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Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #1

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: March 2, 2005

Cover date: May 2005

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Penciller: Lee Bermejo
Inker: Lee Bermejo

Reviewed by: Jason Larouche

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From his office on the top floor of the LexCorp Tower, Lex Luthor watches the sun set over the Metropolis skyline. A janitor by the name of Stanislaw Levin ("Stan" for short) comes in to clean the carpet, but Lex instead strikes up a friendly chat. Stan won't call Luthor by his first name - despite the fact that Lex has repeatedly given him permission to do so - due to a "respect thing."

As they both observe Lex's still-being-constructed Metropolis Science Spire, Stan concedes he'd love to take his wife and kids there on opening day. His thirteen-year-old son, Joey, has a great aptitude in science, but cuts class. Lex reaches into his desk drawer and pulls out a sealed invitation for Stan to use as "incentive" for Joey to attend class.

At that moment, an alluring blonde named Mona in an adventurous looking green dress comes in to report the latest pidgeon satellite images are uploaded for Lex to view. Stan says he can wait till they're done to clean the carpet, but Luthor generously gives him the night off. Mona searches for the remote while Lex, sitting behind her, enjoys watching the woman bend over in front of him, cleverly covering his goo-goo eyes with conversation. Lex finally hands her the remote and turns on the monitor.

The footage is of Superman ending a deadly police pursuit. The conversation turns to interrogation as Lex seeks to learn what Mona thinks of this self-proclaimed protector. Mona admits Superman was her childhood crush as a little girl. She goes on to say that, despite being turned on by bad boys, she'd go with Sueprman because he's the safer choice.

Lex makes a sexual advance towards Mona, but Mona rejects him because she's due to present LexCorp's annual donation at the Von Ruarch Academy Benefit Ball. Lex asks that she advises the head master he'd consider it a personal favor if the exclusive school's recruitment of students includes Joey Levin (even if they have to exclude one of their selections to make room).

Alone with his thoughts again, Lex continues to watch as Superman hoists the perpetrators' car over his head. He internally ponders how the public are so willing to invest their trust in this alien simply because he happens to look human. His train of thought is interrupted by a phone call (unclear if it's cordless or his cell) from one of his operatives, Mr. Orr, from Chechnya.

On the other end of the line, three of his hired guns have an equal three men on their knees with guns at the backs of their heads and a frightened man sitting against a car. He reports that although they failed to prevent Al Hasaballa's planned kidnapping of scientist Dr. Sasha Federov, they managed to intercept the abductors thanks to Lex's intel before they left the country. Lex chastises Orr for bringing in more hands, but Orr assures him that it's free and they'll be "taken care of." Luthor then requests that Sasha be put on the phone. Federov isn't surprised that Lex is behind the rescue. Lex advises him that retirement is no longer an option and that people would kill to get at his scientific expertise. After witnessing the execution of his abductors, Sasha admits he's scared of Orr and his team, but the billionaire reassures his safety. Federov requests that he and his family be moved to Metropolis and that his research be redirected to benefitting humanity. Lex gives his word on both requests. After the call ends, Orr admits the men are former KGB agents; Sasha calls them "Bad Men." Orr agrees they are, but they're "good guys" in terms of their work.

Back in Metropolis, Luthor has returned to his acquired footage and his thoughts. As he witnesses the Man of Steel withstand a barrage of bullets, red eyes blazing ready to deliver heat vision, Lex assesses the "holy trinity" that is Truth, Justice, and the American Way: 1) Truth depends on who's telling it, 2) Justice is reserved for the judge, and 3) the American Way is an evolving ideology that springs from truth and lies. Out loud he says to the triumphant hero, "All men are created equal. All MEN. You are NOT a man." As he continues, Superman himself (either real or a hallucination) stands in midair outside his window. Unphased, Lex faces him down and tells him he offers nothing but the end of humanity's potential, its achievements, and its dreams. He names the Man of Steel his personal nightmare, but does not admit to fear. As his nemesis flies off, Luthor states he's not afraid because he has more than any abilities the Last Son has - he has hope.

3Story - 3: Though not a big fan of Brian Azzarello's work on "Superman" with Jim Lee, I admit that this is a very original take on the old concept of "Why the villain hates the hero". Lex doesn't come across as a villain, but rather a nice-but-still-flawed individual with an inexhaustible sense of generosity. The displays of his usual qualities (womanizing, secrecy, and prejudism towards anything not human or not his to control) are downplayed greatly but still work with its subtleties. Azzarello ignores the usual Luthor-isms like his obsession with Lois Lane, his beef with Perry White, and cut throat methods of business. The only exception is the mob-style vigilantism to save Federov. It was surprising to see Mr. Orr from the "For Tomorrow" storyline make an appearance; obviously Brian wants to keep this character from becoming a one-trick wonder. What doesn't work, however, is the phone call: Why is Lex so casual about taking a phone call from his office phone regarding "private matters"? And why would he award his janitor's kid an invite to the ball and orchestrate his recruitment into Von Ruarch? . There's also a question of chronology; Mona claims she had a crush on Superman when she was a little girl, and here she is now in her twenties? What does that make Clark and Lex? Old men? There's no way she could've been a little girl when Superman first came to Metropolis. That's the only part that doesn't make sense. Also, Superman visiting his window has no known connection to the overall plot. That is why I wonder if it is a hallucination of Lex's, or if Lex is connected to the police chase somehow. It will be interesting to see where this series will take the character in the coming issues, which I will be sharing the reviews with prestigious reviewer Neal Bailey. I only hope that these kinds of mistakes aren't repeated for the remaining four issues.

5Art - 5: Lee Bermejo's just one of the latest artists continuing the trend of displaying their own rendered work, and he does not disappoint. The painted look establishes a foundation of a semi-reality; it serves to cut the story and world off from all the Metallos, Brainiacs, and Bizarros. Superman's costume design works because it, too, is grounded in reality; I love the three-dimensional metallic look for the S insignia and the design of the boots. However, I'm not sure if I'm cool with the zipper front or the Supergirl-style triangle cuffs on his sleeves. They work great on a blonde babe like Kara, but they don't look very masculine on a guy. It's also important to take note of the difference of light and shadow. Because Superman is potrayed as the antagonist and Lex the protagonist, how these two share light and shadow are switched around, just as Brian switches their personalities around. In this issue, Superman is the shadowy, all-powerful menace in Metropolis, while Lex is seen as a vulnerable, honest man. I like the added touch of the glowing red eyes; they give off an aura of power out of control, like this guy's about to go off at a moment's notice like Lex believes. Oh, and Lee's design of Mona is amazing; his women are all at once alluring, seductive, and strong. If I were Lex I'd be looking her over too. :) This Lex Luthor's design fits in well with Azzarello's crafted dichotomy of the man; his face is one of benevolence, yet he's capable of selfish actions; he has a pleasant demeanour, but is a perverted dog around women. I think both Lee and Azzarello set out to establish why there is a cloud of doubt as to Lex Luthor's criminal connections in Metropolis by displaying sincerity in both appearance and acts. In any case, it works. It may be possible that Lee found reference in how Michael Rosenbaum portrays the character in Smallville because I notice similar gestures in the figure, even a similar youthful exuberance. Keep up the good work, Lee.

4Cover Art - 4: It's hard to tell if this is a subliminal nod to the Lex-Superman confrontation at the end of the book. This is the only overuse of shadows on Lex Luthor's face, hinting at the malice cleverly disguised throughout the story. The lettering captures Lex's ego perfectly. Again I have a problem with the zipper line down the front of Superman's shirt.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2005

February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005

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