What if they held a Crisis, but somebody forgot to send out the invitations? That is the feeling of SUPERMAN REBORN, the story arc that has threaded through the pages of Superman and Action Comics over the last month. It is, on its own merits, an excellent story of the Kent family and one of their oldest and most popular nemeses. However, it is also a bold rewriting of continuity for the Family of Steel and everyone whose story touches theirs, in other words, every major character in the DC Universe.
The story features the adventures of Mr. Mxyzptlk (let’s just call him Mixy for short) and his encounters with the mysterious Mr. Oz, who decides Mixy’s brand of chaos would be unwelcome in the New 52 world. Oz manages to imprison the imp for a time, but even his strange powers are not a permanent match for Mixy, who escapes somewhat bitter that Superman didn’t come to free him. Mixy discovers the New 52 Superman and Lois dead, and the new Super family in their place. He also learns that Superman’s identity has been revealed, so decides to help out by impersonating Clark Kent and proclaiming it was all a trick, Clark was never Superman. Clark’s lack of appreciation for this further enrages Mixy, who decides to depart for his home dimension taking the new Superboy with him. In fairness to the imp, he seems rather fond of Jon Kent in his own mad way, and wants to shield the new Superboy from an encounter with the being who has twisted the reality of the DCU.
Action Comics #976 consists largely of a struggle between Mixy and Jon, who the imp has separated from his parents. DC seems to be positioning Jon as a key player in the future of their universe. It is likely no accident that SUPERMAN REBORN echoes the more general REBIRTH idea that has been the theme of the DCU over the past twelve months to widespread, albeit not universal, reader acclaim and commercial success. And a rebirth is precisely what Jon accomplishes in this issue. In the course of his struggle with Mixy, Jon learns that both Lois and Clark exist in two different forms. One version is characterized by red energy, and represents the New 52 characters, who are not even married and do not remember Jon. The other version, imbued with blue energy, are his parents. It’s suggested that the two versions were formed by a split, presumably at the time of FLASHPOINT. Jon brings the red and blue energy together, releasing a force that overwhelms Mixy (how precisely is not explained).
So far, so satisfying. But the real twist comes when the joining of red and blue release Jon’s parents, now anchored in the REBIRTH timeline. Or a better way of putting it would be that the joining rewrites the timeline so that from the beginning Jon and his parents have been the native Kents.
This issue neatly solves the problem of a universe that contained two Lois Lanes and three Clark Kents. But the matter of fact continuity shift raises a world of questions. If the timeline has shifted for Superman, it has shifted for everyone whose life touches Superman, meaning everybody in the known DC Universe. If the Super family has always been native to this timeline, the early background of TRINITY, for instance, is erased. The ripples spread everywhere. Not to say this is a bad thing. Much of REBIRTH has involved quietly, or at least pragmatically, rewriting continuity. See, for instance, WONDER WOMAN and TITANS. It may be that Jon's action, like the punch on the wall of reality from a very different Superboy, will end up being the tool that opens many important doors.