Lex Luthor #1 (Action Comics 23.3)
Writer: Charles Soule
Penciller: Raymond Bermudez
Inker: Dan Green
Colorist: Ulisses Arreola
Publisher: DC Comics Lex Luthor #1 is a breath of fresh air in what has been an uneven Villains Month. It eschews an origin story and doesn’t deal with Luthor’s daddy issues or
first appearance with Superman. The comics is a slice of life look at what Lex Luthor does on his first day out of prison, and what he thinks about the world around him. It also acts as a prequel to Forever Evil #1 and gives the background for his behavior and change in that issue. Even though he is downright despicable, Luthor’s schemes are entertaining to watch in action, like Walter White’s in Breaking Bad or Frank Underwood’s (played by Lex Luthor actor Kevin Spacey) in House of Cards. The art by Raymond Bermudez, Dan Green, and Ulisses Arreola is solid, but not spectacular. The biggest strength of Lex Luthor #1 is its intimate look at one of pop culture’s most interesting villains.
From an opening single page spread which shows Luthor changing from a prison jumpsuit to a suit and tie, Lex Luthor #1 is first and foremost about him as a businessman. He makes his decisions for pragmatic reasons, not for the sake of being evil. This makes him completely different from the Crime Syndicate that takes over the DC Universe in Forever Evil. For example, he intimidates a rival company called Spheeris, but doesn’t buy them out because they are unprofitable. Charles Soule’s script connects all of Luthor’s actions together while using caption boxes that let the reader see his motives and unhealthy obsession with Superman. This unhealthiness spreads to other areas of his life and work, such as his relationship with women and employees. Soule’s portrayal of Luthor focuses on his intellect and ruthlessness while not making him too sympathetic.
Lex Luthor #1 acts as a stand alone story and introduction to one of the smartest and most dynamic villains actions, but it is also a great companion to Forever Evil #1. There is a similar intimidation of a rival company leader and hunt for Superman. Luthor also wrestles with being a hero and a regular human in a world of aliens and metahumans. These struggles humanize him, but he is never once weak nor vulnerable. This issue also sets up several weapons and situations that could help out Luthor in his fight against the Crime Syndicate in Forever Evil. It is powerful character study that doubles as a key link between the “Trinity War” and Forever Evil events.
The art of Lex Luthor #1 is mostly good, but it has a few inconsistencies. There are some tracing or photographed background used for the space scenes, and Luthor himself has a small range of facial expression. However, these small hiccups don’t hurt the reading experience. Bermudez has some truly great pages including a two page splash of Lex Luthor in his battle mech with inset panels of him interacting with various aspects of LexCorp. This shows his hardworking nature and ingenuity while showing how far he is willing to go to surpass Superman. Superman doesn’t appear in this comic, but the art team has little homages and symbols of him in the background. When Luthor leaves prison in his helicopter, there is a sliver of sun in the background symbolizing the nature of Superman’s power and ability to bring hope. These little motifs help drive home the big impact of Superman’s absence to Luthor’s life.
Lex Luthor #1 is one of the best Villains Month comics because it tells an original story about Lex Luthor and ties directly into Forever Evil. It is a pitch perfect description of a “good day” for Mr. Luthor. Soule has a grasp on Luthor’s voice and motivations and writes him as true villain not an anti-hero. The comic’s mix of strong characterization, an entertaining plot line, and implications for the DC Universe make Lex Luthor #1 (Action Comics #23.3) an excellent Villains Month one-shot.
– Logan Dalton