Considering this issue focuses on Lex Luthor, and that we already received quite a few answers concerning him in Action Comics, I felt like this book was going to be a waste of time. I was wrong! Yes, I wish this story would’ve been released prior to Action Comics, but it still works well and should be read if you’re reading Action Comics. It’s relevant enough that I legitimately hope that it’s included in the Action Comics trade once it’s collected (Superman Rebirth #1, Justice League #52, and then Action Comics #957 seems like a decent flow for the narrative).
As expected, this entire issue focuses on Lex Luthor and serves as an excellent bridge from Justice League’s “Darkseid War” and the “Final Days of Superman” story, into Action Comics. There isn’t much in the way of plot found here, but it does serve as an excellent character study for Lex, setting up his mindset following Superman’s death, his reason for taking on the role of Superman, and how he separates himself from the other heroes.
When I think of Luthor, I think of someone who only does something if it serves self-interest. While he has become somewhat heroic over the past year or two, he’s still, very much, the Luthor we’ve always known. Now though, while he’s still driven by creating a specific image of himself, there is an act of selflessness in his actions. That selflessness doesn’t hinder his arrogance in any way though. In fact, I’d say he’s more arrogant than before, now that he’s been branded with the Superman crest by the inhabitants of Apokolips and has increased “powers.” Which leads to the question, “Why isn’t he on Apokolips, and how is he stronger than before?” Both questions are answered here, and much like his motivation, it’s a smart, believable move on the part of the creative team.
Since this is a comic book, there needs to be some sort of conflict, and it comes in the form of a standard robbery that Lex stops. He’s able to define his limits as a hero – which I enjoyed seeing – and also showcased how the public views him. It’s a great moment, because for the first time since joining the Justice League, you can see he’s actually at a crossroads emotionally. I’m left wondering which direction his character will go as this issue reveals a number of potential catalysts that could tip Lex in a number of directions.
The most interesting story in this book though, actually comes from the Daily Planet! There’s a plot thread here that sets up a lot of incredibly intriguing possibilities, while also, potentially, providing insight into a big reveal from Action Comics #957 (please note that I haven’t read Action Comics #958 at this time). If I’m putting two and two together, and I’m right… then Lex has never been more interesting than he is now… Go get this issue!
The Art: Tom Grummett covers pencils in this issue, and does a solid job. I’m not familiar with him, but I immediately thought that elements his work reminded me of Derenick (Secret Six). Like Derenick, Grummett’s art is a little cartoony, and is accentuated by Eltaeb’s colors. Does that mean it’s bad? No. I prefer more realism to my art, and probably would’ve preferred something less “bright” considering the story focuses on Lex and his crossroads of moral ambiguity. That being said, if I were writing for DC comics, I’d be more than satisfied working with these artists.
Breakdowns can be found in the spoiler tag.
The Good: Lex. There’s a reason Lex has maintained a lasting presence in comics for decades… He’s a developed, intriguing character. He doesn’t need to rely on gimmicks or a shtick, he’s interesting enough on his own. But now he’s more powerful than ever, and his motivations are different than before.
Now that he’s gained a mother box, and fused it with his suit, he’s able to accomplish and do more physically than ever before. It also makes his fight with Superman in Action Comics #957 a little more believable. But I also like that there’s still an edge to his character. I mean, threatening to break a guy’s neck, paralyzing him from the waist down, definitely qualifies him as more of a hero than an anti-hero. But seeing a moment of regret after the civilian he saves is scared that he might hurt her as well… That could lead to some changes in how far he is willing to go as a hero. He may be a “not-so-great” guy in many ways (I have trouble calling him a bad guy now), but he still cares about his image, and this was definitely a blow to his pride.
Motivation. Lex’s motivation to be Superman, or a hero in general, has shifted from self-interests – although, I think we all know a bit of that will always remain – to wanting his sister to be proud of him. I think this will push him to be a better hero, but I can’t help but wonder how this could, and possibly will, change once his sister is healed. If you remember, his sister turned on him and shot him before getting injured. Luthor believes that she was negatively influenced by the mother box she had, but I’m not convinced that’s the case. I think she could be as corrupt as he once was, and that could hinder Lex’s growth in becoming a legitimate hero. What happens if she wakes up and he discovers she wasn’t influenced by the mother box? What happens if she never comes to, or even passes away? He’s on a ledge, and I’m curious to see which way the wind blows him.
Luthor purchases the Daily Planet. Whoa… Ok, yes, he did it so he could get Superman’s cape, and yes all that does is reconfirm his arrogance/ pride… BUT, since we’ve read Action Comics #957, and we know that Lex created Bizarro back in Forever Evil, I can’t help but assume he’s behind the twist at the end of Action Comics where Clark Kent is revealed… Could he have created a clone of Superman in the form of Clark Kent? And if he did, what does that say exactly? I feel like it’s an act of respect and compassion, but it’s also quite morbid if my theory is accurate… I guess I’ll (hopefully) get some answers when I read Action Comics #958. This is, quite possibly, the biggest benefit this issue gained by being released after Action Comics debut, and it has my head spinning!
The Bad: Headshot. For the life of me, I don’t understand criminals… If you see someone wearing body armor, but their face is fully exposed, then why would you shoot the armor and not the face? It doesn’t make sense. I also don’t see how Lex survived an explosion completely unscathed for the same reason… It just doesn’t make sense to me.
Great ending for Lex, not so much for the Justice League. This isn’t a complaint as much as it is a notation. I thought this issue was great, but only for Lex. For Justice League, it doesn’t really give a good close to the book itself, and I would’ve loved to have seen something else offered of as the closing chapter… That being said, I’ll take Justice League #52 over Justice League #51 any day, and am glad the two issues flipped in the respect that this story was WAY BETTER!
- You’re a fan of Lex Luthor.
- You’re curious to learn more about how and why Lex took the Superman mantle.
- It’s a great character study of Lex, and sets-up future stories and events.
Overall: My reservations for this issue were unjust, and Jurgens delivers a quality story that focuses on Lex Luthor, his motivations, and his limits. If you plan on reading the current Superman stories, then I highly recommend you pick up this issue! You won’t be disappointed!