[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Stephen Segovia
Inks: Art Thibert
Colors: Ulises Arreola
It’s no secret that Superman and Action Comics have been two of the best books in the Rebirth Era. Action Comics #972 not only illustrates that, but at the same time re-frames the Superman/ Lex Luthor dichotomy.
Luthor and Superman are on a planet with a red sun. Luthor believes Superman to be powerless and a liability. Luthor and Superman slow down Zade and L’Call long enough to formulate a plan. It requires Luthor and Superman to split up thus getting Zade and L’Call to also split up. This allows Luthor to fight L’Call without Zade messing with his mind. It is then up to Superman to find a way to disable Zade.
Back in Metropolis, Jon is face to face with Clark Kent. Lois pops in just in time to divert Clark with a story about Jon being her cousin’s son. Luthor does his best to fight L’Call to a stalemate. Meanwhile, Superman uses his ingenuity and creativity to slow down Zade long enough to convince Zade to help him get an audience with L’Call. Then, like all great Superman stories we see the man win the day and not the super powers. Superman has L’Call look into Superman’s future to prove that he will not allow Luthor to do the things that L’Call claims Luthor will one day do.
The high point of this issue is the resolution between Superman and Luthor. Superman impresses Luthor with his ability to be effective without his powers. Superman convinces Luthor that he is able to do the right thing no matter what. Luthor figures out that Superman is from a parallel Earth and professes that this Superman is a real Superman. Luthor correctly surmises that the Luthor of Superman’s world was a true villain guilty of heinous crimes. Lastly, Luthor attempts to give Superman the cape he’s been wearing, but Superman gives it back to Luthor with mandate of continuing to use it to inspire in honor of the deceased Superman of this world. Finally, the two shake hands and agree to a fresh start. Superman and Luthor may not be friends, but they are in a period of detente to start fresh.
It’s ironic that Action Comics which features the pre-Flashpoint Superman has just wrapped up an arc that redefines his relationship with Lex Luthor that would not be possible if this Superman hadn’t been erased with the “New 52” relaunch. Recasting Luthor from a different angle re-invigorates their dynamic and provides new opportunities for stories. It is no surprise that this arc also epitomizes the character of Superman.