It’s human nature to contemplate our future–the fate of humankind. What will become of us? Will we destroy ourselves and our only home, planet Earth? Do we need protection from ourselves? In Superman: The Oz Effect(DC) 987-991, written by Dan Jurgens, pencils by Viktor Bogdanovic, inks by Jonathan Glapion, Jay Leister, and Bogdanovic, and colors by Mike Spencer, Mister Oz reveals his identity and desire to leave the human race on its path of destruction.
Mister Oz has been plotting against DC’s heroes since the dawn of the Rebirth era. The big reveal of Mister Oz as Superman’s (Kal-El) father hits you by the end of issue one; it’s up to you and Superman to believe him. Longtime Superman writer, Jurgens, skillfully crafts a story keenly placing you in the mind of Superman, forcing Kal-El to choose between protecting the people of Earth and doing what is best for his wife Lois Lane and his son Jonathan. Simply put, the writing places you in that comfort zone of good vs. evil. Superman is pure and good and wants to do nothing but help the people of his adopted planet, while Mister Oz decides the people of Earth, instinctively causing harm to each other, don’t deserve a man like his son.
Bogdanovic’s art is some of the best I’ve seen in comics; in general most comic art is pretty good, but when the art makes you vocally express how good it is, you know it stands out. Bogdanovic has an approach that harkens back to the art style of Alex Raymond or Al Williamson with its thin lines that give Superman a rugged appearance. Contrary to that, Ryan Sook’s style has a softer look. Under Sook’s art direction in issue 3, Superman has suddenly reversed in age about ten years. Although both techniques work, I prefer Bogdanovic style based solely on my personal preference.
One could argue that the father/son conflict trope is a little overused at this point, but it still has enough emotional strength to hit us in the feels. The way it’s used here is intriguing in that Mister Oz isn’t inherently evil, in fact, it’s the kryptonite in his staff that is causing the sickness in him. Sort of how the dark side of the Force corrupted Anakin into becoming Darth Vader. If only Luke had Kelex. The difference being Jor-El didn’t murder thousands of beings, and that all he wanted was for his son to leave Earth for a planet he felt was more deserving of his services. There is a struggle within Jor-El as he is the type who will do what is necessary no matter the cost, even using Jon against his father. In his mind, he is good, and he’s doing what’s needed. That is the definition of a monster. It’s not until Jor-El admits his sickness that Superman accepts that he is his father.
Traditionally Superman fights for hope and justice (despite what the movies will lead you to believe). The subject matter in The Oz Effect isn’t afraid to go dark. It explores the darkest depths of humanity by discussing more efficient ways of killing. But with that technology a deeper understanding of the consequences. While the world is spiraling into madness, the human frailties Jor-El speaks of only thicken the line drawn between mere humans and Superman.
One of the criticisms about Superman is that he is all-powerful. He has no weaknesses except Kryptonite. Maybe Superman’s invincibility is a reflection of humanities need for him. In other words, it will take someone as invincible as Superman to balance out human screw-ups.
The ageless message that humans are frail beings who will always destroy what they’ve created; who cannot control their emotions, and never learn their lessons date back to movies like The Day the Earth Stood Still and before. It’s a story that is ageless because we are human and will never entirely be removed from our primitive, animalistic tendencies of violence. And it’s this Oz that sees this and wants to put the human race out of its misery, but it’s Superman who never loses hope in humanity.
Superman: The Oz Effect is a satisfying story that will encapsulate new readers and old. Despite the ever popular, we’re doomed, and I hate my father narrative, The Oz Effect leaves the reader with the feeling of hope and that Superman is sticking around despite our faults.
Superman: The Oz Effect 1-5 is available now with lenticular covers. The hardcover deluxe edition, which includes #985-992 is due out March 21, 2018.