Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Review: Future State: Superman Vs Imperious Lex #2

Future State Superman Vs Imperious Lex #2 came out 2 weeks ago and continued a sort of political allegory look at Superman vs a very Trump-like Lex Luthor.

I thought the first issue of this mini-series was a bit heavy handed. The truth is I went into reading that first book expecting to be bludgeoned by political overtones. Maybe I was prepared to be preached to and as a result I was waiting to be underwhelmed.

I think I came into this issue a bit more accepting and a bit more ready to be entertained. So while the political overtones and metaphors are pretty evident, the book unfolds nicely and the plot is entertaining. Maybe I am maturing.

Writer Mark Russell does a good job at unpacking how someone of power like Lex could dupe everyone into believing he is a savior when it is clear that he is ruining the planet and the people. And even when you think Lex might be seeing the error of his ways, it turns out he is a self-serving villain.  What I really love about this issue is that Lois is the hero.

Steve Pugh's art is solid work here, giving us an older and wiser Superman, a smart Lois, and a crazy alien world. But the real art win here is Yanick Paquette's cover. This is a propaganda poster at it's best with Lex clutching a Lexor child, shielding him from Superman's evil boot which is trying to stamp out Liberty. This is how Lex is portraying things, as him being the last hope against a monster trying to remove freedoms. Just pitch perfect.

On to the book.

Lexor has joined the UP, reluctantly. Superman has destroyed the planet's one economic book, resource devouring evil robots. Destitute, Lex joins the UP so the conglomerate will take on Lexor's debt.

As I said, Lois is the hero here. She is the UP ambassador, visiting Lexor and setting up the union. Superman has to remain in the spaceship or work on the dark side of the moon to avoid the red sun.

I love this exchange. Lois' talk of three good minutes is the sort of amusing euphemism I expect out of these two who clearly love each other and are equals in the relationship.

Lois begins her UP tour. It is clear that the Lex has bamboozled the populace. As Lois points out all the atrocities Luthor has done and how many might want revenge, the robot majordomo says this justifies Lex's statements of how Lexor needs protecting.

Instead of realizing Lex has forced them to need protection, this robot thinks Lex is the hero defending the world.

But then, a turn. Lexor is rich in crystals which can help amplify energy sources. They are extremely valuable and will help all the UP. Had Lex known about these, his financial woes would be gone.

Now Lex wants to rescind the UP invite. He doesn't need their help to cover his debt. He has something new. 

So rather than join the UP willingly, he locks Lois up and tears up the agreement. He slaughters the UP miners who are digging up the crystals. And he hopes he will lure Superman down to eliminate him as well.

This shows you Lex's true conscience.

The robot from before asks Lois what it all means. Lex is 'unorthodox'. But if he is evil, what does that make the robot who was created by Lex. 

Lois is blunt. If you follow someone like Lex who lies and cheats and uses force, you are becoming that person. Their values are your values.

This is all very Trumpian. Certainly, having Lois monologue about politics could be ham-fisted or preachy. But this story unfolds in a way that it doesn't feel that way. Russell threads the needle. This is a story with an agenda. Not an agenda forced into a story.

And Pugh works well showing this monarch like character.

When Lexor joined the UP, Lex's propaganda news network trumpeted it as a coup by Luthor.

Now that the UP isn't needed, Lex has the news channel turn face. 

Even those reporters are questioning the validity of this. Don't they have any reputation at stake?

Turns out, no. When one questions the news they are reporting, he is vaporized by Lex.

Obviously, this is a Fox news analogue.

When Superman risks his life, heading to the planet to stop Lex, Luthor uses his base of supporters against our hero.

Lex has convinced the population that Superman is trying to destroy their way of life. And so they attack him. 

In many ways, this zealous protection of the benefactor can be seen on both sides of the political aisle, people defending anything and everything their 'hero' does. 

But in a time when regular citizens where whipped into such a frenzy they broke into the Capitol, I can see the metaphor.

And once the citizens have slowed Superman down such that the red sun effect has kicked in, then and only then does Lex wade in.

But Lex knows, these people are equating Lex's strength as their own. They have been taken in by him completely.

Luckily Lois pulls a Ripley, dons a mining suit, and smacks Lex down.

Our story takes one more turn.

Lois and Superman leave the planet. Lexor is allowed to leave the UP. Luthor has his propaganda machine blast this as a victory for him.

But the salvation of the crystals doesn't pull Lexor out of the fire. Superman synthesized the crystals in his Fortress and gave them away for free. Lexor's commodity is worthless.

Now what will Lex do.

This image of him in a bathtub holding a lollipop just enforces the idea of Lex being a petulant toddler. 

So this unfolded much like the first issue, heavy on the political satire and commentary. But I enjoyed this one much more. I wish I had an explanation why. 

But as I have said many times, I like a story with an agenda when it is done well. This issue threaded that needle.

Overall grade: B


Professor Feetlebaum said...

When I saw Lex with that lollipop, I couldn't help but think of Telly Savalas and Kojak.

Martin Gray said...

Nice review, sir! I hope that next issue we find out more about Lex’s false face, and that his robot slave turns on him.