[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: Dan Jurgens, Mark Russel, Max Landis
Artists: Will Conrad, Jill Thompson, Francis Manapul
Colors: Wil Quintana, Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
This special features three different Superman stories that focus on Superman’s relationship with Lex Luthor. The first story, “The Last Will and Testament of Lex Luthor” opens with what appears to be Luthor going after Superman through Lois. He’s apparently learned that Clark is Superman and that Lois is, of course, Mrs. Superman. However, all is not as it seems, after getting Lois and Jon to safety, Superman confronts Luthor about the attack and Luthor not only denies everything, but in such a manner that Superman believes him.
Before either Superman or Lex can get very far investigating the apparent impostor, he strikes again. Superman and Luthor both come to attempt to save the day. As Superman gets the most strategic position he realizes who he’s facing- Luthor from the future at the end of his life. He’s come back to get his revenge in the past against the Man of Steel.
Interestingly, after Superman saves Lois, but before Luthor can get close enough to see his future self, the armor future Luthor is in self-destructs. This leaves Superman with the problem of whether or not to tell Luthor who it was. Superman’s parting words to Luthor indicate that he still believes in the goodness of current Lex.
The second tale takes place at a White House Correspondents Dinner. In the audience are Luthor, the Flash, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman. Superman is there as Clark and Batman is in the shadows as always. Like all these dinners it’s a roast and it’s up to Lois and Clark to do the roasting. They take Luthor on most vociferously, clearing acknowledging the secret Superman/Luthor dynamic that is only known to the super-couple. This experience while somewhat humorous is significant in that it ends with Luthor deciding to run for President. A prequel, perhaps.
The final story doesn’t feature Luthor, but instead relates a small adventure in the past with Superman and Lois. Lois’s car that she’s had forever has been in a car accident. And she’s feeling the emotion of losing it. The accident was caused by a wildly creative sort who had invented a flying device and used it for a robbery. The accident was collateral damage in the robbery. Superman catches the thief, but gives him a unique opportunity. After turning him in to the authorities, he keeps the flying device for safekeeping and promises to give it back when the thief gets out of jail in order to start a new life and use his genius for something good. Second chances indeed. Superman gives Lois a final ride in the seat from her car as only he can do.
One of the most innovative and interesting aspects of the Superman mythos during the “New 52” and the Rebirth era has been the new take on the content of Luthor’s character. No longer a true villain, he is sometimes antagonist and sometimes ally, and occasionally what seems to be a friend and benefactor. While this may seem like an emasculation of Superman’s greatest foe, it’s really a much more interesting and complex dynamic. In “The Last Will and Testament of Lex Luthor” we see both the traditional characterization in future Lex and the more complex approach in current Lex. Perhaps, the most interesting aspect is that Superman is inclined to not only give current Lex the benefit of the doubt, but remain silent at the end in order to give current Luthor the chance to make his own decisions in the future.
The second story is an interesting take on Luthor’s decision to run for President of the United States. It obviously could be the prequel to the graphic novel, President Luthor, or the start of a new Presidential Campaign for the character.
The third story provides real insight into Superman’s character as he is willing to give the first time thief/inventor a second chance. While not giving him a pass on his crime, he is willing to chance it and help set the thief up for success when he gets out.
All of these one-off stories have their positive aspects, it’s too bad they don’t seem to have a greater context as yet. Unfortunately, they seem like they could have been rejected ideas from Action Comics #1000. That said, there’s nothing really wrong with them, but in comparison, they are not quite as strong as what was published in the landmark issue.
This is a solid issue that gets at the heart of both Superman and Lex’s characters. While not portrayed as “the hero of his own story” Luthor’s complexity in his modern incarnation continues to be interesting and challenging. Hopefully, this portrayal will continue to be developed and explored and not rejected in favor of the more one-dimensional traditional approach.