Spoilers ahead for this week's Action Comics #976.
DC Comics' continuity has changed again, this time combining the post-Crisis and "New 52" versions of Superman and Lois Lane - and apparently merging the continuity of the pair's two disparate lives (and therefore pretty much the whole DCU) around them.
As teased in the previous issue of the "Superman Reborn" crossover Superman #19, "New 52" Superman and "New 52" Lois Lane have now been merged with the post-Crisis Superman and Lois.
The DCU now has one Superman and one Lois Lane, and they have a combination of memories from the "New 52" and before, and a son - Jonathan Kent - to boot.
And if that isn't confusing enough … apparently, the DCU has merged around them to combine the "New 52" with the world that existed before, making one, new "Rebirth" continuity that incorporates as-yet-unspecified pieces of everything that's come before.
(Admittedly, this "combining" was already happening in "Rebirth," but this issue appears to make it all official and give at least the Superman part of it a reason.)
Here's how the issue breaks down…
It's Mr. Mxyzptlk's Fault
As Action Comics #976 kicks off, readers are reminded of the story in the "Superman Reborn" crossover.
So to review…
Mr. Mxyzptlk kidnapped Jonathan because he's angry at Superman. (He's mad because, when he was imprisoned by the mysterious-and-medding Mr. Oz, Superman never came to rescue him.)
During the previous issue, Mxy implied that Superman and Lois Lane had - at sometime in the past (presumably when the "New 52" began) - been "split." And the two halves were: 1.) The post-Crisis Superman and Lois, who have a "blue" essence, and 2.) The "New 52" Superman and "New 52" Lois, who have a red essence.
In the last installment of "Superman Reborn," Jonathan was trying to help his parents rescue him from Mr. Mxyzptlk. To help his parents, Jon used red, glowing energy he received from two red orbs that had been trying to speak to him. The two red, glowing orbs were the essence of the "New 52" Superman and "New 52" Lois Lane.
When Jon angrily flew toward his parents, taking the red-energy power with him on his fists, Jon's post-Crisis parents were somehow kicked out of their bodies, and the bodies were now occupied by the "New 52" Lois and "New 52" Clark.
As this week's issue begins, the "New 52" Superman and "New 52" Lois are confused. Who is this Jon kid that is calling them Mom and Dad? Lois says, "Everyone knows Superman doesn't have a family."
Jon is upset that his own parents don't even recognize him, but Mr. Mxyzptlk is amused. He admits that the conditions that "created all of this" are "way beyond" him - reminding readers that Mr. Mxyzptlk was not the one who messed with the DC timeline and created the "New 52" (apparently "splitting" Superman into a "New 52" red-essence version and a post-Crisis blue-essence version).
Mr. Mxyzptlk points out that, now that "New 52" Superman and "New 52" Lois have returned, the existence of Jon is an "issue." He suggests that they go home, and Mr. Mxyzptlk will take Jonathan away. Mr. Mxyzptlk referenes the contract that he signed with post-Crisis Superdad in the last issue, which states that he has to now send them home.
Mr. Mxyzptlk also mentions that "he" will notice what has happened, referring to whomever is actually behind all this splitting-Superman-in-half nonsense - or as the imp puts it, "the architect of all this weirdness!"
Superdad and Lois-Mom
So finally, Jon begins to sense his parents - they are, of course, blue orbs of energy floating nearby. As mentioned before, they seem to have been displaced from their bodies by the red essence of "New 52" Superman and "New 52" Lois.
The two blue orbs take the form of blue-ghost-like Superman and Lois. Jon recognizes them as his parents. "Help us… be whole again," the blue ghosts say. "We can give you the power, son. Embrace it."
Jon touches the chests of these two ghost-forms and his fists now glow blue. He throws the blue power at Mr. Mxyzptlk and … boom, the imp begins fading away.
"You don't understand what you just did, do ya?" Mxy asks Jon. "This whole place is coming down, and something way worse than me is going to notice." He warns that some real trouble will surely come to the DCU now. "Enjoy the cold sting of eternity, Kid! Mxy out!"
Red and Blue Combine
Jon starts to convince "New 52" Lois and "New 52" Superman that he is telling the truth - "you guys got married 'n' had me and somehow it's all come undone!" he says.
"Assuming that's true, how do we repair it?" this Superman asks.
Jon tells them about the blue-like ghosts of his parents, whose forms are now behind "New 52" Superman and "New 52" Lois. Jon begs them to listen for the voices of the blue ghosts.
Readers are shown a panel where the "New 52" Superman and "New 52" Lois appear to be willingly combining with the blue essence of the post-Crisis Superdad and Lois-Mom.
Suddenly, Lois and Clark remember everything - including their son, Jon. The Super-family embraces. Lois and Clark kiss.
Rebirth Universe Born
Mr. Oz is shown watching, surprised that the Super-family could "repair what was broken." Oz says that "this changes everything."
"A new, existence-wide, single reality, rebuilt from two. A timeline and history both familiar."
Readers are shown several scenes that tell the story of a new Superman history that includes the wedding of Lois and Clark and the birth of their son. Lois says she feels like she's waking up from a dream (cue Dallas dream jokes).
One large panel also shows villains like Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Zod, Bizarro, Darkseid, Doomsday, Cyborg Superman and others — apparently mixing the "New 52" with the post-Crisis versions. (For example, the panel includes what looks like the "New 52" character Ulysses and the post-Crisis Metallo.)
Oz's thought captions say that the new continuity is "consistent with the memories and experiences of all."
So goodbye post-Crisis Superdad and "New 52" Superman - they're all just the same guy now: Superman.
The one, new Superman and his wife, Lois start the journey home with their son, Superboy.
The final pages show the hooded Mr. Oz watching the Superman family, remarking about how "love really can conquer all." He says that "for them and those connected to them, twin realities are now united as one."
"Yet…questions remain," he says.
(Now there's an understatement.)
The last three panels in the issue state that there are "forces" behind what had been "set in motion." Readers are shown a red planet beyond the Earth's moon - presumably Mars, which was also shown during the Watchmen tease in DC Universe: Rebirth #1.
Oz says, "Is it Superman who has the final say, or him?"
And the final tease on the pages says, Next: The New World.