Action Comics #660 (December, 1990)
Writer – Roger Stern
Penciller – Bob McLeod
Inker – Brett Breeding
Letterer – Bill Oakley
Colorist – Glenn Whitmore
Editor – Mike Carlin
Cover Price: $0.75
There’s always a bit of a “come down” from our bombastic (relatively speaking) milestone pieces here. It’s like my fingers start to get itchy as we get into the last ten posts of any given hundred… then, poof… it’s over!
Today is our EIGHT HUNDRED… and first daily discussion… and we’re in “scoring position” for wrapping up our #Action100 Endeavor. Looks like we’re actually going to meet our self-imposed deadline!
Let’s get right to it.
We open with Lex Luthor shuffling through the credits for the issue while the Grim Reaper has come to take him away! He ducks the scythe-slash and scurries across his palatial office. Just then Happersen pops in… and so, Luthor offers his unwitting assistant up to Grim Death in his stead… whatta guy!
Luthor goes so far as to shove Hap’ into the Reaper… which reduces him into a skeleton in a suit. Death then lowers his hood, revealing himself to be… Superman?! He hoists Luthor up… and suddenly they’re atop LexCorp Tower. Luthor is dropped… to his doom!
Or not… because this is all a dream, silly! Luthor springs up on an examination table, where he is comforted by his personal physician Kelley. He tells her that he’s seen death… he knows he’s not long for this world. Probably ought to give a bit of backstory, right? Ya see how Lex is wearing that glove on his hand? Well… that’s because it’s not really a hand. Due to his wearing of a Kryptonite Ring, he contracted cancer and had to have it amputated. The cancer has spread… and will soon claim his life.
We shift scenes to the newly-engaged Lois Lane and Clark Kent enjoying a night out. After eating, Lois gets a time via 1990 cellular telephone technology about a fire at the old brewery. Clark listens in as he finishes a glass of wine…
Lois splits to get the scoop… but cannot seem to catch a cab. Lucky for her, Superman was also just on his way to take a gander at the fire. On the way, they talk about Lois and Clark’s pending nuptials… leading to a cute exchange about whether or not Superman expected Lois to wait around for his proposal!
Moments later, they arrive at the blaze… and Superman does his thing. He saves the folks trapped amid the debris, and flies off to grab truck-fulls of water to douse the flames. In a weird bit, as he’s taking off to procure the water… the officers and fire fighters question where he’s going… as if he’s just going to leave’em hanging. Really weird for them to question him.
Back at LexCorp, Mistuh Luthah is enraged that his brewery is ablaze… and orders whoever responsible for the faulty maintenance be fired. Not killed? Hmm, maybe the illness is making you soft, Lex? As he rants, Kelley pops in to give him the what-for for working late. This leads to a flashback montage of Kelley’s relationship with Lex.
She takes her leave, suggesting that what Lex really needs isn’t a doctor, but a miracle worker… and suggests that he only has one year left on this side of the ground. Lex remains in his office, and recalls a time when he considered himself a “miracle worker”… and decides to start “making miracles” again.
And so, we shift ahead three days… Lex along with pilot Nick Buxton plan to take the new X-27 model of the Lex-Wing on a record-breaking around the world pole-to-pole flight. Before taking off, he fields a few questions about his declining health… and kinda waves ’em off. Then, with an oddly-wicked look in his eye, he boards the jet and readies for lift off.
Back at the Daily Planet, Jimmy meets with Lois and Clark… who casually mention their hopes that nobody at the office will make a big deal about their engagement. Well, wouldn’tcha know it, the Daily Planet staffers are just about to throw the happy couple a surprise engagement party! Whoops!
We jump back to Lex, who is currently flying over St. Croix… where he ejects his co-pilot Mr. Buxton so he can test what “this baby can really do”!
Back at the Planet, Lois and Clark notice that the Chief is kinda keeping to himself. This is just after the death of his son, Jerry White… who was actually Lex Luthor’s biological son… but, we don’t need to really get into that right now. Anyhoo… they tell Perry that they’re basically like his kids too… which manages to get a half-smile.
Meanwhile, Lex’s flight of fancy continues… right into the ground! In a neat bit, just as Lex crashes, we transition to a cork popping out of a bottle of bubbly.
Back at the party, a news broadcast plays… the staffers learn of Luthor’s crash… and before Lois can even ask for Clark’s thoughts, Superman is halfway across the globe.
At the crash-site, Superman sifts through the wreckage… and wonders if Lex perished deliberately.
We wrap up with the news of Lex’s death hitting all of the global news outlets… and folks sharing their reactions, as Superman looks on and attempts to process what has just gone down.
Ya know… when we think about “death” in comics these days… it’s like getting a hangnail in the real world. I minor, though annoying, inconvenience that… in time, will pass. Back in 1990, deaths seemed a little more shocking… and a little more permanent. I think this story straddled that “permanent” aspect about as well as you might hope.
We get a boom… but we don’t get a body. I think that’s the right way to do this, especially when… I mean, it’s Lex Luthor… he’s not going to stay dead forever… and at least this way, you don’t have to “explain away” having seen his corpse.
Lex’s lingering illness has loomed large for a long time at this point… and, as with every subplot… something would eventually have to be done with it. I think subverting the “sickness” and just pulling the quick exit makes a lot of sense. If we look at Lex, he’s not the kind of fella who you’d expect to just whither away his final months in a hospital bed. If he has to “go out”, he’s going to do it “his way”.
We get some fallout from the Lois and Clark engagement… and it’s all pretty cool. This is that interim period between the proposal and the reveal… so, it makes for some interesting Lois/Clark/Superman love triangle dynamics. Really dug the bit where Lois asked Superman if he expected her to wait for him to “come around”.
I thought it was interesting that we see Clark drinking wine at dinner… and nobody thought to say “boo” about it. Man, there are times I think about how much more enjoyable the books would be today if not for social media. That’s… probably a discussion for another time though.
Overall, thought this was as good a way to “off” Luthor as possible given the circumstances and plans for the future. The book delivers on what the cover copy claims… and sometimes, that’s just enough. I’d say this one’s worth checking out. Doesn’t look like it’s available digitally at the moment, but shouldn’t be a toughie to track down.