Ever since I first read Sandman TP vol 1 Preludes and Nocturnes I was hooked. Some years later I still consider myself a huge fan and have been slowly amassing a substantial Sandman collection. I have all the trades, all the Absolutes (including Absolute Death) and now I am going back and picking up the single issues along with tie-ins. So naturally when I found out that Death would be in Action Comics #894 I knew I had to have it.
Death is one of my favorite of the Endless from Sandman. For those of you not familiar, the Endless are the siblings of Dream (the main character of Sandman): Death, Destruction, Desire, Delirium (formerly Delight), Destiny and Despair. Each is a physical embodiment of the idea its name represents. Death literally is death. As a character, Death is the perfect antithesis of your expectations. She is certainly no Grim Reaper. She is a cheery, cute goth chick who you want to usher you to the other side. A lot of people relate to her because she feels so approachable and empathetic. She is a complex and lovely character.
Before we delve deeper into the review I would like to warn readers of the possibilities of spoilers. If you have read the issue or don’t mind spoilers please read away; otherwise, read ahead at your own risk.
I was really pleased with the way this issue turned out. Paul Cornell and Pete Woods did an excellent job writing and illustrating this issue. I felt that Death was used thoughtfully and meaningfully. Her appearance did not feel like a gimmick or a publicity stunt. She felt very much “in character” and like the Death from Sandman. She provided an interesting juxtaposition to Lex Luthor and helped to reveal Luthor’s thoughts on life, death and God. The interactions between them were brilliant, especially the “nose touch scene” that was in the back of many of DC books for the week of October 27. Most of the issue was a philosophical conversation between Death and Luthor. It is a fascinating and thought-provoking conversation about Luthor’s drives and motivations. It shed new light onto Luthor for me.
It would have been easy for the dialogue to feel very forced given the situation they were in, yet Cornell made it feel natural. Cornell is able to believably put Luthor into a rare state of vulnerability. All the while Death is joking and being playful trying to calm Luthor and make him more comfortable. According to Bleeding Cool, Cornell has credited much of Death’s dialogue to Sandman writer Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is not given writing credits in this issue, though he is given a special thanks. So, some of the success of this issue needs to be given to Gaiman though most goes to Cornell’s writing and Woods’s illustrating.
Woods was able to keep the story visually engaging despite the lack of action. Death’s depiction was spot on. She is tender and sweet as she takes Luthor on a existential journey. Most of the story depends on facial expressions and Luthor’s are great. You can see that he is going through the five stages of grief. You can see the denial, anger and bargaining. It can even be argued that he reached the final stage of acceptance.
As expected this issue isn’t about what you think it is about. The twist ending definitely left me wanting more and asking myself lots of questions. What does this mean for Luthor and for the rest of the DCU? Will Death make more appearances? Are other Vertigo characters going to begin crossing into the mainstream DCU? With the Vertigo imprint changing and some of the characters moving to the DC banner one can only wonder if this is a sign of things to come. Given the success of this issue, I hope that this isn’t the last time we see Death in the DC Universe. I also hope that this means we will see more from other Vertigo characters in mainstream DC comics.
The Jimmy Olsen second feature is a nice compliment to the main Lex Luthor story in Action Comics. This is part two of Jimmy Olsen’s big week which sees the introduction of Chloe Sullivan into main DC continuity. You may know Chloe from the television show Smallville. Here she is Jimmy’s ex-girlfriend. Nick Spenser and RB Silva are excellent at telling a huge story very concisely. A lot of things happen in only eight pages. Plus, I dig the way the story is a throw-back to the more fantastical Superman stories from the Silver Age. I look forward to the continued adventures of Jimmy Olsen as he deals with a possibly alien invasion.