Title: Action Comics 900
Writer: Paul Cornell, Richard Donner, David Goyer, more
Artist: Pete Woods, Jesus Merino, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, more
Colors: Brad Anderson, Blond, Ryan Sook, more
Letters: Rob Leigh, John J. Hill
Release Date: 04/27/11
900 issues is a hell of a milestone. Especially when compared to today’s comic book world where a new series is lucky if it reaches issue 8 before it’s cancelled. It is a testament to the quality and popularity of Superman. Issue 900 celebrates Superman’s legacy while at the same time adding to it. I’ll be honest, Superman isn’t my favorite character. I’ve never disliked Superman but the character never drew me in. I started reading Action Comics when Paul Cornell took over and the series focused on Lex Luthor’s quest for power. Action Comics 900 is the conclusion of that quest for power and it marks Superman’s return to the book after his hiatus. After the main story of the comic concludes there are some great short stories that further explore the character.
Spoilers abound in the coming paragraphs so watch out!
Paul Cornell’s run on Action Comics has been fantastic. Lex Luthor is an extremely interesting character and his staring role let Cornell explore many of the DC Universe’s villains. During DC’s last big event Lex Luthor got his hands on a Power Ring like Green Lantern’s. Unlike a Green Lantern ring though, Lex’s ring was fueled by his avarice. After Lex’s ring was taken away he became desperate to regain the power he held for just a few precious moments. In issue 900 he succeeds in gaining near limitless power. Of course, the first thing he has to do is confront his most hated enemy, Superman.
Instead of Luthor using his new power to simply fight Superman though, he tries to break his enemy’s will. Luthor makes Superman relive all of his greatest failures. It helps if you know your Superman history. Some of the things Lex shows Superman I had no idea about. Lex wants to torture Superman with his failures and at the same time prove that Superman doesn’t feel like a real human being feels. How could someone who has traveled the universe, defeated titans, and save planets thousands of times feel sadness over something as small as a person dying. Lex’s plan backfires though. It reinforces the fact that Superman, despite his immense power, is just as human as the rest of us. Superman isn’t some smug alien who thinks he better than us. He cares about everyone. Superman was given amazing powers and he uses them every day to save people. He doesn’t want fame or money or anything in return. He does it because it’s the right thing to do. Lex can’t understand that. Eventually Lex snaps and tries to simply kill Superman with his limitless power.
Before Lex can destroy Superman though, the source of his power becomes sabotaged. Lex is left with a very interesting choice. I won’t spoil that choice or his decision, you’ll have to read the book to find out.
Alongside this main story celebrating Superman’s character and exploring his past, there is the set up to Superman’s next adventure. Nearly every other person that wears the Superman “S” on their chest has been rounded up and imprisoned with the greatest physical threat Superman has ever faced; Doomsday. After Superman deals with Lex he rushes to find his friends. When he finally reaches the place where they’re imprisoned he finds something that could kill them all. Doomsday has been cloned and modified to be even deadlier than before. The next story arc in Action Comics will be the Reign of Doomsday. It’s a nice contrast to have Lex, Superman’s greatest mental threat and Doomsday, Superman’s great physical threat back to back.
After the main story there are a few short stories. I liked every single one of them. They show the many sides of Superman’s character. His relationship with Lois, his universe spanning adventures, his job as a superhero. There has been a controversy about one of the stories. In the story titled ” The Incident,” Superman renounces his US citizenship. Just reading the headline “Superman renounces US citizenship!” doesn’t give you the proper context for his actions. Superman goes to Iran and peacefully protests with Iranian citizens. His actions are thought of as an act of war by the Iranian government because of his US citizenship. Superman wants to help everyone and he doesn’t want anyone to get dragged into his battles. Renouncing his citizenship will let him do what he thinks is right anywhere in the world without any red tape. This makes perfect sense to me. Renouncing his citizenship is not a slam on the United States. Superman belongs to the world.
After reading this issue and just finishing All Star Superman for the first time, I am ready to admit I was wrong about Superman not being an interesting character. With Superman you can tell anything from an epic space opera to a night out with the wife. You can tell a story about how human an alien can be or how someone with the power of a God deals with everyday life. As long as writers like Paul Cornell keep this level of quality, I will keep buying Action Comics. I know issue 900 is a little late to jump on board but I’m now a Superman fan.