Mon
Mar 28 2011 1:01pm

I Want It All: Superman: The Black Ring, Vol 1.

During DC's “Blackest Night,” Green Lantern crossover Lex Luthor was given an orange Power Ring which he wielded to defend Earth alongside some of the mightiest heroes and villains on the planet. The ring gave Luthor access to unlimited power, but once the Black Lanterns were defeated it was taken away from him. Now he desperately wants it back; the only problem is that someone is going to extraordinary lengths to see that it doesn’t happen. In this collection of Action Comics #890-#895, written by Paul Cornell and guest-starring Death herself, Luthor finds himself tested and challenged at every stage of his quest.

Lex Luthor has been labeled as Superman’s nemesis and a dangerous megalomaniac, but like all the best villains, we often see him as the hero of his own story. He absolutely believes that he has humanity’s best interest at heart and that Superman is a genuine threat to our growth and development. Lex knows that Superman is a dangerous alien and he will do everything in his power to see the Man of Steel humbled, defeated and if necessary killed, to protect Earth.

Paul Cornell takes us inside Lex’s head and despite it being Action Comics there are only a few mentions of Superman. This is Lex’s story and we see the world and its heroes and villains through his eyes. Lex sets off on a global adventure in search of Black Lantern energy which was left over when the Black Lantern rings were destroyed. If you didn’t read the “Blackest Night” event it can be a bit confusing, however, all you really need to know is, this energy Lex is searching for might help him create his own power ring. The power rings are intergalactic items that allow the person wearing it to turn almost anything from their imagination into a tangible object and then wield that item, usually as a weapon. It started with the Green Lanterns, whose rings are powered by willpower, but since then other power rings have emerged which run on different forms of energy and represent different aspects of one's personality: fear, hope, rage, love, etc.

Lex had a taste of this, with an orange ring, which is powered by greed, and it made him more powerful than he has ever previously experienced. It might even have put him on par with Superman in terms of power, so he understandably wants to get it back. On the one hand, he would claim this is so that he can protect the planet from dangerous threats. That if Superman should one day turn on humanity and reveal his true nature, which Lex thinks he will, he will be there to stop Superman as our champion. On the other hand, the reader knows Lex is not doing this for totally selfless and noble reasons. This first volume is a fascinating and unbiased trip into Lex’s psyche. We get a glimpse of his machinations and the extraordinary lengths he will go to in order to accomplish his goals.

There’s no denying that Lex Luthor is a genius and a giant of industry with Lexcorp. I wouldn’t like to guess how he came by some of the advanced technology at his disposal, but the gadgets, the power suit, even the scientists, are all just tools for him use. We see what really drives Lex and what he is willing to give up in order to succeed. Some of his choices are admirable, others are just downright evil, but he would probably see them as necessary and a small sacrifice for the greater good. He does what has to be done. He makes the hard choices because he thinks no one else will. He also believes no one else is as capable as him, demonstrating his supreme arrogance and genius, but also his true lack of faith in humanity. This is why I think Lex is diametrically the opposite of Superman. He believes all human beings have the potential for greatness, they just need hope and inspiration to guide them. Whereas Lex thinks most of them are cattle to support and serve a few great minds that will accomplish inspiring work in the name of humanity. These rare few will drag the rest of the human race forward and they are the ones worth protecting. I don’t think he actually cares about humanity at all.

Throughout The Black Ring Lex goes up against several high profile villains and the most interesting part for me was seeing how he dealt with them. He could rely on muscle and strength, strap on his power suit every time and try to beat them in a fight, but his most powerful weapon is his intellect. He outthinks and outmaneuvers them and this is where I couldn’t help feel some admiration for Luthor despite everything. As the story progresses it also becomes clear that someone is working against Lex behind the scenes and is manipulating some of the people opposing him. Someone doesn’t want him to find this energy and accomplish his goals and I suspect this will be explored more in the second volume of The Black Ring.

This is a really well written, fantastically drawn and interesting comic that shows the audience what kind of man Lex Luthor really is. An excellent read and I’m really looking forward to reading volume 2 when it’s available.


Stephen Aryan is a lifelong fan of comics, science fiction and fantasy. He co-hosts the Comic Book Outsiders podcast and writes fantasy and comic book reviews at Walker of Worlds.
 

3 comments
Alejandro Melchor
1. Al-X
Death seemed rather shoed-in and slightly out-of-character in #894. She catered to Luthor, and she doesn't cater, she just is.
Patrick C
2. Patrick C
Death seemed in character to me. Neil Gaiman was actually sent the script and tweaked Death's dialogue himself.

And while I agree that it is very strange that Death showed up to have a chat with Lex Luthor, this is actually a plot point. Why would someone like Death check in on Lex? We don't know yet, but hopefully we find out soon! If it's not explained, then I agree she was probably misused, but I think you can't judge the story until it is finished.
Stephen Aryan
3. StephenAryan
I agree with Patrick, having read Sandman, I thought Death was in character. Someone important, someone very powerful, is pulling the strings of various people behind the scenes and are doing their best to stop Lex getting his hands on this energy. Death was there because he was a person of interest, and as the Black Lanterns and its energy are all about death, it's not too much of a stretch that she should be interested in Lex's quest and him. I'm very interested to find out who is behind the curtain and what it's all about.

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