Warning: Spoilers for Action Comics #978 ahead.
As Action Comics writer Dan Jurgens confirmed to Newsarama this week, the Superman now apeparing in DC's titles is an all-new character, with a new history (formed from pieces of his predecessors, the "New 52" and post-Crisis Supermen) and unable to remember anything different.
In this week's Action Comics #978 by Jurgens and artist Carlo Barberi, readers start getting some answers about what this new status means for Superman's continuity - and the history of the post-"Rebirth" DCU.
One of the key changes? Best as we can tell, there's no Conner Kent in this new world. He apparently never showed up after "Death of Superman." And the "New 52" romance between Superman and Wonder Woman appears to be eliminated as well.
And with the growing list of Superman's back-in-canon adventures, coupled with revelations in this week's The Flash #21 and Blue Beetle #8, the continuity of the DCU has abandoned its former "New 52" insistence on it being just over five years since superheroes debuted. Instead, the long, storied history of the League is back in play.
So what else is still in continuity? Did anything survive from the "New 52"? And what's throwing back to the post-Crisis continuity? Let's take a look at the issue to find out.
To review: As "Superman Reborn" revealed, someone messed with Superman in the past and split him into two, causing him to live two distinct lives - one as the "New 52" Superman and the other as the post-Crisis version. Lois Lane lived two lives along with him.
The manipulation of Superman's history appears to be related to the over-arching mysteries behind "Rebirth" continuity, previously linked to Watchmen and hinted to be caused by Dr. Manhattan.
But DC's "Superman Reborn" crossover put Superman's two lives back together, creating a new version of Superman and Lois Lane - and thus, a new official continuity for the DCU going forward.
This week's Action Comics#978 picks up on the thread started in the last issue, as Superman plays back the "memory archives" in the Fortress of Solitude, allowing Jurgens to effectively establish the character's new continuity and overwrite what came before.
First, he reviews how he met Lois Lane when he first came to Metropolis. Gone is the tale of jeans-wearing Superman from Grant Morrison's early "New 52" stories, replaced by the story of Lois falling from a helicopter and being rescued by Superman, very much a la Superman: The Movie.
Readers are shown a slew of Superman's villains, as well as several of the costumes Clark has worn in the past, including the red trunks and Electric Blue.
We see Lois and Clark's engagement and the day Clark revealed to her that he was Superman. It's all been mashed together by Jurgens into a new continuity.
Most of the new history follows the post-Crisis version, including the "Death of Superman," the "Reign of the Supermen," and Clark and Lois getting married. Even the destruction of Coast City (by Cyborg Superman) has returned to continuity.
However, there are some differences:
- The "Reign of the Supermen" story doesn't appear to have Conner Kent in it; how much of the original 1993 crossover is back in continuity is unclear, but Conner Kent is no where to be seen in this version of it Jurgens is bringing forward into "Rebirth" continuity.
- As Jurgens promised in Newsarama's interview, Ma and Pa Kent died earlier in Superman's life (an element taken from his "New 52" origin).
- "Convergence" has disappeared from Superman's memory, with Jon being born in the Fortress of Solitude with help from Wonder Woman and Batman, all in their "New 52" costumes. (Their escape to the Fortress was linked to the dangers of Lois' investigation of Intergang, keeping that part of her story in continuity.) And Perry White is young Jon's godfather.
- Superman's bearded and black-costumed era in California was just because Clark and Lois took a sabbatical from The Daily Planet so they could raise Jon in peace. Lois' work as Author X is still in continuity, now linked to her sabbatical.
- The public's knowledge of Superman's identity (during the "New 52"'s "Truth" storyline) appears to have disappeared.
- The family's time in Hamilton County was arranged so that Clark and Lois could work at The Daily Planet while raising Jon in a comparable way to Clark's upbringing on the Kent farm.
- Some of "New 52" Superman's history is still intact, and now appears to be part of this new character's time when he was living in Hamilton County.
- The relationship between Wonder Woman and Superman isn't really addressed, although it's clear that she's just a friend. (In fact, she calls Lois "sister" during the scene depicting Jon's birth and contemporary Superman remarks the two women were “close by then.”) Lois' relationship with Jonathan Carroll is also not part of the story anymore.
Mr. Oz Appearance
As Clark talks to the robotic Kelex about his memories, Clark senses that something is wrong, but he can't remember what - all the memories Kelex shows him match what he remembers.
Yet he retains the memory of Mr. Mxyzptlk telling him that some force has fractured reality.
As talking about the Mxyzptlk event (while standing in the Fortress), Superman hears a voice saying, "Consider the long game." (In the issue, the voice appears to be speaking in Kryptonian.)
(Readers will remember that DC Universe: Rebirth #1 showed Mr. Oz saying the same thing to Clark as he describes himself: "Friend or enemy is too simply a term when you consider the long game. Some might call this that.")
Later in the issue, a vision of Mr. Oz's face actually appears to Superman in the Fortress. "My message is for you and you alone," he says. Superman remembers having seen Mr. Oz in DC Universe: Rebirth #1.
"All you need to know," Oz says, as Oz destroys the Fortress statue of Ma and Pa Kent, "is that you are dealing with forces beyond you, alone, or otherwise."
The Super-League is shown and still includes Superwoman, Steel, Supergirl, the New Super-Man, and the now-turned-hero Lex Luthor. So it looks like none of that more-recent continuity has changed.
Superman remembers what Mr. Oz told him in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 - that he and his family are not what they seem.
Realizing that Oz had the power to get into the Fortress of Solitude, Superman says of Oz that "all of us are threatened" by this "foe."
New Old Villain
The issue revisits that mysterious figure from Action Comics #977 who was collecting various Superman villains. He's on the moon and revives Eradicator, who recognizes him.
Eradicator teleports Metallo and Blanque to the moon, where the villains have taken over that former Batcave on the moon.
Finally, the mysterious figure's identity is revealed: Hank Henshaw. (But this doesn't look like the Cyborg Superman shown earlier in the montage about "Reign of the Superman." This is the human-looking Hank Henshaw from the Superman: Lois and Clark run. However, he appears to have the ability to change his appearance.)
He tells the other villains that their group has been gathered together as a "Superman Revenge Squad."
As with many recent DC "Rebirth" issues such as this week’s The Flash #21 , the publisher is beginning to hint at answers to questions DC Universe: Rebirth #1 raised, with more questions are popping up as a result.
Superman’s new history seems to be fairly complete (despite some nagging feelings “something” is wrong), but he doesn’t seem to be missing as many years as Wally West suggests was stolen from everyone else in "Rebirth."
DC may have a clear path towards providing a new continuity that makes sense to readers, but until that’s revealed we all have to hope they’re not going down the rabbit hole that led to Zero Hour and all the Crises in the first place.