NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for Action Comics #976
It's a good time to be a fan of Superman. And after the last few months (closer to a year), those fond of the comic book Man of Steel needed a bit of a boost. While a resounding success, the launch of the DC "Rebirth" saw the Big Blue Boy scout himself not reinvigorated, like his colleagues, but outright replaced. The New 52 Superman died under somewhat mysterious circumstances, and the Superman of old - and of older comic book fans - returned to the DC Universe, wife Lois Lane and son Jonathan Kent behind him. But things have changed.
The mystery and uncertainty surrounding this new Superman and the lingering question of the New 52 Superman's fate were there from the start, and in Action Comics #976, the twist has finally been delivered. The previous issue's tease was everything it seemed: the New 52 Superman is back, having never died at all. But to make sure every fan of DC's biggest hero leaves happy, the "Superman Reborn" story sees the younger, New 52 version and the older father and husband folded into one.
A brand new, complete Superman. And yes, he does have a new suit to match.
The New 52 Superman Didn't Die After All
Although the villain of "Superman Reborn," Mr. Mxyzptlk wasn't responsible for any of the aforementioned Superman tragedies, he knows more about the mysteries of the New 52/Rebirth/Watchmen than any of the characters restricted to just three dimensions. We'll skip over the conspiracy theories for now and instead get to the good stuff: the return of the New 52 Superman. Less of a "return" since he never actually died, but more of an escape back to the realm of the physical, living beings (more in-depth details on the New 52 Superman resurrection here).
To make a long story short, Jonathan Kent, the son of the pre-New 52 Superman and Lois Lane is kidnapped as part of an elaborate game of Mxy's, and held in a dreamlike prison woven in the fabric of the DC Universe. But as his parents try to rescue him, Jonathan is approached by two balls of living light: ones trying to communicate with him, and projecting the image of his mother and father... only younger. Working together, Jonathan wields their energy to break free from Mxy's prison, allowing them to once again claim their true form.
Their "true form" being the physical bodies of the New 52 Superman and the (presumably back to normal) Lois Lane. Unfortunately for Jonathan, it seems two versions of the same characters can't share the same space - meaning his parents disappear.
Two Universes, Fighting To Exist
Jonathan assumes that everything is back to normal when he can hold, and be held by his parents once again. But that dream evaporates when this new Superman and Lois claim to have no relationship to this strange boy wearing the Superman 'S,' nor any of the other memories existing prior to the New 52 Universe. So it's a bit of a good news/bad news scenario when Jonathan is visited by two blue orbs of light, soon taking the ethereal form of his mother and father. Apparently, only one version of Superman and Lois can exist at once, leaving Jonathan - like the readers - forced to choose between Superman the father and Lois Lane the mother, and the younger Superman and Lois of the New 52 Universe.
Once again, Jonathan's parents lend their energy to him, allowing him to blast Mxyzptlk free of this pocket dimension. And as it begins to crumble around them, Jonathan begs these strangers to accept that he truly is their son. Thankfully, Lois Lane is partly convinced, opening the door to a way out. It's a strange case of otherworldly physics and spiritual, multiverse-spanning essence, but Jonathan senses the same thing that Mxy had earlier teased: these different versions of Superman and Lois aren't separate, but fractured. They want to be whole again.
And as Superman and Lois open themselves up to that union, the memories come flooding back... and four warring versions combine back into two.
Superman Made Whole Once More
The immediate result is the New 52 Superman and Lois Lane returning to their younger bodies, recognizing that they had already enjoyed a great love, and the start of their own family. And as the three embrace, the mysterious Mr. Oz - the man watching from afar as the mysterious architect of the New 52's plan takes shape, and taking particular interest in these Supermen - is awestruck at the family's ability to undo what had been done. That through the power of love (perhaps a love so powerful, it had to be fractured for a larger threat to form) that same architect's machinations had been foiled.
Since the evidence suggests that Dr. Manhattan of Watchmen fame is that architect, and this issue also suggests he may be watching this all happening from his Mars home, expect repercussions eventually. But it's a clever bit of meta commentary on the Superman fan base itself, deftly told by Dan Jurgens and Doug Mahnke. After all, the creation of the New 52 Superman divided fans. So it only seems right that, canonically, that division was the entire point. And as the Kent Family becomes whole once more, the fans will hopefully follow suit.
Of course, you can't have a new, unified Superman walking around in the New 52 Superman's body and costume. Cue the metamorphosis:
The New Superman is Born
As the family embraces and Mr. Oz paces, the three are surrounded by light as the above transformation takes place. Superman takes a new form composed of both previous, including the brand new Superman suit previously teased. While we can't yet determine, fictionally, the biological or chronological age of this new Superman and Lois (they're drawings, after all), the suit itself is a step back towards to the classic. Gone are the wrist cuffs, neck collar, and monochrome bodysuit. Back are the red boots, and a yellow-buckled belt - but no, the underwear is still missing (maybe for the best).
The looming possibility of what this reunification may bring is pushed to the background as Superman, Lois, and Jonathan take flight, now possessing the memories and traditions that both old and new fans hold most valuable. This Superman has been, in the words of the issue, "solidified... a new, existence-wide, single reality, rebuilt from two." In other words, and acceptance that while different variations of Superman may be explained through parallel universes, the prime DC Earth has just one.
No more Post-Crisis, no more New 52: Superman is Superman. Now... what comes next?
Action Comics #976 is available now.