Action Comics #894

Action Comics 894

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Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series was, for me and many other comics fans, a bridge from the superhero tales of youth to a bigger world. The first story arc started off brilliantly–our hero, Morpheus, must recover three artifacts lost to him during a long imprisonment. On the way he meets known characters like Etrigan the Demon, the Martian Manhunter, and even JLA villain Dr. Destiny, the series’ first true antagonist. It was almost like Neil knew that readers would be coming to Sandman from a superhero background, and they would need such a story to ease them into his wide, weird world.

As anyone who’s read Sandman knows, the series soon leaves the typical DC Universe mostly behind, except for a few hints and in-jokes here and there. Still, one can’t deny that one of the world’s great comic epics grew out of the soil of the DCU, and it’s always nice to have books that remind us of that. Grant Morrison’s run on JLA featured a two-part story in which Daniel (the new Sandman) contacts the Justice League for help battling the dream-conqueror Starro, and Geoff John’s JSA has Daniel in a few panel backgrounds, maybe. That puts Paul Cornell‘s Action Comics in a very rarefied place, then.

In case you missed all the promotional hype, in this week’s Action Comics #894 Sandman‘s breakout character Death shows up to confront Lex Luthor after an attack from Gorilla Grodd has left him mortally wounded. How will Lex deal with the fact that his life might be over? Not well, you can imagine!

I can guess that many people have expectations held high coming into this issue. I know I did. Paul Cornell’s Action run has been a hit so far (you can see my review of last issue here), but now he’s playing with toys that most comic writers aren’t even allowed to touch. He’s set out a big task for himself. I’m happy to say, then, that in my opinion Cornell does a great job in the follow-through.

I admit I had to read Action #894 twice. A lot of my first round found me just digesting what was happening. I had a hard time accepting the worlds of Sandman and Action Comics interacting. However, once I got past that shock, I started to feel like that combination actually works pretty well. If Lex Luthor has one defining characteristic, it’s his pride. It’s only natural, then, that a good writer should be able to get a lot of mileage out Death herself showing up to bring Lex the worst news imaginable and him just refusing to accept it. A lot of this issue stars Lex trying to out-think or trick Death in the vain hopes of escaping his present predicament. Of course such a thing is impossible, but the man never gives up, and it’s a lot of fun seeing him try.

Beyond that, things get a little more serious when Death offers Lex several variations on an afterlife. Death’s visions are things that many of us would love to have happen, I imagine, but Lex is not so sure. His objections to various “Heavens” are really interesting, and I think they really say something about humanity. Neil Gaiman would be proud.

Regular series artist Pete Woods returns to penciling this issue after last month’s vacation, and I’m glad for it. His drawing has a light touch which at first glance may seem contradictory given the topic of this comic. However, it ends up perfectly complimenting Gaiman’s Death, who’s always had a light and bouncy spirit.

I don’t know how people are going to take to Action #894. After my first reading, I felt like it could’ve been more somehow, but I couldn’t articulate why. A second time through, I’m not so sure. The issue certainly has more of a bearing on Cornell’s current Action story than it does to the world of Sandman as a whole… which is just fine… but it completely succeeds at what it purports to do, which is give us one hell of a confrontation between Lex Luthor and Death. Still, these Sandman crossovers come so rarely that I suppose there’s always going to be a bit of disappointment when they’re done. After all, for years some of us have been imagining what might have been. Oh well… there’s always next time.

tags: action comics, lex luthor, paul cornell, pete woods, sandman, superman

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  • Mike M

    Ya it was a pretty fun issue.It makes me want to read Sandman.

  • http://nerdynothings.com Rebel Rikki

    Nice! I highly recommend that series.

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