[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Guillem March
Lex Luthor is under the control of the Machinist via a Mother Box. It’s taking Luthor’s hidden desires and making them real. Luthor has turned against Superman and is now slowly becoming Darkseid, even physically, thus seemingly fulfilling the prophecy made back in Action Comics #970. Superman knows that Luthor is under the Machinist’s control though, and although it certainly appears that the detente between the two is over, Superman doesn’t give in. He talks Lex into fighting through the control building him up as the world’s smartest man. He even goes so far as to reveal that Lex has been a sign of hope for him!
Just as Lex is giving it to Superman and exalting in his own humanness, he realizes he’s not human at all now. Locked in a crash dive towards Earth, Lex let’s it all go in an attempt to overload his armor, and it works. This gives Superman the opportunity to recover and take out the Machinist and his lackeys.
The story is not over. Later, in his lab, Lex is confronted by none other than Mr. Oz. Oz does nothing but insult Lex and do his best to get Lex to feel hatred toward Superman. It ends with Oz slashing the “S” shield on Luthor’s armor and leaving with a parting shot against the human race and its weakness.
It appeared for a while that this issue was going to turn Lex back into the classic villain version he’s been for most of his existence. It was a pleasant surprise that Lex did not succumb to the Mother Box programming. Additionally, Superman telling Lex that he had given him hope added a nice layer of complexity to their relationship.
Though this two issue story seemed like a fill in (and I’m sure it was), it still managed to move the larger story forward in a couple of ways. Months ago Lex was accused of future crimes after taking Darkseid’s place, this story referenced that as Lex fights to take back control of himself as the Mother Box appears to be turning him into Darkseid. Superman and Lex’s relationship has changed as described above, and finally, Lex’s confrontation with Mr. Oz leads the story into the reveal of Oz’s identity. There were more clues here that continue to point to him being Ozymandias from Watchmen. I’m beginning to wonder if Oz is the villain though and Dr. Manhattan is not the cause of change to the DCU timeline that’s been teased for the past year.
Just when it seemed like this two-issue story was going to be mostly action and little substance it turns around to address Superman’s relationship with Lex. Without showing that Superman no longer feels adversarial, this would have been a very ho-hum fill in.
This is a solid issue, but suffers just slightly from being more or less a fill in between story arcs. The finale certainly whets the appetite for the upcoming reveal of the Mr. Oz story line in subsequent issues. The strongest aspect continues to be Superman’s challenging relationship with Lex Luthor.