Now this is odd. Here we have a collection of comics that I think I might have actually enjoyed more if I had read them in single issue form. That’s because while these six issues have an overriding plot, it’s very much a “hunt the MacGuffin” endeavor whose only purpose is to provide a context for the stories themselves. In the wake of “Blackest Night” Lex Luthor is trying to figure out what happened to the power source behind the black rings. Having experienced the power of the orange light of avarice, he feels that securing this power for his own ends will finally allow him to triumph over that nasty alien Superman. He’s not alone in this endeavor, as he has his staff and trusty android Lois Lane on hand to keep him on his toes.
Writer Paul Cornell shows himself to be a natural at getting inside Luthor’s head and making his egocentric ambition not only amusing, but just a tiny bit relatable as well. The real fun comes from the situations and encounters Cornell sets up for the man as we get to see him facing off against Gorilla Grodd in the jungle, tangling with Deathstroke in the arctic, stealing fire from the superhero gods as a caveman, and discussing life, the universe, and everything with Death. Yes, the same Death from Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman.” Even if it doesn’t contribute much to the overall plot, it’s still very entertaining to see Luthor try to match wits and outsmart the one being who really does have all the answers.
However, that issue is a perfect example of the strengths and flaws of this collection. While the issue itself was a fun, fairly self-contained tale, it doesn’t really move the actual story forward. The same can be said for the rest of the issues here as “The Black Ring” feels less about Luthor’s quest for absolute power, than to give Cornell free reign to do what he wants with one of the DC Universe’s most iconic villains. Personally, I’m all for that, and it looks great too thanks to Pete Woods and the other contributing artists. Still, because the story meant to tie these issues together is so inconsequential, it detracts from the overall experience. It feels like these issues were meant to be read with a 30-day gap between them so that their details could be savored. This is still a worthy collection, but it’s also a good argument for the merits of serialization.