Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: Action Comics #891

Is this experiment of having Lex Luthor star in Action Comics for a year going to work for me?

If you asked me last month I would have said 'probably'. There were enough interesting ideas thrown out last issue to make me think that an in-depth look at Lex would probably be a good read. While there were some things I didn't understand (the craving of a Black Lantern ring over all others), the idea of a power-hungry power-mad Luthor was new.

If you asked me after I read Action Comics #891, I would answer 'probably not'. For some reason, this issue just didn't grab me. Was this tour through Luthor's dreams really necessary? I suppose in the end it might. While there was some insight into Luthor's thoughts, it didn't seem fresh. As a result, this seemed like a stumble rather than a step forward.

The majority of the issue takes place within Luthor's mind as Mr. Mind (actually Mr. Mind's son ... also named Mr. Mind) guides Lex through the rabbit holes of his mind.

The first dream has Luthor cast as a Prometheus like figure literally stealing fire from a temple devoted to the Trinity of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.

This was something of a highlight in the book as "Lex as Prometheus" is a nifty look at his personality. Like Prometheus, Lex wants to even the playing field between men and super-beings. The scene ends with Lex stating to his 'tribe' that he did it all himself. Sure we know that Luthor is something of a narcissist but this seemed strange to say. But more on that later.

We then see that Mr. Mind is behind the content of Luthor's visions ... sort of. Mind has merely told Luthor to fantasize. That means that these visions, in theory, are Luthor's own albeit tweaked a bit.

Mind is talking to someone 'off-screen'. There definitely is a '4th wall' feel to Mind's comments. At first I thought he might be talking directly to us as the reader, a feeling that was accentuated by his positions in the panels. By having Mind occasionally escape the boundaries of the panels, it makes it seem that he is not constrained to the comic book and that he might be talking to directly to us.

That said, he states that while Luthor is in his dreams that his mind can be rewired. And that is what whoever Mr. Mind is talking to wants to happen. Since I don't necessarily want that to happen, it makes me wonder if Mind is talking to some other character and that we are being fooled into thinking we are his audience.

 But on to the next dream.

Here Luthor is now cast as a Dr. Frankenstein-like scientist who has created a 'monster' ... someone who might be ungrateful to his creator, someone powerful.

When the sheet is removed from the creature we see that it is Luthor.

So a couple of thoughts here. One, the easy thing to think here is that Luthor thinks he is a monster, that he wonders how this version of himself was created ... what decisions has he made in his life that has led him to this, being something inhuman. But that seems too harsh. I don't think that Lex regards himself that way.

So the other thought is that this 'I did it myself' thought is present here. Rather than creating something to do his bidding ... rather than creating an agent who will act for him, leaving him untainted ... he needs to act for himself. This theme of Lex acting solo rather than the untouchable boss leading an army seems to be a theme here.

In fact, it becomes a bit clearer after the reveal. In his dream, Lois tells Lex that he works best when he has underlings doing the dirty work for him.

That is not what Mr. Mind wants her to say.

Is it Luthor fighting back?

My gut says yes. If there is one thing we know, Luthor is a man with a strong mind who should be able to shake visions off, recognizing them for the delusions they are.

But why does Mind (or whoever Mind is talking to) want Luthor to keep hearing that he should be acting alone?

With that vision not going the way he wants it too, Mind switches the settings to the Old West. 'Big Blue', an outlaw based on a Superman archetype, is coming to town and Sheriff Luthor needs to stop him.

It is enough obsequiousness for Lex to realize that it doesn't make sense. Realizing he is in some fever-dream, Luthor asks where is the person behind all of this nonsense. When the man doesn't answer, Lex guns him down.

I did like how Luthor responds once he realizes that he is in a fantasy. The gloves come off. He guns down the man without a second thought. Certainly that lack of emotion over the sanctity of human life is true Luthor but we rarely see him get his hands this dirty.

It forced Mind to enter the dream himself and confront Luthor.

But Luthor realizes that there is someone behind Mr. Mind. And know it is his turn to look at the camera and address 'us'. Luthor wonders why a 'transdimensional psychic deity' would be afraid of him.

Are we the deity? I don't think so. It was here I started to think that someone is pulling Luthor's strings here.

Realizing that this is his dream, Luthor tries to take control of the setting. In response, Mind grows to Godzilla-like proportions in the dream world to try to wear Luthor down.

In another nice insight into Luthor's mind (remember these are his fantasies, merely tweaked), Lex rips open his shirt, declares 'this is a job for Luthor', and flies to attack Mind. We always wondered if Luthor was jealous of Superman, we finally heard it in Blackest Night, and now we see it. Luthor dreams of being Superman ... or at least like Superman. Nice.

While he attacks Mind in the dream world, Luthor wills his body to lash out in physical world, kicking Mind off the roof of LexCorp.

And just like that the battle of wills is over.

I suppose the progression of the visions and Luthor's slow shrugging off of Mind's control was played out well, with the timing seeming right.

Now you would think that this whole encounter would slow Luthor down.

Why would Mind do this? Who is he working for? Who is the 'transdimensional psychic deity' who was pulling the strings? Why was Mind trying to hammer into Lex that he should act alone in his quest?

The 'old' Lex might take a moment to contemplate all this, maybe even shelve his plans to go after the Black Lantern power until this threat was better defined. He would never leave himself open for attack. He wouldn't stop until he found out who was behind this affront to his mind. And he certainly would never sully his own hands ... he would have someone else do the dirty work, the wet works.

But this isn't that Lex. He wants that power and he wants it now regardless of this psychic assault. He has charted areas of the power to investigate.

At the very least enough of the 'old Lex' is kicking around; he recognizes that if someone is trying to make him act alone that he shouldn't. He tells 'Lois' he will take her alone. And it looks like he'll be hiring Deathstroke to join him too.

Okay, so I don't think we ... the readers ... are the 'transdimensional psychic deity'. I think that is a feint by Cornell. I think 'a big bad' is trying to get Luthor to obtain this power only to then strip it from Lex. Luthor is being played as a dupe for whoever this threat is. So if that is my theory, then who is the big bad? It may sound like a moldy idea ... but what about Krona? Isn't he sort of transdimensional now? Powerful? Craving some sort of Lantern-like power?

So looking into some of Lex's dreams while maybe getting a taste of a background plotline sounds interesting. But somehow it just didn't grab me as much as I hoped it would.

Pete Woods and Cafu split the art here and shine, adapting to the variety of settings in the book.

I don't know ... in writing the review of the book, I liked it more than when I first read it. Maybe I just miss Superman being here.

Overall grade: C+/B


mathematicscore said...

I took it that the "transdimensional psychic deity" was Mr Mind. He is exceptionally powerful, and in 52 we see him interacting with the multiverse, actually taking bites here and there. I could be wrong though.

Lisa said...

Mr. Mind's son Mr. Mind is up there with Mr. Noodle's brother Mr. Noodle, and Xathras's brother Xathras.

mathematicscore said...

Rereading it while I still say Luthor is referring to Mr. Mind as a "transdimensional psychic deity", you are correct that Mr. Mind is talking to someone else, so good call.

TalOs said...

I'm honestly not sure how I honestly feel about this 2nd issue of Lex and him taking Supermans' place in Action Comics. However in having had said that I'm just loving the art being done!

mrjl said...

I agree that Mr. Mind is the "transdimensional psychic deity." Escpecially after what they did with him in 52