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Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #3

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #3

Scheduled to arrive in stores: May 4, 2005

Cover date: July 2005

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

Reviewed by: Jason Larouche

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Alfred Pennyworth drives Lex Luthor to Gotham Airport after providing him a tour of the city in light of Bruce Wayne's absence. Lex simply writes it off as Bruce being who he is, then inquires how long Alfred's contractual obligations are to the billionaire industrialist. Alfred respectfully declines the employment opportunity. Lex understands, but still assures him that he offered him a job out of respect, which, in his opinion, is not inherited, but rather earned. As Lex's private jet soars over Gotham, the Batman is crouched on top of a gargoyle of a nearby building, contemplating a quartz piece of green kryptonite in his hand.

Earlier in the day (presumably): A casually-dressed Bruce Wayne meets an all-business Luthor for lunch. Lex is in the middle of reading the latest front page exploits of Batman. Bruce orders for both of them, except for the drinks; Lex sticks with a bottle of water while Bruce asks for a cabernet. Lex wants to get down to business, but Bruce insists on doing business over a bottle of wine.

Now: While Lex contemplates what to think of Bruce Wayne on route to Metropolis, back in Gotham, Superman streaks out of the sky, blows the kryptonite out of Batman's palm and bodychecks the Dark Knight off the roof.

Earlier: Over lunch, Lex proposes a venture between Lexcorp and Wayne Industries. Lex is interested in the advancements Thomas Labs has made in Alzheimer's Disease. He proposes access to that research so that it can benefit elsewhere as well. Bruce jokes that it doesn't grow hair, earning a smirk from Lex. Bruce soon grasps what - and who - Luthor wants to direct the research towards and calls it "tilting at windmills."

Now:Batman grips the neck of the stone gargoyle by one hand while Superman hovers over him, the kryptonite lying in the alley below. Batman draws his grapnel and aims it at the kryptonite, but the Man of Steel speeds after the hook, grabs it, and streaks into the sky with Batman in tow. Superman then lets go of the rope, sending the Dark Knight in freefall.

Earlier: Bruce muses he's glad this "hurricane with a will", asLuthor calls him, is on their side, but Lex retorts by posting the question of what could happen if he suddenly turned from benevolent protector to absolute ruler of Earth. "The only safeguard we have against that happening... is his word. AndI say... his word... is not enough." Lex pulls out a small box from his coat pocket and hands it toBruce. Wayne opens it and finds green kryptonite inside. Lex swears there are no strings attached; it's his gift to the man who has everything, whether he accepts his offer or not.

Now: Batman snakes a safety line around the neck of the gargoyle of another building and begins to swing to safety, but Superman slices the stone head off with his heat vision. The Dark Knight crashes on top of a dumpster and tumbles to the ground of an alley. The Man of Steel - eyes blazing red - confronts Batman face to face, drawing back his fist...

Later, in the Batcave, a bruised and beaten Batman calls Lex as Bruce Wayne and accepts his offer...

2Story - 2: Among the several problems I have with this narrative, three stand out...

i) Character - Bruce Wayne seems a little too eager to "wine and dine" Lex; shouldn't this act be reserved for his love life, or, for that matter, that redhead that keeps looking over at Bruce? As for the Batman-Superman battle, what's the reason? If this is 2004, then shouldn't these two be colleagues, if not friends? The only possible explanation could be that Clark thinks Bruce has been bought off by Lex. "Good Lex" would have a much stronger impact if (in physical action as opposed to inner contemplation) we'd see more from his dark side, thus strengthening the duality of this character. And for that matter, why is Lex confiding in Bruce? That's very unusual for a man who makes his business in lies, deceit and subtrefuge.

ii) Chronology - The newspaper reads July 12, 2004 - is this DC continuity or an Elseworlds tale? Bruce and Lex, in regular continuity have met in both of their "masks" and are fierce business competitors (well, at least until Bruce managed to bleed his assests dry). Batman and Superman are active members of the JLA, aware of each other's secrets, and occasionally work together circa 2004.

iii) Direction - WHERE IN GOD'S NAME IS THIS STORY GOING??? So far this story's had a weak, underlying plot, terribly disjointed. Azzarello should be barred from writing Superman books. He wrecked the opportunity of a lifetime (working with artist Jim Lee) on the regular Superman books, and now he's screwing around with his greatest nemesis. Speaking of nemeses, was that Poison Ivy in the background? Aside from her look (which I'll get to in a minute), was this to pinpoint exactly where these two men were for readers new to the book? And what the heck does Alzheimer's disease research have to do with kryptonite, or let alone Superman? We were left with a possible adversary last issue, that woman in the tank. Is it to help her?

5Art - 5: Where Azzarello fails, his partner succeeds. His design of theBatman is second to none brilliant; the suit is grounded in reality with nothing exagerrated (I never really liked the capsule covered belt). His design of Bruce Wayne, though too laid back in attire (and what's with the mullet?), is good in the sense that it is the true "mask" of this complex character. He is very muchthe visual antithesis of the Dark Knight, as Batman is to Bruce Wayne. The Batman-Superman fight is handled magnificently only up to a certain point. The facial expressions - Batman's scowl and obvious desperation against Superman's expressionless face of utter calm - depicts the differing level of effort.However, thatfalls apart when Superman appears to be screaming as he drags Batman over Gothem. As mentioned earlier, the redhead in the green dress (Poison Ivy or not) is a strikingly excellent example of Bermejo's talent for drawing women, but without proper characterization on Azzarello's part, this bombshell is nothing but eye candy. I still maintain the same complaint about Superman's cuffs; too Supergirl-like.

4Cover Art - 4: The texture of the surrounding environment, from brick to use of light and shadow, are even in balance and work well in unison. In terms of characterization, however, it seems to be a needless similarity. Batman is in the open like the predatory animal he presents himself as, while Superman is recoiling with a corner of his cape shrouding his face, save for the red eyes. This is a far cry from his out-in-the-open, what-you-see-is-what-you-get image people know him for. This gives the casual viewer the impression that he has something to hide, which I guess is Azzarello's way of getting across that he is the villain rather than the hero of this story.


Mild Mannered Reviews

2005

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

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