After an elongated diversion starring Deathstroke, Parallax, and a couple guest writers, original series creators Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are returning to “Superman” with new ideas and an arc focused around Lex Luthor. While the previous stories starring the character were enjoyable, they didn’t quite stack up to the recent tales in the titles crafted by the original writing duo. Recent stories in the book started to seem like filler as well while fans awaited this most recent arc on the title. Will “Imperius Lex” be able to deliver the content that “Superman” readers are hungry for? Let’s take a look!
Written by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Pencilled by Doug Mahnke
Inked by Jaime Mendoza
Colored by Will Quintana
Lettered by Rob Leigh
“IMPERIUS LEX!” It’s a game of thrones on Apokolips as the lords of the dreaded world battle each other to claim its rule. Lex Luthor is summoned back to the warring planet, and he will need Superman to help him reclaim a crown he did not ask for. Meanwhile, Lois is confronted by the Female Furies and Jon faces the Children of the Firepits.
While Rebirth has been filled with lots of exciting and story directions for the hero, there’s been one aspect of the franchise that hasn’t been able to deliver on up until right now: Lex Luthor’s role as Superman. The focus away from the fun status quo shift finally gets the spotlight with this big “Imperius Lex” storyline that takes a place a full year after the debut of Rebirth. Thankfully, this issue shows maturity with these characters and properly follows up on the characterization of the past year of comics. In early “Action Comics” installments, Clark Kent treated Luthor’s role of the character with an insane amount of skepticism bordering towards absurdity whereas the debut fight scene here shows the two of them working in tandem and only gives slight hints Luthor may not be doing the right thing in these pages. The idea of Luthor not having an ongoing series to explore these adventures really does hurt but seeing the character interpreted in a more realistic fashion finally give Tomasi and Gleason the mileage to spin a great story around the premise.
The arc of the story even has a fascinating template to encase the Luthor material by showing off a couple of New Gods heroes. So far, the ongoing has had a strong beating heart and emotional hook during Rebirth which has allowed the title lots of flexibility to illustrate of the more off-beat characters in the extended DC Universe. “Superman” #33 only offers a glimpse and a few subtle hints at these characters before wrapping the core cast into an adventure on Apokolips. This installment of the book seems to be having trouble in getting these two worlds to collide in the span of one issue making this installment of the series almost entirely set up for the rest of the arc going forward. While most scenes work and its great to see these characters in some unconventional environments, the last page ends this story with a whimper instead of a huge bang. The first couple pages eat up a pretty large chunk of the story and don’t seem to have a lot to say about the book either.
Artist Doug Mahnke does a great job towing the line between all the facets of this issue. Mahnke’s horror-induced pencils give the New Gods side of the story a unique and sinister edge but give a reserved scene with Clark later on in the issue a dark undertone Tomasi and Gleason likely weren’t going for with the script. Those moments in the book are sparse as the sense of action and big, bombastic page layouts from the creator really add a glorious level of technical proficiency to the comic. When Mahnke directly starts to reference the Jack Kirby machinery a fuses it with the contemporary look of Rebirth, this book is blessed with a fascinating blend of old and new DC Universe aspects. Mahnke’s weird pencils allow for a weird looking expressionistic Luthor making him the perfect fit for this story and strange approach to the title.Continued below
This issue is only the debut of the “Imperius Lex” storyline and I get the sense there is a lot more to come from this arc. Only the next couple issues will prove if the creative team can mesh the Kent family with the New Gods and still tell a tale that is firmly a Superman comic. The maturity a year has lent to Luthor and Kent’s relationship underneath the Superman moniker is also a distinctive blessing in this issue. This is a strong debut filled with potential for where the comic could be going next.
Final Verdict: 7.9 – “Superman” #33 has a point to make about Lex Luthor and is using the New Gods to say it!