wasn't too sure of. The cliffhanger was a disappointment. After all, Doomsday's on the cover, we knew he was coming. It's a shame that a huge threat like Doomsday has lost his impact through overuse over the years. To be fair though, that's hardly Jurgens and Zircher's fault, and it's still a thrill to see Doomsday back in the hands of Jurgens, his creator.

I was also a little put off by the way Superman blatantly started the fight with Luthor. It gave Lex the moral high ground and tainted this Superman's reveal to the world somewhat. Having said that, it's quite in character for Superman to have his judgement affected by his anger towards Luthor, and Lois' reaction as she witnesses the fight on TV ("Don't ever think fighting is the preferred solution Jon.") indicates that Superman will face the repercussions of his actions. But diving in fist first was New52 Superman's thing (an aspect of the character I quite enjoyed actually), so it's a bit weird to see this Superman, one who is supposed to be older and wiser, acting in the same way.

I can't really fault the issue too much however. It sets out a complicated status quo succinctly, hits the ground running, and offers plenty of plot teasers to get readers back next issue, and you can't ask for much more from the first chapter of a new storyline. Hopefully this version of Superman, as well as Lois and Jon, will be around for a good long while, and Jurgens and Zircher will stick with them.

4/5 stars! ****

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Zod! Show Me Magic Podcast - Episode 2: X-Men Apocalypse: Mutants and Man-Ape!

Here it is, the second episode of the podcast presented by me and my friend Rhys L. Griffiths! It's aimed at fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Extended Universe who fancy dipping their toes into the comics. The set up is that we both discuss superhero movies and TV, while I also explain aspects of the comics to Rhys. It's all done (hopefully) in a fun, accessible way for the new or casual fan, and can be enjoyed by hardcore fans too.

It's called Zod! Show Me Magic.

This episode is about X-Men: Apocalypse, but we also find time to discuss Thor, Civil War (the comic), DC Rebirth, and super villains dressed as monkeys.

It can be found on Itunes:

Zod! Show Me Magic on Itunes

And also on Soundcloud:

Check it out! Comment! Subscribe! Rate!

Also, join Zod's Book Club! I've made Rhys read Planet Hulk by next month and we'll be discussing it on Episode 3. If you've read it or are going to read it let us know what you think of the story via Twitter (@ZodShowMeMagic)Facebook, or here on my blog!

Spread the word for the love of Zod!