STORY: Paul Cornell

ART: Pete Woods

DEATH’S DIALOGUE written by: Neil Gaiman


REVIEW: Master Filmmaker Mark Mackner

Hola, Action aficionados! ‘Tis I, Poptards’ resident Spider-Man scholar and local indie horror icon MASTER FILMMAKER MARK MACKNER with a look at last weeks’ historic ACTION COMICS #894.

Historic how? Well, this issue marks the very first appearance of NEIL GAIMAN’s character DEATH (from his SANDMAN series) in the regular DC Universe. Gaiman even makes a guest appearance on this issue, providing the dialogue for his adorable version of “The Grim Reaper”.

This is not a standalone story. It’s actually Part 5 of an arc titled THE BLACK RING, where SUPERMAN’S arch-nemesis LEX LUTHOR has taken center stage as the main focus. The end of Chapter 4 saw the apparent demise of Lex, and this issue lets us in on what happens when Lex is faced with, well, Death.

Death is as charming and good-humored as always, and it’s so very nice to see her again. I definitely got that feeling you get when you hang with an awesome old friend that you haven’t seen in a long time. And it’s really cool that they let Gaiman come in and write her, even though this isn’t his story. PETE WOODS’ pencils compliment the character well, rendering her striking beauty in every panel, lovingly detailed.

Lex, well, as you could understand, is not very happy to be grappling with his own mortality. After all, he is a man on a mission, a mission that is not yet completed. So he goes through all the stages of grieving himself: disbelief (“You’re telling me Death is a teenage girl?”), anger (“You’ll regret this!”), sadness (“I feel… helpless. I CAN’T be helpless”), and bargaining (“What would it take for you to change this?”). But Lex, ever his defiant self, even in death, refuses to accept the situation. Even after witnessing his “Life Review”, featuring “lots of people fighting, and lots of people being clever.” Still, he’s not quite sold on this whole “being dead” thing.

In his rage, he even accuses Death of being involved with Blackest Night, to which Death replies, “Oh. Yeah. I noticed that. It looked like they were all having a great time. You know, people do come back from the dead. It’s not a big deal. I AM kind of busy.” She also politely states her resentment of Lex’s treating her “like a super-villain”. Still, she refrains from passing judgment on him, and that’s part of what’s so cool about her.

Through it all, Lex maintains his “misunderstood hero wrongly painted as the villain” position. And he does manage to evoke your sympathy here. You can’t help but feel a little sorry for the guy, as he’s so utterly convinced that what he does is for the benefit of mankind. Plus, he gets mad points from me for being a proud, outspoken atheist, which he describes as an “ethical” choice, more than a logical one. Tell ‘em, Lex! Atheism ROCKS!

This issue represents an excellent 2-person dialogue, which is no small feat. Two characters talking can easily get boring in a visual medium such as comics, but Cornell and Gaiman are firing on all cylinders, and it makes for a cracking good read. And, despite the subject matter, it really is quite funny in parts (LEX: “Death? You don’t even look like him.” DEATH: “Are you looking for the scythe? Or the skis?”), especially the glimpse into Lex’s “hedonistic paradise”.

In summary, this is a really good read, and a splendid meeting of DC and Vertigo, featuring two of the more interesting characters from each respective imprint. Highly recommended!



And THAT is THE WORD, so sayeth THE MASTER!!!!

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(MASTER FILMMAKER MARK MACKNER is the resident Poptards Spider-Man nut, and the author of SPIDEY’S WEEKLY WEB-UP right here on this site! Also, true to his name, he is the creator of the locally made films DAISY DERKINS, DOGSITTER OF THE DAMNED!, EVIL BREW, EMBALMO!, and THE HALF-LIFE HORROR FROM HELL or: IRRADIATED SATAN ROCKS THE WORLD!)

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