I don't normally review Justice League as a book by Justice League #52 could have been named Lex Luthor Rebirth Special #1 so I thought I would bullet review it here. It definitely has some impact on Action Comics where right now Lex is headlining.
Written by Dan Jurgens with pencils by old friend Tom Grummett, the story looks at Luthor in the immediate aftermath of Superman's death.What is his purpose in life now? Who is he?
One of the things that I liked about this story was that we really see how conflicted Lex is. There are definite elements of his prior super-villainous ways. And then we see evidence that he is trying to turn over a new leaf and become someone new. Can he change? Is his impetus to change strong enough? Does he truly want to change?
We have seen Lex headline a super-book before. We have seen him try to be the hero and lead the Justice League. But all of the prior times he was clearly still self-absorbed and villainous. I do wonder if we will see some sort of good (or good-ish) tendencies in him.
On to the story.
The book starts in the Daily Planet lobby where the dead Superman's cape is on display. It is an awkward scene for a couple of reasons.
First off, the Planet has claimed the cape because 'Clark has no known family.' So I guess everyone has forgotten about his cousin who lives on Earth. That seems like a pretty big oversight.
But second, Perry gets all maudlin about how Clark was one of the Planet's, a reporter who died who needs to be honored. Perry even says Clark was like a son. All of that would be well and good and understandable.
Except, throughout The Truth, Perry was livid with Clark/Superman. He felt betrayed. He was so angry. He kicked Clark out of the Planet. Perry's reaction was just one of many things I disliked about The Truth. But whether I hated it or not, it happened. To have Perry do an about-face with no explanation (unless I am forgetting one somewhere) is a little annoying.
Understand, I like this response. Maybe I chalk it up to a Rebirth of sensibility in Perry.
There are plenty of old Lex moments in the early going of the book.
Here, he seems disgusted that the world is honoring Superman. All flags are flying half-mast. People are mourning.
And there is that moment of clarity that Superman may be even more loved in death than he was alive.
I wonder if Lex realizes that he can no longer attack Superman directly. Now he is attacking a memory, or a legend, or an idea. That is a much harder battle.
Later, Lex confronts a burglar who grabs a woman as a hostage.
This is definitely Lex. Unlike Superman, who would most likely try to talk the criminal down, Lex instead threatens. Should the man kill his hostage, Lex will sever his spinal cord, making him a quadriplegic. No one will take care of the man. He will suffer.
It shows the different approaches to heroism that Superman and Luthor would take.
So far, there was nothing about this Lex that seemed different.
But then we get a long monologue from Lex where we hear him talking to someone about how he needs to improve himself and become better. He needs to someone to inspire him. He needs someone to watch him and keep him in line.
It turns out that person is Lena. She is in a coma. At some point she tried to kill Lex. She was mad from an interaction with a Mother Box and is now in a coma. Lex's Mother Box can't revive her.
It is a sort of touching moment where Lex admits he wants Lena in his life. He needs her in his life. And he wants to be a better man for Lena.
Will this be enough to change Lex? Will he become something better? That is a fascinating question.
But the big question is where did this Lena story take place? How did I miss it?
The last page is a splash of Lex in an iconic Superman pose, hands on hip, American flag in background, on the roof of the Daily Planet. This image screams Superman ... but it's Luthor. That incongruity is striking and interesting.
If I take Luthor at his word, at the bedside of his comatose sister, I might believe that this could come to pass. Maybe Luthor will become a Superman.
Overall, I liked this issue as a character study in Luthor. In many ways, Luthor is somewhat immutable in my mind. He is a narcissist. He believes he knows what is best for all mankind. And he is willing to do whatever he has to in order to actualize his plans. I could never consider Luthor a hero.
But I also love a good redemption story. And this read like the opening chapter of someone trying to become something more, something better, something good. I don't know if I need to see a hero Luthor. But Jurgens certainly made this interesting.
So I will see if they can carry this sort of energy forward in Action Comics. Will Luthor actually be a good guy?