Action Comics #890 (August, 2010)
“The Black Ring, Part One”
Writer – Paul Cornell
Artist – Pete Woods
Colorist – Brad Anderson
Letterer – Rob Leigh
Editors – Wil Moss & Matt Idelson
Cover Price: $3.99
So, whattaya do when Superman decides to “take a break” and walk across America? I mean, he’s got two ongoing titles… it’s not like we need to check in with his stroll twice a month (believe me… nobody wants that!). So, whattaya do with that pesky… other Superman book?!
Do you put it on hiatus? Do you cancel it outright? Or… do you hand it over to Superman’s worst villain? Well… to be fair, between J. Michael Straczynski and Lex Luthor… I’m not sure who’s worse!
What I’m getting at is… Action Comics has now become Lex Luthor’s book. How could that ever work? Well, read on…
We open with Lex Luthor being dangled off the edge of a building by his feet… record scratch, I bet you’re all wondering how he got himself into this mess. Well, let’s go back in time a few days and find out. Ya see, Lex has been working with his team with the hopes of locating a Black Lantern ring. One of his lab-geeks told him it was a fool’s errand… and so, Lex fires him on the spot… and promises to ruin his reputation so he’ll never work again. We’re about to learn that that’s a moot point… but, we’ll get there.
The fired guy lashes out, and rings Lex’s bell with a… blunt heavy object of some sort. Looks like a candlestick… but it’s probably some lab instrument. That night, Lex licks his wounds while sharing a dinner with… Lois?! Wha–? Read on, all will be explained.
After a brief chat, Lex decides he doesn’t suffer fools… and order the fired guy killed. Man, don’t step to Lex.
After the deed is done, Lois applies some concealer to Lex’s bruise. As she does this, she too tries to reason with him about his Black Lantern ring-hunt. And so, he tells her about the great power he felt during the Blackest Night when he wore the Orange Ring.
He claims the ring “changed” him… and he has a pretty good idea of what he’d be capable of if he was able to find more. Ya know, like making Superman kneel at his feet… stuff like that. But alas, once the Blackest Night ended… all of the Black Rings disintegrated.
The following day, Lex holds a meeting with a man named Spalding. He mocks Superman’s “walk across America” (as well he should) and reveals that he’s using sensors to monitor the Superman-Family.
Growing tired of not getting his desired result, Lex decides to use the Isopod… which troubles Spalding greatly. This… pod, hasn’t been tested, so getting inside is rather dangerous. When did that ever stop Lex Luthor though? He hops inside, and finds… something?!
Later, he shares his findings with Lois. Turns out the very pattern of the universe has changed due to the destruction of the Black Lantern rings.
With this new knowledge, Lex decides it’s time for a field trip… and one that Lois will accompany him on. It’s here that we learn that this “Lois” is actually a Brainiac-built synthezoid of sorts… which, duh, makes a lot more sense than this actually being Lois Lane.
At this point, the goofs from the beginning break in and start wrecking the joint. Lucky for Lex, Lois has a “smash” mode!
The baddies (well, the non-Lex baddies, anyway) decide to flee… but not before grabbing Mistuh Luthah. Which brings us back to where we started.
All looks to be going well for the goofs… until they start bleeding out their eyeholes. Looks like Lex has got a friend… in the form of Mister Mind?!
I remember being kind of annoyed when this was first announced. I mean, Lex Luthor taking over Action Comics… while Superman effed off across America?! I think “I hate this” was already in the back of my head when I first cracked it open… but, I gotta say… I thought the was pretty nice! It aged well too… which cannot be said for it’s “Grounded” counterpart.
I suppose we can get my complaint out of the way… and it’s not even the fault of this issue. I hate this “new look” Mister Mind. I don’t see why he needed to be “darkened” or “grossified”. I thought his old “cute” look was more iconic… and in a way, more disturbing that something so harmless looking was so powerful. Maybe that’s just me.
I’m glad the Lois-bot reveal came pretty quickly. I think dragging that on would have been majorly confusing… so it was nice to get it out of the way. In reading back today, even I was confused… I’d forgotten about the reveal entirely… just knew it didn’t feel “right”.
Speaking of not feeling “right”… and again, this is no fault of the issue, and not even a “bad” thing… but what is up with the ads (see below)? These look to be aimed at a younger audience than DC’s regular output. I feel like this isn’t one of the books you should aim at the tots. I mean, our “protagonist” actually put out a hit on a guy! Had him murdered at the family dinner table! Ehh, I’m probably thinking too hard… just found the ads a bit of a mismatch for the story.
Overall though… this was pretty great. Lex is depicted as cocky, while at the same time, somewhat meek. I think this is about as perfect a portrayal as we can hope for with a character like him. He’s goal-oriented… but his motive is… morally muddy at best. This feels like the start of a redemption arc for our man… just a shame that it’s coming a year before the cosmic toilet flush. Certainly worth mentioning, Pete Woods is on fire here. Beautiful work! I especially love little details like tilting the Orange Lantern emblem a bit to make it look like an “L”.
This issue has been collected in trade, and is available digitally. I’d definitely recommend checking this one out.