Superman returns to the glory days of Lois and Clark when past and present Superman merge in Action Comics #976 by writer Dan Jurgens & artist Doug Mahnke. The New 52 reboot erased the romantic relationship Clark Kent and Lois Lane. However, an earlier alternate version of the couple survived and lived undercover with their son, Jon Kent AKA Superboy. They replaced their younger counterparts following their untimely deaths but a seemingly completely human Clark Kent also emerges.
Clark is revealed to be Mr. Mxyzptlk, a 5th dimensional imp possessing magic capable of altering reality. He fills in for young Clark thus maintaining his secret identity. Not surprisingly, it’s not a completely altruistic act. Mxyzptlk assumes the identity to hide after escaping imprisonment by Mr. Oz, a mysterious man watching Superman. Mr, Oz is believed to be Ozymandias from the Watchmen series. The disguise is so good that he forgets his true identity and blames Superman for not remembering him.
That’s the power of love
Mxyzptlk attempts to make Superboy his new pal. Superman rescues his son but Lois and Clark are immediately are replaced by their deceased counterparts. Jon pleads with them to remember him but to no avail. Mxyzptlk explains that the switch is not his doing but a failed attempt by Jon to hold onto his parents. Their disappearance is due to an even more powerful being than Mxyzptlk. Jon sees the spirits of his parents and they merge not only bodies but timelines through the power of love . . . literally!
“That family has done the impossible,” Mr. Oz observes. “Proven that true love really can conquer all. For them and those connect to them, twin realities are now united as one.”
Superman Revenge Squad
The merged realities also affect Superman’s supervillains, who are shown as they appeared before the reboot. The most visible change is Cyborg Superman. The reboot reimagined him as Supergirl’s father, Zor-El, but he now appears to be the Hank Henshaw incarnation. Henshaw was a NASA astronaut who was transformed by a solar flare that he believed was caused by Superman throwing the Eradicator into the Sun. General Zod will lead Cyborg Superman, Eradicator, Mongul, Blanque and Metallo in the Revenge Squad begining in Action Comics #979.
The most dramatic change will undoubtedly be to Lex Luthor, who had attempted to reform by replacing the deceased Superman and even joining the Justice League. The older Superman had just started to trust believe this new Luther was different. He even defended Luthor despite a vision foretelling he would replace the galactic despot Darkseid. That prophecy seems more likely now.
There is no indication as to whether Superman’s teammates will also merge with their former selves. Wally West AKA The Flash also had children, Jai and Iris, retconned out of existence but solicitations make no mention of them. One promising sign is the reintroduction of the original Reverse Flash AKA Professor Zoom in Flash #19. Zoom states that he remembers Flashpoint . . . specifically being killed by Batman.
Nothing ever ends
Mr. Oz stares at Mars while pondering who will have the final say Superman or “him.” He’s presumably referring to character Doctor Manhattan, a god-like being who frequently spent his free-time on the planet during Watchmen. Doctor Manhattan caused the New 52 reboot as revealed in DC Universe: Rebirth #1.
It’s unknown why he erased 10 years of continuity but there are some clues at the end of Watchmen. Ozymandias asks Doctor Manhattan if staging an alien invasion to unite the world worked out in the end.
“Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends,” he explains.
Doctor Manhattan vanishes before Ozymandias can ask him what he means. It could be that he is referring to the evergreen nature of comic books. Perhaps he can break the fourth wall like the Joker. In fact, Doctor Manhattan explains that he is “leaving this galaxy for one less complicated.” The typical superhero comic could certainly be described as less complicated than Watchmen.