After several years of closely connected storylines, DC’s various Superman titles are now going in different directions, and perhaps the most dramatic change is that Action Comics, the title that Superman debuted in back in 1938, will now be headlined by none other than Lex Luthor.
When I first heard about it I was intrigued by the idea. Under the right writer Luthor is a fascinating character, and Paul Cornell, a veteran of British television (including the critically acclaimed Doctor Who episodes Human Nature and The Family of Blood) should bring a fresh perspective, and Cornell’s characterization of Luthor is definitely a highlight of the book. While he occasionally lapses into the tired ruthless corporate CEO cliché that has plagued the character since the 1980s, this Luthor has a cocky sparkle to him, and Cornell’s sharp writing makes me believe two important things: that Luthor is A: a genius and B: completely insane.
The story itself is serviceable, picking up where Luthor’s involvement in the Blackest Night storyline left off. His exposure to the orange power ring has left him even more greedy for power than he was before, and so he embarks on a quest to find a way to create his own power ring. He is assisted by the usual corporate toadies, but also with what may end up being one of the more interesting characters in the series: a robot duplicate of Lois Lane, programmed to challenge Luthor, to give him, in his own words, “a viewpoint that’s not entirely about need.”
Of course Luthor follows this explanation of the robot Lois’ purpose with the following statement, which really sums up the tone of the writing: “That will be especially useful when I’m becoming a god in space.” The plot really isn’t all that important, it’s just a vehicle for Luthor’s character.
Paul Cornell seems to have a firm handle on that character, and so far he has avoided the pitfalls that usually befall villain-led books, largely by avoiding having Superman or any other heroes appear in the story at all. This is Lex Luthor’s book, and the story is told squarely from his point of view. In his mind at least, he is the hero.
— Jefferson Powers