I don't know whose idea it was to have "Action Comics" and "Secret Six"—the two villain-led comics in the DC Universe—tell a two-part story, but it's a fairly inspired one. After all, it was Lex Luthor who helped create the modern Secret Six (in the "Villains United" mini-series), so he's got the connection already built. And who better to have Lex Luthor hire to ride to his rescue?
Paul Cornell's script this month has a two-fold mission, the first of which involves Vandal Savage and the Secret Six team running rampant in LexCorp. It's mostly a long, engaged fight scene, although we do get a brief flashback into Luthor's initial hiring of the team via Scandal Savage. It's not a bad moment, although Scandal and Bane's refusal to tell the rest of the team the details of the promised payment feels a little phony, the sort of thing you only get in stories where something's being held back as a surprise. It's a minor quibble in an otherwise engaging shoot-em-up scene, and there are lots of little details (Black Alice's Dr. Fate outfit, the one brown-nosing LexCorp employee's dialogue, Luthor's admission that his own attempt to divert Vandal Savage wasn't that inspired) that are a lot of fun.
At the same time, though, we're rapidly approaching the endgame for "The Black Ring," with just three more installments ahead. As such, Cornell is starting to pull some of the elements from earlier issues back into the fold; there's a confrontation between Luthor's Lois-bot and a previous foe that raises some new questions, for instance, and it's nice to feel like our final destination is just around the bend. As much as I've enjoyed the parade of villains encountered throughout these past seven chapters, it's good to know that at least some are serving an additional purpose.
Pete Woods continues to draw with his gentle lines and full-figured characters. This issue seems to be his "I can draw people jumping through the air" issue thanks to Cornell's script, and Woods obliges with grace and ease. Be it Luthor, Deadshot, or Scandal, everyone moves with energy and a real sense of motion, not that half-frozen snapshots that you so often get in comics these days. And of course, some of Woods's other strengths are still on display as well. When the art zooms in on Vandal's eyes as he addresses his daughter, for instance, you can see the emotion reflected back at us in his look. Considering we only see between his forehead and nose, it's nice to see how Woods can take such a small part of a person and still have it look so expressive.
"Action Comics" #896 is also the final issue to contain "Jimmy Olsen's Big Week" by Nick Spencer, R.B. Silva, and Dym, and I'm going to miss it a great deal. Sure, it's going to conclude in March, but each installment has tickled me more with each passing month. It's a great usage of the second-feature format, and one of the few that I wish had gotten to stick around. Who knew that a charity date auction could be such a funny setting without leaping into cliché? I suspect sales would sink like a stone based on mere character perception, but if Spencer and Silva were going to work on a Jimmy Olsen monthly comic, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.
When "Action Comics" was announced as going Superman-less for ten issues, I think most people wrote the book off. What we're getting, though, is a continuing dose of fun each month. (And if "Secret Six" and "Action Comics" each somehow get a continuing sales boost out of this crossover, I'll be pleased as punch.) Another solid, entertaining issue from all parties involved.