This is the one you’ve been waiting for!
It’s an old comic book cover line, usually sheer hype. This, though, is the one we’ve been waiting for, the beginning of the storyline unveiling the identity of Mr Oz. The mysterious manipulator who’s been behind the scenes since DC Rebirth began stands revealed this issue.
Yes, we find out who he is – or at least, claims to be – on the final page. That’s a nice surprise, I expected the secret to remain until the final part of the serial.
The Oz Effect opens with Mr Oz visiting captured supervillain Metallo, who’s been handed over to government agency ARGUS. He plans to help the tormented crook – in his own, twisted, way.
Mr Oz then muses on the pathetic nature of humanity.
In Metropolis, a group of citizens have turned on the police.
Happily, Superman, shows up to help Special Crimes Unit chief Maggie Sawyer recover the stolen hospital transport van and its precious cargo.
Soon, at the Daily Planet, Clark Kent introduces son Jon to his co-workers. One, in particular, is eager to impress.
It’s a nice moment with the Planet staff, but interrupted by an explosion of news alerts. Across the world, a series of atrocities is occurring. Superman does what he can, his spirit saddened by what he sees, not realising that someone has dialled man’s worst side up to 11.
As for who Mr Oz says he is, if you’ve read this far, you’ve either seen the book or plan to, or will check out the revelation across the web. I shan’t spoil right now because a review shouldn’t go as far as the final page… if there’s a chance my ramblings will kill a sale, I’ll avoid! Creators Dan Jurgens, Viktor Bogdanovic and co have put the work in, let them get some cash.
Jurgens does a fine job with the script, showing that despite Mr Oz’s gloomy worldview, there is goodness aplenty on Earth, best exemplified here by the compassion of Superman and Maggie. It’s true, the citizens on the bridge are very critical of the police, but it’s a stressful moment and their better sides soon show through. And while the scenes of spite and hatefulness could easily be occurring without the influence of Oz, Jurgens and illustrator Bogdanovic could as easily cherry pick moments of goodness occurring at the same time. And we do see the good work being done by the medics in Logamba.
The biggest shock I had this time was the torture of Metallo by ARGUS – he’s a bad guy, deserving of imprisonment and a chance at rehabilitation, he should not be treated as a plaything by the authorities. The Suicide Squad’s Belle Reve should be the exception, not the rule.
The Planet scene is terrific, from Perry’s affection for Jon to jock Steve’s eagerness to impress Jon rather than, as previous form would lead us to expect, humiliate Clark in front of him. The more we see of Clark’s co-workers, the better… who knows, maybe newest Planet staffer Jacquee will eventually get a line…
There’s a reference to LexOil but the sailors are on a (Simon) StaggOil vessel… probably just a lettering glitch to be fixed later.
As for the identity of Mr Oz, I don’t believe it. If he’s who he says he is, then I’m calling Dream! Hoax! Imaginary story! Or a duplicate, or some temporary timestream meddling by DC Rebirth Fiddler-in-Chief Dr Manhattan. We shall see.
Bogdanovic’s pencils, sometimes inked by himself, at others by Jay Leisten or Jonathan Glapion, move the story along nicely. The work is clean, with several standout moments, including this splash; the composition is sharp, and I really like how letterer Rob Leigh works in the title and Superman’s logo (I’m a huge sucker for logos in word balloons, and we get that twice this issue).
And the montage of misery is very well done, with Mr Oz at page bottom, hands raised like an orchestra conductor.
As for quieter moments, Jon’s underwhelming by Steve, and his colleagues’ expressions, is splendid.
Colour artist Mike Spicer shows what he can do throughout, never more so than in the action sequence in Logambo, while the aforementioned Leigh demonstrates once again why he’s the go-to letterer for the Superman books.
The main cover by Nick Bradshaw and Brad Anderson, without the lenticular gimmick, is a tad dull, while Neil Edwards and Jeromy Cox’s variant is pretty, but doesn’t get across that this is Mr Oz… he looks like a guy in a sweatshirt, and the collision of logo and staff doesn’t help.
All in all, though, this is a good start to an important storyline. I’m excited to see what happens next.