Or – “She Doesn’t Even HAVE A Brush…”

Back in the long-lost late 80’s, Alan Moore was the vanguard of a British invasion in comic books, which eventually led to the creation of an entire imprint at DC.  The Vertigo characters initially existed in the mainstream DCU, but at some point, it was decided that their world was an entire separate reality.  Occasionally, we have seen some crossover, but mostly their realities have remained distinct of one another, which is why my interest was piqued by the solicits for this issue.  I haven’t been following the adventures of Lex Luthor closely, but my internal fanboy wants to know how the new world(s) order is going to shake down…

Action Comics #894
Co-feature written by NICK SPENCER
Co-feature art by RB SILVA and DENIS FRIETAS
Published by DC COMICS

Previously, on Action Comics: Lex Luthor has long been angry/jealous of the super-powers that his old pal Clark grew up to wield, but his experience with the orange power ring during Blackest Night has completely messed up his head, showing him an entirely new reality of power.  Lex’s fleeting brush with the alien energies has led him to devote all his energies to trying to recapture the ultimate power: the energy that created and enpowered the Black Lanterns.  Last issue, Lex’s quest led him to cross swords with another conqueror (albeit a more hirsute one) in the form of Gorilla Grodd, an interaction that left the head of LexCorp dead as a mackerel.  For most characters, that would be the end, but even his mortality isn’t enough to stop the plan of the nefarious nattering nabob of negativity known as Lex Luthoooorrr!

Our story opens with Lex regarding his own body, as the member of the Endless known as Death smiles and patiently tries to explain that he’s looking at himself.  The conversation between the ultimate super-villain and the character who, by her very existence, is the antithesis of melodrama is very interesting, as Lex tries to bully, cajole, and even manipulate her into doing his bidding, while Death refuses to give him anything to work for.  Writer Paul Cornell builds Lex’s anger realistically, but Luthor quickly realizes it won’t help him, and he refuses to give in.  I kind of like the iron will portrayal of Luthor here, especially given his attempts to bargain with Death.  When asked what she needs from him, Death responds, “A pony.  A magic pony.  A magic pony who SINGS…”  Lex immediately attempts to figure out how he can create such a thing before she shuts that avenue down as well, having worked him through all the stages of grief save one:  Acceptance.   Lex angrily tells her that he doesn’t DO acceptance, and Death reveals her true motive, deciding to ask Luthor a few questions of her own…

Things get a little weird as Death shows Luthor a series of possible afterlives, one a paradise, another a world of simple joys, but the mind of Luthor won’t allow him to accept any of it.  “What’s the catch?” asks the bald one, telling Death that whatever it is that she does, it’s time to do it, to send him where he goes.  In a wonderful little touch, she simply tells him that this was a test, a “preliminary check” on him, and serenely reminds him that she never SAID he was actually dead.  Lex awakens in a hospital, confused but more certain than ever that he is on the right track to the power he seeks.  In the Jimmy Olsen backup strip, there’s some claptrap about an intergalactic party girl who travels from world to world leaving devastation in her wake…   I’d be more interested if Power Girl hadn’t faced the same thing several months ago, and if it weren’t a bowtied Jimmy Olsen in the main role.  The alien girl’s word balloons are rendered in a particular difficult font to read, and Jimmy comes up with a plan to save the world which isn’t half-bad, verging on clever, even.

All in all, there’s none of the explanations that I kind of looked for going in, but the story was well-done as well, taking Lex through the stages of coping with Death, all the while keeping him in character and maintaining her mystique in the process.  The art by Pete Woods is excellent throughout the first feature, and for all my problems with plot and fonts in the backup, the art is very peppy, and makes Jimmy look really good, as well as delivering some great alien technologies and such.  It’s been a while since I picked up Action Comics, but I have to say, this issue wasn’t a disappointment at all, even if it didn’t go where I kind of wanted it to.  Action Comics #894 takes two supporting characters and puts them center stage successfully, and for that it earns a fine-and-dandy 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:   Do the Vertigo and DC Universes work better separate, or together?


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. Just started reading some of Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing, and during the COIE issue, seeing the Green Machine next to Ambush Bug is just… off. Some DCU characters can work in both worlds like Eitrigan or Phantom Stranger, but guys like Swamp Thing and the Endless don’t.

  2. It seems to be kind of non issue to me, Death really hasn’t done nothing for me in years. As for your question, I feel that the Vertigo characters should show up more often. I’d love to see a Animalman/Aquaman/Detective Chimp/Swampthing/John Constantine team up, crossover. I think it would be nice. I think Daniel could show up more, showing that in the DCU people do dream.

  3. My only question is: does Lex remember the encounter upon waking? And whether or not his experience is closer to a dream, than to death, and if it didn’t make more STORY sense to have him meet Sandman, even if marketing-wise it makes a bigger splash if he meets Death.

  4. According to Wikipedia, death of the endless is THE Death of the DC universe. And even if she isn’t, she has a hell of a lot of explaining to do about Nekron and rising dead people!
    I’m just hoping she comes back at the end of this story arc to explain the nature of the black energy a bit better.
    I was so excited when I saw this preview. I thought that there would be more answers…

  5. I hope this isn’t the last we see of these characters interacting with the “mainstream” DCU characters. I don’t want a sudden flood of the characters or anything, but the occasional pop-up in one title or another would be a lot of fun and could add some interesting elements to the stories and maybe introduce Death and her family to comics readers that might be unfamiliar with the characters and their histories.

  6. When Peter David was on Aquaman, he did an issue with Swamp Thing and another with Animalman. Belaboring the obvious, Animalman has once again become a character in the mainstream DCU as have the Doom Patrol and their enemies. I think Hellblazer is the only DCU character that still stars in a Vertigo series. I don’t think Shade the Changing Man has appeared in any DCU comics since he had his Vertigo series.

  7. I personally got a kick out of the reference to God as he appeared in the Lucifer series, both in terms of his appearance and the circumstances of his appearance:

    “If there IS a God–if he turns out to be… a little man in a bowler hat or something–do I at least get to put forth my case? Do I get to argue?”

    I would love to see Gaudim and Spera show up in the normal DC Universe.

  8. I was almost going to buy this, but the story as you explained it doesn’t work for me. Since when does Death do “preliminary tests?”

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