When Jon Kent returned to Earth, he had aged by seven years. Not only that, but the young hero claimed that his summer trip with his grandfather, Jor El, turned bad. According to Jon, his grandfather has gone completely insane. To be honest, anyone who read the Oz Effect when it came out knew this was coming. But what exactly happened between the two of them that made Jon leave? Here, in issue 8, we get a look into when the tension started, and when Jon began to realize that Jor El was off the deep end.
We begin on Jor El’s ship in space sector 2815. As Jon slowly wakes up, he finds Jor El standing over him. As the boy wakes up, Jor El asks why he agreed to come with him. Despite Jon trying to deflect and make it seem like he simply wanted a summer of fun in space, his grandfather knows better. Jon hangs his head and confesses that he left Earth because he doesn’t know his place there. According to him, “…my dad…he’s the greatest. But he’s the greatest. A lot-a lot of people are going to be wanting a lot of things from me. They already do, because of him. And I don’t…I mean, I want to be that guy, but…” Jor El sits next to his grandson, but rather than comfort him, he tells him something that sounds like a mad scientist said it. “We are both- here now- accidental. Somewhat impossible. And there lies my problem…I’ve spent my entire life in the pursuit of all science…and yet my own existence defies it. All my experiments that led me here defy it…you…watching you, all of this adventure so far has only proven that science, itself, may be…madness.” After Jor El ends his rant and walks away, as Jon says, “That was the exact moment I decided to leave grandpa’s ship and find my way back home to Earth. Because like that, it went from ‘cool vacation with grandpa’ to uh-oh, I’m stuck in here with a crazy old man.”
In the present, Superman and Lois are having Jon scanned in the new Fortress of Solitude. When Jon says that he is proud of himself for the way he handled himself out in space, Lois begins to break down, and so does Clark. He says that he’ll be right back and flies away with tears in his eyes. The rage within can be seen on Superman’s faces as he flies around the planet to burn off steam. “I lost all those years of watching my son grow up. All those years! Stolen from me. By my own father. My father made me Superman. But now I’m never going to see my own son grow up. Not Luthor. Not Brainiac. Not Zaar. My own father…You might need to hit something.” Conveniently, at the same time in the spot that the Fortress of Solitude used to be in, Mongol has landed on Earth. Unfortunately for the alien warlord, Superman uses him as his punching bag.
Upon Superman returning to the Fortress, it is revealed that the scans detected nothing, and that Jon is perfectly healthy. The scans also reveal that there is no trick, and that he actually is seventeen years old. After processing the information, Superman asks his son to tell him everything that happened out in space. Jon tells his parents that space was nothing like he thought it would be. Instead of empty space, they found groups of aliens in conflict. Each time they came across these conflicts, Jor El would seemingly try to intervene and stop the violence, but it never worked. After one particular encounter, Jon ends up meeting with Kilowog and Arisia of the Green Lantern Corps. After talking to them for a moment, Jon asks if they could help him get back to Earth. However, before they can agree to help, Jor El interrupts and agrees to take Jon back to Earth. According to Jon, Jor El stopped speaking to him at this point. On their way back to Earth, Jor El interrupts Jon watching a movie to tell him that he was sorry. When Jon tries to voice his concern to Jor El, their ship goes into red alert. Before they can do anything, they are pulled through a wormhole. When Jon wakes up, he’s not on the ship, but rather on the ground somewhere. “Okay, dad…I’m really trying to describe this to you without making it sound- I promise you what happened next…What happened next is not your fault.” As Jon comes to his senses, he looks up and sees a sight that could terrify any hero, young or old. In front of this child stands perhaps the most dangerous group in the Multiverse: The Crime Syndicate of Earth 3.
When Jon began his journey through space, I had a feeling things would go wrong. However, there is no way anyone could have expected the Crime Syndicate. That’s mostly because they’re dead. When the Syndicate came to the main universe of DC during Forever Evil, only a few of them escaped with their lives. The remaining members died during the war between Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor. However, I believe the question is not “where did Jon go?”, but rather “When did Jon go?” When the Syndicate presented themselves, they were short one member: Grid. Grid was the result of Cyborg’s robotic body being infected with a virus that purged his human side. The absence of Grid and the presence of the dead members makes it seem like Jon has gone back in time to before the events of Forever Evil. I have a feeling that this wasn’t some random occurrence. Jor El’s sanity seems to be more in question now than ever before, so I have no doubt that he could do something as heinous as handing his only grandchild over to the Crime Syndicate. I have no idea how Jon can get himself out of this one, but clearly he did and made it back to Earth. It’s time for Superboy to become a real hero and stand on his own. Too bad he has to go through an entire evil Justice League to do it.