Saturday, March 12, 2005


As much as I didn't care for Brian Azzarello's Batman, I have greatly enjoyed his Superman and so I am relatively unsurprised to be as seduced as I was by this look at Lex Luthor.

In a past incarnation, I differentiated Azzarello's Superman from Greg Rucka's Adventures of Superman by saying that Rucka was looking more at Clark-versus-Superman and Azzarello focused on Clark-versus-Kal-El. Azzarello's Clark is looking for signs that he's human by nurture as much as he's Kryptonian by nature, while Rucka's Clark is going a bit more microcosm and looking for what kind of man that human could be.

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel continues on that theme -- Lex is no crazed supervillain cackling madly as he tries to take over the world. Like Veronica Cale over in Rucka's Wonder Woman, he is a human in a one-sided stare-down with a god, resentful of the way humanity has embraced what is beyond them at the expense of dreaming about what they could achieve. It is a marvelously complex role -- nominally the villain in that they are the opposition to the hero character, but, really, are their thoughts so villainous?

Sure, there is a selfishness to it -- Lex, like Veronica, would like to take his place at the pinnacle of human achievement, but what good is being the best and brightest of humanity when there is superhumanity always one step greater? However, there is also a benevolence to it -- Lex wants to inspire human advancement, wants the next generation to dream of ways to make the world greater on their own instead of little boys dreaming of becoming Superman and little girls dreaming of partnering with him.

[I'm prepared to like Lex much more than Veronica because he's getting a far richer treatment and, presumably, will not end up as a pawn in a metahuman/godfigure showdown. Lex is a force and a dreamer and Veronica occasionally gets turned into too much of a petty shrew and it has nothing to do with her being a woman and everything to do with her role as secondary character in Wonder Woman while Lex is the protagonist here.]

Lex is fighting an unwinnable battle, of course. And not just because Superman always wins in the end. Myth and legend have always had a role in history as inspiration -- more people have looked to King Arthur or Jesus as heroic examples to follow than, say, Isaac Newton. We have always created larger-than-life heroes, humans who transcended their humanity to reach greatness, and the physical presence of one living among us is not the sole crippling agent behind (what Lex sees as) humanity's stifled aspirations. Lex might say that men didn't stop doing natural philosophy after Newton produced a Principia that was too advanced for most everyone to follow, but he doesn't see that men haven't stopped reaching for greatness in an age of Superman, either.

Ultimately, Lex's failing isn't in what he wants, but it will be in how far he will go to get it.

Lee Barmejo's art is striking in all the right ways and it is beautiful without being overly pretty. Colorist Dave Stewart has provided a palette that sets off Bermejo's lines wonderfully, creating an effect both ultra-real and surreal all at once.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved tyhis book as well. For ll the reasons you mentioned.
Azzarello's dialogue is usually so good...I just could not get past Lex saying "Yeah". It just sounded wrong.


Sat Mar 12, 03:41:00 PM EST  

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