Superman’s history is as deep and complex as any other superhero out there and Dan Jurgens has been instrumental in crafting many of the most memorable modern events. In Action Comics #976, Jurgens weaves Superman’s past, present, and future together with consistent dexterity to bring the Superman Reborn event to a satisfying conclusion.
Jurgens fills this issue with emotion and nostalgia, as he ties two eras of Superman together. It’s been clear from the first chapter of this event that the love Clark, Lois, and Jon share for each other is strong. That love is a foundation for who Superman has been, is, and will be.
Jurgens is a little heavy-handed with the theme, but you’ll be hard-pressed to deny the warm and fuzzy feeling provided by Jon’s emotional outpouring to the confused New 52 versions of his parents as the world around them crumbles. Jon pleads with New 52 Lois and Clark to remember him, but Clark blames the confusion on Mxyzptlk’s reality-bending shenanigans. Jurgens characterizes Jon as being so hopeful, yet so desperate that it’s hard not to want to hug the kid.
While the bond of love between Clark, Lois, and Jon dominates every aspect of the plot, Jurgens sprinkles in a fair amount of intrigue as well. Mxyzptlk drops several hints about the mysterious “architect of all this weirdness” and the shadowy Mr. Oz watches in amazement as Superman and family transform into an entirely new version of themselves. These elements of foreshadowing break up the emotional elements of the plot and create a satisfying connection to the overall DC Rebirth plot line.
Mahnke’s art provides strength to the emotion and tension Jurgens constructs in the plot. Everything coming from Mxyzptlk’s bipolar responses to constant defeat at the hands of Superman and Jon forms a perfect visual characterization of the little imp. On one page Mxyzptlk is bug-eyed with rage, while a few panels later he’s gleefully cackling about a perceived, short-lived victory.
Even though the emotions are different, Mahnke’s visuals add a level of insanity to the character that can’t be achieved through words alone. Another highlight of the art is Mahnke’s two-page spread that captures Superman’s story. It’s hard to believe that so much history could be condensed into a two-page visual, yet Mahnke does an exceptional job at tying everything together.
There are no real answers to what Superman’s future holds in this issue. Superman, arguably, has been a roller-coaster for the past several years. Issues with characterization and plot lines have mixed with solid attempts to revitalize the character. Action Comics #976 gives us an action-filled, feel-good beginning, while the anticipation Jurgens builds through the unanswered questions at the end of the issue paint an exciting future for Superman.