I have been reading the Lex Luthor story arc in Action Comics and I feel I have been plodding along with it. Sure, there have been some interesting ideas and some elements that have clicked. But overall I felt that it just hasn't reached its potential yet. It just isn't quite there.
But Action Comics #893 simply worked. Paul Cornell writes a story that is surprisingly humorous given the theme of this arc. Witty, fast paced, and funny,everything just crackled. It was great to see Luthor battling a shockingly Hannibal Lectheresque Gorilla Grodd.
After last issue's brutal Deathstroke story and the surreal dreamscape of the Mister Mind issues, this was an interesting change of pace. In fact, each issue seems to have a slightly different tenor while moving the overall story forward. In some ways, that gives the reader the opportunity to see Luthor in many different ways.
And I am always willing to admit when I am wrong. When I first saw this cover solicited, I was sour on seeing Grodd with a giant spoon. But after reading this book starring the ravenous super-ape, I just might demand more stories with giant cutlery!
Luthor's quest for more Black Lantern energy has taken him into deep Africa. Grodd has built a base around one of the Black Lantern energy bubbles and is quite protective of his new home.
When he sees Lex and his team, he knows that Luthor is probably after the energy.
In a nice prelude to the gastronomic delights to come, Grodd wonders what Lex will taste like. Silly Grodd. Lex is a scientist with good taste ... not a scientist that tastes good!
To help him understand Lex better and uncover his enemy's weaknesses, Grodd devours the brain of a Mr. Cardington, a former employee and confidante of Luthor's. He pulls the jar down from a pantry full of brain jars, a veritable smorgasbord of cerebri. That was a great image.
Eating the brain allows Grodd to absorb Cardington's knowledge.Suddenly aware of Luthor's vulnerabilities, Grodd plans his attack. I haven't seen Grodd use this power before, but I like it.
This scene was a bit disturbing and oddly funny. It is hard to pull that off as a writer, a powerful mix of feelings.
The new weakness Grood wants to exploit is Lex's love for his Lois-bot. How ironic that Luthor, who may never have truly loved before, is so enraptured of a robot.
In a recurring theme, Luthor talks about how he needs Lois to curb his desire to rush into danger to snatch the power. It is strange to see Lex so hyperactive. I think he is being manipulated. Now I am starting to wonder if the Lois-bot herself might be behind this whole thing.
Grodd's troops swoop in and grab Lois, taking her to his lair. Wanting to gather even more info on Luthor, Grodd says he is going to 'interrogate' Lois. Turns out his version of interrogation is to eat his captive's brain. He promptly tries to devour her head. That was unexpected and amusing. I especially like the expression on Lois slobbered face as she explains that she wears perfume to dull the sent of her gear oil.
When eating her turns out not to be an option, Grodd simply takes control of the android in a more traditional manner.
Armed with Lois' knowledge, Grodd presses his attack. Wielding his mighty spoon, Grodd bellows 'kneel before Grodd', a nice line I am pretty sure I have heard before.
But add in the giant silverware and it is even better.
Maybe it is more of a spork, because Grodd uses it to almost instantly decapitate Lex. I guess he was to giddy with the victory and the chance to gain even more intellect because Grodd doesn't notice the lack of blood. Or maybe he is simply to hungry. Without wasting a second, he pops Luthor's head into his mouth like a stuffed mushroom cap.
But Lex turns out to be an android as well! And the head is armed with an electric attack. Just like that Lex basically defeats Grodd.
In the most delicious turn of events, we flash back to how Lex set up the encounter. Knowing Grodd would kill and devour Cardington, Luthor fed the employee false information and pumped him full of mind altering chemicals. When Grodd fed on Cardington, he got a lot of useless lies and a slight buzz too! With Grodd lulled into false security, Lex was able to turn the tables.
This is the Luthor I like seeing, the guy 4 steps ahead of everyone else, the guy willing to sacrifice a man to gain an advantage.
While the Lex android was running interference, the real Lex and his head scientist Spaulding were in gorilla suits slipping into Grodd's fortress. Even Lois' being dominated by Grodd turns out to be a hoax. Again, it was great to see Luthor using his guile, being a great strategist.
Spaulding analyzes the black energy, thus changing it.
I haven't quite grasped exactly what is happening with the black energy or what Lex hopes to do with this information. But I do think someone is using him and there will ultimately be Hell to pay.
Elated from this victory, Lex hops onto a jet and tries to take off. Grodd isn't too happy with the whole matter and uses a sniper rifle to shoot Luthor in the chest. We see Lex fall hundreds of feet, pinwheeling off cliffs, until he hits the ground. And there, his spirit meets Death.
So I have been pretty Grodd'd out recently, feeling like I have seen him everywhere. So this wildly famished version of him was fresh and funny.
And that comedic tone of the book made this issue really sizzle. The shocking ending, seeing Lex fall to his death worked even more given the gallow's humor that preceded it. And there are enough mysteries brewing here to keep me curious and interested. But without a doubt this was the best issue of Cornell's run.
Veteran Sean Chen doea a nice job on art so I didn't miss Pete Woods too much.
And I haven't even talked about the Jimmy Olsen back-up, a story so good it warrants its own review.