After a year of “Action Comics” starring Flamebird and Nightwing instead of Superman, I’ll admit I was a tiny bit worried when I heard that Lex Luthor was temporarily taking over the comic this month. Now that I’ve read the issue, though? Ten issues of Lex Luthor is going to be a blast.
Paul Cornell has a fine line to walk; make Lex Luthor too much of a villain and you run the risk of turning off your readers, make him too little a villain and he comes across weak or spineless. I think Cornell does a good job with this, though. We get just the right mixture of “Luthor the brilliant scientist” and “Luthor the power-hungry villain” here. On the one hand, he’s forever striving for knowledge, but simultaneously his need for power and to be in control makes him get downright cold-blooded and nasty to a subordinate who crosses him.
At the same time, having Lex rant and rave to himself would get old fast, and so Paul gives him Lois to talk to, justify himself, and declare his brilliance. It works well; her being there brings something to the table, and at the same time we get another glimpse into the nasty way that Lex’s mind functions and the decisions he makes. I’ll admit for the first few pages I was surprised to see Lois there, but as the issue goes on her position becomes more and more clear (especially at the end of the first evening), and I think it’s a good addition to the cast.
I’m glad that Pete Woods is on “Action Comics.” His presence on the various Super-books since “One Year Later” has been a boon to whatever title he’s touched. Woods has that slick, smooth look to his art that the books have used over the past few years as a general guide, but with Woods there’s a stronger sense of storytelling than we see with most artists. Something as simple as Lex and Lois staring at a star chart can feel dramatic, and Lex’s smirking face almost follows you across the page as you read the comic.
Lex’s specific quest for power might seem odd initially, but Cornell justifies it in such a way that it feels natural by the end of the issue. And with a passel of villains just waiting to tangle with Lex in the issues to come of “Action Comics,” well, this run up to “Action Comics” #900 promises to be a blast. Cornell and Woods are working together like they’ve done so for years. Villainy has never been so much fun.