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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Action Comics #893

Action Comics #893

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 25, 2010

Cover date: October 2010

Lex Luthor in "The Black Ring" Part Four

Writer: Paul Cornell
Penciller: Sean Chen
Inker: Wayne Faucher

"Jimmy Olsen's Big Week: Day One"

Writer: Nick Spencer
Penciller: RB Silva
Inker: Dym

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

"The Black Ring: Part Four"

Lex Luthor's team approaches another source of ring energy, traveling through Gorilla Grodd's territory in the Congo. Grodd becomes aware of them and decides to take action. Grodd eats the brain of Cardington, a man who worked for Luthor, to get an advantage.

Gorillas raid the team and take the Lois android. After Grodd fails to eat Lois, he takes command of her and asks about Luthor's weaknesses.

Grodd attacks the party. Luthor challenges Grodd to personal combat, and Grodd cuts Luthor's head off and sticks it into his mouth. The head electrifies, and we learn that Luthor was actually an android as well.

Cut back a number of weeks, and Cardington is being hired by Luthor and fed false information to disrupt Grodd later.

Luthor and Spalding remove their ape costumes, now in the heart of Grodd's lair. They take the energy they're seeking and leave.

Grodd wakes up, and he's furious.

As they take off, Grodd shoots Lex in the chest, and Lex falls to his death. There, Death (of Sandman fame) meets him near his body.

5Story - 5: I am a sucker for monkeys. And yes, I know, these are apes. And yes, I know every time I see a gorilla and gleefully scream "Monkeys!" I annoy those who correct me when I say the word Nietzsche wrong. But then, those are the kind of people you don't want to hang around with anyway. This isn't ur for you're. They walk on their hands, they eat bananas, and they go OOOUAAA! OOOOUAAAA! When you make them angry.

And both are hilarious when they come with spoons to eat your brains. So bite me.

Grodd is so often turned into something too menacing or too one-note. Cornell strikes the balance really well here. Luthor, too, is so often either too calculating to make a mistake, or too hammy. This is good storytelling. Hidden twists executed with subtlety, attention to character and conflict that springs from it, and enough to please the errant fanboy in anyone. Grodd eating brains, Luthor and his twisted Lois android, it all comes together to entertain the whole comic, which is so rare.

And hey, compliments on an actual cliffhanger that makes a jaded old cynic sit up. I haven't read Sandman myself (it's one of those series where I could never borrow the trades or buy them outright), but I am eager to get to know Death and what she means in the DCU.

4Art - 4: Great stuff! The page with Grodd and his giant spoon, most of the pages with the apes, all of Luthor's expressions, they all suck you right into the story and don't let you go. There were no moments that pulled me out, and many that made me want to read more. I think a particular favorite panel is when he's got Lois' head in his mouth. Very expertly rendered, and suitably awkward.

"Jimmy Olsen's Big Week: Day One"

Jimmy Olsen floats in liquid somewhere, and thinks of a time when he was made into a genie. The genie rants about enslaving humanity, and Jimmy casually reproves the genie and indicates that his signal watch is mostly useless, but he's been contacting Superman with morse code the whole time, he just wanted to finish his book first.

Superman busts in and takes out the Djinn.

Cut to the present (or maybe the past, it's unclear with Jimmy in the liquid in the first panel). Chloe Sullivan, Jimmy's girlfriend/ex-girlfriend, dumps him for playing too much Superman: The Game on his video game console. We learn she's a reporter for the Metropolitan web site.

Rory and Kev, two of Jimmy's friends, take him out to party, but Jimmy isn't in the mood. A waitress arrives and tells them they have to move, because Sebastien Mallory, a Lexcorp executive, is coming in. Mallory ribs Olsen, and he's also come with Chloe on his arm.

Jimmy is upset at first, but then he feels he has the upper hand, because there's an alien invasion going on outside, and he says he's going to stop it.

1Story - 1: Okay, so, let's look at this on a few levels.

Writing-wise, the script is full of exposition, cluttered with words, and wastes a lot of space with indulgence in the form of extra characters that aren't necessary, extra stories that don't offer much (the genie is a total waste of our time, and not an entertaining one), and time devices that aren't clear (where exactly is Jimmy? In a tank of fluid, in the present with Mallory, what?). Generally, it's very clumsy. You're also introducing Chloe, a major character, and she features in five of ten pages.

Character-wise, this story sucks. Jimmy is an arrogant, brash ass. I know that's the default to go to, because it's hard to imagine a kid these days who likes to take pictures and idolizes Superman, so the default tends to be to make him a superficial jerk. Needless to say, I don't admire that. Oh, an alien invasion? Pooh! A Djinn that wants to kill me? Let me read my book. A hot chick is leaving me life? There will be another. No identity there for me.

Chloe, however, is the real travesty here. You introduce a character that, for better or worse, has been anticipated as a comics character for ten years, you'd think there would be more respect, or at very least some substance. Chloe Sullivan (even when the writing fails to reinforce this) is a tough gal who stands on her own, is bright in her own right, and stands as an example of someone who is viciously independent (heck, she lived on her own for the most part in the series). Here, what is she?

Vapid arm candy for two vapid men, nothing more. Not that I'm saying Jimmy's vapid, but he certainly is in this story.

Way to respect the character there. Way to give the fans who were hoping for a great, lasting introduction a punch in the nuts.

Beyond that, however, in terms of continuity, this is garbage. I know the narrative makes it impossible to tell where this story takes place, but I can see two options, that it takes place before the events of the Jimmy Olsen mini (there's lip service to Superman being away, which could mean his walk or New Krypton, God knows, he hasn't been in Metropolis since 1985), or that it takes place after. Either way, he shows no sign of even passive acknowledgment of the growth that happened to his character (such as it was under Robinson) or the fact that he had to go underground with people trying to kill him. So it's not only a cheap way to introduce Chloe, the writer doesn't even care enough to do some service to what just happened to Jimmy. It just bathes in nostalgia and fan-service.

Now with all due respect, I understand the limitations of ten pages to tell a story. At the same time, to forgive that limitation I'd have to not be aghast that three pages went to a Djinn when this is the story that introduces Chloe.

And really. Alien invasion? Really? It's gonna go with that?

2Art - 2: There's nothing I can technically smite in this work, so note that my rating is not a technical slam. It's very pretty for what it is. The problem being, that isn't to my aesthetic preference, which I can't really slight the artist for, I guess. Everyone looks like they're scowling, even when they're smiling, and it's a bit too dulled in the coloring for me, even though stylistically people might enjoy it.

The main thing that irked me was Chloe. She doesn't look very pretty at all, and shows little resemblance to the gal we know from the series, really aside from hair color.

3Cover Art - 3: The image itself is pretty dynamite, and great stuff, but a few forces conspire to drag it down a bit. First, putting Lex in the suit when he didn't need to be (I mean, how much more scary would it be to have plain old Lex facing a giant gorilla?). Then there's the words on the cover, that's just ALWAYS antagonizing. There's also something really funky about Lex's torso and leg size. Still and all, on first glance, it looks good.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

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