Sunday, March 07, 2010

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo

Why does Lex Luthor devote his time to being a thorn in Superman's side? He's rich, intelligent and has a genius for building inventions, so why does he waste his time going head to head with a man who always defeats him? Now, for the first time, we get to see inside Luthor's head, to see the way he sees the world and learn why he is Superman's greatest foe.

To start with, Luthor believes that Superman, as a super-powerful alien, is a disincentive to humans. Having this Superpowerful alien able to do so many things keeps humans from exercising humkan ingenuity to fix their own problems- they don't have to- Superman is there to do it for them, and Luthor is outraged on behalf of humanity.

But his more and deeper fear is that Superman is, at heart, an alien, and therefore unknowable and unfathomable. At any moment, Superman might decide that human beings are mere ants, and not worthy to defend, and that the next alien race who decides to conquer us, or menace from beneath will be able to roll over us easily, because Superman won't be there.

To guard against that end, Luthor is building a massive skyscraper that will hold a science center, and making his own Superheroine, Hope, also known as Metropolis's Hope.

Luthor is fascinated by Hope, and as she becomes the darling of Metropolis, enters a physical relationship with her. But when she and Superman both go after a villain who has taken a toll in children- but one whom Luthor himself has set up to do the deed, how far will Luthor go to get Metropolis to hate Superman? How many people will he betray- and at what cost to himself, is too far to get him what he wants? How far?

Ugh. Reading this book, seeing inside Luthor's head, made me feel ugly and dirty after reading it. Even the art itself has a dark, closed-in feeling, and a graininess that should be familliar to viewers of reality television.

But it's not just the dark art that sets this book apart. Superman himself looks monstrous, more like Bizarro than Superman. His face is cast in shadow, and his eyes glow red, as if he is about to unleash his heat blast at any moment. He looks stark and alien, and even dead- so much unlike the regular look of Superman readers will have no doubt that they are seeing Superman through Luthor's eyes.

And yet, for all that Luthor talks about the primacy of humans, what comes across is that he would almost prefer that humanity be wiped out by aliens than be grateful to Supermen- another alien. And given the visual... almost hallucination, I would say, you have to wonder how sane Luthor is.

Make no mistake, this trip inside Luthor's head was a remarkably disgusting experience for me. More proof that he is in no way a hero. He's entirely too ruthless and views people as commodities for that- even when he falls in love, it's with someone who is the fruits of his creation. I found it an extremely effective story, but not one i enjoyed reading. Recommended, if only to see how distasteful his view is.

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