Action Comics #23.3 Lex Luthor came out last week, another look into the devious mind of Superman's arch-enemy. One thing I have noticed about the current Luthor is that he is truly an amalgam of the Silver Age super-scientist and the slick manipulative business man of the Byrne era. So he can be designing Bizarro monsters in one minute and destroying companies financially in another.
Most importantly, we needed this issue to bridge the gap between a orange-jump-suited, scarred imprisoned Luthor in Superman to the black suited, unscarred, free man in a helicopter in Forever Evil #1.
The story is written by Charles Soule, who has been working on Swamp Thing and is the upcoming scribe of Superman/Wonder Woman. I haven't read anything of his and I am on the fence about trying Superman/Wonder Woman so I was looking forward to reading this to get a sense of his style. He certainly has a grasp of Luthor and his feelings of being above it all. I don't know if I like this Luthor so casually killing someone himself. If you are going to have a Godfather-like CEO aspect of him, he would never get his own hands dirty on some simple underling.
The art by Ryan Bermudez is fine, mixing in good close-ups for emotion and wider shots for the action sequences.
The book opens up with Lex walking out of Hypermax prison a free man thanks to all of his lawyers.
I do like how Luthor has some very strained interactions with the guards as he leaves, showing how much they absolutely fear him despite his lack of obvious physical power.
I don't like that it was this easy for him to simply walk out. At least we know why he would stay. We get some lines about him using the time to clear his head and have things happen while he had an alibi.
This is my favorite writing in the book.
Luthor has such a bloated feeling of self-importance that he wonders why Superman isn't there to be part of his walk to freedom. He thinks Superman doesn't care about anything else but Luthor. There is some echoes of the recent Jor-El obsession by other villains. But it shows just how skewed Luthor's thinking is, how he thinks the world revolves around him. Nice.
But if Superman isn't going to show up, Lex will make him. He has his assistant, a young woman named Casey, initiate Project Ghost Town.
Back in the comforts of LexCorp tower, Luthor picks up where he left off.
He lines up starlets for dates, rejecting the advances of others.
He also casually set up to destroy another businessman, Noel Spheeris, who is trying to take over a Lexcorp subsidiary.
He has surgeons remove the scar tissue. (I wonder why he didn't do that earlier?). I also think it isn't wise to have surgery in the middle of a foyer as opposed to the sterile environment of an operating room.
There is a good dollop of vanity, of narcissism here ... Lex preening before a mirror.
And with his face fixed, Luthor begins surveying the other projects he is working on.
He walks by the B-0 project, the eventual Bizarro. We get another kernel of this story. It sounds like the cloning process is a 10yr deal. We are 5 years down.
At least now we know why Bizarro will be Bizarro. It isn't an imperfect duplicate. It is an underdone clone. Just when will Bizarro get released? Somewhere in Forever Evil right? I would love to see an Ultraman vs Bizarro throwdown.
Wouldn't that be a great twist? You heard it here first - Luthor needs to save the world (or himself) from Ultraman and so has to free Bizarro earlier than he wants.
Evil business man, squashing competitors. Check.
Evil scientist, trying to clone Superman. Check.
Evil scientist wearing battle armor. Check.
It even has the classic green/purple color motif. I do find it amusing that part of the practice targets are Superman mannequins.
Project Ghost Town turns out to be firing a shuttle up into orbit and having its engines fail. The Lexcorp crew hit the airwaves asking Superman to save them.
Of course, the crew thinks that they can reignite the engines. So when Superman doesn't show up, they hit the switch. But this is Luthor we are talking about. The engines don't reignite and the shuttle crashes to Earth, killing the crew.
And throughout the issue we see Noel Spheeris slowly destroyed ... first financially, then personally, and finally physically and the shuttle debris hits his mansion, killing him. To be honest, I thought that this last touch was just a bit too much, too over the top for someone like Luthor.
Luthor's assistant thought the Ghost Town plan was for Luthor to don the battle armor and save the shuttle himself. But Lex had different ideas. Why risk failing when this can be a pure disaster for Superman as it is.
Casey is so shocked by this complete disregard for human life that she tries to call the police. Luthor tosses her off the roof of his skyscraper.
Again, I think this is just a bit too much. Luthor wouldn't dirty his own hands like this. Instead, Casey would simply disappear.
Ryan Bermudez' art was solid throughout but this panel was absolutely wonderful.
Luthor is drawn small before the skyline of Metropolis, before the very sky itself. You would think that this would make Luthor seem little. Instead, Bermudez is able to connote defiance in Luthor's body and stance. He isn't small against this world, he is staring it in the face ready to conquer it. I like how Luthor is looking up at the heavens as if to say 'here I come'. There is a sort of 'David vs. Goliath' feeling her which works
I certainly have read plenty of stories recently - in Adventures of Superman, in Sholly Fisch's Bizarro - that shows just how callous Luthor is, how he considers most life simply below him.So there wasn't necessarily that much new here. But the linking of recent history to Forever Evil was appreciated. And this last panel raises it above just a smidge. And the Bizarro reveal (and prognostication on my part) also elevates this a bit.
Will this make me buy Superman/Wonder Woman? I was on the fence for even trying it. This was solid enough that I suppose I will be in for the first arc and will readdress after that.