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Action Comics #900

May 28, 2011

Title: The Black Ring Finale/Reign of Doomsday

Writers: Paul Cornell, Damon Lindelof, Paul Dini, Geoff Johns, David S. Goyer, Richard Donner, Derek Hoffman
Pete Woods, Jesus Merino, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Rags Morales, Ardian Syaf, Jamal Igle, Jon Sibal, Gary Frank, Ryan Sook, RB Silva, Rob Lean, Miguel Sepulveda, Matt Camp
Brad Anderson, Blond, Java Tarfaglia, Paul Mounts
Rob Leigh, John J. Hill
David Finch
Matt Idelson                  
DC Comics

For the better part of a year now, Lex Luthor has been seeking the secret of the Black Ring, an enormous source of power that he craves more than anything. Finally, last month, he defeated Brainiac and made that power his own. Also, over the past few months, the hideous beast called Doomsday has been storming the DC Universe, abducting those who wear the shield of Superman – Steel, Superboy, Supergirl, the Eradicator, and the Cyborg Superman. Now, with both of these threats converging, Superman makes his triumphant return to Action Comics. Is it in time, though, to save the day?

As I’ve come to expect from Paul Cornell, the main story here is really fantastic. The fateful confrontation between Superman and Lex Luthor is one of the best in recent memory, tracing the adventures of both Superman and Lex to show what truly makes each man what he is. It’s powerful stuff, and by the end there can be no question about exactly who these two men are, what makes them tick, and what will forever keep them separate. The finale of the story, leading into the next arc of Action Comics, is a little clichéd, but not the sort of thing that really hurt this issue or the fantastic Black Ring storyline at all.

This being a ginormous 96-page anniversary special, we also get a wealth of back-up features. In “Life Support,” Damon Lindelof and Ryan Sook look at the final days of Krypton. It’s a Jor-El story, extremely sad and extremely powerful. Paul Dini has an interesting little story with “Autobiography,” where Superman encounters an ancient being facing a fate that may one day be Kal-El’s own. It’s a good tale that provides some nice food for thought. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank give us the brief “Friday Night in the 21st Century,” a rapid tale about Lois, Clark and the Legion of Super-Heroes. This creative team was with both Superman and the Legion for far too brief a time, and I do wish we could see them all together again.

This finally brings us to the elephant in the issue, David. S. Goyer and Miguel Sepulveda’s “The Incident.” If you’re not a regular reader of this title and you heard about it at all, chances are it’s because of this story, in which Superman decides to renounce his American citizenship, presumably because he doesn’t want to be seen as an instrument of U.S. policy. A lot of people were upset over this story, but for several reasons, it’s kind of antiquated already. First of all, since this book came out there have been at least two other comics featuring Superman embracing his American heritage. That further seems to indicate that this was just a brief story, something to fill pages with a name creator, not intended to be followed up on. Second, it’s a weak story. It makes Superman seem… well… stupid. He’s a reporter, for Heaven’s sake, does he really think that showing up at the U.N. and making this announcement would endear him to anyone? The people of the United States would be outraged, and the enemies of the U.S. that he doesn’t want to antagonize would call it a political trick and continue to be antagonized. Superman is simply too smart for this story to make any sense. As a result, we’re left with a story that feels like the creator’s weak attempt at pushing forth his own political agenda in a story that will have no consequences on future stories whatsoever.

“Only Human” is the final story in the volume, and it’s an odd one. It’s a screenplay written by Richard Donner, director of the first Superman movie (and one time co-writer of this series) and Derek Hoffman, with storyboards by Matt Camp. It’s an okay story, one that feels very appropriate for Superman, but it’s more of an oddity than anything else. The book wraps it all up with a fantastic pin-up by Brian Stelfreeze which shows Superman through the ages, including an American flag grasped in his hands in the final piece of the sequence. So take that, Goyer.

Overall, it’s a great issue, with just that one poorly-chosen story to hurt the package.

Rating: 7/10

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