I'm almost ashamed to say it, but I'm proud of Lex Luthor. Yes, he's a scumbag with no reverence for any individual life other than his own, but he's our scumbag. A regular human, no super abilities but able to take on, and beat, beings of immense power.
And that's what he does this issue, as he faces not only Brainiac, who's been manipulating Lex's Lois Lane robot for his own ends, but the unknowable creature behind the whole Black Ring quest.
There are revelations aplenty as writer Paul Cornell sets the stage for Superman's return to Action Comics with #900, and a massive battle against Lex. Plot threads from the last ten issues knit together nicely, putting Lex in a good place to save the universe. Wotta guy.
The finer details of who's been up to what turn out to have been less than guessable, but I don't mind at all – not every story element has to proceed from previous ones; I rather like surprises. And the being Lex must face after beating Brainiac – in a thoroughly entertaining duel of wits – fits nicely into the Superman mythos.
As well as holding his own against Lex, for a little while, Brainiac messes with his head, confronting his bald foe with his lack of self-knowledge. Of course, the emotionless Brainiac's headgames stem from his logical nature, not mischief. Superman's biggest villains prove well-matched here, though one must prevail.
Artist Pete Woods is absent this issue (he's no doubt working on next month's massive conclusion to Lex's Action Comics residency) so we're treated to Jesus Merino. He does Woods proud, sticking to his character designs while injecting his own brand of pizzazz. His finest hour here comes with the design of the creature Lex battles: think Jack Kirby Celestial crossed with a Twiglet. And his cute Mr Mind Jr simply demands the plush treatment.
I'm not madly keen on details of David Finch's cover (Brainiac's left thigh is the size of a planet, while Lex's biffed head looks off) but the overall impression is striking.
I am chuffed to bits at the prospect of Paul Cornell and Pete Woods handling Superman in Action Comics from next month. But come #901, I suspect a part of me will be missing Lex Luthor. Who knew?