Saturday, July 3, 2010

Review: Action Comics #890

Remember the good old days when Superman was the star of Action Comics?

I do.

I liked those days.

With New Krypton wrapping up, I was looking forward to seeing Superman back in Action. But with Grounded keeping him busy, Action Comics needs a new star.

Enter ... Lex Luthor?

Action Comics #890 is the first chapter of Lex's year to shine. Written by Paul Cornell, drawn by Pete Woods, covers by David Finch, DC certainly has put togetger a tremendous creative team for the book. Will such an amalgamation of talent lead to a great story? And will it captivate me enough to make me forget the fact that (assuming this story goes 12 issues) we will have gone 2.5 years without Superman starring in the book he has headlined for the last 70+ years. I can only hope.

But having Luthor star? Bold choice. To make it work, we need to really get inside Luthor's mind and understand him. This needs to be as much an examination of him as a character as it is a story of him lusting for power.

The issue starts with Luthor being hung upside down from the penthouse of the LexCorp tower by a number of armed men. Despite being kidnapped and a dropped rope away from death, Luthor seems more amused than scared and remembers what led him to this point.

Earlier in the week, Luthor is working with his staff to track down a 'power' he wishes to obtain. When one of his underlings says Luthor can't have that power, Lex casually destroys the man's life, firing him and vowing to destroy his reputation.

It is enough to enrage the scientist who attacks Lex, striking him in the head with a flashlight.

I do like how nonchalant Lex is when he discards the man. He obviously thinks he is completely above this man who can be crushed like a bug for simply disagreeing.

Discussing the events of the attack over dinner with Lois (??), Lex simply cannot continue until he rids the world of the man who attacked him. Destroying his reputation is not enough. He has a sniper kill him.

I thought this was a good moment to see deeper into Lex's twisted mind. For a split second, Lex was helpless. It's true ... if this man had better aim or more strength he could have really damaged Luthor. And Lex can't bear to think of that. All threats need to be eliminated.

It also reminded me that Luthor is simply a man living amongst super-beings. A well-placed blow from a flashlight could kill him. And perhaps that motivates Lex most of all. How can he be considered powerful on this planet. How can he achieve that power?

Well, he tasted it in Blackest Night. When he wielded the orange ring, he suddenly had more power than he has ever known. But with that orange light came that absolute need for more. It is powered by avarice after all. And that need ... maybe like an addict needing a fix ... has made Lex less calculating than usual. His needs are driving him to work faster, less safely, less hidden than usual.

He needs power now. Unlike the old days when his plots and plans would slowly unfold, he wants everything to come to him quickly.

And he knows what he would do if he had that power, make everyone bow before him.

Again, this sort of story only works if you can dig deeper into the protagonist's mind and make the reader care. Sure, this looks like your standard image of a victorious Luthor. But the people kneeling at his feet are Superman and Lex's father. It shows that his abusive father still has some sort of hold on Luthor, that trauma still gnawing at him.

But add the that the universal pantheon before him (Darkseid, a Guardian, Brainiac included) and you understand just where Luthor thinks he belongs in the Cosmic arena.

Unfortunately, the story takes a bit of a left turn for me when Lex states he needs to find a Black Lantern ring. Why would he focus his attention on the destroyed rings? Why not try to snatch and grab any other ring he can get his hand on ... you know ... the ones that exist? If he really needs instant gratification, wouldn't grabbing a ring from any of the countless Corpsmen be more expedient?

With his mind reeling, Lois, in a flirty coquette-ish way, wonders if he should 'sleep on it'.

Thankfully, at this point in the story I realized that there is no way ... NO WAY ... this was the Lois.

With his quest for the Black Ring just starting, Luthor shows he still is keeping an eye on his enemies. Sure Superman may be out on a stroll, but he has other enemies.

I love how he simply dismisses Supergirl. He doesn't care that she is flying around LexCorp. It shows how he can underestimate those who he believes beneath him.

And I love how he wonders why Superboy would stay in Smallville. Remember Lex did everything he could to get away from the town. He can't understand why anyone would stay, let alone someone with Conner's power. It shows how Lex's priorities are all wrong.

That desire for the ring's power makes Lex decide to take even more of a risk.

He immerses himself in the 'isopod' ... a sort of knowledge immersion tank where he gets flooded with information in an attempt to see a universal pattern about the rings. It is an untested device that could kill Lex, or drive him insane, but he cannot wait.

If anything, this 'throwing caution to the wind' element in Lex's persona is new and will at least make the storyline feel a little fresh. I wonder if this impetuousness will be played up throughout the arc.

Luckily, the isopod works and Luthor deduces a galactic pattern of the Black Lantern's energy pulses. By visiting those places he might be able to construct his own ring.

Giddy from the discovery, he asks Lois to join him. Lois ... join him ... in deep space?

Yep. It ain't Lois. It's a robot constructed from Brainiac and Kryptonian tech.

Maybe realizing that he is losing control, Luthor made this Lois to act as a sort of sounding board for his ideas. She can offer alternatives, new perspectives.

Maybe she is even a consort. Eeew.

The armed men from the opening pages burst into the lab forcing Lex to activate the Lois-bot's defenses.

There is something disconcerting about this picture of Lois with her machine gun arms. It shows everything that is wrong with Luthor.

And that brings us back to the present. With Luthor hanging from the building, the real mastermind behind the attack shows himself. It's Mister Mind.

Sure he looks huge here, but I'll bet anything that it is all in the perspective. I bet he is still a tiny little bug.

I suppose the book did what it was supposed to do as an opening chapter. It laid out the basic plotline, showed the motivations of the protagonist nicely, and ended with a cliffhanger. And the new wrinkle of an addled Luthor reaching for power so aggressively, without pause or second thoughts, is an interesting new take.

But I also think that the quest for a Black Ring seems a bit off. And I still miss Superman being here.

Pete Woods art looks a little different from his prior work. It looks as though he is using a finer line than I am used to seeing in his art. It is still smashing stuff.

I guess I'll have to see where this is going.

Overall grade: C+/B


valerie21601 said...

I wonder if this Lois is really Indigo? I have to dig my issue of Adventure #6 out but at the end when Luthor (later to find out he is only a robot) is talking to Brainiac and we see a green female hand poking out of a standing container? Could this be Indigo given a new form and purpose for the time being?

This was one of the few times I could tell from the pictures of Lois's eyes were drawn so wide and unblinking that she was a robot.

From what I am hearing from the comic book fans at my local comics shop. Even if these are the very best of Action stories starring Lex Luthor. They aren't going to buy these issues until maybe years later, down the road, when it an old trade paperback book in inventory because they want their Superman. Superman not Luthor. They want to see Superman fighting, kicking some butt and standing up for what he believes in not going on a walk-a-bout, too full of doubts and too much fears. It's what I am hearing from the local fans here.

Gene said...

Is it just me, or does that scientist in the sniper's cross hairs resemble Dan Didio?

Also, Luthor reminds me of Michael Rosenbaum.

Mart said...

Tremendous review, Anj. So you don't want to Bring Back the Brows?

Anj said...

I wonder if this Lois is really Indigo? I have to dig my issue of Adventure #6 out but at the end when Luthor (later to find out he is only a robot) is talking to Brainiac and we see a green female hand poking out of a standing container? Could this be Indigo given a new form and purpose for the time being?

Interesting idea. I forgot about that ending to the Adventure arc.

TalOs said...

I too would prefer the mysterious Coulan/human female hybrid in ADVENTURE being Indigo 2.0 rather then Kingdom Come's own XTC (Brainiac 5 and Supergirl's supposed daughter) in all honesty.