A Different Way of Seeing Super Villain Lex Luthor

by Danielle Markman, Librarian

DC Black Label: Luthor
by Brian Azzarello

Look to the sky! It’s a bird? It’s a plane? No it’s………

Superman has been one of the most iconic comic book heroes, known to many around the world. The last son of Krypton is the spearhead of the Justice League and hero of Metropolis, “the city of tomorrow”. While the citizens of Metropolis and many comic book fans view Clark Kent as Earth’s ultimate defender, Lex Luthor, Superman’s arch nemesis, doesn’t  believe that Superman is who he is praised to be. He sees him as a threat to humanity. So he tries to concoct a plan to get the world to see the man of steel just as the threat he poses to be.

What I love about this story is that it focuses on Lex Luthor more than on Superman. Superman, of course, is an important character but his narrative takes more of a back seat and he is painted in a different light. In this book, you can catch a glimpse of Lex Luthor’s perspective and his motivations to usurp Superman’s hero status. Luthor’s character is a bit more fleshed out than Superman’s. Instead of seeing Luthor as a billionaire megalomaniac, who is a one-note villain madly obsessed with the Kryptonian, we are able to see that Luthor has many faces and takes on many roles.

Luthor has a face that he shows the general public, another for his Lexcorp staff and even another for his more indecent partnerships. He’s intelligent, resourceful, inspiring, charming, ruthless and criminal. Most importantly, we get the opportunity to understand why he questions the ideology behind the caped crusader. Is Superman the hero we need or our worst nightmare? Luthor gives us a very compelling argument.

Writing from the perspective of Luthor, brings to mind great questions that one can ask themselves about what it means to be human, what justice looks like and who are the heroes that protect it. Being that Superman is a fan favorite, Luthor begs the question, why should we view him as our saviour when he could possibly be a threat to humanity? Superman isn’t human. Could he be the threat that we need to be prepared for?

The best thing about this story is the plot. I wish that I could give this novel 6 out of 5 bookmarks because of the plot’s sophistication. It definitely deserves more than one read to truly grasp its depth. The story was written by critically acclaimed author Brian Azzarello, who has also partnered with the same illustrator, Lee Bermejo, the artist who has worked on other well received works with DC, such as Batman: Damned and Joker. Bermejo and Azzarello are truly a dynamic duo.

Lex Luthor is inspiring, seductive, charming and intimidating. Illustrator Lee Bermejo does a really good job with facial expression and makes great  use of  shadow and light to portray a particular emotional element. The artwork helps bring out the complexity of Luthor’s character and helps us see Superman the way Luthor does.Not the most color-rich environment for this work, however, it is perfect for this story. Sometimes the artwork is refreshing, at times it’s dark and gritty. The sharp contrasts help the reader to effectively see the world the way Lex Luthor views it and simultaneously, how the world views Lex Luthor. 

Each page plays off of a single color tone on each turn. This is great because it actually helps with moving the story forward. Most of these pages are either in a tone of blue or red which are Superman’s costume color theme.Speaking of the Justice Leaguer, Bermejo does a great job of painting Superman as Lex sees him, which is very menacing. The art really helped convey Luthor’s sentiment  toward Superman because the hero doesn’t have much dialogue.

Final Thoughts:

Luthor is a very sophisticated read and this was done very well by the wonderful author/illustrator team of Brian Azarrello and Lee Bermejo. I enjoyed that they fleshed out the character of Lex Luthor in a way that really hasn’t been done before. Also, I enjoyed that they presented an argument to help us understand him and his hatred for Superman in a very complex way. Well written heroes deserve well written villains.

You can check out more of the DC Black Label graphic novels through Pratt’s library databases such as Hoopla Digital as well as  any of our physical copies as we are open for Sidewalk Service

Batman: Damned
by Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by Lee Bermejo
by Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by Lee Bermejo
Injustice: Gods Among Us by Tom Taylor
Illustrated by Mike Miller, Bruno Redondo

Stay tuned for the next Comics 411 where there will be a readers’ advisory for DC Black Label’s Batman: Damned .

Other cool readers’ advisories for adult graphic novels: Deborah’s Graphics Galore  graphic novel recommendation videos on Pratt’s Facebook page.