Lex’s plan to steal potential Black Ring power from Grodd involves Lex and his assistant Spalding disguising themselves as apes, joker halloween costume sacrificing robot doubles of themselves in the process. Earlier, Mr. Mind traps Lex within his own head, subjecting him to fantasies that reveal Lex’s different facets. Death, Mr. Mind and his secret employer, even Vandal Savage all seek to understand Lex’s weaknesses, for some reason we don’t yet know. I dare say it even seems like Cornell marks time a bit in the final chapter before the crossover; the issue focuses on Vandal Savage and his eons-long wait for Lex Luthor to fulfill a rumored prophecy. DC no doubt ends Black Ring after the sixth chapter precisely because the next issue begins the crossover with Gail Simone’s Secret Six, but the end of the story comes very suddenly. This is no fault of Cornell’s, but it flattens the end of an otherwise interesting story.
This is entertaining — including the two pages where Cornell re-writes Savage/Luthor team-ups to fit this story — but overall it would probably read better with the second volume alongside; here it seems Lex disappears from the forward action of the book a bunch of pages before the end. Reading Superman: The Black Ring is like going down the rabbit hole, with every page curiouser and curiouser; I have high hopes that the answers provided in volume two match the superlative build-up they’re given here. I’d like to think the difference is a little deeper than just that Cornell’s Lex kills an anonymous employee and Eric Wallace’s Deathstroke kills the Atom Ryan Choi; moreover, I think the Black Ring reader is helped considerably by the first page where Lex teases the villains who’ve kidnapped him. I was struck however that this volume, which features a DC Comics villain and which has a murder in its first issue, works so well when the Titans: Villains for Hire I read recently includes much the same thing and goes awry. I wondered after reading Titans — still with me, obviously — whether the current era of the villain comics began and ended with Secret Six; Cornell shows that that’s not the case, and it’s the way the story’s built that’s perhaps the mitigating factor.
I previously expressed some dismay that DC Comics breaks The Black Ring up into two volumes. The International counterparts to these new categories similarly saw two unbeatable global artists celebrated; with Billie Eilish picking up International Artist of the Year. But what happens when we are under-stimulated? Lex is a charmer, and Cornell makes him charming, and I believe the reader will follow charm even when the protagonist does bad things; Deathstroke’s murder of the Atom is forthright, unpitying, and bloody, and I don’t think it gives the reader any opportunity to like Deathstroke before it happens. This gives the effect of the Joker smile being “bloody” and it’s really creepy. That’s why The Joker had to be in The Dark Knight. This Dark Knight Joker Costume is just screen accurate as Heath Ledge use in the dark knight series,it’s composed with a well made cotton shirt and a green vest. I never got into Doctor Who (my dark geek secret; no idea where to start, really), and I never read any of Paul Cornell’s Marvel work, so he’s arrived to my attention a bit out of nowhere — and then proceeded to take the reigns of one of DC’s highest profile book, wrote a Secret Six crossover, and got permission to use Neil Gaiman’s Death, for gosh sake; would his writing, I wondered, live up to the hype?
Lex’s near-Death experience. Robo-Lois, the book tells us from the beginning, is built from Brainiac’s technology, and this fact alone imbues the story with rich paranoia — anyone, whether Robo-Lois or Spalding or even Lex’s power suit, could be Brainiac; the reader trusts no one and can never quite believe everything they read. It’s clear here that Lex’s animal nature must win out against the trappings of his money or intellect. Lex is a sharp businessman with an intellect that can stand up to Superman, and yet his actions are completely outrageous — firing an employee because he disagreed, and then killing him for the attacking. If we venture that everything Lex does is a metaphor for Superman, then perhaps the emotions Lois envies in Lex are like the powers Lex envies in Superman — something each can only watch from a distance and strive for, but never achieve. There’s a wonderful sense of displacement that pervades this book, like a good Hitchcock movie; it starts sometime after Blackest Night, and we never see Lex’s impetus for building the Lois robot — or if he even built the Lois robot at all. Common perception would have it that Lex is a focused schemer, but Cornell underlines that Lex’s actions, time and again and under numerous writers, suggest the opposite.
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