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Lex Luthor: Man of Steel – Graphic Novel Review (Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo)

By: Sam J. Rizzo

This isn’t your father’s Lex Luthor; this Lex is out being a champion for humanity and will stop at nothing to overcome any obstacle in his path even if it is the Man of Steel himself. The major plot points in this graphic novel seem very interesting, yet there are moments that are left unexplained as to why the character is there in the first place. At the start of the story, we are introduced to a Lex Luthor who is a very compassionate man. Lex’s strikes up a conversation with one of his night employees who is a janitor. The janitor tells Lex about his family which leads to the janitor telling Lex about his son who is studying to become a scientist and is trying to get into one of the most prominent schools in Metropolis. Lex’s says to his employee, “don’t worry about a thing I’ll make some calls and see if I can’t get your son into this school.” Very un-Luthor like but yet there is an unlikly motive to Lex’s compassionate nature. The next major plot point is Lex’s determination to replace Superman with a new hero of his own creation named Hope. Hope is an Artificial Intelligence Robot. She has all the powers of Superman and has been saving the citizens of Metropolis for about a month and is already the talk of the mainstream media. Lex’s at one point has become so infatuated with his creation, that he refers to her as more human than this so-called alien, Superman.

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Bruce Wayne & Batman make an appearance in the story; Lex views Bruce as a rebel in the business sense and someone who has aligned himself with Superman even if he claims he hasn’t. There is a scene in which Lex tries to negotiation with Bruce in helping bring down Superman over lunch. Lex tries to convince Bruce that Superman can turn on the human race at anytime, but with the combined research of LexCorp and Wayne Enterprises they can take Superman down. Lex says now is the time to act or we will surely regret it when Superman comes to power. After Lex and Bruce’s meeting, Batman is confronted by Superman, Batman gets beat up pretty badly yet there is no explanation for this confrontation.  To me it seemed very out of context and out of character for Superman. Maybe this was a shot at Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns from the 1980’s, in which Batman beats Superman up pretty badly.

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The climax of the story is a huge battle between Hope and Superman, which takes place in the sky above Metropolis and the ending of the book is very reminiscent of a classic scene from a 90s Superman TV series.  The end of this book is very similar to the end scene from the pilot episode of Lois & Clark with Superman confronting Lex in his penthouse overlooking Metropolis. Yet, this time around Lex is the one doing all the talking instead of Superman. Superman just hovers outside the window remaining silent with the heat vision building up in his eyes, very Terminator looking in stature. Lex vows that this is only the beginning and that he will indeed become the champion of the human race one day, even if humanity does not accept him. He will be the savior of humanity not this alien from another planet.

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This graphic novel entitled “Lex Luthor: Man of Steel,” gives readers one of the most complex and unique tales from the perspective of Superman’s greatest enemy, Lex Luthor. Azzarello’s writing gets down to the very basics elements as to Lex’s motivation in explaining his hatred for the Man of Steel. This version of Lex Luthor is pretty similar to past incarnations from both film and the comics, yet Azzarello has written Lex as a man driven to show people that he is the true hero not this so-called “Superman.” Luthor believes that Superman’s fight for “Truth and Justice,” is meaningless and does nothing in the grand scheme of helping humanity. In the mind of Lex, Superman can become tyrant at any moment and his very presence he sees as a crutch to humanity. Humans have become so reliant upon Superman that they are brainwashed by Superman’s god like qualities and this dependence on Superman will ultimately lead to humanity’s downfall.

Lex’s perspective is that he is the last line of defense between Superman and humanity. Lex will stop at nothing in his pursuit of doing what he thinks is right for the human race, even if that means overcoming “the obstacle.”  Lex creates his own hero in this artificial intelligence robot that has all of Superman’s power. Lex’s creation of Hope is very reminiscent and symbolic of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but instead of a horrific creation she is a goddess. Lex believes that through Hope he can regain his hold on Metropolis and so supplant Hope in the minds and hearts of Metropolis faithful citizens instead of Superman. Lex’s view of Superman is that he cannot be trusted because he is not human; he is an alien and he can turn on the human race at anytime.  Lex throughout the story never refers to Superman as a man he calls him “it,” “thing,” or “the obstacle.”

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The writing by Brian Azzarello is top-notch in that he gets to the very core of who Lex Luthor is and why he has such hatred for the Man of Steel. I really enjoyed the internal self-reflective dialogue that Lex has with himself throughout the story. Lex’s dialogue shows a man who is concerned with the ways of the world, but yet is still obsessed with defeating the Man of Steel by any means possible.

Lee Bermejo’s artwork is beautifully displayed throughout the graphic novel. Bermejo displays a real gritty world feel like Superman: Earth One and the Chris Nolan Batman films. The use of bleached out colors in Superman’s suit have replaced the traditional bright heroic colors we are so familiar with. I really liked the little details in Superman’s appearance in this book. The glowing red eyes which show the build-up of heat vision gives Superman this very robotic, distant, and demonic tyrannical like quality that Lex so much see’s when he looks at Superman.

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Overall, I personally would recommend this to any Superman fan. This graphic novel gets to the very heart of the psychology and motivation behind the man who is Lex Luthor. Azzarello and Bermejo, I believe have produced one of the best depictions of Lex Luthor put to paper. The story and artwork show the readers, a Luthor that is both caring and sympathetic at times, but also still a villain with his underlining motives in his pursuit to destroy Superman at any cost.  This is a very enjoyable, intriguing and complex look into the mind of Lex Luthor.

Overall Grade: 7.5/10


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