For some people, Superman can be hit or miss. He's DC Comics most iconic character, and some of the greatest stories come out of his books; however, there's just as many mundane, poorly conceived stories in Kal-El's books. Superman has been apart of two major series for years: Superman and Action Comics. However, back in the fall of 2009, Superman left Action comics, after dealing with the situation on New Krypton.
For a bit, Action Comics starred Nightwing (Christopher Kent) and Flamebird. After that run, Action Comics got a taste of the world of villains when Superman's arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor, took over, but is the book better off now without Superman?
During issues #866 through #870 in Action Comics, Superman was forced to fight Brainiac: The real Brainiac, not a clone or a robot version. It was an epic battle that resulted in the death of Jonathan Kent, the creation of New Krypton and the release of the bottled city of Kandor. Personally, it was one of my favorite modern Superman stories, but after all was said and done, Superman headed to New Krypton to make sure things were in order, so Action Comics was passed onto someone else.
Nightwing and Flamebird's run, in Action Comics (881-889), was the start of the series missing out on it's biggest star, Superman. While the story was enjoyable, and it was really cool to see a couple of different characters take over the book, it wasn't my cup-of-tea.
However, starting with issue #890, Superman's arch-enemy, Lex Luthor became the star of the book. The story, written by Paul Cornell, revolves around Lex searching for the Black Ring Energy from the Blackest Night storyline. During Blackest Night, Lex Luthor became a deputy Orange Lantern, and since that time, the greed seems to have gotten a little to his head more than normal and he's trying his best to gain that power once again.
The storyline has been exciting, intriguing, and filled with a lot of great DC guest stars: Joker, Larfleeze, Secret Six, Vandal Savage and Gorilla Grodd to name a few. Sometimes, when a book has a guest star in the mix, it feels forced, and while that list of names above may seem like a mixed bag of nuts to throw in Action Comics, it works extremely well. Sure, the Joker bit seemed weird at first, but the conversation between he and Lex works so well on the page, so even if in the back of your mind you're thinking, "why is this character pushed into this book?" The end result is brilliant regardless of your first impression.
If you've been following, you've noticed I left a key issue out: Action Comics 894. This issue was and is my favorite issue of Action to this point ( read my review here). This issue featured Death from the Vertigo series Sandman. To quote myself, "it's some phenomenal dialogue, and by far, one of the most interesting issues I've read this year." I mentioned before that guest stars can be forced into an issue, and it can feel awkward. Well, as much as I love this issue, it happens here. It doesn't really move the whole story forward as much as the other issues do, but it is one phenomenal book, and it is a great introduction to a Vertigo character who could start appearing more in regular DC books.
Since Superman has been out of Action Comics, we've got to see other character's take on Metropolis, life, and the man of steel himself, and it's been phenomenal. Even though it sucks a little to say "Action Comics is so much better without Superman," it's 100% true. The book is exploring the world created because of Superman's existence; a world readers never see through the other character's eyes. Even though I may not have liked the Flambird/Nightwing run, it was really cool to see these characters as the star of the show, and when the book starred Superman's nemesis, we got to see Lex Luthor as a human as well as a villain.
One thing I don't hear from readers is that people are upset Superman isn't the star of the book. Does this mean people are enjoying the book more now that the character is out of the book, or does this mean not as many people are reading it? My guess is a little of both. For me, however, the book is the tops right now, and I'm a little sad to know that Lex Luthor won't be the star off the show come issue #901. I'd say give Lex Luthor his own book, but Lex starring in Action Comics feels right since he's just as important to the world of Superman as Superman is.
For now, Action Comics is better without Superman, but you always have to keep in mind who the creative team is, and Paul Cornell and Pete Woods have elevated this book to one of my favorites at DC. What do you guys think? Is Action Comics better without Superman? Who would you like to see star in this book?
Mat "Inferiorego" Elfring is a comedian, teacher, comic store employee, writer, and Krypto: The Superpup.
Follow his inane ramblings about life, comics, and work on twitter: @ inferiorego