Saturday, July 09, 2005

LEX LUTHOR: MAN OF STEEL #4

This was the first issue that showed a few flaws, although they were the sorts of flaws that the next issue can clear up quickly. And even flawed, this was another standout issue in a standout series.

Lex's plan to replace Superman with Man goes forth... but where is Superman? We get an appearance by Clark Kent, but I'd have liked an explanation for why Supes isn't around to do any of the things that Hope does. This story is in continuity in a Loebian fashion -- any part of the DCU that doesn't quite fit the story is being ignored -- so there's a 50-50 chance any canon-justified reason you came up with to explain Big Blue's absence would be possible. But I'd have liked Azzarello's reason, especially if Clark has time to file his news stories.

That quibble aside, this was a lot of fun. Over the course of this series, we have seen Lex engineer some truly dreadful things in the pursuit of his goals and the presence of Mr. Orr, the henchman Azzarello created over in Superman, is the thin melody in a minor key that something else is about to happen. And oh does it, framed for contrast by Lex's 'softer' side -- before by Lex's glorious public speech and after by his interactions with Hope.

The Pygmalion story works well, especially because it is a love triangle. Mona's frustration -- and humiliation -- is palpable; she has been seduced by Lex's power, not truly understanding that she hasn't lost Lex to another woman or even another ideal. He was never available to be had.

Azzarello is playing us slyly. This is Lex's story and it is being told by Lex. He is feeding us lines the way he is feeding the public during his speech. He talks a fantastic game, a really fantastic game. He is so good at the rhetoric because, like the best lies, he makes sure his are mixed in with a little truth. Does Lex really believe in the ultimate triumph of human ingenuity? Yes, he does. But it is not humanity as a whole that he is looking at, instead it is a much narrower vision: Lex Luthor versus Superman. Lex isn't interested in a spire that goes up infinitely to match the unlimited nature of human potential; he's building a weapon to kill Superman. And, like the other tower of Babel, it, too, will fall.

As has been the case for the entire series, Lee Bermejo's art is stunning.

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