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Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #5

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #5

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 17, 2005

Cover date: October 2005

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

Reviewed by: Jason Larouche

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Lex Luthor and Hope begin a night of passion in bed when they're interrupted by a special news report. Apparently Winslow Schott, aka The Toyman, is being held responsible for a deadly explosion at the Metropolis Daycare Center. Solemn, Lex urges Hope to find Schott, bring him to the authorities, and then meet him at the top of the Science Spire later. As soon as the silver-garbed Hope streaks into the sky, Mona enters and gasps at Lex's nudity. Unphased, Lex voices how he once promised Sasha Federov that he and his family would be safe in Metropolis. Mona then hands him her letter of resignation, which Lex rejects, telling her he'll see her in the morning. Mona leaves "Mr. Luthor" while Lex takes out his cell phone and dials Orr. Mr. Orr is holed up in his confining apartment drunk when he picks up. He scolds Lex for "playing him" the way he did. Lex denies this and offers the chance to work this out in person by having him driven to the Lexcorp Tower. Orr rejects the offer, but Lex adds he sent the car already. Orr hangs up, paranoid, and pulls out his gun as he peaks behind his curtain at the street. Nothing. Back at the Tower, as Lex sees a red blur streaking in between the concrete jungle a few stories below, the billionaire muses how he can change the perception of grass, if not the color, with Superman's help.

Across town, Toyman is holed up in his warehouse, protected by lifesize green toy soldier robots. His Captain "Spaulding" informs him of incoming from two different directions. Schott instructs him to tell the "men" "Red and Blue", adding they'll know what to do. Superman arrives and is immediately met with a hail of bullets as Toyman's army engages him in battle. Meanwhile, Hope arrives and rather than join Superman against the machines, she crashes into the building, aprehends Schott, and soars high above Metropolis. (NOTE: All of this is being filmed on live television, in every home and even outside a TV outlet) Somewhere, a hand on a mouse makes one click and, a second later, high above Metropolis, Hope releases Schott, sending him plummeting to his imminent demise. At the last possible second, the Man of Steel appears and catches Toyman. Hope, at the same time, wonders why she involuntarily let go of Schott just as Superman confronts her. She blasts him with electric bolts from her fingertips to disorient him enough to allow her to make a strategic withdrawl. She arrives at the Science Spire (to meet or confront Lex?) seconds before Superman catches up. Twin beams of heat pierce her body... revealing circuitry sizzling and sparking. Hope is a robot, even a shock to her! A tear falls from her eye as she grimaces at Superman before retaliating, delivering blow after powerful blow on the Last Son of Krypton. As Superman chases after her with more heat vision, a Metropolis news helicopter enters the vicinity. Lex stares grimly at a computer screen - it is HIS finger that's on the mouse controlling Hope's every move. The screen then reads DETONATE. He initiates the command with another click of the mouse. Hope explodes, taking the finished science spire with her. (The fate of the chopper is unknown)

Lex turns from the window as Superman appears hovering outside, arms crossed, red eyes blazing. Lex claims to feel his eyes, but claims that even Superman can't see his soul. He challenges the silent hero to believe that not one person in Metropolis wanted to see Schott hit the ground once Hope dropped him. He challenges the "arrogant alien bastard" to believe that no one who saw it happen would not have done the exact same thing if given the opportunity. He then posts the question if Superman's refusal to believe this is either due to some belief that in humanity he sees something that doesn't exist, or if he is simply blind to reality. Still no response. Lex loses his temper and demands The Man of Steel to say something. He simply says, "You're wrong...I CAN see your soul." Taken aback, completely infuriated, Lex pounds at the window in defiance, if only feutile. Lex finally regains his composure then refuses to believe it because if that he could, "you would see a man, who willingly denied himself happiness... who chose to give up hope... for the world. A world WITHOUT a Superman." He admits that he can't beat him alone but he knows he isn't alone in his convictions, saying there are 6 billion of him and only one of Superman. He adds together humanity can drive the Man of Steel back to "the darkness" where he came from. But when he begins to address the possibility of one person seeing different than Lex after witnessing him save Schott, Luthor's bravado falls apart and simply says "Please, just fly away." Superman does so, wearing an expression of pity... or regret. Now alone at his desk, Lex Luthor's closing thoughts are "What gives measure to a man's choices... is what he has to give up to make them. I am a man. I hope."

4Story - 4: Finally, all the plot pieces make sense. I finally realize what Brian was trying to do. He was trying to do to the reader what Lex Luthor does to Metropolis; he twists the facts so that people reveer him and dispise the Man of Steel. He shows an almost humane aspect of the archetypal villain, and then, in a truly Luthorian move, he reveals the manipulator behind the suave, generous philanthropist. Having Hope realize she's been duped all along may be a little cliche, but the way Brian's structured it, it shows off well in its display of how much of a control freak Lex is at heart and how fanatical he can be in order to get what he wants. He openly admits that he took a loser like Schott and turned him into a monster. Then there's Superman, the REAL Superman, and not the renegade that's tried to kill Batman or stare with blazing red eyes at a presumably helpless businessman. Putting life over death in regards to Toyman's fall is the only Superman-ish thing this character has done throughout this entire series, another Azzarello move; just as Lex pulled the wool over everyone's eyes, Brian strips that away and with it the notion of the Man of Steel being a menace rather than a protector. Finally, he also reveals how much of a perfectionist Lex sees himself as through his relationship with Hope. Rather than court and marry an ordinary woman, Luthor must create one from scratch with no other opinion other than what's been put in his head. In many ways, this connects him to the Toyman in the same perverse light, especially in the opening lovemaking scene. He's sleeping with an android for God's sake! However, I feel the only complaint is Orr; I expected him to have more of a role in the last issue. He could have at least gone after Lex on his own; he's a trained mercenary, so why didn't he just play along with Lex's offer to settle it and attack him, only to be taken down by security? That would've shown off the Macchiavellian side of Lex, sacrificing his best general for his vision. Then again it would've overshadowed Hope's death slightly. The final confrontation between Lex and Superman feels reminiscent of the series premiere of Superman: The Animated Series back in 1996. Cartoon Lex reacted the same way to Superman's silent treatment. It's a good insight to his character though; he can't stand being looked down upon by anyone. All in all it's been an interesting insight into the mind of comicdom's favorite madman. Good job Brian, just do us a favor and PLEASE stay away from any regular continuity stories? I'm still getting over how you tried to have Clark believe himself to be Kal-El first and CK second.

4Art - 4: I can't put my finger on it people, but it feels as though this issue's finishes by Gray didn't really click this time. What made this series work was the organic use of color and tones. This issue seemed one shade lighter of that quality. I guess it can, in part, work in the sense that we saw the classic Superman rather than the berzerker alien he's been depicted as for this series. Again, props to Lee for his pencils and designs on the female characters. However, ALSO again, I hate Superman's cuffs. Lose the Supergirl motif next time; the realistic interpretation of his costume is great, and adding a more reflective surface on the shield did wonders, but the cuffs look wrong. Props also on the cape, though. The final shot of Superman flying over Metropolis with that look on his face returns the fans to his true self: a benign, humbled spirit capable of feeling pity even for his greatest adversary. Hope's design is excellent, and making her uniform silvery and metallic hinted at her true nature. And finally chrome-dome himself; after showing the "nice guy" calling himself Lex Luthor for the past four issues, you've done well in depicting Lex in all his moods that he's known for without making it exaggerated and cartoonish. Great job overall.

5Cover Art - 5: When I saw this cover, I remembered the first video cover of Superman II, with Superman flying towards the viewer with a burning Metropolis in the background. This new interpretation, however, hints at more of the "alien menace" that Lex projects. Adding Lex's reflection in the S shield was a good move; its message can be interpreted as Lex looking at Superman as this unstoppable juggernaut of destruction... and possibly seeing himself in the same light underneath his arrogance. Beautiful work, overall.

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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