This is the eighth installment of the Lex Luthor story, “The Black Ring,” and like the issues prior to this one, Luthor meets up with another denizen of the DCU to discuss his quest, seeking answers from unlikely sources. Some of those pairings have seemed odd, others forced, others trivial, but this issue’s “source” makes sense, from a particular point of view, but in making sense, I wonder if that bodes ill for me (and the rest of us readers thinking there’s logic here) or for Cornell for trying to force logic into an illogical situation. That situation? Luthor goes to the Joker to try to get some answers about the “black sphere.”
Luthor and Joker have a history together, and it isn’t all good. Joker, however, is more focused on helping Lex as only the Joker can. He picks at Lex’s outer shell, to the point where Luthor becomes violent with Joker, so much so as to threaten his life. Cornell plays the two off of each other in a very interesting manner, and following Luthor’s lead here, I’d like to see Cornell have another go at the Joker elsewhere. Especially if Pete Woods finds a way to join him.
To call Pete Woods anything less than a master of his craft would certainly be an insult. Woods handles the insanity of the Joker, the aloofness of Luthor, and the detached faux emotions of robot Lois with equal aplomb as these characters dance round each other in the interrogation room. Woods dials up the emotions so much so that characters alone – without any background – would completely carry the entirety of this tale. Woods’ backgrounds, however, make real the world around the two most insane villains of the DC Universe. The real payoff, the true testimony to Woods’ determination and talent, comes on the final page of this story, a page packed with more Easter eggs than a bunny’s basket.
Luthor seems to be getting close to solving the puzzle that has driven him for two-thirds of a year, and Cornell is definitely showing his readers a fun time along the way. Luthor and Joker have been allies and adversaries. These two even share a passion against their archrivals, but they truly are, as robot Lois points out, polar opposites. Sure, they may not appear to be opposites, but Cornell does a fabulous job defining them as such over the course of this story. In my review of a previous issue, I stated that, “Luthor is far from a character that I empathize with, but he’s certainly a character I enjoy reading.” That holds true now, and with Cornell guiding Luthor’s path, I don’t see that enjoyment diminishing any time soon.