Saturday, February 26, 2011

Review: Action Comics #898

With the release of Action Comics #898, creative team writer Paul Cornell and artist Pete Woods continue to steamroll to the ending of this Lex Luthor arc.

I wasn't planning on enjoying this arc as much as I have. I was ready to bemoan the fact that Superman is starring in the book. But good stories always have a way of soothing my irascible nature and this has been a very good story for any number of reasons. For one, I have enjoyed watching this slightly unhinged Luthor storm his way through the DCU in his quest for power. Usually Lex is calm and collected, allowing others to do his dirty work. But here, Lex occasionally seems off his game. I am not used to seeing that.

At first I wondered if I might tire of the 'guest of the month' format of this book as Luthor runs into a different villain each chapter. But that interplay has also led to some great stories, showcasing Lex by contrasting him to the other villains he has run into.

There has been the mystery behind who is manipulating all these events. Are there more than one big names prodding Luthor in this story?

And finally, of course, after initially finding her distasteful, I have come to love LoisBot. She is going to be the most tragic character in this book, I promise. I think, like Pinocchio, she has decided to embrace 'real life', developing 'real feelings' for Lex, and I am sure she is going to suffer for it. Plus, she just oozes 1940s glamor like Rita Hayworth while still being able to wield massive weapon arms. That's not easy.

The issue starts at a LexCorp rocket base with Luthor planning on heading into space to evaluate the 4 interplanetary black energy globes. It is revealed that those space globes are all conveniently moving together, making it one-stop shopping for Lex. My guess would be that the 'old Lex' would be suspicious of this, not viewing it as serendipity, but recognizing it for the potential trap it is. But this power-hungry Lex is goal-oriented. Nothing is going to stop him from completing this quest.

I do like that we see the LexCorp staff still murmuring about the loss of Spalding. Such a death would rattle a workforce. I don't know if I would want to work somewhere where death seems so close.

And, finally, we see that Lois is working for someone else, acknowledging  that she has a master, a mission, to keep Lex moving towards the black energy globes. But even as I read her lines, you can see how she is conflicted. She talks about her mission, but the lines sound flat, as though she is sad that she is doing what she is doing.

While there are 4 black energy globes in space, there is one remaining globe on Earth. And, as luck would have it, Larfleeze possesses it and brings it to Luthor. Okay, I don't know why Larfleeze would necessarily do this. Maybe it makes the story progression a little too easy.

I was happy to see Luthor in the classic armor. I think we have seen him in this armor on the cover a couple of times during this run, so I was glad to see it actually within the story.

And the hexagon force field is a nice effect.

It turns out that Larfleeze cannot get the black energy globe to do much of anything and he is hoping that Luthor can help him get access to the power within. In what I think is a nice artistic flourish, Glomulus has swallowed the globe. He looks like he has a belly ache!

I also like Luthor's smug and almost dismissive expression as Larfleeze threatens him. This is the Luthor I like, unbelievable confident and in control.

I'll say it again, Pete Woods art on this arc has been absolutely phenomenal.

But just as cool and collected that Lex is, we get another taste of the more out of control Luthor.

It is odd to hear Lex say something about his flesh being motivated. It just seems a bit off. Even if he thinks such things, that seems like something he would keep to himself. I really hope that there is more to this than just his taste of power. I keep hoping that he is being mentally manipulated as well.

When Luthor refuses to help him, Larfleeze takes a hostage to try to force Lex to comply.

In what again seems to be an atypical action, Luthor shows that he can't be blackmailed or bargained with. He shows that hostages and his workers are meaningless. And he delivers that message with an exclamation point, killing the hostage in front of countless witnesses.

It just seems like Luthor wouldn't do something like this in front of so many eyes. His power plays are usually through underlings or in the shadows. So again, I hope that something is making Lex act against his normal grain.

But it is clear that Lex wants Larfleeze's black energy globe and he figures out a slick way to get a hold of it. He physically grabs Larfleeze and tosses him into the Joker's changed energy globe. Much like it did witht the Joker, the globe acts like a portal, sending Larfleeze away. And with him gone, the globe is captured, analyzed and changed.

Suddenly Luthor is closer to his goal. Only the 4 globes in space are left for Lex to analyze. And then his quest for power will be complete. Lois begs him to change the energy globes via remote from Earth, but Luthor wants to be there. He climbs in the rocket to complete his quest. That also seems like an unnecessary risk, something Lex wouldn't do.

My favorite moment of the book is when Larfleeze exits out of the energy globe in the Arctic, the first one Luthor changed. Whatever horror the Joker saw in there, Larfleeze sees it too. And he doesn't want that to come about. It is perhaps the first thing Larfleeze doesn't want. Nice moment. Very slick.

I also hope we don't see what it is. These things are always better when left unseen, left to the reader's imagination.

And finally Loisbot's master is revealed. It is Brainiac who is forcing her to nudge Luthor to complete his mission. But Lois' internal monologue says that she wished she could rebel. And her expression shows how guilty she feels.

Hey, I guessed that Brainiac was her master a while ago ... but even a broken clock is right twice a day. I love Luthor/Brainiac team-ups/dust-ups. So that is a great hook to carry me to the penultimate chapter.

But who is the mastermind using Mr. Mind as an agent? Sivana? Darkseid? Mr. Mxyzptlk?

Nothing but good stuff here, especially some of Larfleeze's moments. I usually tire very quickly with him but that final moment was magic. And we are only a couple of issues away from Superman returning to Action.

Overall grade: B+

1 comment:

Martin Gray said...

Lovely review. I still don't 'get' the black globes business, but it's all about the characters, isn't it?

Great call on Brainiac!