You know what I love? And I mean really love? Multiverses!
That’s not sarcasm, either. I think it’s genuinely really fascinating to hop into a different world and see what a writer thinks a character might be like under a different lens. It gives validity to every writer’s interpretation of an established hero/villain, and allows the opportunity for creativity without being too bogged down by canon. It’s been done very well in a lot of mediums, Into the Spider-Verse being perhaps the most well-known, and I’m always eager to see writers tackling it; they often make for interesting, self-reflective pieces.
There’s just one small problem… this is a book about Lex Luthor.
Lex Luthor is one of the biggest dicks in comic book history – which makes him one of DC’s best villains/anti-heroes. He’s egotistical, outrageously clever, smarmy, egotistical, insightful, way too talkative for his own good, and – in case I haven’t mentioned – egotistical. No one is smarter than him. He knows it, too, and he wants everyone else to know it. Unlike Marvel’s Reed Richards, there’s no place in the world for any Luthor lesser than himself. So, how do you tackle a multiversal tale about the most narcissistic perfectionist in history? How do you write a reflective piece on a man so stunningly arrogant, with almost no dialogue from characters that aren’t him? And how could any Luthor hope to compete with Sexx Luthor from Robot Chicken?
(Note: His actual pseudonym was “Sexy Lexy”, and “Sexx Luthor” was the name of the band. We strive for historical accuracy here on Batman-News.com.)
All of these are challenging questions, but with Jason Latour (who’s already had some multiversal experience with Spider-Gwen) and renowned artist Bryan Hitch, the book seems to be in capable hands. In this story, we find Luthor jumping from universe to universe, judging the decisions of his alternate selves… and maybe influencing them a little. While it’s not a book I loved, the comic has quite a lot going in its favour!
Perhaps my favourite part of the book was the consistency it seemed to have with the rest of the DC Universe. While, for reasons I won’t get into, there is a level of unreliable narration throughout the story, Latour has paid close attention to the world of DC throughout this book. I read through this entire story with Grant Morrison’s The Multiversity Guidebook #1 in my lap, and I felt rather rewarded for doing so! There were numerous times when I thought “this makes no sense in this universe”, only for me to look a little closer and find myself surprised by the level of care Latour took to keeping each world in-line with what can very loosely be described as “DC Continuity.” From the dystopia of Earth 45, to my personal favourite of the issue (Earth 32), to even Earth 1, Luthor takes many different forms, with an interesting new angle each time. Watching Luthor stride about from world to world with a confident aura about him is fun, but watching him go toe-to-toe with his counterparts and begin to show his cracks is even better.
I don’t doubt Latour’s writing ability at all for this reason – and some others that I’ll get into later. There are some wonderful lines throughout the book that provide insight into Lex, and you need that if you want to tackle a book like this. This one here is my personal favourite!
That said, I can’t help but feel like Luthor’s voice seems off. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder writing the character, but I feel like there is a level of snark and sharpness to Luthor that is somewhat lacking here. Not only that, but as the book progresses, our main Luthor slowly shuts up in order to make room for some important character moments from his other selves. These are good moments with interesting insights on what Lex thinks makes him tick (and how he lies to himself), but it feels like the monologues sacrifice what could be some fantastic instances of Luthor-on-Luthor (wink wink) wordplay. The phrase “there is only Luthor” repeats a lot, and I get the idea of it, but it doesn’t gel with me as much as it could. It feels a little derivative of Doctor Doom – fitting, seeing as “Doom” is what this version of Lex is currently all about. The third-person talk is also a little grating.
Luckily, much of the dialogue is interesting enough to stand on its own without being witty, and there are plenty of good scenes in the book – and one or two great ones. This is less a matter of whether or not the quality of this comic is good, and more a matter of it not being my taste. That’s a message you can just as easily apply to Bryan Hitch’s illustrations, sacrilegious as that may sound to some.
I know, I know, Bryan Hitch has a very successful history and a lot of cred, but I’m not the biggest fan of his work all the same. That’s not to say I can’t tell how much effort he puts into it; let it never be said he doesn’t give it his all, as panels such as this demonstrate.
Let it never be said that Hitch doesn’t understand what makes a good comic work – he has a wide range of abilities from large-scale destruction to close, intimate scenes. He has an eye for choosing the perfect angles and has a great flow from one panel to another. The tension he creates is quite effective, too – there are several ominous moments in the comic that he pulls off rather well (in part thanks to colorist Tomeu Morey, who also does a great job of creating a different “vibe” for each of the universes).
I’ve never been big on Hitch’s faces though. Aside from some effective acting that comes through at points – which, again, I’ll get to – they always seem a little bit off, whether they’re slightly disproportionate or a little too neutral. Here, we see a younger Lex Luthor being presented with a vision of the villain Perpetua and other various multiversal threats, on a pulpy tapestry that, while rough, stands out on the page. His reaction seems less of shock, however, and more like a yawn – which, while unsurprising for Lex Luthor, doesn’t seem to fit what the page is going for.
When I see images like this, I have to wonder how they would come across to me if portrayed by a different artist, or if Hitch put more gravitas into the panel. These are not major complaints, but to me, they stop the book from reaching heights that it could.
However, the issue has a few points which elevate it beyond a simple tie-in. While both the writing and the art in this issue are not what I may have been hoping for, there is no denying that they work well together in a few specific pages. Minor spoilers ahead:
There are several moments in this issue that prove both Latour and Hitch are more than capable creators, including some intriguing dialogue with Earth 32 Lex and his relationship with that world’s Superman (creating some interesting subtext about our Luthor and his thoughts on Superman and Martian Manhunter), and a final page that took me by surprise and made me verbally yell – but this is probably my favourite moment from the comic. Here, Lex visits his Earth 1 counterpart, who managed to get hospitalized in a plot against Superman, and was put into a coma with a smile on his face.
There’s a lot that’s said here without much being said at all, and that’s thanks to both the script and the acting Hitch manages to portray. It’s a strong moment because it’s about Lex being faced with an uncomfortable truth, an objective one, and one he can’t escape no matter what he does: yes, he IS that god damn petty.
- You’re a fan of some Multiversal shenanigans, and want a deeper dive into some of the worlds we got glimpses of in The Multiversity and other such works.
- You want some Lex-on-Lex action ;)
- You want some in-depth introspection on one of DC’s best characters.
- You want to know how Lex might go from here to where he is in Doomsday Clock.
- You’re a fan of Hitch’s usual style!
This is NOT a bad book. This is quite a good book. If it were a different reviewer covering this one-shot, they might say it was a very good, or even great, book. There are moments here that don’t gel with me, but it’s easy to see both why they exist and why they might gel with many fans. And if you like Hitch, then it’s business as usual on that front, too. What I can say about this book is that it’s most certainly interesting, and makes me ponder where they’ll take the character after this Justice League saga.