Review: Action Comics #900

Superman returns to Action Comics to take on Lex Luthor and Doomsday in an anniversary issue that may be more memorable than it was intended to be.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

By now, I'm sure that most of you have heard about a certain story in Action Comics #900 that's causing a media firestorm. And I'll get to that. But first let's dive into the lead feature by Paul Cornell and Pete Woods.

For the better part of a year, Cornell and Woods have been telling a Lex Luthor solo story called "The Black Ring," which chronicles his quest to find God-like powers while going up against almost every major villain in the DCU. Last issue, Lex succeeded and his first act as "God" is to finally destroy Superman at his leisure.

"The Black Ring" has been phenomenal from the start and the conclusion by Cornell and Woods is deeply satisfying as both a Lex Luthor story and a Superman adventure. While fully empowered, Lex finally learns (again) that Superman is Clark Kent and his reaction is priceless. Up to that point, Lex truly believes that Superman doesn't have human emotions, but when the truth is staring him in the face he can't acknowledge it for what it is.

As for Superman, Cornell captures his voice well when he urges Lex to rise above his shortcomings and become a hero on an intergalactic scale. And Superman really believes that Lex could do it! That and several other small touches remind us that Superman's greatest quality is his heart and the resolution is perfectly in character for both.

It's no spoiler that the Reign of Doomsday crossover ties directly into the main story, with art by Jesus Merino. Beyond that, I won't give away too much except to say "oh, of course that's why this is happening." Cornell took the disjointed lemons of the Doomsday crossover and made lemonade. Merino's art is definitely not as sharp as Wood's pages, but they're serviceable.

For my money, the lead 48 page story was more than worth the $5.99 cover price. But there are also five back up stories that fill up the rest of the 46 pages. The best one is by "Lost" co-creator Damon Lindelof and artist Ryan Sook, which doesn't even have Superman in it… except for a single panel. If you approach it from a continuity stand point, it doesn't work. But taken by itself, it has a surprising resonance for only ten pages And Sook's artwork is extremely lush.

Paul Dini has a three page story about Superman having a conversation with a being who used to be worshiped as a God. Honestly, this one was a little disappointing. There's some Silver Age flair to it, but it has no real reason for the story to exist. It's too short to even be a vignette and I found it to be kind of pointless.

Geoff Johns and Gary Frank have an all too brief appearance here over four pages. Or rather two pages and a doublepage splash. I really like Johns and Frank together on Superman, but this was more of a tease than anything substantial.

Which brings us to David Goyer's story. This is the one you've heard about on the news. Superman goes to Iran to show his solidarity with the pro-democracy protesters. The American military flips out and everyone assumes Superman is there as an agent of the United States.

So, Superman renounces his American citizenship and declares himself a citizen of the world.

Naturally, a lot of conservative nationalists had a field day in the media by denouncing Superman and DC Comics as "UnAmerican" for that one. And I don't think that it's possible that DC editorial didn't know that this reaction was coming. Look, if fringe news outlets got upset over a French Muslim Batman and the only gay teenager in Riverdale, then of course they were going to freak out over this.

True story: I was in a local comic shop today when they got a call from a guy who said that he wanted to buy all of their copies of this issue just so he could burn them in a bonfire. That's how much he hated the idea of Superman renouncing his citizenship.

But you know what? This story isn't worth it. In fact, it's the worst story in the entire book.

By introducing real world events into Superman, Goyer fell into the same trap that a lot writers fall into. They try to pretend that Superman can really exist in our world. The problem is that they also have to show that his presence doesn't affect things too much. Hence, we still have a repressive government in Iran and one trite scene of a soldier taking a rose.

And I call bulls***. If Superman was real, it would change everything.


Do you think that the crowd of protesters wouldn't be emboldened to full blown revolution when the flying human God is there staring down the Iranian army? That's the bare minimum of what Superman's actions could have set off. If you're going to get Superman involved in world events, don't f***ing hold back! Either follow through with the premise or tell a different story.

The last backup tale is by "Superman" director Richard Donner and Derek Hoffman, which is more like a screenplay set to storyboards. Honestly, there's no reason that this shouldn't have been broken into a comic page format. The storyboards by Matt Camp look largely unfinished and it's kind of insulting that they were published in this state. The story itself finds Superman in competition with a former pro-athlete in possession of a suit that gives him superpowers. There's some definite Silver Age Superdickery in there, which weirdly shares the same ending as the Dini story.

Overall, this book is definitely worth your money. If you're a fan of Superman at all, you won't be disappointed.