Warning: Spoilers ahead for Action Comics #975, on sale today.
Today's issue of Action Comics was notable not only because it finally revealed the identity of the "fake Clark Kent," who might have dropped a major clue about Superman's true nature, but also because it seemingly continues to tease a connection between the mysterious Mr. Oz, who first appeared during Geoff Johns's run on Superman during The New 52, and the characters from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's classic miniseries Watchmen.
The teases come in the form of two images used in the comic, both fairly minor, but which taken together with existing evidence, paint a fairly conclusive picture.
After being imprisoned by Mr. Oz, and then escaping, Mr. Mxyzptlk finds himself pursued by a light blue ball of light. That's presumably the same light blue light that consumed Tim Drake, for instance, teleporting him to his own cell at the end of the first arc on Detective Comics.
There's already been a fair amount of (mostly circumstantial) evidence to support a popular fan theory that Mr. Oz is actually Adrian Veidt, the ultimate villain of Watchmen. As early as March of 2015, some had noted that a homeless woman being manipulated into working for Mr. Oz had been "branded" -- and that the brand or tattoo resembled the logo on Nostalgia perfume, a brand sold by Veidt's company in Watchmen.
Mr. Oz, who spends a whole lot of time staring at banks of monitors and worrying about the "long game" (like Ozymandias), and who told The New 52 Superman that he'd been "watching" him for years, popped up periodically throughout Geoff Johns's run, notably revealing that he had someone or something in custody behind giant, heavy, metal doors in Superman #34. At the time of DC Universe: Rebirth, that prison became a recurring location in the DC Universe, and especially in the Supreman titles.
During his pre-Rebirth Appearances in Superman, there were hints that Mr. Oz had a hand in the early life of the New 52 Superman -- something that, when the character died and turned into a pile of sand, seemed more urgent than ever. Writer Peter Tomasi told ComicBook.com that he had intended the death of the New 52 Superman to reflect the events of "The Sandman Saga," a 1970s storyline in which a portion of Superman's power was used to create a duplicate of him, animated from sand around the site of a Kryptonite explosion. When the duplicate eventually died, it turned back into sand. During the events of Superman: Lois and Clark, the pre-Flashpoint Superman returned...but throughout the story struggled with his powers. No explanation was ever given for the periodic power outages, dizzy spells, and the like -- although they seem to have stopped since the New 52 Superman died and the Lois and Clark Superman resumed his role as the one, true Man of Steel.
In Justice League #50 -- the end of the Darkseid War storyline -- Owlman and Metron are having a disagreement about just who owns the Mobius Chair, when somebody approaches them and blows them both up in a blast of blue energy.
Their deaths mirrored the death of Pandora, the mysterious Trinity of Sin member who first appeared at the birth of the New 52 and then went on to appear in every #1 issue for the line's 2011 launch. Her death was even more overtly implied to have been done by Doctor Manhattan, as when she died, the image was reminiscent of the moment when Manhattan killed Rorschach, near the end of Watchmen.
That latter death took place in DC Universe: Rebirth #1. In that issue, Mr. Oz showed up to issue more cryptic declarations -- this time to the pre-Flashpoint (and post-Rebirth) Superman, telling him that he and his family are not what they believed themselves to be. That -- say it with me, kids -- hasn't yet been explained.
In Rebirth, fans noted that the colorist had given Mr. Oz blue eyes -- the same color as Ozymandias's in Watchmen. This was in the issue that officially revealed the involvement of Watchmen characters with whatever is going on in the DC Universe, by way of Batman investigating The Comedian's errant button, which somehow ended up in the Batcave, and a bit of dialogue between Veidt and Manhattan in the book's final pages.
None of this explains why Mr. Oz felt like he needed to get Doomsday -- who is, as far as anyone can tell, the pre-Flashpoint version of Doomsday -- into his custody at the end of the first arc of Action Comics after Rebirth. It's possible he believes he can control the beast, but there have been repeated efforts to do that in the past (including Brainiac in Superman: The Doomsday Wars and the U.S. Government in Flashpoint), and they have never gone particularly well for the people trying to use Doomsday for their own ends.
Shortly after that, Tim Drake was saved moments before his death and teleported into a cell in Mr. Oz's custody. His motives -- that Tim is tying up loose ends that couldn't be tied up -- sounds a lot like Mr. Oz is likely tied to the mysterious realigning of the post-Flashpoint DC Universe timeline. That, in turn, is assumed to be Doctor Manhattan's doing, especially because of the pre-Flashpoint Wally West's stories about what he saw while trapped in the Speed Force.
All the blue energy -- in Rebirth, in Detective Comics, and now here -- seems to back up the idea that Manhattan is at least somehow tied to Mr. Oz.
If indeed Veidt and Manhattan are the ones who tinkered with the DC Universe timeline (which seems likely) and if Mr. Oz is in fact Veidt (also likely, although admittedly slightly less so), it's not yet clear what their master plan is. Certainly it seems likely to be a Geoff Johns mega-event in the making -- and that's something that could easily tie in his Mr. Oz plans.
What's the second thing from this week's Action Comics? Well, during a sequence where Mr. Mxyzptlk is "playing a game" with Jonathan Kent, there's an image, seen at left, which certainly evokes The Comedian's famed smiley face badge from Watchmen, with the position of Mxy's pile of poker chils even being pretty close to the placement of the splotch of blood on the badge in Watchmen.
That badge, of course, popped out of the Speed Force along with Wally West and embedded itself in the wall of the Batcave, where Batman later discovered it. It will be at the center of a crossover between Batman and The Flash in April, titled "The Button," which will also deal with story beats and themes from Flashpoint and before.
Courtesy of the Batman team of writer Tom King and artist Jason Fabok, along with The Flash writer Joshua Williamson and artist Howard Porter, the two greatest detectives in the DC Universe unite to unravel the mystery behind a certain blood-stained smiley face button stuck in the Batcave wall.
However, what begins as a simple investigation soon turns deadly when the secrets of the button prove irresistible to an unwelcome third party – and it's not who anyone suspects! This is a mystery woven throughout time, and the countdown starts here.
"It's of course enormous fun but it's also I have to say quite frustrating," Titans writer Dan Abnett admitted during an interview with ComicBook.com. "It's a shared concept, it's not mine to play with. It's something that Geoff set up and obviously is a major event that's coming this year, I believe, and therefore it's a privilege to be able to write the book and the character, Wally, who is so close to the heart of all that. Also, I have to be very careful. Every possible connection to it, every possible nod in that direction, has to be carefully checked to make sure I'm not going too far or saying too much. I don't want to frustrate readers by going, 'Oh, nobody will ever mention it again,' but at the same time, I don't wan to start doing too much and people go, 'Well, when's this story happening?' It's not my story to tell just now. Titans and Wally are going to be fundamentally bound up in it, but I just want to make sure that the readers are aware that we haven't forgotten it and we weren't just brushing it away. Any little thing like [mentioning "Manhattan" in Titans #6] I could throw in is great. I have to say there were 2 or 3 other thigns that didn't get past the editorial gaze. 'Can I just do that?' 'No, that's too much.' So I was very pleased with the things that we were able to lace in there. If you know Watchmen well, then they're glaringly obvious but from the point of view of people who don't necessarily know it as well and certainly from the point of view of the characters in the story, these things have no significance whatsoever."
DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns stepped away from writing comics following the best-selling DC Universe: Rebirth #1 last year in order to make more time for the increased responsibilities he has overseeing DC's movie slate. Recently he revealed that his return to comics writing would come in 2017, and would relate to that book's final pages, in which it was teased that Doctor Manhattan was responsible for some of the events of the post-Flashpoint DC Universe.
In addition to the standard $2.99 covers on Batman and The Flash in late April and early May, each of the four issues will feature a special $3.99 lenticular cover, all drawn by Jason Fabok. These issues hit your local comics retailer and digital comics retailers beginning April 19.0comments
You can check out Action Comics #975 at your local comic shop or pick up a digital copy here.
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