Monday, August 14, 2017

Review: Action Comics #985

Action Comics #985 came out last week, a new arc with a guest creative team of writer Rob Williams and artist Guillem March. I suppose after the superb Superman Revenge Squad story as well as the upcoming Mr. Oz reveal, regular writer Dan Jurgens deserved a little bit of a breather.

This issue explores the new dynamic between Lex Luthor and Superman. With Lex being a 'hero' now and part of the Superman Family, but still having some nefarious history with the Man of Steel, this relationship is suddenly fresh soil to till. From the God-Killer arc to Revenge to this Only Human, it has been interesting to see a Superman struggle with a Lex who seems to be on the right side of humanity.

As a reader it has also been hard to take Lex at his word. Every so often he says a line which makes me think he is the same old Lex, just wearing a sheep's clothing.

Writer Rob Williams (who I know best from the quirky DCYou Martian Manhunter book) tells a solid tale of trust and mistrust even if he brings back The Machinist as a villain. I have to say very little of the Geoff Johns/JRJR run on Superman has stayed in my head. Was the Machinist part of Hordr? Did he die? Do I need to go back and look?

And I know Guillem March best from good girl art and covers. His art here isn't that style at all, bringing a rougher edge than what I am used to.

On to the book.

 The book opens with Superman doing some thing super, saving a submarine from sinking. It opens with a classic pose of the Man of Steel pressing a massive weight above his head.

But it is the Lex monologue that strikes me. Humans are flawed. Humans cannot be all good. But Superman can and that is why it is easy to hate him.

In this cynical world, it is probably why he doesn't sell well. But I like Superman to be that bastion of good, that inspiration to the world.

Still, this speech doesn't make Luthor out to be a changed man, suddenly a hero. He doesn't talk about trying to emulate Superman as best he can. He talks about resentment.

Hmmm ...

Meanwhile, after surviving all the recent big threats in his life from Mxy to Zod, Superman is feeling pretty good and I might say pretty feisty. He seems keen on just flying around and doing good.

The ever wise Lois warns him about tempting fate. I love that. She knows all too well that their lives are never stable.

And we as readers know that as soon as someone says 'things are good' that something is going to happen.

 Sure enough, the fine citizens of Georgia are under attack my maniacs and dire wolves, all under the control of the Machinist who has implanted mind ticks on people.

I can't believe I have to go back and look at the Machinist!

 The battle is relatively short lived as Superman grabs 'The Machinist', really an enslaved human acting being used as the Machinst's vessel. Stopping that drone turns off all the other chips. Everyone is back to normal.

Turns out the Machinist has decided to enter the weapons selling game and his using his tech to score money. And Superman can't help but notice that the mind tick chip has LuthorCorp tech inside.

 Now it shows just how much Superman trusts this new Luthor that he immediately flies to LexCorp to confront Lex.

Hmmm .. two pages of Superman screaming the name of a villain.

This scene, of Superman floating outside of Lex's office is a classic trope. We have seen it in comics and in the animated shows. I love how Lex comments on that by noting they shouldn't be doing this anymore. That is some sly writing.

But again, how can Superman count Lex in the family if he always thinks the worst!

 As for Lex, he denies being part of the Machinist plot. After all, if Lex been in on the plan it would have succeeded. And then Lex offers to help Superman stop the threat. It is an old-fashioned team up.

I thought Lex's actions and dialogue were spot on here. He still thinks he is above everybody. He just dons armor and acts the part of the hero now.

 Lex can use his technology to track the Machinist back to the villain's lair. Just like that, Superman and Lex are winging their way to India to face off against (hopefully) the real Machinist.

In an odd but fun scene, the Machinist turns his army of mech-controlled slaves loose on the heroes, an army that includes elephants and tigers.

But then he goes one step further, detonating a nano-drone bomb, infecting Lex with a mind tick, a special one that can't be removed.

You can guess what happens next.

I am intrigued by this. I wonder if somewhere in this story we will learn that the chips can't make you do something you wouldn't do otherwise. Maybe this shows Lex that he still harbors that hate for Superman. And maybe these two have to declare ... again ... this uneasy truce in this new world.

The Luthor/Superman relationship is one of my favorite things about Superman in general. I love Lex as the arch-villain. And probing this new dynamic is a decent hook.

But in some ways I am already looking past this to the Oz arc. And that is a great compliment to Jurgens and the artists on the book.

Overall grade: B


Martin Gray said...

Nice review. I liked this for what it was - a big, fun, nonsense fill-in that yet fits with current continuity. That leering Luthor has a classic Golden Age vibe to it. Some terrible elephant art, though.

kenkraly2004 said...

Good review , A good issue not as great as the last story arc but still decent. The 2nd half was really good and we knew Lex would not stay a good guy forever in Rebirth so he's beginning to go back being bad or is he? Missed Dan Jurgens writing this issue but Rob Williams did a decent job. The artwork took a dip a bit in this issue but was still good. Good story and decent artwork 8/10