REVIEW: Action Comics #890

Action Comics #890

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Pete Woods
Colors by Brad Anderson
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by David Finch, Joe Weems & Peter Steigerwald

$3.99 / 32 Pages / Full Color 

DC Comics

Nearing its 900th issue, Action Comics shifts perspective from its favorite son to its greatest villain. With Superman off buying all the world a Coke, Metropolis is left in the capable hands of writer Paul Cornell, and in turn, to the wicked devices of Lex Luthor. 

Rather than expanding upon Luthor's latest appearances in the Superman family of books, namely his dealings with General Lane and Brainiac, Cornell has opted to explore the character's other recent exploits in the pages of Blackest Night. Luthor's time as a ring bearer could have easily fallen to the wayside, but the writer uses it as a fascinating springboard. What if the most power-hungry man in the universe had the briefest of glimpses into endless might? There are few if any energies more potent than that of these cosmic lights, so to control that power once may well be to covet it forever. Especially for a man so vain and so scorned as Lex Luthor.  In these pages, he concedes to a truth every reader ought to understand; the only thing in this world Luthor desires more than to kill Superman is to be Superman. 

And now he's seen that something quite like that is possible. He had it and then it was gone. But Luthor isn't willing to give up so easily. 

The focus of Luthor's latest plot is to locate the residue of those black rings, considered vaporized since the end of the Blackest Night. He believes that he might find some way to reconstitute that lingering energy into something he can harness. Given his vast intellect and empire of resources, he has little choice but chase the dragon. Because, really, once you go orange, you…

…you can never…


Aside from the tremendous concept, Cornell also takes this opportunity to psychoanalyze Superman's greatest foe and the greatest mind of the DC Universe. Luthor is an exceptionally complicated man with very simple desires. We know he's ruthless. We know he is brilliant. We also know that he is fixated on Superman. This story line is a chance to find out a little more. Especially in his interactions with those who aren't caped heroes. We see Luthor offhandedly fire and then execute one of his top scientists. We see his difficulties in communicating with close advisors like Mr. Spalding (the dashing love-child of David Tennant and Greg Proops). And, in Cornell's most inventive turn, we see how Luthor incorporates Lois Lane, the greatest love of his enemy's life, into his own. Remember that time your best friend started hanging out with a girl who looked just like your girlfriend? Dial up the creepiness a few hundred notches, and that's what the green-eyed monster's engineered out of Brainiac's spare parts.

Artist Pete Woods is quite the mad scientist in his own right, bringing the same attention to detail to Metropolis as he showcased back on New Krypton. Cornell throws a ton of fringe science at him, and he responds with some impressive imagery, especially in a glittering isopod sequence, where Luthor searches through all known intelligence about the Black Lantern rings, submerged in a kind of Cerebro-Bacta tank. While the likeness of his character models to real world celebrities can sometimes distract, it's a mostly great looking book.

We often say that Paul Cornell is one of the nicest guys in comics. But he's clearly having a ton of fun writing about some very naughty people. Metropolis may well burn to the ground in the absence of Superman, but Action Comics itself is in very good hands. 

Action Comics #890 is available now.



Story: 5          Art: 4          Overall: 4.5  


Paul Montgomery is checking his hairline. Find him on Twitter or contact him at 


  1. just read it – Great ! just as i had hoped.

    Lex is a resevoir of maniaical behaviour.The podcast got me excited, and this was the springboard.

    Evil never dies and Lex Luthor never sleeps…

  2. I really enjoyed this issue and am looking forward to the rest of Cornell’s run. There were just these nice little touches of character, in particular the part where Luthor says to Lois, he used to be one for delayed gratification but since having had the ring on, he needs everything now. Just a good read. Definitely check it out. 

  3. Interesting. I thought the art was solid, but I didn’t enjoy the story nearly as much as you. I’m not sure why, but it never hooked me. I’m not fond of the Loisbot. Luthor seems a bit too weak and too emotional for my taste. I understand that the orange ring may have changed him, but it seems like a bit much.

    Regardless, I’m going to give it another shot when #891 comes out. 

  4. "Now Starring Lex Luthor" is a nice touch on the cover.

  5. Just got to read this on the way to work this morning, and was thinking of putting up a review, but your review sums up exactly how I feel. 

  6. This book was a lot of fun and was my pick of the week. 

  7. The Lois stuff was especially brilliant…I found myself (as a relative newcomer still to DC) wondering whether this was established canon, but I had a feeling (as a Cornell fan) that this was his own ingenious touch.

  8. @stuclach Sad to say you’re not alone. I liked the notion of the first appearances, that Lex Luthor is dialed up to eleven by the orange ring. Love pursuing those Blackest Night threads, but the script gave Luthor the voice of a very, very mediocre genius stuck in a clunky series of exchanges.