Saturday, July 3, 2010

Review: Action Comics #890

ACTION COMICS #890 "The Black Ring, part 1"
Written by Paul Cornell; art by Pete Woods.

(This review contains spoilers.)

This comic was great!

JMS is taking Superman on a year-long tour of America as part of his ├╝ber-lame story arc "Grounded" in the other Big S title, which leaves Action Comics without a protagonist. Marc Guggenheim, who was originally set to take over the title with this issue, wasn't too happy about that, so he quit. In steps critically acclaimed writer Paul Cornell with this story starring Lex Luthor.

Some have argued that Luthor is not really interesting enough as a character to sustain a story without his arch-nemesis Superman, but the way Cornell kicks things off with this issue seems to suggest otherwise. Cornell has a firm grasp of Luthor's character and motivations. He writes him as a brilliant, though delusional, ego-maniac, his calm and calculated demeanor covering the seriously twisted nature of his ambitions.

In the aftermath of Blackest Night (as the banner points out), Luthor has had a taste of almost limitless power when he wore the orange power ring, and now he wants more. But the ring had the unfortunate side effect of revealing his deep, hidden motivations – his desire to be Superman. Luthor now seems almost embarrassed by the greed and lack of self-control he displayed as a member of the Orange Lantern Corps. "The things the orange ring makes one desire. Ridiculous." And yet, when he has his team run a holographic simulation of the possible outcomes of his new plans to acquire a black power ring, it shows him all-powerful as the supreme leader of humankind, with Superman on his knees calling him "master."

So basically, it's business as usual for Luthor and his underlings at LexCorps. What makes this new story so promising, though, is all the crazy Silver Age-inspired sci-fi twists that Cornell throws into the mix, including a group of mind-controlled weirdos who have Luthor hanging upside down from a skyscraper in the first pages; a bizarrely out-of-character Lois Lane who turns out to be a robot built from Kryptonian technology; something called the "isopod," which Luthor uses against the advice of his assistant Spalding (new character?), who warns him that it "hasn't even been tested on animals yet, let alone homeless people"; the famous purple-green power armour; and last but not least, a giant alien caterpillar.

All of which I absolutely loved and can't wait to find out how it all comes together. My favourite part was the Lois Lane robot, which is quite obviously a disaster waiting to happen. As Spalding puts it, "the parts used to construct her came from Brainiac – we don't even know what a lot of them do." Three pages later, at Luthor's command, she goes into "smash mode" – her eyes turn red, she says "Grrrr!", and her arms turn into a ridiculously over-the-top arsenal of machine guns. It's like something out of a manga, and it rules.

Quick note about the art from Pete Woods, who apparently has been drawing Superman comics for a while. I'm unfamiliar with his previous work, but I thought the art in this issue was outstanding and a perfect match for Cornell's storytelling.

I'm super-excited about this comic and can't wait for the next issue. I did not expect Action Comics to turn into my favourite monthly title, but if Cornell and Woods keep this up, that's exactly what's going to happen. Go buy this comic!


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