It’s not often that a short, seemingly random comic has such a strong impact on an overall story, but the unassuming Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography does just that.
Prior to reading, I assumed it would be a cut and dry history of the character, likely emphasizing his heartless side and further cementing my understanding of just why he’s one of Superman’s most hated enemies. It serves that purpose, but that story is wrapped up in an even more telling narrative.
The comic featured here tells the story of Peter Sands, a down on his luck writer who decides to pen a tell-all biography about one of Metropolis’s most famous billionaires, Lex Luthor. As he begins researching, the inevitable skeletons from Luthor’s closet begin popping up, leading Sands deeper and deeper into this enigmatic man’s mysterious and often dangerous past.
No revelation was more disturbing than learning that Luthor rigged his parents’ deaths when he was just a boy. Collecting insurance money from a policy he forged in his father’s name, Luthor built the first step to his financial success. He didn’t seem too concerned ifthis first step was built on his parents’ dead bodies.
As Sands delves deeper, we learn a few more interesting facts, particularly who Luthor spent time with as a young boy:
It’s possible that Luthor’s connection to Perry White was laid out in a prior comic, but I believe it’s the first time I’ve come across it. Although not serving a larger purpose within this story, I enjoy seeing such connections between characters. The web of relationships makes for a much more compelling story.
As would be expected, Sands’s digging attracts the attention of Luthor, who eventually sends thugs to ransack his apartment and ultimately kill him. What’s more, they write Clark Kent’s name in Sands’s blood, essentially framing him for the murder (as, incidentally, he was the last person to see Sands alive.)
Therin lies the plot for the second half of this comic. Kent spends the entirety of the issue in an interrogation room, with detectives who are convinced he murdered Sands to steal his story. Kent is ultimately saved when a woman claiming to be his attorney walks in, states they found the murder weapon with another man’s prints on it, and demands Kent be released from custody.
As Clark tries to wrap his head around what’s happened, the woman informs him that she’s been hired by Luthor to represent him. Knowing Luthor all too well, Clark demands to know what he wants in exchange.
The answer, of course, is information on Superman. This request is followed by a veiled threat:
The power Luthor exerts in these scenes is astounding. His rule in Metropolis is so far-reaching that he can intimidate and coerce people without even being in the room. What’s more, he’s completely changing the game he’s been playing with Superman, albeit unwittingly. Luthor has tried and failed numerous times to defeat Superman; if he can’t succeed by going after the hero, maybe he can by going after the man? His plan is more brilliant than even he knows.
Luthor’s genius, coupled with his outright disregard for other human beings, makes him a formidable force, to say the least. This comic was better than I thought it would be, giving the reader a peak behind the curtain of Luthor’s success while also showing just how far he has and is willing to go to maintain that power. His attack on Clark Kent is merely a means to an end, a way to gain the upper hand on Superman using any means necessary. With all other avenues exhausted, it seems Luthor is going back to basics: using the weapons of coercion, power, and fear to get his way.
I’m sure Superman is up for the challenge. I can only hope that Clark Kent is as well.