Spoilers ahead for this week's Superman #19.
"New 52" Superman and Lois Lane are back - or at least their essences are.
The red energy of the "New 52" Superman (which has been referenced in "Rebirth" titles like Superwoman and New Super-Man) has somehow brought back the "New 52" Lois and Clark, although it's not clear what form they're in.
It all started in this week's Superman #19, which is part three of "Superman Reborn," the crossover that has already established the identity of Rebirth's mysterious doppelgänger Clark as Mr. Mxyzptlk.
As Superman #19 begins, Mr. Mxyzptlk has caused the current post-Crisis Lois Lane tto forget her son Jon, whom the imp had kidnapped out of anger toward Superman.
(Mr. Mxyzptlk 's anger stems from having been imprisoned for a long time by the meddling-in-the-DCU-timeline entity known only as Mr. Oz. Mxyzptlk blames Superman for not coming to rescue him from Oz's prison - and for raising a son with Lois instead of coming to save his friend Mr. Mxyzptlk. Thus the Jon kidnapping and forgetful Lois.)
Superman demands that Mr. Mxyzptlk bring back his son, asking if this is some sort of "game?" When Mr. Mxyzptlk hears the word "game," he lights up. Clark realizes Mr. Mxyzptlk might want to play, like the two characters used to do. But Mr. Mxyzptlk says, "not anymore … now I wanna play a new game! Double or nothin'!" He makes Clark sign a contract to join the contest as he takes Clark and Lois to a place he calls "out between the in-between, next door to infinity's backyard," where gravity, physics and reality don't apply.
The characters' dialogue during this part of the issue reveals some key elements that may become important to the story of "Superman Reborn" and/or "Rebirth." Namely:
- The color blue covers everything as Mxyzptlk takes Superman and Lois to the "in-between" dimension. (This isn't the first time post-Crisis has seen blue, remembering that blue flames are what took away his son.) What's with the blue, Superman asks. "It's just the way things look around here. It's your inner essence that makes you… you."
- Mr. Mxyzptlk says that, no matter the world or the dimension, Lois and Clark always end up together. "Even in fractured quantum space-time you manage to find each other," Mr. Mxyzptlk says. "But if those tinkering busybodies couldn't keep you apart, why should I waste my time?"
- During this time, readers are briefly shown a scene from the beginning of the "New 52," where "New 52" Superman is fighting Darkseid with the Justice League, but post-Crisis Superman (in his black costume) is watching from a distance, wondering if he should help. Mr. Mxyzptlk says: "Even when all the hope and optimism was split and there were two of you to play with, not one of you came to save me!" Superman responds, "Are you telling me I was split in two?" but gets no answer to his question.
- Readers then see "New 52" Superman's death as Mr. Mxyzptlk says: "You'd think I'd have been sad to find out that the other one exploded into that red energy, but I was more like…meh. Serves him right." Lois notices that when "New 52" Superman died, some of his red energy went into bystanders (a theme that's been greatly explored in Superwoman, particularly last week's #8).
The three characters - Mxyzptlk with post-Crisis 52 Superman and Lois - arrive at what the imp calls "The Infinite Planet," which looks like a floating The Daily Planet building made from candy. Mxy says Jon is in the "cherry on top," The Daily Planet's globe.
If Superman can get to his son, he wins and all goes back to the way it was before. But if he cannot get there, all three of them will be trapped in the fifth dimension forever and will be forgotten. Of course, Superman's energy won't last much longer in this place, and as it goes, so do his memories.
In the meantime, Jon is floating in nothingness after having been taken by Mr. Mxyzptlk. He is surrounded by floating, blue-tinted pictures of his parents from before he was born. He begins to say out loud how much he misses his parents, and that he hopes they can find him, when "VOOOOSH!" Two red balls of flaming energy come buzzing toward him.
The two energy globes stop and appear to be looking at Jon. The boy senses them talking to him. "Who are you?" he asks.
"Tzzzzzzzkkk!" The energy points Jon to a photograph of "New 52" Lois and Clark. "Superman? Lois Lane?" Jon says. "Mom? Dad?"
Readers cannot hear the red energy's response, but Jon apparently can, and he realizes that although these two red orbs of fiery energy are not his parents, they're just like them. And he asks if they can help him find his parents?
The two red globes reach out to Jon with two bolts of red lightning, which touch two of his fingers. "Bzzzzzt!" Suddenly, Jon has some of the red energy glowing from his fingertips.
Back with Jon's parents, who have just agreed to Mr. Mxyzptlk 's twisted game, the scene becomes a large game board, and readers see stories from the past that tore apart Lois and Clark as the imp enjoys the prospect of tearing them apart again.
As post-Crisis Superman carries his Lois on his back, the two struggle to make it to the globe on top of the building. They even begin to disappear from existence, having to focus on each other to continue their fight.
"Jonathan!" Superman says as he finally reaches the globe.
Readers see that Jonathan can hear his father's yell, but the two are not united yet. Mr. Mxyzptlk interrupts and accuses Superman of cheating. He won't let Superman and Lois get to the globe, and they're beginning to forget their son's name.
Jonathan begs the two red energy orbs to help his parents. "Please! I know you are good people! You've gotta help me help them now!"
When Superman says out loud that he can't remember Jon's name, the boys screams, "I'm your son!" and his hands are surrounded by the energy orbs.
The globe explodes in red energy as Mr. Mxyzptlk says, "Cheats! Cheats! Cheats!" But he's overpowered by the red energy that comes flying toward him and Superman and Lois.
Suddenly, a "New 52"-costumed Superman appears, glowing red, holding Lois Lane in one arm and Jonathan in the other. He and Lois both have red bolts of energy coming from them and they look strong, angry and ready to fight Mr. Mxyzptlk.
It appears that the orbs entered the bodies of post-Crisis Superman and his wife Lois, but it wasn't made clear. Did they take over their bodies? Did they combine with the "blue energy" of their counterparts? Or are these two completely different Lois and Clarks we're seeing?
On the final page, Jonathan says, "M-Mom? D-Dad?" as Mxyzptlk ends the issue with the words: "Déja-New-52!"
"Superman Reborn" continues with next week's Action Comics #976.