Well, I feel sort of silly.
In my last post I talked about how I figured Luthor’s death was only temporary. If I had simply bothered to look at the cover of the next trade from “the shelf”, I would have realized I was 100% correct.
Oh well. Live and learn.
Unfortunately this cover (and title) gives away a fairly big spoiler, altering my perception of the stories it contains. The book opens with two issues I had read in previous trades, laying the foundation for Luthor’s hatred of Superman, as well as his diagnosis of radiation poisoning from the kryptonite ring he wore to keep Superman at bay.
As I reached issues I hadn’t yet read, the story picks up with news of Luthor’s seemingly long-lost son, Lex Luthor II, arriving in Metropolis and taking over his father’s business.
Obviously, I know enough about comics (plus you know, there’s the TITLE OF THE TRADE and all) to know that it’s incredibly unlikely that this kid is actually Luthor’s son. There’s a part of me that almost wished he was, though. This new Lex Luthor, a Luthor 2.0 if you will, is much more kind and compassionate than the original. Essentially, he’s Luthor if Luthor had been one of the good guys.
Unfortunately, this perfect persona doesn’t last, as the reader starts to notice cracks in his veneer. It begins subtly enough: a comment that could maybe be interpreted as a threat, a minor moment of lost control. It’s obvious that Lex isn’t what he seems, and the comic takes its time in revealing the reason to the reader.
When the big reveal is finally…revealed, it’s such a comic-booky twist that it almost feels completely right. Luthor, knowing he was dying, employed scientists to remove his brain and keep it alive, and then had them subsequently build a new body around his old brain.
The concept of a brain transplant isn’t a new one, especially for any sci-fi story, and it felt rather fitting to have such a reveal after a lengthy buildup. The imagery and the overall pace of the story made this more exciting than if it had happened within the span of one issue. I can only imagine the shock when readers of the time read this for the first time and realized that *gasp* Luthor was still alive!
It’s sad that the trade was released with the title/cover image that it was, since it basically spoils the main crux of the story. It would have been far more exciting to read this story without the prior knowledge of exactly who Lex Luthor II was, but alas, that’s just how DC chose to release this collection. I suppose I can’t really complain about spoilers when the stories were written twenty-five years ago…
This was a rather inventive way to deal with a storyline that would have otherwise erased Luthor from the comic book. Luthor is now young and virile again, able to go toe to toe with Superman once again, without the fear of death looming over him. I’m curious to see how this story plays out. I’m sure Superman will eventually discover that Luthor Junior is really the original, but I wonder how that will affect the overall story. It’s too soon to tell whether this change will impact the story in the long run.
P.S.: There are numerous points in this trade showing that Lois finally knows Clark’s secret identity, which means I didn’t get to read about that big reveal as I had hoped. I’m still salty about that. I WANT TO READ THAT STORY.