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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Get off my back man! #1: Action Comics #890-893

This is the first of what I guess is going to be a series of articles where I relent to someone pushing something on me that they'd think I'd enjoy. Why? Because it's on my mind and I get bored at work. A lot. They're not always going to be funny, but hopefully they'll all be interesting. First up? Paul Cornell's run on 'Action Comics' as recommended by Mike.

This cover's actually presenting a flashback or something.
3 months ago, I borrowed the first issue of Paul Cornell’s run on Action Comics and liked it; however not enough to continue with the title in light of the exhausting 2 and ½ years I’d just spent reading all the Superman titles. It had started with ‘New Krypton’, gone into ‘World without Superman’ and ‘Codename: Patriot’, culminating in ‘Last Stand of New Krypton’. Unfortunately, having multiple Kryptonians around would be more than a little inconvenient for future writers so it all collapsed into ‘War of the Supermen’ where New Krypton was destroyed, Supergirl lost her most interesting villain, and all the rogue plotlines were (mostly) wrapped up. Of all the titles that made up the ‘New Krypton’ saga I thought that Greg Rucka’s Nightwing and Flamebird stories in ‘Action Comics’ were consistently the most interesting. However, they did only sort of work as part of an event, one that didn’t have the overall quality of some of its individual components. That, in tandem with being burnt out on the Black Lanterns, didn’t make for a lot of enthusiasm towards keeping a $3.99 book on my pull list. Paul Cornell is always funny and charming in interviews and I’ve heard great things about ‘Captain Britain and MI-13’ but frankly, I already have one of the stereotypical Comic buyer bad habits: buying a title in the hopes that it’s eventually going to become interesting again (Which ones you may ask? Secret Six, I’m looking at you. Yeah, I said it, though that’s an article for another time I think).

However, Mike’s been singing the praises of this run non-stop since the start, letting me know that I’m missing out in a big way. He assured me that while he did enjoy the first issue much more than I did, I would be missing out if I didn’t continue with the book

Cool but apparently people were expecting Bizarro to show up. Sorry, he's in 'Supergirl' right now.
Turns out, he was right. Despite being turned off by the circumstances of Mr. Mind’s appearance at the end of the first issue (spoilers!), #891 was a startling improvement. Detailing Luthor’s struggle to remand control of his own subconscious, the insight we’re given into him during these pages alone covers everything you need to know about where the character has been while demonstrating all the kinds of places he could be going. Geoff John’s has had quite a few great moments with Lex over the last few years (one in particular from the recent Adventure Comics #6 comes to mind) this one issue distills the power of those moments into 40 pages of pure awesome. It’s a breathless run through how Luthor sees himself, laid out wildly in ways such as a Wild West showdown. 

This panel is all you need to see to know this issue's awesome

"How DARE you eat the last of the Rocky Road! It was clearly labeled in the fridge!"
#892 has a slight dip in the momentum set up by its predecessors, but it’s only to better detail the nature of what Lex’s current endeavor. Deathstroke appears, guiding Luthor to a repository believed to contain some of the energy left over from the appearance and subsequent dissipation of the Black Lantern constructs (not zombies, constructs). We get some more insight into how Luthor treats his peers in the field of professional jerks as well as more fun with him thinking on his feet. The ‘battle’ shown on the cover actually demonstrates a lot of how Lex relates to his employees as well. It’s an interesting issue but not quite as flashy as the two that bookend it. Mike assures me that Cornell has made much of this issue’s importance to the future of the storyline, so it’s likely to have a great payoff down the line. As it is, it’s a hard one to discuss without spoiling most of the content within.

Grodd's got his spoon but the title card is blocking it. It'd have been great if they put 'second course' there next to Jimmy wouldn't it?
This brings us to #893, which may have my favorite single page of any story this year. Grodd and his “battle spoon” are both terrifying and hilarious, so well rendered in a splash by guest artist Sean Chen that I can only envy the person who ends up having the original art. Cornell doesn’t shy away from Grodd’s man-eating tendencies but he also makes them work for the story so it seems less gratuitous when we see the big Ape chowing down on a jarred cerebellum. There’s also an absolutely genius bit where we get to see how Luthor thinks of himself in relation to his entourage, one of my favorite double takes in ages. The story really starts to heat up here and I’m definitely looking forward to the resolution of the cliffhanger presented here.

The cover that launched a thousand angry Vertigo blog posts

Soon #894 will be out, the much heralded appearance of Neil Gaiman’s Death in the DCU proper for the first time. Folding the Endless, Constantine and Swamp Thing (back) into the normal Earth-1 universe is pretty controversial and it remains to be seen if people are going to accept it. Death is a pretty high profile choice to do it with since Morpheus originally interacted with Mr. Miracle and Martian Manhunter before ‘the Sandman’ became a Vertigo book proper and ‘Hellblazer’ was originally a DC book. Swamp Thing existed a decade or so before Vertigo was even thought of. I’m not sure how it’s going to be taken by the hardcore Vertigo fans who were so incensed at the decision to reintegrate certain books from their universe, but it’s definitely going to be interesting finding out. Mike’s right though: if you’re interested in this book, beat the rush before #894’s released. The book’s going to go absolutely nuclear then and anyone not onboard already is going to be left empty handed until the inevitable 2nd printings. 

Speaking of 2nd printings, here's the one for #890!
 I’d also be remiss not to mention Nick Spencer’s 1st installment of the Jimmy Olsen 2nd feature. In just a few pages you get a great setup that’s got an uncanny grasp on taking all the Silver Age craziness of Olsen’s old title and making it effortlessly relevant. There was a time when Jimmy went on time traveling adventures as casually as we put on our socks so making something as crazy as those old books work now is no mean feat; just thinking about how the train wreck that was ‘Countdown’ attempted to pay tribute to them still makes me feel embarrassed, for both me and it’s writers. Trust me, the Jimmy Olsen story is almost worth the $3.99 alone.

This is the variant for #894. Purty, huh? I think it's also the first one that has anything to do with Lex actually being in the comic.

#894 will be released the week after next so if you run by your LCS this week, keep an eye out for #890-893 if you’re interested.   

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