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May 23, 2011 / MojosWork

Action Comics #899 & 900

Rating: 4/5


Synopsis: Paul Cornell and Jesus Merino take Lex Luthor and his robot Lois to space, where he battles Brainiac and assumes the power of the black ring in #899. Then, courtesy of DC: Superman returns to ACTION COMICS just in time for the title’s historic 900th issue, which clocks in at 100 pages! Everything Paul Cornell and Pete Woods have been building to over the last year culminates here in the ultimate Superman vs. Lex Luthor battle! But that’s not all – this story will lay the grounds for an insanely epic story coming out this summer in the pages of ACTION!

Plus, an incredible roster of guest talent help us celebrate this landmark issue, including the screenwriter of The Dark Knight, David Goyer; famed Superman: The Movie director Richard Donner; the co-creator of Lost, Damon Lindelof; and the creative team behind the hit DC UNIVERSE ONLINE game!

Writers: Paul Cornell (“The Black Ring: Finale”); Damon Lindelof (“Life Support”); Pauli Dini (“Autobiography”); Geoff Johns (“Friday Night in the 21st Century”); David S. Goyer (“The Incident”); Richard Donner & Derek Hoffman (“Only Human”)

Artist: Pete Woods (“The Black Ring: Finale”); Ryan Sook (“Life Support”); RB Silva (“Autobiography”); Gary Frank (“Friday Night in the 21st Century”); Miguel Sepulveda (“The Incident”); Matt Camp (“Only Human”); Brian Stelfreeze (“The Evolution of the Man of Tomorrow”)

Cover Price: $2.99 (#899); $5.99 (#900)

#899

Oh boy… Where to begin… Paul Cornell’s “Reign of Doomsday,” kicks into high gear on Wednesday with the release of Action Comics #901, and if you already haven’t jumped on board with what is sure to be a slobberknocker, it’s a good idea to pick up #900 first, the book that raised a lot of eyebrows when Superman renounced his American citizenship.

Personally, while I loved Paul Cornell’s work on Captain Britain and MI: 13, and think his Doomsday arc could be sublime, ultimately, Superman has never interested me. If it wasn’t for a fellow co-worker who freelances for DC, I would have never gotten my mitts on either of these issues.

Obviously, jumping on board in the tenth installment (#899) of an 11-part saga is probably the worst way to get involved in any comicbook, especially since I’ve never been familiar with many DC characters and universe history outside of Batman. A lot of what happened in #899 was over my head, but not by much. Cornell does a great job of advancing his story without dumbing it down to get new people aboard or making it so esoteric that they’ll never catch on. Meanwhile, Jesus Merino’s art is flippin’ amazing! The reactions and expressions he sketches are phenomenal! Something about Merino’s stylizing of eyes and “angry face” seem to have a Kubert influence, albeit less abstract. I haven’t been able to find any information to confirm or deny that, but there are enough specific quirks to make note of it:

Merino's expression of shock on robot Lois is great, and her eyes remind me of one of the Kuberts...

Early Adam Kubert art. Note the eyes of Cerebra (black haired woman on left).

The Kubert influence is undeniable here, when compared to the following image.

Adam Kubert's cover to Action Comics #851

The outer space setting, particularly Lex’s green and purple battle armor contrasted against the starkly black and white starry expanse, is brilliant, and breaking Brainiac’s neck was an awesome moment, which under the guidance of nearly any author, would have been decompressed into the issue’s cliffhanger. I love that such a memorable moment occurs mid-book.

900: “Reign of Doomsday”

Take out the continuity-based scenes like the apparent mid-battle sequence of the Supermen taking on Doomsday in an interstellar maze, and this is an excellent metaphor for xenophobia. Lex Luthor goes to extreme, obsessive lengths to obtain powers, simply because at the core, he is a afraid of Superman, and hates him for being an outsider, an alien. He tries to make his mortal enemy feel pain, under the assumption the Man of Steel doesn’t comprehend loss and agony like humans. Obviously, Superman won’t break, which only further exacerbates Luthor’s rage. Supes goes so far as to reveal his identity to Lex, hoping that the knowledge of his Clark Kent identity would quell Luthor’s ire. It has the reverse effect, as Luthor reallllly goes off the deep end when he realizes that this alien invader was handed an all-American family on a silver platter.

All these years and Luthor never knew?!?! Really?

Luthor’s mania is what ultimately “kills” him. The power of the Black Ring couldn’t handle negativity, was sucked from Luthor and then he himself was sucked into the void of a black sphere. Meanwhile, the other Supermen finally learn they haven’t been facing a single Doomsday who could only match their powers one at a time, but rather a handful of Doomsdays with specific power sets.

What a sick stand-off to end the episode.

Since I’m basically popping my Superman cherry here, I just want to say I think this zany cyborg Superman is delightful. Steel looks really cool, particularly the panels that include a color halftone pattern on his body.

Steel is simply a well-designed character. How many products of the 90s can say that?

The slew of guest artists don’t really detract from the flow of the story, mostly because Luthor and Superman are so iconic that even personal flourishes won’t alter their appearances too greatly. Of all the guests, I’m partial to Gary Frank, and have been ever since his run on Supreme Power (to this day, my favorite comic series of all-time).

Gary Frank, one of the best artists in the biz.

900: “Life Support”

A nice story by Damon Lindelof and Ryan Sook, who I believe is on the brink of comics superstardom. Maybe being a part of the comicbook equivalent of a WrestleMania undercard will throw him into the stratosphere where he belongs. The somber mood of the characters was palpable, the characters’ eyes telling a story words could never encompass.

I especially loved the alternating night/day panels, and Sook's decision to use complimentary colors; gold and violet.

900: “Autobiography”

No secret that Paul Dini is one of my favorite writers, but this three page dialogue falls into the filler category for me. Java Tartaglia has an awesome name and employs gorgeous colors.

900: “Friday Night in the 21st Century”

Geoff Johns' interlude seems like it's a random continuity reference for diehard fans, so it does nothing for me, but hooray, more Gary Frank! This is a great example of his spectacular figure drawing skills.

900: “The Incident”

David Goyer pens a politically charged social commentary that may go down as the most culturally significant of this mega-sized issue.

This brief 9-pager is the anecdote that got the real-world media all in a tizzy over Superman's comment that he's renouncing his US citizenship.

900: “Only Human”

Finally, renowned Superman(1978) director Richard Donner writes a treatment that is oddly presented as a storyboard/script. What the reason for this is, I can only surmise.

Maybe the scheduled artist couldn't complete the panels in time?

Either way, its a fairly lazy execution that ends this wonderful milestone issue on a bit of a downer. Donner’s story echoes the overarching theme throughout the entire issue (and specifically mentioned in Dini’s short story): Superman is only human. For those of us who never bothered to get into the Man of Steel, even with the heavy continuity in the first two-thirds of the book, Action Comics #900 is a great introduction to what Superman is all about. And maybe that makes it the perfect jumping-on point for “Reign of Doomsday.”

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