Action Comics #896 review

Crivvens, there’s a lot going on this issue as the Secret Six bids to protect Lex Luthor from Vandal Savage. The immortal villain, you may recall, is trying to decipher the meaning of a prophecy that Lex will make him very happy. He’s focussing on Lex’s knowledge of the mysterious black spheres, which is the last thing Lex wants to share. Which means Lex is likely to get his head bashed in, hence his need for super-powered protection.

This issue’s instalment takes the form of one big tussle, involving not just Lex, the Six and Savage, but a Mr Mind Jr-possessed Amanda Waller, a bunch of hapless Lexcorp executives and a fighting-mad Lois Lane robot. And bubbling away in the background, the mystery of who’s really out to get Lex. It’s a spiffy read – not only does writer Paul Cornell capture the characters of Gail Simone’s Six at his first attempt, he has me aching for a spin-off featuring Vandal Savage and daughter Scandal and their hilariously twisted relationship.

Artist Pete Woods captures the action and emotion superbly, with any panel featuring Lois-Bot being a highlight. Brad Anderson’s colours add an extra dimension, while Rob Leigh’s lettering is to be applauded. And David Finch, Batt and Peter Steigerwald provide a stunning cover, one which simply screams ‘suitable for framing’.

The Jimmy Olsen back-up ties into the Lex strip, with the red-headed reporter’s rival, Sebastien Mallory, referring to that rather wild board meeting. The pair are at a charity date auction, Lois – the real Lois – having cajoled Jim into going along to stop him moping over his break-up with Chloe Sullivan. Of course, Chloe’s there too, but so is a young lady who’s very keen on getting to know Jimmy.

I’m happy to say I guessed her Silver Age-style secret before Jimmy – may I be Superman’s pal, please? The story ends on a great cliffhanger for the coming Jimmy Olsen Special tying up the storyline as Action Comics becomes a $2.99, rather than $3.99, comic once more. I’ll be there, as writer Nick Spencer and artists RB Silva and Dym serve up the tastiest slice of Superman Family nonsense in decades. The hugely refreshing stories manage to reference Jimmy’s Silver Age adventures while giving a nod to modern continuity. This panel is a perfect example of that – if you’ve kept up with recent issues of Supergirl, you’ll know exactly what Jim means (click to enlarge):

The ‘team-up’ between Lex and Jimmy makes for a terribly sharp, entertaining comic book. Both features combine comedy and drama, with the balance making all they difference. I shall miss having both strips in one place.

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