Subway Shorts – The Great and Powerful Oz

DC Comics’ two oldest series give us some insight into Mr. Oz, now revealed as Jor-El, who has been keeping tabs on heroes and villains since last year. In Action Comics, he tries to show Superman that Earth isn’t worthy of him. Over in Detective Comics, Red Robin Tim Drake tries to outmaneuver the man who has kept him a prisoner.

Detective Comics 965
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira and Adriano Lucas 

Tynion’s Detective Comics continues to be the more engaging Batman book in the Rebirth era, with a much wider scope for his stories and closer ties to the mysteries of Rebirth. It makes each issue must-reads. Now that we’re finally addressing the disappearance of Tim Drake, I’m guessing the hot streak will continue.

When last we saw Drake, he was seemingly being killed by The Colony, a paramilitary group that had tried to take out Batman, in Detective Comics 939. In reality, he was imprisoned by the mysterious Mr. Oz.

In this issue, Oz, who was revealed to be Superman’s Kryptonian father Jor-El in the last issue of Action Comics, tries to bring the former Robin over to his side, though the former leader of the Teen Titans proves to be more formidable than Oz expected.

Oz squashes Red Robin’s resistance when he reveals his true self, and he hints that he isn’t the one who’s pulling all the strings. Jor-El has his own plans that he’s putting into motion behind the back of the real mastermind – who we all assume is Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan. Of course, we all thought Mr. Oz was Ozymandias, so it may be a misdirect.

Jor-El allows Tim Drake to roam free in the prison, which leads to a reveal of another prisoner. Tim frees Batman from his cell, but he’s not the Batman he was expecting.

The Batman in the prison isn’t Bruce Wayne. No, instead, it’s an older version of Tim Drake, who has taken on the mantle of the Bat – something Tim has been adamant that he’d never do. To make it worse, this Batman uses the same gun that killed Thomas and Martha Wayne to take out his enemies.

While Tim may not know this version of himself, he has made an appearance before. This Batman made his debut in the “Titans Tomorrow” storyline in Teen Titans (vol. 3) 17, written by Geoff Johns. Given that the issue starts with a refresher course on Tim’s history, having the future Batman gives the issue a nice sense of past, present and future for the teen. The question is, will either of the Drakes survive an encounter with Doomsday, who also escaped his prison cell? That’s a question for next issue.

Action Comics 988
Written by Dan Jurgens 
Art by Ryan Sook and Hi-Fi

While it isn’t explicitly stated, I assume that the plans Jor-El is working on behind the big bad’s back is dealing with his son, Superman, and trying to convince him that the people of Earth are uncaring and incapable of following the Man of Steel’s example.

It’s a direct turn-around of the Jor-El we usually see in the movies, where he tells his son to use his abilities to inspire the people of Earth, who would eventually live up to Superman’s ideals.

The issue gives us Jor-El’s new history – stolen away from Krypton and his wife in the moments of the planet’s destruction and brought to Earth by a mysterious blue aura, again hinting at Doctor Manhattan. Instead of being left with a loving family as his son was, Jor-El was placed in a village ruled by a warlord, where he was exposed to the worst of humanity.

After his experiences there, his captor continued to show him the worst of humanity, causing Jor-El to conclude that he made a mistake sending his son to Earth. So now, Jor-El wants to take Superman away from this place that doesn’t deserve him.

The pieces of the Rebirth puzzle are really starting to come together here, between the two issues, which feels like an unofficial crossover between Action and Detective, meaning that the publisher’s two oldest books are the lead-ins to the big Doomsday Clock miniseries that starts in November.

This issue of Action Comics should prove to be another key read to understanding what’s going on as we move forward.

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