When it was announced that Paul Cornell would be writing “Action Comics” I thought, “OK, but that’s not enough for me to really care.” Pete Woods on the art chores piqued my interest a bit more. The clincher was when it was announced that the run Cornell and Woods were crafting was set to feature Lex Luthor. Luthor has always been a compelling villain, as evidenced by the focus placed upon him in a number of comic specials as well as the Azzarello-penned “Man of Steel” series from a few years back.
This issue doesn’t do much to advance the plot of Luthor’s quest –- the search for a Black Lantern ring -- but it is a nice peek inside the noggin of greatest criminal mind of our time, thanks to the progeny of Mr. Mind. If you think that means DC is turning this book into a super-villain team-up, you’re wrong. Mind and Luthor are actually battling for Luthor’s mind, and the end result is an entertaining read. Unfortunately, that read is a little too entertaining and this issue –- thirty pages of story –- moves just a little too fast. It doesn’t quite move at the speed of thought, but it does move quite quickly.
Luthor’s Faux Lois Lane (Fauxis?) is a nice foil that Cornell has introduced, and it certainly works better as a realistic (we are talking about a man whose primary foe is from another planet) option a personality such as Lex Luthor would choose to have in his corner. I can only imagine at some point Lois is going to catch wind of Fauxis. That won’t be awkward or anything.
Cornell puts Luthor through the motions, dropping him into some fun settings that allow for the art to be a little more playful. The art, by both Pete Woods and Cafu, is clean and crisp. Lex Luthor himself would be hard pressed to find artists more fit to render his adventures. Woods has been part of the Superman creative team in some capacity for quite a few years now, but this run seems like it could mark the high point of his work on the Super-titles. Not only does he draw a striking and confident Lex Luthor, his Fauxis is charming and attractive, and his drawing (or maybe it’s Cafu at this point) of Mr. Pseudo-Mind manages to be animated without being goofy. Woods is a master at world-building, and the worlds within Luthor’s mind are better for it. Cafu and Pete Woods are both credited on the art, but I have a hard time distinguishing the work of these two, as their styles are quite similar.
“Action Comics” is taking the road less traveled here by putting Luthor in the starring role and diminishing the role of Superman, and I wouldn’t have it any other way right now. After the past two plus years of New Krypton and “War of the Supermen,” it’s nice to explore the world surrounding the Man of Steel. Cornell is doing a great job with this story. This issue alludes to greater dealings beyond what is shown, and I can’t wait to see where Luthor goes next. Luthor is far from a character that I empathize with, but he’s certainly a character I enjoy reading.