Well, I misremembered this issue, and not for the better. I thought Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale were going to do Bizarro. And although they use some of the same characters from the Bizarro origin in Man of Steel, Lex has a very different plan to humble Superman.
Lex is this issue’s narrator. It opens with him getting out of jail; Superman had him arrested for something, it’s unclear what, and now Lex is out for revenge. But he’s not going to clone Superman or steal kryptonite from Addis Ababa; he’s going to poison the city of Metropolis and let Superman feel helpless and alone.
It’s not the series’s first misstep—Loeb stumbled last time when he started setting up this plot line with a pointlessly recurring supporting player—but it’s the first significantly damaging one. Loeb shows his Lex Luthor cards, and he’s got nothing special. At the same time, he takes the focus away from Superman to the degree it’s only minimally about his experience here. It’s very disappointing.
Also disappointing for the first time is Tim Sale’s art. His two-page spreads are for big action sequences, not emotive establishing shots, and his linework changes on them like they’re rushed. And it doesn’t seem like Sale’s particularly proud of some of them either; the other two-page spreads have been signed. Not all of them are in this issue.
There’s no character development for anyone, another problem since Lex narrates, and one might think he’d get some. But, nope, just some uninspired observations: he’s got a God complex and had an abusive father. Nothing insightful, nothing special.
The same goes for the big reveal later on, when Sale has to design a new superhero and does a terrible mid-nineties design. It’s an odd issue on many levels and stops the series in its tracks.
Maybe the next issue will get things going again, but there’s no way to fully recover from this one. I’m bummed.
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