Superman #2 sums up Lex Luthor perfectly. This was early in Superman’s late ‘80s reboot, so taking the time to clearly define the hero’s arch-nemesis was a wise move on writer/artist John Byrne’s part.
Luthor is the true protagonist of this particular issue, as he’s determined to learn the connection between Clark Kent and Superman. Along the way, we see him abuse and manipulate his employees, rip out Metallo’s kryptonite heart and not give a damn about any consequences, order the ransacking of the Kent farmhouse, torture Lana Lang (well, that’s off-panel, but we see the wounds), and enjoy a moment of triumph over the Man of Steel.
But then his fatal flaw slithers out on a brilliant last page, and his own arrogance robs him of what should have been a sweet victory. It’s a punchline that shows us the sharp contrast between Superman’s and Luthor’s respective worldviews.
With this issue, Byrne successfully modernized a classic villain.
Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin
Publisher: DC Comics
How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Superman: The Man of Steel vol. 2 (TPB)
Appropriate For: ages 9 and up