Spoilers ahead for this week's Superman #19.
This week's Superman #19, the third chapter in the "Superman Reborn" storyline, has revealed that "New 52" Superman and "New" 52 Lois Lane are still alive - or at least their essence still exists in the form of red energy.
And by the end of the issue, they appeared to combine with the "blue essence" of post-Crisis Superman and his wife Lois.
What does it all mean? The answers aren't clear, but we've tried to gather various clues to make sense of the events in Superman #19.
Blue and Red
Ever since the beginning of "Rebirth," there have been hints about post-Crisis Superman (we'll just call him Superdad) having a connection to the color blue.
In the first few pages of Rebirth's Superman #1 in June 2016, Superdad took went to visit the grave of the recently deceased "New 52" Superman. When the older hero touched the ground above his dead counterpart's body, a glowing blue handprint formed in the grass. The caption associated with the scene indicated that the blue glow was connected to Mr. Oz's statement in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 that Superman and his family were not what they seemed.
The blue appeared again in 2016's post-"Rebirth" Superman Annual #1 that co-starred Swamp Thing. In it, Swamp Thing told Superdad that he doesn't belong on this Earth, and the color blue is used over and over to indicate the dissonance related to a "vibrational aberration" related to Superdad. Although the issue resolved the plant-related problems with Superdad's presence on earth, strange occurrences were not explained (like Superman having one red eye and one blue eye at one point, and Swampy glowing blue and speaking Kryptonian at another).
And of course, Jonathan - and his family's entire house - were engulfed in blue flames at the beginning of "Superman Reborn" and eventually disappeared from existence, apparently stolen by Mr. Mxyzptlk.
Now, in this week's Superman #19, Mxyzptlk tells Superdad that the blue is "your inner essence that makes you…you."
So Superdad and Lois - their essence - appear to be represented by the "blue."
In the meantime, red energy has been associated with "New 52" Superman for months now.
Not only was a form of red energy from him used by the characters in New Super-Man, but when "New 52" Superman died at the end of the "New 52," his red energy was transferred to both Lana Lang and "New 52" Lois (who later died).
Earlier this month, in Superwoman #8, readers were shown that Lana's red energy has been given back to "New 52" Superman and "New 52" Lois Lane. They apparently aren't really dead, so to speak, but are existing as energies. In the issue, they asked Lana to give the energy back so they could "go back to where we came from, to become whole."
The idea behind the red and blue energies of Superman seems to be related to what Mr. Mxyzptlk told Superdad in this week's Superman #19.
"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!" Mxyzptlk says.
Superdad responds, "Are you telling me I was split in two?"
It now appears that, when the "New 52" was created (or at some point during the DCU's past timeline - it's getting hard to tell what happened when anymore…), Superman was split into two.
Or at least, at some point, "New 52" Superman apparently carried the red essence/energy of Superman while the other carried the blue.
This isn't the first time the DCU has played with the concept of Superman being split into Superman Red and Superman Blue. Way back in 1963, readers were introduced to the concept of Superman splitting himself into Superman Red and Superman Blue, although that time it was a side effect of something Superman himself did.
Superman Blue and Superman Red showed up again in a 1998 storyline. This time, Superman split into two beings who represented different aspects of his personality. Superman Blue was the more cerebral entity, while Superman Red was more rash. (This fits well with the idea that "New 52" Superman, who was more rash and impulsive, was the "red," while mature, more experienced Superdad was the "blue.")
But this story indicates that Lois was also split somehow. That would explain why the "New 52" version of Lois Lane somehow knew that the post-Crisis Lois was on the same Earth. It would also explain why the death of "New 52" Lois looked almost exactly like the death of "New 52" Supes - they are both linked to the red essence, while the other version is linked to the blue.
Who "split" Superman and Lois into two characters, one with the red essence and one with the blue?
Mxyzptlk appears to blame "busybodies" for trying to keep Lois and Clark apart during the "New 52." "If those tinkering busybodies couldn't keep you apart, why should I waste my time?" he said.
This could be a meta-like complaint about DC editorial, but it could also be an in-story comment on the creators of the "New 52" (the ones Wally West sensed in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 — stating that they not only created the "New 52" universe, but stole 10 years from its timeline).
We already know that Mr. Oz takes credit for at least some of "New 52" Superman's abilities. In his first appearance in Superman #32, when Mr. Oz saw Superman fall down, he said, "come on now, Superman … Clark … you always get up when you get knocked down. I taught you that." Mr. Oz is also the one who told Superdad that he (and the "New 52"Superman) were not what they seemed. So the "busybodies" could be connected to Mr. Oz.
And the "Superman Reborn Aftermath" solicitations says that Superman will unite the entire Superman family to answer questions about who "tried to destroy his life" and "who is Mr. Oz?" For now - until the results of DC's "The Button" get together with the results of "Superman Reborn" - it looks like Mr. Oz is the main suspect in the question of who split Superman apart.
Red and Blue Combined
At the end of Superman #19, the red energy of "New 52" Superman and "New 52" Lois appeared to combine with the fading-and-forgetting-who-they-were bodies of Superdad and post-Crisis Lois.
We say "appeared to combine" because it's not clear that they were fused. All that readers saw was the sudden appearance of "New 52" Superman, glowing red, holding Jonathan in one arm and Lois Lane in the other. He and Lois both have red bolts of energy coming from them.
However, while the Superman is clearly wearing the "New 52" costume, the Lois Lane looks like a combination of post-Crisis Lois and "New 52" Lois. She has the "New 52" black hair, but her hairstyle is more like post-Crisis Lois, and she's wearing post-Crisis Lois' necklace and clothing.
Therefore, it appears that the characters have somehow combined (which also echoes the '90s story of Superman Blue and Superman Red, who eventually re-combined).
The cover of Action Comics #976, the next issue of "Superman Reborn," hints at these two different Blue and Red Supermen. On this cover, they are not combined, however, solicitations for the aftermath of "Superman Reborn" only talk about one Superman. It appears that, even if they're not fully combined at the end of this week's Superman #19, they probably will be combined by the end of "Superman Reborn."
There's also the clue of Jonathan's question at the end of Superman #19. He knew that the red energy orbs were not his mother and father. So when he asked, at the end of issue #19, "Superman? Lois Lane? Mom? Dad?," he obviously senses his mother and father inside the two people standing there.
But if they are combined, what does that mean for the future of Lois and Clark?
OK, this is all speculation, but if the red essence of the "New 52" characters combined with the blue essence of the other two, then what emerges might be a combination of the two Supermen and two Loises - complete with their memories and personalities and everything else.
In last week's Superwoman #8, Lana Lang said "why is my memory suddenly cloudy? Why does the world seem … different?" The question has an asterisk on it, and an editor's note at the bottom of the page says, "See 'Superman Reborn' for all the answers!"
Further dialogue in Superwoman #8 indicates that the reason for the apparent memory realignment is the existence of Jonathan.
That implies that the events in "Superman Reborn" - in other words, what's happening with Blue-Energy Superdad/Lois and Red-Energy "New 52" Superman/Lois as they try to rescue Jonathan - have altered the memories of the world around them somehow.
There are more hints about memories in the solicitations for the "Superman Reborn Aftermath" that starts in April with Action Comics #977. The description of the issue says, "Superman examines his entire history - the birth of Jon, the marriage of Lois and Clark, their lives at the Daily Planet."
The solicitation for Superwoman #9 also hits at Lois Lane and Lana Lang being "reunited at long last." Considering the current Lois doesn't really know this Lana Lang at all, how could they be "reunited at long last" unless that changes?
Trinity #8 also indicates that Wonder Woman and Batman will be drawn into the mystery, perhaps reconciling Wonder Woman and Superman's relationship in the "New 52" as they search for Mr. Oz?
All this points toward DC finding an in-story way to reconcile the two different recent portrayals of Superman and Lois Lane, while keeping the idea of "Rebirth" intact. Combining the young, impulsive "New 52" Superman with the older, wiser Superdad from before Flashpoint - and combining the two Lois Lanes in the same way — what emerges will hopefully be the right mix of both characters for fans of all ages.