Jor-El and Superman Can’t Back Down From Their Convictions in Action Comics 989

by Spencer Irwin


This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

For simplicity’s sake, comics tend to paint large groups or alien races with a broad cultural brush (“On Tamaran we all follow our hearts and live by our emotions!”), but in reality, entire races or civilizations can’t be that simply summed up. In all honesty, Superman claiming that humanity are better than their base instincts is just as ridiculous as Jor-El saying that humanity are no better than their base instincts — both are trying to sum up six billion people with one easy label that will never be applicable to them all. Both have made a choice to see humanity in a way that reaffirms their worldview. 

The truth is that some people will rise up and help when they’re needed, some will always hurt and abuse others, and many fall somewhere in between. Superman and Jor-El both aim to influence those in-betweeners — Superman hopes to inspire them to be the best humanity has to offer, while Jor-El tries to push them into indulging their basest instincts. The fact that both men often succeed shows that humanity isn’t one big organism who all share the same traits and propensities — each individual is unique, with totally different capabilities and potential.

The world will always need a Superman; no matter how many people shine as inspirations, there will always be those who choose evil. Meanwhile, Jor-El’s conviction that humanity deserves annihilation is false because there will always be some people who will stand up and do what is right — the fact that it takes Jor-El’s interference to bring humanity to the brink shows that they’re not nearly as doomed as Jor-El thinks they are. Their debate is one that can never truly be won, because neither man will ever be able to prove to the other that they’re right. All they can do is trust in their convictions, which they set in stone long ago.

That’s what makes Dan Jurgens and Viktor Bogdanovic’s idea to have Jor-El move on to trying to win Jon over instead so brilliant — Jon is a good kid with good influences, but his view of the world is still far from fully-formed, giving Jor-El the perfect opportunity to bring him over to his side. I think the fact that Jor-El targets Jon with a totally different argument, though, shows that somewhere deep down Jor-El knows that he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. If he truly believed that humanity was doomed then he could just leave them to their fate, but instead he actively conspires to destroy them because he wants revenge. This has never been about what humanity “deserves” — it’s been about lashing out against those who betrayed him, on Earth and Krypton alike.

(Also, a bit off-topic here, but I just gotta say that I love Action Comics 989‘s use of Lois Lane, who gets to be heroic and capable in her own right, using her own reputation and skills to save lives, all while being integrated into an issue with its own higher goals — she doesn’t need a spotlight story to shine in Action Comics, which I appreciate.)

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?


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