February 13, 2009

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Lex Luthor: Man of Steel

Written by Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by Lee Bermejo
DC

Azzarello is best known for his 100 Bullets work, though he's done both Batman and Superman here and there. This time, in what is I guess is in-continuity(?) because it lacks an Elseworlds tag, he turns the focus on Superman's arch-foe, Lex Luthor. [Edited to add: I was unaware at the time that DC is not using the Elseworlds label anymore. However, it's clear this is not in continuity, tag or no tag.]

For the first half of the series, Azzarello works hard to make Luthor look human. He greets his janitor by name, even helps with the trash and trying to get the kid to school. Luthor is out to help his fellow man, whether it's by making deals with brainless billionaires like Bruce Wayne or working to give the human race hope by trying to destroy the one being on earth who is their "superior"--Superman.

As we see more of Lex, and how he deals to get what he wants, the shine falls off his bald head and the evil man returns more and more. While protesting that he's trying to preserve the hope of all humanity against the arrogance of Superman, his personal arrogance grows ever larger. More and more people are hurt as Luthor manipulates lesser villains to get his way, even those he sought to protect.

In the end, it's Superman that must rush to save the day, returning again to gaze at Luthor, who even as his most recent plans lay crushed, insists he has hope...

I have some qualms with this mini, even though it's very well written. Standard DC Bruce would never make a deal with Luthor, for instance. And the setup for the great attack on Metropolis is very sloppy, by Luthor standards. Still, the way Azzarello gets into Lutor's head and gives us an idea of how he thinks is spot-on, and that makes all the other stuff worth ignoring. It would be great to get a similar treatment of the Joker, for instance, though that would require a writer with a bit more subtlety. The art is just okay--I know DC likes that shadowy, overdrawn style that this book features, but it really distracts here when I'm trying to figure out some of the subtler details. All in all, though, this one's worth picking up.