In a story that delves into humanity's worst instincts and showcases the growing divisions among everyday people, "The Oz Effect" has has varying degrees of social and political relevance in each chapter.
The third installment of the story, out today, is no different: while Superman is preoccupied dealing with Mr. Oz/Jor-El at the Fortress of Solitiude, a suicide bomber angry about "fake news" storms The Daily Planet and threatens to level the building.
Lois Lane manages to get him to clear the building by offering him the chance to essentially take over the newspaper's website and air his grievances, all the while trying to talk him down and waiting on Superman to show up and defuse the situation.
Unfortunately for the would-be bomber, it isn't Superman but Mr. Oz who shows up, and he has little interest in showing the mercy that his son would.
This is not the first foray into contemporary events in "The Oz Effect." The first chapter of the story drew the ire of conservative media outlets for depicting Superman saving a group of undocumented (?) immigrants from a hate crime perpetrated by a gunman who had been recently laid off.
The second installment managed to avoid controversy, but continued to play at cultural and social divisions, and featured a (good) character quoting the Quran.
All of this is technically background noise for a story that was built around the revelation, two years in the making, that the mysterious Mister Oz is in fact Jor-El, Superman's biological father. He hopes to convince the Man of Steel to leave Earth and head to a friendlier world by tipping desperate people in the direction of acting on their worst impulses.
During the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the issue of "fake news," stories designed to mislead readers in order ot push an agenda, became a major talking point. Such stories were circulated widely on social media on both sides of the political aisle, and there was debate about how influential the stories were and how aggressively social media networks should be in policing misleading content.
In the weeks following the election, Facebook was rocked by numerous revelations about how their network served as fertile ground for misinformation. There was a sense that fake news had helped to elect President Donald Trump. Either by coincidence or in response to those ideas, Trump co-opted the idea of "fake news" and has spent the last year or so levelling the accusation at media outlets that cover his administration unfavorably.
While social networks have continued to refine their fact-checking and moderating functions in the wake of the election, and yet more reports have emerged to highlight how poorly it was handled during the race, the phrase "fake news" has become entirely subsumed by the President and his supporters.
You can get Action Comics #989 at your local comic shop or order a digital copy on comiXology.