I love Doctor Who, one of the most ingeniously written and produced shows. I love comic books as well. So when news of Paul Cornell, master writer who's synonyms with Doctor Who, was going to be writing Action Comics - you'd expect nothing but pure magic! Well, no quite... But it's darn close!
Since Superman is off on his "Super" Walk across the country, Action Comics has continued the theme of the last few years by not having Superman appear in the book. I've actually been fine with that, as I loved Nightwing and Flamebird's tenure on the title. Lex Luther has been doing pretty well with his stint on the title as well. Lex has a pecific mission in this series - and that's to reclaim the power he momentarily possessed during the Blackest Night event. He was made a deputy member of the Orange Lantern Corp, which derives it's power from Avarice. That emotional color of the spectrum has a profound effect on it's user - causing them to constantly want more and more. The greed is just unstoppable, and once the power was taken away from Lex - the craving for power remained. So he's begun searching for the remaining power left over from the Black Lantern rings. To help ground him on this cosmic journey he has constructed a robotic version of Lois Lane. She's the one face Lex can't argue with, apparently, and helps keep him in check when his greed kicks.
This issue takes Lex to the Jungles, where the latest source of former Black Ring energy remains. Someone else, though, found it: Gorilla Grodd. Gorilla Grodd is a great villain, bringing more than brute force to any battle. Not only is he super intelligent, but he's also psychic, and able to rip a person's mind apart along with his body. So when Lex comes into his jungle, Luther has to be prepared. It's right here, in the conflict between these two genius-IQ villains that Paul Cornell's style comes into true form. It's a battle of intellects, as Lex has to find ways to thwart Gorilla Grodd. One of the oddest, and uniquely Paul Cornell ideas, is that Gorilla Grodd can eat a person's brain and gain their knowledge. (As far as I know this is a new element to the character. Not necessarily out of character, but just bizarre and twisted enough to be an acceptable change in his persona.) Grodd decides he wants to eat Luthor's brain, and even comes charging at him in the jungle wielding a huge spoon. It's these kind of slap-stick details that, while ridiculous, is just so charming and delightful that I'll overlook it. Lex of course out-wits Grodd, gets what he wants, and is quick to make his escape. Lex doesn't escape fast enough, though, as Grodd manages to fire a laser gun at Lex at the last second, sending Luthor's body falling down dead. Now the second stroke of genius of Paul Cornell occurs - Lex Luthor is meeting Death of the Endless (From the Neil Gaiman Sandman series), who meets Lex with an umbrella and a smile.
This was an enjoyable issue. It wasn't the best issue - but it has so many charming and intelligent concepts behind it that you just have to smile about it. I am very much looking forward to Death's appearence in the next issue. Not only does she bare some weight in this story line (he is looking for the Rings powered by Death), but it's just a delight to see her in use again. Neil Gaiman is even helping writing Death's dialogue; so the character is going to be handled right.
This issue debuts the new Second Feature series starring another Superman supporting player: Jimmy Olsen. I've really loved Jimmy Olsen stories these past few years. He was perhaps one of the few positive characters to read about in Countdown, and he's been deftly written by James Robinson - who made Jimmy cool again by embroiled him in a great and complex mystery. So I was looking forward to this feature - but have been left supremely disappointed. This story seems to be drawing a lot of inspiration from the more corn-ball adventures Jimmy use to have during the 60s. He had an endless stream of wacky transformations during that time, and such incidents being used again (he's a Genie in this issue for awhile), while not handled as poorly back then, still seem to be taking Jimmy Olsen back to irrelevancy.
A social scene is set up for Jimmy Olsen, giving him two best friends, a new ex-girlfriend, and a rival who works at LexCorp. Except for the girl-friend, who is Chloe Sullivan of Smallville fame - it all seems painfully forced, having these friends and rival pop out of no where - just to be supporting characters TO a supporting character. Are supporting character suppose to have their own supporting characters? It just feels dumb and forced - as if a suitable adventure couldn't be created by focusing on just Jimmy Olsen. It's A 10-page back-up story! Not a regular series! Even as a regular feature in Action Comics, a Jimmy Olsen series doesn't need to be this cluttered with useless cast members. Oh - and the biggest crime of all? Jimmy Olsen is portrayed as supremely lazy. His new girlfriend, Chloe, dumps him because all he does it sit around playing video games. He's essentially just sitting around, waiting for adventure to happen. And in cartoonish form, adventure does come to his door step - like an alien invasion.
Awhile ago there was this awesome scene in a Supergirl issue, where Jimmy Olsen rides a motorcycle and is able to swoop in and rescue a little girl from falling debris. As Jimmy rides away to get closer to the danger, to get photos, the little girl says Jimmy is "Cool." Jimmy is now lazy - and definitely not cool. The entire back-up feature just seems like a joke. And a lazy joke to boot.