While deaths and resurrections are common in superhero comics, there was a time when dead characters like Uncle Ben, The Waynes (Thomas and Martha), Jor El and Bucky Barnes were considered too “sacred” to be resurrected.
After all, their deaths inspired their respective loved ones to be heroes! If not for their sacrifices, Spider-Man, Batman, Superman and Captain America would not have been the same.
Unfortunately, the time of “sacred deaths” is gone. We’ve already seen Bucky return as the Winter Soldier, and Uncle Ben and the Waynes making comebacks thanks to the notion of alternate realities.
But the biggest resurrection of the century happened last November, when it was revealed in Action Comics #687 that the villain bothering Superman, Mr Oz, was actually his father, Jor-El, who has not been alive since 1938!
Is resurrecting Jor-El part of DC Comics’ plans to celebrate the Man of Steel’s 80th anniversary this year? Well, if so, then it would have been much better if the story was more believable, and supported by logical reasons for the prolonged absence. Instead, as it turns out, a “bald-blue-skinned-semi-nude-man” saved Jor-El from the destruction of Krypton.
Who is this strange blue man, you ask? Why, it could only be Dr Manhattan, who is making his presence felt through the Watchmen’s inception into the main DC universe via the Doomsday Clock event! But that’s a story for another day. Today, let’s stay on the House of El, shall we?
In the very beginning, Kal-El was Krypton’s sole survivor, with his parents, Jor-El and Lara sending him away to Earth in a miniature rocket moments before the planet exploded. He was later joined by his cousin, Kara Zor-El (Supergirl) and other Kryptonian survivors. The one constant that remained these 80 years was that his parents remained dead. The closest Superman ever got to them was through their holographic form.
That all changed last November in Action Comics #587, in which Superman found out that the protagonist behind his recent spate of global issues was none other than his father, Jor-El, who also claims to be the mysterious Mr Oz!
Apparently, moments after he and his wife sent baby Kal-El off in his rocket, Jor-El was mysteriously whisked away by an unknown entity and transported to Earth. But while Kal-El grew up as Clark Kent under the care of the Kent family, Jor-El found himself recuperating in the hostile environment of a war-torn country.
Despite being under the same yellow sun which gave his son and other Kryptonians superpowers, Jor-El was stuck in a powerless state, having being hidden away since his arrival on Earth, and also having shards of Kryptonite stuck in his left eye.
He did manage to “power up” eventually, but it came at the expense of his human “saviours”, who were executed for hiding him.
That traumatic event not only triggered Jor-El’s newfound powers, it also gave him his first experience of the evil in humanity. He was then teleported away again and forced to watch more of humanity’s worse moments – a compilation of Earth’s wars and human atrocities, which gradually brainwashed him to conclude that humans do not deserve his son’s protection.
Since then, he has been involved in a couple of behind-the-scenes events, including mentoring Clark’s son, Jonathan, and capturing Mr Myxzylpltx, Metallo and Doomsday to protect his son from the threats these villains pose.
While a lot of exposition has been put into explaining Jor-El’s resurrection, somehow, the story just doesn’t seem to work, and the father-son reunion isn’t very convincing. What makes things worse is Jor-El’s insistence that Superman, Lois and Jon should leave Earth and join him in his personal “utopia” – a place where they can use their powers openly.
During a physical confrontation between father and son, it is revealed that Jor-El has learnt to control Kryptonite, and can shoot kryptonite beams from his eye!
The fight ends with Jor El spilling the beans that he is unwell and that there is someone else pulling his chains. Then, just as they begin to form a connection, Jor-El is whisked away once more, leaving a dumbfounded Superman, who is slowly beginning to doubt humanity is still worth saving.
At this point, don’t worry if you aren’t convinced by Jor-El’s explanation about his resurrection – Superman isn’t too convinced either.
So, with some help from Green Lantern and The Flash’s cosmic treadmill, he travels back in time to witness Krypton’s final glory days. There, he lands in an alternate version of Krypton where Jor-EL and General Zod are friends and the planet’s people actually managed to escape before the planet exploded!
However, his time-travelling escapade has major repercussions for the timeline, and time-travelling expert Booster Gold is determined to stop Superman from changing the timeline further.
Right now, the question is what will Jor-El’s return mean for the DC universe? Will there be a bigger House of El? A Jor-El-Jon super-team combo? More retcon opportunities?
Frankly, my biggest concern is that they’ll make a mockery of the upcoming “millennium” issue. Being a sentimental comic purist, I feel that the 1000th issue should be supported by a worthy script, so here’s hoping Action Comics writer Dan Jurgens will be ready with a story that is worthy of that milestone.
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