Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: Action Comics #23.3 Luthor

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.

Overall grade: B/B+


Martin Gray said...

Great idea about the underdone Bizarro, I bet you're correct. I agree about Casey and the roof, it was a nice maybe-homage to the BBC's House of Cards, but seemed wrong for Lex in terms of dirtying his hands, and recklessness.

I'm not behind the Superman/Wonder Woman book, but Soule is very good... try last week's Arcane special, a cracking story with gorgeous Jesus Saiz art and DC's best 3D cover.

Supertorresmo said...

I did't understood why the scar in the fist place, the prison and overall everything Scott Lobdell introduced. We did not learn how he got the scar and why he went to prison. If it had at least made for a good story, but no, nothing of interest happens while Lex was in prison and now he just out and no more scar.

It appears that DC does not know what it's doing anymore...

Anj said...

Thanks for early comments -

Mart: I have heard a lot of good things about Arcane. Many saying its the best villain month issue overall. And I loved Saiz art on BOP.

Super: I suppose at some point a 'scar' flashback story will happen. I asked Sholly Fisch if the Bizarro goo from that issue was the scar explanation and he said no.

But as you say, DC doesn't know what it is doing. I suppose Lobdell now understands the harsh rules of DC editors. His plans for Lex were squashed for Forever Evil.

arw1985 said...

I always thought he got the scar during the Diggle/Daniel arc that was supposed to take place a year in the past. I might be wrong though. I haven't read that arc in a while.

I haven't picked up any of the Villains Month books this month (mostly for money issues). I might pick this one up. Nice review.

Jay said...

I was down with Superman/Wonder Woman no matter what. Probably my most anticipated title since the initial batch of titles from the relaunch. But its nice to know its also got a pretty good writer.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to his robot assistant Aria?
I understand that Lex Luthor wants to hire people because he wants their genuine human admiration
(as opposed to a robot who is programmed to admire Luthor), but what is she doing now? I mean,
is she somewhere else doing Lexcorp stuff, is she in storage, or worse...
she's a forgotten one-shot character?

(Remember that co-worker lady that Clark Kent kinda sorta wanted to go out with,
who got possessed by nanites and turned into an ice tornado creature,
and then later told Clark that a relationship wouldn't work out? Yeah, I don't.)

Also, I hope by the end of Forever Evil, that B-0 #1 doesn't get killed off by Ultraman,or worse, Lex Luthor.
Would Lex "I want my own perfect Superminion" Luthor be cold and ruthless enough to KILL his own imperfect
creation? He has done so before with A-0. And I don't think Lex would want to put his "L" logo on B-0
or want B-0's cloned origin to be linked back to Lexcorp.
So, here's hoping that by the end of the event, Lex decides not to be jerk and keeps B-0 around
as a secret and convenient attack dog or something.

Jay said...

I could easily see Lex TRYING to kill B-0 when it turns out to be a failure in his eyes, but unless that incarnation isn't the true Bizarro as far as DC is concerned, he sure won't be successful.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't know about Luthor dirtying his hands killing an underling. In a film about Al Capone, Capone is given a baseball bat at a banquet, then he talks at length about how he loves baseball, then proceeds to beat one of the men sitting at the table to death with the bat. He says that the man was disloyal and asks the others to dispose of the trash for him. I think that Luthor could be just as cold and brutal.

Anonymous said...

Charles Soule is a good writer. But the problems with the Superman/Wonder woman book are not about writing. I think that's the issue that a lot of people have been trying to get across from the get-go with this book. The writer is not really a factor. It's the concept of the book.

Charles Soule is only doing a job but he has essentially been hired to attempt to erase Lois Lane from the Superman mythos and insert Diana in her place. He's been hired to present Wonder Woman---our greatest female superhero---as a love interest and to connect her to Superman in a way that could be potentially damaging to her brand for years and years to come. Now, she will be forever tied to him in some capacity.

It wouldn't matter if it was extremely well written---it's a flawed, probleamtic premise LOADED with bad gender problems. If it's "well written" it's because he's stomping on the 75 year history of Lois Lane or degrading the purpose of Wonder Woman and turnign her into someone she's not supposed to be.

I think that's what people are missing when they talk about Soule as a writer. The job he's been hired to do is not something that is positive for women in comics. The Siegel family and Marston family are not behind this book and neither should anyone else be who cares about the history of these characters.

Buying the book to "try it out" only continues the problem. The only way this problem is fixed is if the book flops. If too many people "try it out" bc they are curious they are giving DC exactly what they want. I undersatnd it's tempting but if you actually care about Lois Lane or Wonder Woman it would be better for women in comics if you did NOT purchase this book and made it clear to DC why you won't purchase it.

Just my opinion. It's just frustrating bc I keep seeing people talk about Soule as if he's a deciding factor in this when in essence...it wouldn't matter what writer was on this book. It would still be a problematic book. Sorry to have to be the buzzkill. But...yeah.