Friday, February 5, 2021

Review: Future State Superman Vs Imperious Lex

The Future State books have been a mixed bag for sure. One of the books I knew I would be checking out but with some trepidation was Future State: Superman Vs. Imperious Lex.  I guess my concern was that this was going to be what I call an 'Agenda book', the sort of title which has a political view to trumpet but doesn't have a solid story to tell. It's all agenda. As I have said before I don't mind a story with an agenda. I don't like an agenda without a story.

Writer Mark Russell is known for his progressive stories and I worried that Superman would be an afterthought. Luckily, this was a solid story but as a clear modern political parable to America these last few years. But rather than castigate, Russell actually sounds pretty even handed. 

Steve Pugh is on art and brings a sort of Curt Swan-ish feel to the proceedings.

Look, I am a middle aged lifelong comic fan. You bring in Lexor, I am probably going to be happy.

On to the story.

In the future, Lois Lane is the Earth representative to the United Planets.

She has received a request from Lexor, the planet ruled by Lex Luthor, to join the United Planets.

There is little compassion for Luthor amid all the dignitaries. I love how one mentions his cake stealing as a crime! Ah, those famous forty cakes!

But there is a funny little bureaucracy joke in here. They all want to reject the ask immediately. But their rules say they need an hour to think about it ... then they'll vote a rejection.

The a rather gray Superman arrives. 

He has been on the outer rim when he saw that planets were being stripped of all their natural resources by vicious robots called Reticulants. 

Get it? It's like Republicans but spelt wrong. 

It is hard for Superman to know just how much damage these robots have done but he does know one thing. They originated from Lexor.

Okay, Republicans as resource devouring inhuman monsters ... hmmm.

Russell continues the obvious 'Luthor as Trump' Allegory here.

Lexor has a propaganda network spewing extremely slanted news about how excellent everything is on Lexor.

Get it ... it's like Fox News! 

It is clear to Superman that he needs to shut down Lexor's Reticulants. They can't go on damaging countless worlds. 

So he starts ripping out the mechanics to stop them. But he doesn't destroy them.

Superman can sense fear in these machines. and having feelings means these things are alive. But can they be 'reprogrammed'.

'Reprogrammed' is a tough word to deal with.

If another book said "enter any other group than conservatives" needed to be reprogrammed, I am sure there would be outraged. 

Maybe it could have been said that Superman needed to understand what these things feared and how he could help assuage those fears?

I guess I should be happy that Russell seems to imply that he views Republicans as living beings who have fears about life. 

One thing I like is the look of Lex here who is obviously wearing a 'young Lex face' mask.

But with the Reticulants shut down, the economic strength of Lexor begins to waver. And without money coming in, the citizens of Lexor are starting to get a bit antsy.

Even the propaganda news station has some naysayers. I love how this economist points out that killer robots is a bad foundation. But even better is the next line, the other host saying that economist better be careful. Don't speak out against the dictator. Things don't end well. 

But Superman goes even farther. He can't just shut down the off-world Reticulants. He has to shut down the factory. He heads to Lexor and blows up Lex Robotics. 

It isn't just the Reticulants who have enjoyed the wealth Lex provides. Now the citizens are realizing that Superman is interfering with day to day life on this planet. 

Superman says that he can see on these citizens' faces that they realize that they have worked all their lives, living off 'stolen property'. 

I assume Russell is trying to tie this into America's history of colonization and slavery. But does that mean he is damning all the citizens, painting them all with the same brush?

Lexor is a red sun planet so Superman begins to weaken. And Lex takes that opportunity to try and reclaim his base. Flying out in a lex-suit, he almost defeats Superman but our hero slips away.

Again, Superman thinks of the citizens of Lexor just as he thought of the Reticulants. They have been conned by Luthor. They are starting to realize the extent of his lies.

If we continue the 'Lex is Trump' symbolism, then Russell is saying that Trump's base is poised to turn on him, recognizing him as a liar. Sadly, I don't know if that is true.

In particular, this sequence felt the most Curt Swan-ish.

In the end though, I have to applaud Superman. 

He recognizes that Lexor is going to be in serious trouble now. Their economy has been crippled. The world is home to billions. Lex's acts and his acts will lead to suffering. Someone has to help them. He asks Lois to allow Lexor into the United Planets, to help everyone and maybe lead the planet to a better place.

So I suppose the hardcore agenda book would say the Reticulants and the Lexorians are all ignoramuses, all bigots, all deserve to die, reaping what they sow. Thankfully, Russell doesn't go that far. 

Instead, he has our hero Superman trying to inspire people to do better. And Lois as UP rep is great!

Right now the teeter-totter of agenda and story is tipped towards story. So I'm pretty happy. 

Overall grade: B


Martin Gray said...

I must be really stupid, I never got any political allegory here at all. ‘Republican’ and ‘Reticulant’ both have four syllables and start with an ‘R’ but I just thought it was a reference to them as metal snakes! Probably me bring British, there...

I suppose this makes it a successful allegory, it works whether you get it or not.

The Fox News bit is a carry over from Russell’s tremendous Wonder Twins book. Anyway, I enjoyed this too! What a shame Lex has no Ardora or Lex Jr in this continuity.

Steve said...

Skip Superman in Truth & Justice if you dislike agenda without a story...

Martin Gray said...

Seconded, what a massive disappointment after the opening Vixen story.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

I didn't know for the republicain or the agenda but, a story that takes into account the real well-beign of the inhabitants who work for the vilain is very rare.

In general, the story ends with a happy end not to mention the reconstruction and the economic reconversion.

I'am curious to see the end of this story.