Tag Archives: Lex Luthor

Today’s Super Comics — Superman For All Seasons #1-4 (1998)

Less is often more. Superman For All Seasons, a four-issue miniseries by frequent collaborators Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, distills Superman into his key elements and zeroes in on his most super quality—he can do almost anything, but he chooses to help people.

The book is set in Superman’s early days, and as the title suggests, it’s structured around the four seasons. A different character narrates each issue: Jonathan Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and Lana Lang.

Pa Kent talks about a young man who was raised right and wants to do right. Lois talks about a dashing man who’s too good to be true, and yet he is that good. Luthor talks about a rival for the affection of Metropolis, a lonely man who can’t save everyone no matter how good his intentions are. And Lana talks about Clark Kent, the kind boy she grew up with who’s still there inside that costume.

Together, the issues form a nice arc, guiding us from Clark’s initial desire to use his abilities to help the world, to his initial successes, to his first real defeat, to his acceptance that though he can’t do everything, he can still do everything he can do.

Superman has definitive origin details, but he doesn’t have a definitive origin story. Nothing about Krypton informs who Clark Kent is as a person. No traumatic event motivates him to become Superman. By virtue of his upbringing, he’s intrinsically motivated to do good.

What’s interesting, then, is how he grows into the role and his responsibilities, how he adjusts to the burden that he has freely chosen, how he sticks with it despite any setbacks. That’s what Superman For All Seasons examines, and that’s why it succeeds in instilling a sense of grandeur on nearly every page. To understand the super, you have to understand the man.

In issue #4, two pages are devoted to a single panel of Superman flying over Smallville and looking down as the town is flooding. The only words on the page are Superman saying, “All right, Lana. I’ll make things safe.” It’s a perfect summation of who Superman is.

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Artist: Tim Sale

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Superman For All Seasons (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — JLA: Earth 2 (2000)

Writer Grant Morrison offers an interesting spin on the parallel-universe concept in the JLA: Earth 2 graphic novel. If the Justice League are destined to prevail in the one reality, then they’re destined to fail in the opposite reality.

The book revisits classic concepts from DC’s Silver Age continuity, but it takes a more modern, less child-friendly approach. In the old continuity, Earth 3 hosted an evil version of the Justice League, called the Crime Syndicate of America, who were opposed by a heroic version of Lex Luthor, who went by Alexander. DC had done away with alternate Earths at this point, but Morrison resurrected the basic concept for this standalone graphic novel—and he added some philosophical dilemmas to it.

Alexander Luthor recruits the JLA to save his world from the oppressive rule of the Crime Syndicate of Amerika, but will that world allow its nature to be overturned?

The concept makes for engaging science fiction, especially with Frank Quitely’s cinematic art providing a big-budget feel.

The characters are all static; no one has an arc to speak of. But what’s important is that they’re acting in character. This book is about the big ideas and the big JLA-scale action, and in that, it succeeds wonderfully.

Writer: Grant Morrison

Artist: Frank Quitely

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: Comixology; JLA: Earth 2 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Action Comics #890 (2010)

After many decades of fighting Superman, Lex Luthor finally won a victory of sorts—he got to take over one of Superman’s series. Luthor became the protagonist of Action Comics as of issue #890, and for nearly a year he showed how a villain can carry a book.

The story begins in the aftermath of a big DC crossover, Blackest Night, which was primarily a Green Lantern event. During that story, Luthor got to wield an orange version of a power ring, which was fueled by avarice (whereas will fuels the green power rings). Having experienced such power, and feeling greedier than ever, Lex embarks on a quest to acquire any and all power rings.

It’s a solid approach from writer Paul Cornell. It’s an opportunity to view a classic villain in action when he’s not directly confronting superheroes, though he obviously still can’t succeed. The typical comic book makes us wonder how the hero will prevail over major obstacles, but this book takes the mirror image to that approach, making us wonder how exactly the villain will fail to achieve his aims. This first issue sets up Lex’s heightened greed as a major flaw, and we also see a lack of self-awareness, as Lex truly believes himself to be in the right.

Another nice (though creepy) touch is the inclusion of a Lois Lane robot. To ensure he has someone around who will challenge him and offer alternative perspectives, Lex keeps the company of a robot modeled after Lois. On one hand, it shows how highly he thinks of her, but on the other, more dominant hand…that’s an incredibly disrespectful thing to do. And it adds layers to Luthor’s character.

Every good villain should be able to function as a protagonist, and Luthor shows he’s up to that task here.

Writer: Paul Cornell

Artist: Pete Woods

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Superman: The Black Ring vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Superman #165 (2001)

superman_v-2_165All I remembered about Superman #165 was that it involved Superman visiting his JLA teammates one or two at a time and giving them amusing little gifts. Tube socks to the Flash. Jewelry polish to Green Lantern. So I was thinking, oh, yeah, that’s a cute one.

I totally forgot about the substance of it.

This takes place shortly after Lex Luthor was elected president of the United States in the DC Universe, and Superman has been struggling to come to terms with the results. How could the American people cast their votes for a man as despicable as Luthor? And what, if anything, should Superman do about it?

Talking with friends and listening to their diverse viewpoints helps Superman come to some sort of peace. He’s still not happy about it, and he’ll remain vigilant about what Luthor does in office. But as Wonder Woman says, “If you let this turn into an obsession, then Luthor has already defeated you.”

So he decides not to let this consume him. His life will go on. He’ll enjoy Lois’s company in a weekend getaway in the bottle city of Kandor. He’ll continue to fight the good fight for truth and justice, and somehow or another, the American way will prevail in the end.

It’s a nice little “quiet” issue, and it takes an excellent direction for a Christmas special. Sometimes you just need to spend time with your friends and loved ones to get some perspective. The world’s problems won’t go away, but they’ll seem more manageable.

The issue features several guest artists—a different one for each of Superman’s visits with his teammates. Normally, the drastically different styles would be jarring, but it suits the structure of this particular issue rather well and adds to that whole “holiday special” feel.

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Artists: Various

Cover: Ed McGuinness

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; included in Superman: President Lex (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Superman #2 (1987)

superman_v-2_2Superman #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