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Review Group: Action Comics #896

Written by John Martin on Saturday, March 26 2011 and posted in Reviews

Recap for Review Group Week 255!  Action Comics #896 by Paul Cornell and Pete Woods with Jimmy Olsen backup by Nick Spencer and RB Silva as selected by community vote.

The Review Group is a collection of posters who get together and review a new comic each week. Our threads can be found in The Outhouse's News Stand forum and is open for anyone and everyone to participate.

The Outhouse loves notorious cake thief Lex Luthor and as such voted for Action Comics to be the Review Group pick for Week 255.  How did the mid-arc Secret Six crossover fare?

255_actioncomics896Review by Dragavon

Paul Cornell has done the impossible. He's actually made it interesting to about Lex Luthor. After decades of being the most boring villain to the second most boring superhero in the DCU, Luthor is actually sort of interesting in his quest to obtain a power ring. The problem, and there is one, is that Cornell has too much planned in this book considering he only has 3 issues left (There's no way that issue 900 of Action Comics won't have Superman back as the main character). He's trying to resolve as much as he can and this issue loses some luster. Amanda Waller being controlled by Mister Mind. The Lois robot is under someone else's control. These things should have been given a lot more time to be incorporated into the storyline.

The art is great and enhances the plot, which is as it should be for a good artist like Woods.

Score: 8/10

Backup: Jimmy Olsen's Big Week by Spencer and Silva.

This is the true reason to read this book. Spencer is amazing in making Olsen a fun, likeable protagonist. I would read this if it were it's own comic. This should have been the main story with the Luthor storyline as the backup.

Score: 10/10.

Total for this title: 9/10

Review by God Man

The issue was great, and I thought Cornell nailed the Secret Six. The reappearance of Mister Mind and the revelation about RoboLois' possible double crossing was abrupt and took me out of the story momentarily (could she be working for anyone else but Brainiac?) but otherwise this was a pretty damn good story. Woods continues to be awesome, and I especially liked the closing pages showing the bouncing controller about to set off. And the Jimmy Olsen backup was great. It's too bad the story won't be completed until March but I'm looking forward to having the story collected in one book.


Review by Frank Einstein

Luthor/Secret Six

What was the point of this exactly? The comic never bothers to convey that bit of information to new readers. As someone who hasn't read an issue of Action since the end of the Johns run, this was just random people fighting other random people randomly. Pete Woods as usual is solid for the majority of the comic, but there are a couple of panels (Luthor dining with the redhead) that were awful.

Story: 1, Art: 7

Jimmy Olsen

This was a quirky and fun backup. If DC brought back Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen I would read that comic.

Story: 8, Art: 7.5

Overall: 5

Review by guitarsmashley

ok, so this issue is pretty shitty. Very much like Mr. Amlah the art was good except for like 2-5 panels in the beginning, maybe a printer problem? I had previously read the issue where luthor dies and Grodd wants to eat his brain with a spoon(that was awesome By the way) this issue made no sense at all and didn't really give a new reader much to go on. I feel like a regular reader would be just as confused as the story seems to completely come out of nowhere. I assume the "black orb" is the black lantern ring? Yeah this comic was just very disjointed and felt forced in all kinds of ways.

The back up was cute but I wouldn't run out to read a jimmy olsen book. I still don't have an opinion of Nick Spencer but I'm curious at his future. I ordered the morning glories trade and am kind of pissed that infinite vacation has turned into a mini but whatever it wasn't enough to pull this piece of shit comic that I was actually excited to read.


Review by chap22

I...have no fucking idea what I just read. No recap page, no exposition telling me who these people are or what they're doing or why they're doing it...having avoided Action previously (because Luthor bores me) and picking it up now (mainly just b/c I love the Six), this was terrible. I don't know if the arc it's part of is as bad as this, and after reading it, I don't care. Sloppy art by Pete Woods (at least by huis standards) helped none at all. NO WAY I'm coming back for more of this garbage, and I'm now pissed off the conclusion of this story will be contaminating my favorite ongoing DC book next month. Ugh.

Story: 1
Art: 6
Total: 3.5

Jimmy Olsen backup --

A cute little story that reminds me there actually is a member of Supes's regular supporting cast I really like (b/c Lois and Lex sure ain't it). Nice art, a fun premise, and a good job of introducing new readers (like me) to who these folks are (in a small amount of space to do so) and what's going on. I will be picking up the concluion of this, and am damn glad I don't have to pick up any more of Lex's tripe to do so.

Art: 8
Story: 8
Total: 8

Overall (weighed down by just how bad the "main" story was): 4.5

Review by starlord

Paul Cornell has been doing an exquiste job of telling this story about Lex Luthor and his quest for the power of the Black Lantern. This issue was really more of the same. If you're a fan of this villain, then I highly recommend this now or when in trade. I'm not as sold on the second feature of Jimmy Olsen but it's not a bad story either.

Story: 9
Art: 9
My Score: 9

Review by Eli Katz

It's a little crazy trying to jump into the 7th part of a story, but somehow I managed to enjoy ACTION COMICS #896, anyway. I was pulled in, I think, by Deadshot's opening words, "So why we rescuing Luther again?" That's just a damn great splash page and I was ready to read on even though I had very little idea of what was going on. It didn't hurt that Pete Woods does the art, either -- he is fantastic. However, I didn't really enjoy the Jimmy Olsen back-up story, although, admittedly, the pages were sure pretty.

STORY: 6/10
ART: 8.5/10

Review by doombug

Paul Cornell knows how to write the secret six and that was an obvious highlight of the issue. Ragdoll had a great one liner or two and it was just a really fun use of the team. the controller bouncing around led to some fun art as well. I've missed the last couple issues though so i'm lost on the story.

the back up though, spencer is having a blast with olsen and you can tell. that was a lot of fun.

over all: 8

Review by Punchy

Story - A couple of posters have made cracks about having to read 'Inaction' Comics, but really if anything the problem with this issue is that there is too much action, and not enough explanation as to why. Following on from last issue's interesting trip through time with Vandal Savage, we are instead treated to 22 pages of inexplicable Secret Six, which is hardly fun at all.

Now part of this is of course down to me, I am not a regular reader of Secret Six, I stopped paying attention to them during Villains United, so have literally zero idea who the hell they are, apart from the fact that Scandal is another egregious DC lesbian and Vandal Savage's daughter, that Ragdoll is lame and Catman is even worse, than Deadshot deserves better. What the hell is Bane doing here? How can he talk? Who is that chick with the weird hair and the fans? Why is there a Goth Girl in Doctor Fate's helmet? What is the point of all this?

I'm sure if I was the kind of person to read and enjoy Secret Six I wouldn't have these problems, but I am not that kind of person, and these issues have interrupted what had previously been a very enjoyable run of Lex Luthor stories. None of this is Cornell's fault, it's just an ill-judged crossover for this particular reader. I definitely won't be picking up Secret Six #29, so hopefully we can all move on and start afresh with the Joker in #897, because really, Cornell's Action Comics is better than this!

Thankfully, this issue is saved by the latest chapter of one of my cultural highlights of 2010, the Jimmy Olsen back-up story by Nick Spencer and RB Silva, which is a delight from start to finish. Jimmy has long been one of my favourite characters (as my Avatar demonstrates), but that has mainly been due to his potential, not due to anything he's actually done in comics since about 1972 (although Superman: Metropolis by Chuck Austen is boss), but for what he could be! A glorious melding of modern sensibilities and silver age weirdness! Nick Spencer has lived up to that potential and more so, this is just the platonic ideal of Jimmy Olsen, you've got wacky Silver-Age nonsense like Mxyzptlyk, but you've also got Jimmy's modern day relationship troubles, it's Scott Pilgrim with Superheroes, and it's a crime that DC's pandering to penny-pinching fans means this is the last chapter. I can't wait until March for the one-shot! This was worth the extra dollar! Hell, it was worth all 4 dollars this time out.

Art - Strong stuff on both fronts, Pete Woods has been working on the Superman books for aaages now, and he's just perfectly attuned to that world, and manages to make the action look good, which is all you really need for a book with that word in the title. RB Silva is also awesome, and is reminding me increasingly of Stuart Immonen, and there can be no higher praise than that. Once again, why do we have to wait until March! Curse you skinflints!

Best Line - 'And this is where I got my brain stuck in the body of a Gorilla'

8/10 Mediocre main story saved by the the Olsen-force.

Review by SilverPhoenix

On Paper, the combination of Lex Luthor, The Secret Six and Vandal Savage should be an absolute winner, no questions asked. Does this "great on-paper" combination live up to the hype, or is the show stolen by the undercard headlined by Jimmy Olsen?

To some of the more savvy DC comic book fans, one of the bigger background stories of nearly the past decade has the culture war that has gone on creatively. Since Dan Didio's installation as the Executive Editor of the DCU in 2003, he has succeeded (spiritually more than literally) in remolding the landscape of that Universe drastically. Between the resurrections of Hal Jordan, Oliver Queen and Barry Allen and the minimization (to various degrees) of their successors, the reestablishing of the Teen Titans, the return of Supergirl being a Kryptonian Cousin of Superman, along with a host of other changes whose results have the DCU resembling what it looked like before Crisis on Infinite Earths took place in 1985. Of course, these changes have been welcomed by some, reviled by others and while this reviewer has his own opinion on how he feels about these changes, he will hold back on going into detail about them, because of the wasted space that will result. However, this debate seems to be inescapable when discussing the current star of this book, Lex Luthor.

As for Lex Luthor, depending on when you discovered the character, one of these characterizations stands out for you. If you discovered the character before the early 1980s, then his characterization as a mad scientist who hated Superman for various reasons is the one you'll remember most of all. However, if you were a child of either Bryne's "Man of Steel" (1986) or Superman: The Animated Series (1996), then your greatest memories of Luthor will be those of an Untouchable Businessman who used his genius to wage war on Superman who's contributions overshadowed his. The latter characterization reigned for years (with Luthor even becoming President of the United States), until it was phased out in the latter half of the 2000's to return him to his "iconic" version, which added more fuel in the debate between the cheerleaders and detractors of the whole entire movement. However, unlike most "iconic" takes, Luthor's own "revitalization" didn't take to enough of the fanbase, nor lend itself to creative success stories as it felt that Luthor was being written into a wall. To counteract this, Paul Cornell's talents have been tapped in an effort to show that Luthor can still be a viable player in the DCU, even bringing Sandman's Death out to play. Issue #896 takes things to yet another level as The Secret Six gets involved in the fun. Something that sounds good on paper, but not so much in action.

The main story of Action #896 starts us off with a full page shot of the Secret Six, and in short order we understand why they're here and who they're up against. From there, the next 19 pages of the story is one knockdown, drag out brawl mixed with a comedy of errors, a confrontation long overdue, and Robot Lois blowing shit up. On paper, it feels like this book would've been one of the books of the week, however when it's all put together, it just feels underwhelming. This isn't to say that the writing is terrible, or even bad, it just feel like this should've been much better than it ends up being. Part of the problem is that this crossover is plopped in the middle of an already expansive storyline (with Action #896), which automatically exponentially increases the barrier of entry to anyone who reads Secret Six exclusively. I know that a huge chunk of DC fans hate recap pages, but this is one of those times where I think a comic could've benefitted from such a feature. The huge barrier of entry also leads to this book losing a lot of story weight, as we get a very vague reason as to why Vandal Savage has decided to use such extreme measures against Lex Luthor, and it helps the thing to come across as a complete throw away comic to Secret Six fans who are used to every comic mattering in one way, or another. Even the pivotal moment of Scandal confronting her father doesn't carry the weight it should the big noisy fight takes center stage, without giving any other plots breathing room, and it all comes off as a tragic waste of potential that could've been avoided if they allowed this story to stand on its own, instead of tying it to an already 6- Part Arc.

Artistically, the main story will give most people very little to complain about, as Pete Woods does a great job drawing most of the characters, backgrounds and details that surround the story being told. Some people might feel underwhelmed by Luthor's portrayal in the book itself due to David Finch's excellent cover work, but I feel that the artists did an excellent job portraying Luthor as a devious underhanded person who will take any advantage he can get. However, most Secret Six will find themselves comparing it to their regular drawings in their own comic book as they could possibly feel underwhelmed by the different art style, which misses some of the small details, which help to make these characters feel as unique as they do. I know I am probably nitpicking here, but all I can say is that I expect these characters to be drawn a certain way, and this style falls short of that.

No real analysis of Action #896 can be called complete without mentioning the "Second Feature", which stars Jimmy Olsen, who is dealing with the fourth day of his big week by being auctioned off for charity. What we get here is a story that's not only hilarious, but extremely fun to boot. Nick Spenser makes excellent use of his 8-Pages as we get an excellent look into Jimmy Olsen, and what's going with his life. Along the way we also get to see him interact with a past love of his, and a girl who might be far too sweet for her own good. Overall, we're given a reason to care about what happens to Jimmy, and the ridiculousness of the scenario is just fun to see unfold. RB Silva also deserves great praise, as he gives each character their own unique look, not falling into the traps of giving everyone the same features, as the story unfolds around his amazing art. This reviewer now sees why the Jimmy Olsen feature was well acclaimed, and I can't wait for the continuation in March.

When I picked up this last Wednesday, if you told me that I would enjoy the Second Feature more than the main story, I would've laughed in your face. Now as I conclude this review, I could say without a doubt that I be gladly eating crow as I got to discover one of the better kept secrets in Comic Books. I just wish I could say that Paul Cornell lived up to the potential that I know he has this month. Hopefully he'll strike a winner with me in the near future.

The Verdict

Story: 5.5 (For the Main Feature)/8.5 (For the Second Feature)
Art: 8/9.5
Accessibility: 5/8.5

Combined Final Judgment: 7

Review by john lewis hawk

It was alright.


Review by Mammon, Fool Breaker

Cover- Lex Luthor standing O' so calmly in the background, like a badass, and Vandal going to to town on the Secret Six... It was eye catching, except for that damn picture of Jimmy Olsen. -(5/10)

Story- The hunt for the Black Lantern enegry has been a very fun story arc to follow. This is my first encounter with the super-villan Lex Luthor, and I'm not dissapointed. To me, this issue felt a little lacking, and the Secret Six didn't capture me like the Death or Gorilla Grodd issues had. -(4/10)

Art- One of my favorite creative teams right now. The art is meshing supurbly with the story. Compared to the last two issues of The Flash... ughh. -(6/10)

Overall- The weakest of this arc so far... yet i still turned each page wanting more! The future meeting between Larfleeze and Luthor already has me looking forward to this months action comic! -(6/10)

Final score - (5.25/10)

Review by Zero

I've been reading and enjoying Action Comics since Paul Cornell announced he'd be using Neil Gaiman's death and the book has been a thoroughly enjoyable road trip through the DCU's most notable supervillains. Vandal Savage is a character I've liked for a while and he's written interestingly enough but the real stars of the show are Pete Woods and the Secret Six.

The Six are a fine match for this title, with similar humour and selfish motivations they drop in quite nicely and provide yet another way for the title to squeeze some action into Action Comics. It's very much a middle chapter but one that stands out from the crowd by the virtue of some great guest stars and the change in focus helps keep the title from simply becoming a series of samey encounters between Lex his guest stars.

Jimmy Olsen's story is hella fun, not quite up to the alien invasion stories but a great backup that I'll gladly be buying when it's finished off in a single issue.


Review by Stephen Day

Like a number of other reviewers the biggest problem I had with this issue was the lack of information given to readers who would be coming into this series fresh. Its not like Secret Six is all that connected to the Superman Books. If you have an issue that seems to be designed to attract readers (in this case those who read Secret Six) to buy your series, write it like that's the case. I can also see the flip side in that not a lot was given to explain who the Secret Six are to readers of Action Comics. It all seems like lazy writing to me and this issue loses some points for it.

Overall though, I did like this issue. The way that Lex Luthor and Vandal Savage interacted with each other was fun and the action came across as exciting to read.

The Jimmy Olson backup story was nothing but fun. I laughed out loud when Jimmy's date revealed that she was from Mr. Mxyzptlk's dimension. The story did its job and made me want to buy the Jimmy Olson one-shot in March so that I can see how the story ends.

7 out of 10.

That gives Action Comics #896 a group score of 6.92.  Forget the score, forget Luthor, this week will be remembered for being the Review Group's official first exposusre to the Patron Saint of the MGS, Nick Spencer.

For what McKegan calls "all the geeky, bitchy arguing about comics you'd expect from a comic message board condensed into absolute awesomeness", check out our Action Comics thread and post your own review in The News Stand forum.

Written or Contributed by: John Martin

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