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Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #2

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #2

Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 6, 2005

Cover date: June 2005

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

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Lex Luthor holds a board meeting for Lexcorp where he finds out that the Union men are trying to get a higher wage. He tosses his business plan and tells them to rewrite it, leaving. His assistant Mona follows him, suggesting that it isn't wise. Lex blows her off.

Lex visits an experiment that Sergei from last issue has prepared for him. A woman with short black hair in a vat connected to a rock by a tube. Lex is in love with her, it would seem, and she may live or die. Her identity is unmentioned. Perhaps we are supposed to know. I, as summarizer, could not figure it out. [Editor: I think it's supposed to be "Hope", one time member of the JLA. This appears to be her origin story.]

Lex makes arrangements to meet someone over the phone, and finds out that the Union men have said no to the new plan. He puts a box that looks like the one that holds the Kryptonite ring in his briefcase.

Lex gets on a plane to fly above Metropolis and study it.

As he does, Orr beats the crap out of a Union rep and forces him to accept Lex's terms. Orr calls Lex and tells him, Lex thanks him, and lands, meeting Bruce Wayne on the tarmac.

1Story - 1: And that's it.

The man has Lex Luthor, and he tells a story about a union busting thug named Orr and some chick in a vat we have no idea who she is.

The man has LEX LUTHOR, and looks what he does.

Last issue was okay. Last issue, we at least touched the character. This is a very plot-driven story, and that really sucks when you're dealing with Lex Luthor. Because Lex Luthor isn't just some shlub. Lex Luthor is the pinnacle villain.

We are 2/5 through this series, and what have we learned? What have we seen? Lex hates Superman, and Lex is doing something with a woman in a vat and possibly the kryptonite ring while business goes on as usual.

This is, without a doubt, confusing. There is no time frame. Is this before the presidency? After? Orr is there, but Lex could have known Orr before his presidency. If it's post-presidency, how is he running around? Who is Mona? Where are Hope and Mercy.

I get the impression that Brian just comes up with ideas and strings them together in a random order with a hoped for conclusion and a bad dialogue. People really love him for 100 Bullets, and I'll admit I've never read that, but I think it's safe to say after reading For Tomorrow and now the first issue of this that he doesn't have what it takes to write Superman. He may be great with his own material... but then again, his Batman run really stank and confused me too.

It's pretty much the same thing that made For Tomorrow blather to me. Cryptic dialogue doesn't mean you're being deep, a convoluted story doesn't mean you're being literate, and if you don't have a reason to like the characters or say, "That's cool!" about something, you're in trouble.

It is absolutely beyond pathetic that a man can be given LEX LUTHOR, LEX FRICKING LUTHOR, and all you can do with him is show board meetings, union busting, and clandestine deals with Orr.

Orr is a bounty hunter. That's all we know about him. A bounty hunter and hired muscle. There is NOTHING interesting about him so far, because Azz has done nothing to make him interesting. He's put him in three differing storylines now, and he has yet to make me even care about him. Boba Fett rules because he's got a jet pack, he never fails, and he has creative ways of getting out of situations. Orr monologues with the people he likes and hates and works for and doesn't work for, and now he's beaten up a union guy for Lex Luthor.

Here's a better choice. Show Lex Luthor in the plane, build his character a lot, then show one small panel in silhouette of a man beating another man, and imply that this is the union rep being shown the rules of dealing with Lex. And then you focus on what the audience gives a crap about instead of a scene we've seen on a hundred mob dramas for time out of mind, a scene that was a cliche way back when The Godfather came out.

I've said this before, I'll say it again, it's embarrassing when there is a writer doing Superman who I can very easily say, "I can do better than this.", and not in that fanboy "he just wants Azz's job" kind of way, but in the, "Gimme a crayon, I'll show you something with more sophistication" kind of way.

What hurts for me, what really hurts reading this, is that, as some of you know, my absolute dream project is a Lex Luthor story. I have a Lex Luthor story in my mind that is, to me, what Seven Soldiers is to Grant Morrison. If I ever get the chance to write comics, all of my intent and goals are focused onto getting that Lex Luthor story.

So imagine how it looks to me when some guy is HANDED it, and shows me a story about Orr and some bink in a fish tank who has no name, can speak in water, and for some reason is hooked up by tubes to a ROCK. To say nothing of why Lex Luthor loves her.

Kinda ticks me off. Just the lack of cohesion in the dialogue alone such that you can't understand who is who is enough to make me smack the editor about the cheeks.

That I can summarize it in five paragraphs speaks mountains to the story. I wrote this summary without even thinking about mentioning that, but now that I look up there, I realize that I can summarize the story in 200 words and not leave anything out. Let me look at the last comic I reviewed before this and see if I can say the same.

Six hundred and sixty-three words for the summary. That's Adventures #638. Now, I don't know how much you know about summarizing, but the general idea is that you make the entire story available in as few words possible, because that makes it easier on the reader, easier on you, and it lets the comic fill in the little details (the dialogue, etcetera).

Brian writes stories that SEEM to be character driven, on the surface, but really, what more can we say about any of the characters involved after this story? What great moral tundra have they crossed after these two issues? Imagine it. Think about it. But has the plot moved forward and propelled things? Yes. So it's plot driven. And if the plot can be summarized in 200 words, and there are no characterizations, then what do you have?


In Adventures, to show the opposite, we have a character driven story. We expound upon Mxy's intentions towards protecting in an adversarial way the Kents, we learn what Lois and Clark both feel about children, and we see why they think that way, we see the ramifications through the plot, but the plot doesn't bring the ramifications.

And guess what... for all of that, it was a yuk-it-up issue. Rucka was stepping OUT of the narrative. And if Rucka is that good outside of the narrative, picture in the narrative. Heck, you've seen it.

There are points to be had for his masterful depiction of Lex's thinking about Superman in the end of the last issue. Azz did good there. But you can't base a story on the strength of one internal monologue, and other than that snippet, there's nothing in this story that amuses, astounds, or even holds my attention.

Oooh! Lex is meeting with Bruce Wayne? What will they talk about, caviar? The tension moment of the comic is supposed to be a tense moment. So Lex is meeting with Bruce Wayne. So what? He's done that a hundred times. Why is that tense? Why is that the cliffhanger? I don't get it. And how does the story build to that as the only logical conclusion?

It doesn't.

We just follow Lex with a camera as he goes about his day.

You know, this is Lex Luthor. LEX LUTHOR. I don't know how many times I can say that, but one thing I do know? He's not Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a one-sided boring figure who goes about his business in ruthless fashion. That's what we're playing Lex Luthor here for, according to Azz.

Here's who Lex is to me:

Lex is a man who grew up in poverty and pulled himself out of it. He became so hopelessly enmeshed in his own dismal future that he lost the ability to love or have compassion, so he decided the only way to live in this world was to control everything around himself. Think Batman if Batman hadn't had rich parents. So he fought with the neighborhood kids (Perry White being one of them) and he ended up running petty thug schemes and taking money from good people to profit himself.

He studied and became brilliant, and finally hatched a scheme to kill both of his parents. He used the money provided by their death to amass his empire. After he did that, he was unstoppable. Then he met Lois Lane.

Lois Lane made him experience love again, but warped as Lex was, he only wanted to possess her. So he lost Lane to Kent, and became even more determined that the world was a hollow shell where he had no place, so he became determined to kill Clark and Superman, whose arrival usurped his total control, making him clone himself, almost destroying his empire.

He became the president to further that vision, and despite his best efforts, fell in battle to Superman.

And somewhere in there, he met Orr, had a beef with a union, and met with Bruce Wayne. He probably had a lot of board meetings and photo ops, too. He likely even spent some time with Lena in a park.

Now, from all of that history, tell me, if you had five issues to write Lex Luthor, which of these would you focus on? The board room, or the epic myth of the rising villain?

Time's up, Brian.

2Art - 2: I don't know if I should blame Bermejo or the colorist. The actual art in this story isn't half bad. I wish his art could have told me who the woman in the tank was, and Batman looked a little like Christian Bale (dig the mullet), but the level of detail was pretty awesome, and Lex looks verily, like Lex. There's also little moments, like the dropped documents, that work well.

The problem is, it's like the person who colored it just decided to pick a tone and go with it. There's red, and then everything on the page is red except the faces, which are ashen pale. There's orange. There's blue. It's like Metropolis was, except everything just seems dingy instead of more realistic. Maybe that's tonal, to represent Lex, but still, a little more creativity on the color would be good.

5Cover Art - 5: Very cool image, very cool reinterpretation, and the level of detail is such that it really works for me despite the singular color on the cover. I like the logo, I like the concept of the series (despite the execution), and this image really got me hyped up for the story and hoping for something evocative of the villain that I love to hate.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2005

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