By Andy Frisk
October 3, 2010 - 16:24
Lex Luthor has been the star of Action Comics for a while now, actually since the end of New Krypton to be exact. During this time there’s been nary a hint of Superman within the book’s pages. Luthor was sort of out of sight during New Krypton, even though he did play a pretty big role in the resolution of the storyline. During Blackest Night, Luthor was possessed of an Orange Power Ring. The power was intoxicating and Luthor’s been on the trail of residual power ring energy in an effort to recapture some of the power inherent in the rings. It’s been an interesting, if a bit slow, story arc. We’ve been effectively reintroduced to the post Superman Secret Origin Luthor, and caught a glimpse of the science behind the power ring energy that the various Color Corps have been wielding. This issue, Luthor finds a repository of ring energy, but has to battle past Gorilla Grodd to get a sample of it. His usual tricks and intellect get him to the power source, and even get him a sample of it, but Grodd is no pushover. In fact, Grodd actually manages to do something that many of Luthor’s more dastardly enemies haven’t been able to do. He kills Luthor. We know he’s dead for real this time because he meets Death of The Endless. If you don’t know who Death of The Endless is then you really need get your hands on and read the trades of Neil Gaiman’s phenomenal Sandman series. You won’t regret it.
Briefly, Death is one of the siblings of the defining forces of the universe that are applicable to all life: human, animal, or otherwise. Destiny, Dream, Death, Destruction, Delirium, Despair, and Desire are all personified representatives of the aspect they are named for. They have interacted with humankind, humankind’s gods and goddesses, and everything in between since they came into being, which was when the first life in the universe came into existence. It’s a complicated mythology that is best experienced by reading Sandman, but you get the gist. When you die, you meet Death, a cute young girl who is simply, and ironically, full of life. She guides you to your destined afterlife. Only on very rare occasions does one get to meet Death and not pass on. It happened in the pages of Sandman a few times, and it appears that it will be happening in the pages of Action Comics. Since the concept of life and death has apparently been redefined in the DCU post-Blackest Night, we can only assume that Luthor has really died. Bringing Death into the picture, and out of her natural habitat, i.e. DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint, does serve to address the new status quo in the DCU, but it also appears to serve as a much needed marketing ploy designed to generate some interest in either Sandman reprints or the Vertigo line itself. A line that could be suffering since it is sadly cancelling more series than it is introducing.
Whether or not Luthor will stay dead really isn’t the point of this little excursion into the metaphysical and supernatural by series writer Paul Cornell. How Cornell handles Death, the character, next issue (she only appears on the last page of this one and is scheduled to star in the next full issue) will be what is important. DC Comics and Cornell have promised to utilize and portray her in the spirit of her character as Gaiman wrote her for years. It will be interesting, to say the least, to see just deep Luthor and Death’s conversation will be next issue. What really appears to be the point of Cornell’s excursion into the realm of The Endless is what an appearance by Death can do for the aforementioned sagging sales over at Vertigo. Granted, Death’s appearance could be part of the whole need for DC Comics to keep the character in print periodically to keep the rights to her locked up, etc, etc, but maybe it’s part of DC Comics desire to reclaim or move characters between their main DCU imprint and their Vertigo one. Madame Xanadu, who started as a DCU character, made a brilliant excursion into Vertigo territory only to be cancelled and, one can only presume, brought back into the DCU fold. The same can be said for Haunted Tank. A pretty good Vertigo miniseries reintroduced the characters in a modern setting, but the concept came back into the DCU fold with the publication of G.I. Combat: Haunted Tank. Vertigo readership is a bit of niche market, and bringing some of the more successful Vertigo characters and treatments back into the DCU isn’t a bad idea from a marketing standpoint. The move can potentially help both the main DCU imprint and the Vertigo one. The only difference is that you know what kind of quality you’re going to get from a Vertigo book whereas, at times, the main DCU books can vary greatly in quality.
Overall, Action Comics #894 should be one of the most interesting issues of the series published since the end of New Krypton. For a series that is plugging along, but not really gaining much steam with Lex Luthor as the lead, it will be a welcome change, whatever the marketing or storytelling reason for bringing in Death may be.
Rating: 7 /10