Action Comics #898

Action Comics 898

A

Including this week’s release, there’s only three issues left to writer Paul Cornell‘s amazing run on Action Comics. By choosing to spotlight perennial villain Lex Luthor as he tours the DC Universe in the aftermath of Blackest Night, Cornell’s ensured his story’s place in the all-time great runs on a Superman title. Though recently-released solicitations have shown that Cornell will stay on the book after the Man of Steel retakes its narrative come #901, many will surely miss this romp through DC’s darker side, myself included.

This particular installment of Action finds Lex’s plans to recover the remaining Lantern energy spheres interrupted by an old acquaintance: Larfleeze, the Orange Lantern. It turns out that Larfleeze found a sphere but doesn’t know what to do with it, so he decides to force former Orange Lantern deputy Luthor to help him make sense of it. As years of Superman stories have taught us, though, Lex isn’t about to cede his power to some alien.

Created by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver for Green Lantern, Larfleeze is one of the more interesting characters to come out of the last few years of that title’s expansion. Like many modern comic characters, he straddles the line between “good guy” and “bad guy,” but that’s due completely to his endless appetite to own. Larfleeze essentially acts as a free agent, serving whichever cause will grant him the largest boon. Sometimes that leads to broad comedy, which can bring some welcome levity to occasionally over-serious superhero stories. Other times, because his greed literally knows no bounds, he becomes a terrifyingly impassioned opponent. Cornell skillfully straddles that line here. There are a few laugh-out-loud moments, and a few moments which remind readers that even the silliest of Lanterns makes fora  tough opponent.

Probably the best part of this issue is Larfleeze’s dialog, infused with notions of ownership by Cornell on every page. “I ate up all the rumors about you,” for instance, is a brilliant way to filter “I’ve heard what you’re doing” through the lens of avarice. Larfleeze even consistently refers to the book’s star as “Hairless Lex Luthor.” In his world, people are literally defined by what they do or do not have.

Artist Pete Woods has been bringing his skillful touch to Superman books for years, and it’s fortuitous he got paired with Cornell for this story. Woods possesses a lighter pencil style which easily conveys fluidity, yet he has a strong command of shapes and forms. That means that his Luthor remains consistent from panel to panel, regardless of the exciting action he’s involved in. I also very much like his willingness to put his own stamp on established characters. Here he draws Larfleeze like no other artist has before. It’s a bit more menacing, perhaps, but quite cool. For another version of what I mean, see his Joker from Action #897. I don’t always necessarily agree with his interpretations, but I’m glad he plays around with these iconic characters. It marks a book’s interiors as “clearly Pete Woods,” and that’s always something I’ll be happy to look at.

The end of #898 reveals the master antagonist behind Cornell’s arc. While not entirely unexpected, it will probably come as a surprise to those of us so caught up in the story to really think about it (like myself). After that, Lex throws down with Superman in Action #900, the first comic to legitimately reach that number. Those two issues are guaranteed must-reads. I hope you guys have enjoyed this Cornell/Woods treasure while you can; we’re not likely to get another story like it anytime soon.

tags: action comics, paul cornell, pete woods

  • http://twitter.com/Doubting_Tom Tom

    According to the solicits, Paul Cornell’s writing #901, with the Reign of Doomsday tie-in. That could change or be wrong, of course, but at least for now it looks like he’s going to last beyond the milestone issue.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, that would explain my first paragraph where I said that. :)

  • http://twitter.com/Doubting_Tom Tom

    Well, don’t I feel stupid.

  • Anonymous

    Ah, that’s okay! Other than a few sentences it seemed like I was getting ready to say goodbye to Cornell. Really, though, it’s just this story. I don’t know how I feel about Doomsday returning to the Superman books, but I doubt it’ll be as good as the Lex stuff has been…

  • Kyle G.

    I enjoyed the way this issue was written, but had trouble getting over how different Larfleeze was drawn here as apposed to in Green Lantern. Here he looks like a guy in an Oni mask. Kind of off putting. That aside it was a great issue. I’m curious how Cornell would present Superman after his time with Lex is over.

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