Action Comics #972 came out this week, the finale to the God-Killer and a turning point in the relationship between Superman and Lex.
This has been a very interesting story with the hard look at Luthor and his motivations. More than any story in the past, this arc written by Dan Jurgens has made me start looking at Luthor as a potential good guy. And I thought I would hate that ... I want my villains to be villains. But this has been well written and thought provoking. I don't know if I trust this Lex 100% but I might give him the benefit of the doubt moving forward.
I will say, it does fly in the face of the 'evil, privileged, narcissistic, ___ insert another bad adjective ___ white male misogynist we have been seeing in Superwoman. I would wish that the group editor would see how these two concurrent story arcs really fly in the face of each other. Maybe I am asking too much?
The art on the issue is done by Stephen Segovia and Art Thibert and the two do a good job of handling the multiple aspects of the proceedings here. We have street level fighting on an alien planet, a chilling scene in Lois' apartment, and some strong emotional character moments. It all works very well.
On to the book:
On a red sun world, Superman and Lex battle with the God-Killer L'Call and his ally Zade.
It is fun to see Superman fighting without powers. It is easy to forget that fighting super-villains for years have probably made him a decent fighter even without super-abilities.
Here Superman grabs an energy gauntlet off of L'Call giving him a weapon to wield.
Now you might think that L'Call would have had this more tightly bound or locked onto his forearm.
Now the beginning of this arc starts with Superman having to overcome his prejudice towards Lex, realizing that he was basing his disgust on the acts of the prior Luthor. But somewhere along the way, we start to see that same shift in Lex as he has to rethink his thoughts on Superman.
Both have interaction with another incarnation of their foe. But this is a new dynamic. So seeing Luthor talk about the strategic tactics and resourcefulness of Superman's fighting was a nice touch. It is clear that Lex thought the New 52 Superman wasn't so savvy. As that mirrors my own thoughts of that Superman, it might explain why I don't mind this Luthor arc.
And nice callback to the Convergence world by Jurgens explaining why Superman might be a better non-powered fighter than expected.
Meanwhile, in Metropolis, Clark lays eyes on Jon and is perplexed. Clark had met the delivery boy in the lobby and brought it up. Lois throws up the obvious and cringe-worthy 'son of a distant cousin' explanation for Jon as she pushes Clark out the door.
This is one of the first moments where we see Clark alone in his thoughts. He knows Lois is lying. But since he doesn't know Jon is Lois' son, we know he isn't some all-knowing villain in disguise. Who is this guy??
Here is the one part of the issue that I really struggled with.
Throughout this story and even in the beginning of this issue, Zade and L'Call shout that they are only interested in Lex and don't care about Superman.
And yet, when Superman and Lex decide to split up, Zade and L'Call and split up as well. Zade follows Superman. L'Call fights Lex.
There is no reason for Zade to fly after Superman. None. L'Call said it himself. But it is convenient for this conclusion.
Alone in battle, Superman defeats Zade. But Kal convinces the warrior to listen to him. With Lex near death at the hands of L'Call, Superman and Zade arrives.
Finally Superman gets through to L'Call. L'Call's fatigue must be born from some questioning of this approach to potential villains. Superman vows to not let Lex become a world-killer. And then, in the ultimate closing argument, L'Call looks into Superman's future to see if in that future Lex is Darkseid.
I love this speech and interaction. Especially that last panel with the face-off between combatants.
Whatever L'Call saw, it is enough to send Superman and Lex back to Earth.
On Earth, Lex and Superman finally hash out all their differences.
I like how Lex has figured some things out on his own; he is a super-genius after all. Here he says that this Superman must be from a parallel world, a place where Luthor was a vile murderer. And that is true.
So this Luthor ragrds 'his' Superman is a dullard who doesn't think. (Possibly true given the up and down nature of the New 52 Superman.)
And Superman knows 'his' Luthor was a super-villain in every sense of the word.
But they each are someone different.
And so we get a scene that I never thought I would see let alone enjoy.
Lex asks for a fresh start. After all, this is a fresh start.
And Superman shakes his hand and agrees.
Of course, things can change. I don't think Luthor is a nice guy. I think the ends might be the same but the means will be different. But a truce between Lex and Kal??
I suppose it shows how great the writing is that this didn't make me vomit a little in my mouth. Kudos Dan Jurgens!
And I love how palpable Luthor's injuries are as depicted by Segovia and Thibert.
But in the end we see what L'Call saw and it looks like a sneak peek into the next year of stories. Is that Cyborg Superman? And is that Superman standing over Lex's dead body on Darkseid's throne? And who is that white haired caped figure in the bottom? Please don't say it is Ulysses!!! Please!!!!
So overall a nice wrap-up to a story whose purpose I think was to reset the Superman/Luthor dynamic. And it was done in a gripping way having each character deal with their prejudices and forced to defend the other. Very slick. If only the 'splitting up' aspect of the fights didn't vex me.
Next up? All the Clark Kent and Mr. Oz stuff bubbling to the surface! Huzzah!