Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lex Luthor, Ladykiller!...literally.

When Lex Luthor makes an appearance in an old Superman comics, some readers prefer it when Superman knows Lex is an unrepentant scumbag, evil to his heartless core. Others prefer the Superman that always wants to see the best in everyone, who still thinks Lex could turn it around and redeem himself for his many, many, many, many misdeeds. Today we have both, with some Superdickery on the cover for good measure! From 1980, Action Comics #512, "Luthor's Day of Reckoning!" Written by Cary Bates, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Frank Chiaramonte.

The story opens with Superman presenting the newest recipient of a Presidential pardon to the press: Lex Luthor!, that is going to haunt him come elections. It may sound unbelievable, but Superman is one to trust but verify: an array of tests to Lex's brain showed him to no longer be evil, and Lex had risked his life to help Supes against Terra-Man...which doesn't sound all that dangerous, but moving on. The press, represented by Jimmy Olsen for some reason, asks what could have caused Luthor's turnaround, but the President says they should hear that from Luthor himself, when the time is right. Which is apparently later that day, as the Daily Planet breaks the story "Luthor to Marry Woman Who Changed His Evil Ways!" So the huckster at the newsstand proclaims, the Planet didn't spring for the usual colossal banner headline, although it's still pretty big.

Yes, Lex has changed his ways over a woman, the likewise bald Angela Blake. Lex had saved her life from the disease called DXS, which cost her her hair, but she assures Lex she would still be in love with him even without that gratitude. While the couple is out for a cruise in Luthor's nuclear-powered speedboat, though, the mob attempts a hit on Luthor, for perceived disloyalty. To evil, I guess. Taking potshots, even with a mortar, at a guy who can build a bulletproof nuclear-powered speedboat, seems like a bad idea. But it's a worse idea if Superman's treating said guy like his best bud. Superman saves Lex and Angela, flies them over to check out the sunset, and agrees to be Lex's best man.

After a private ceremony, with Lois Lane as bridesmaid, the newlyweds have a reception at the GBS Galaxy Building, where Clark Kent makes an appearance while Superman is "on a quick patrol." Angela says it's time the best man kisses the bride, and Superman obliges--but they suddenly disappear, leaving a confused and dumbfounded crowd! Even more oddly, Luthor is hustled out of the building, Secret Service-style, by a pair of men who reveal themselves to be robots, who then gas Lex and make off with him!

Furious, Lex demands to be set free, so he can recover his missing bride, but the robots play him a tape while a mysterious machine "charges" part of Lex's brain. The tape details "Project Angela," and step one: find a woman Lex could brainwash himself into loving. That's a pretty grim eHarmony profile, Lex. Step two: clone her, after implanting a detonator deep in her cellular structure. Step three: dispose of the original girl. Step four: cure the clone of the genetic disease she inherited from the original, which should be a cakewalk, since you're a friggin' genius. Step five: marry said clone, getting Superman into position to kiss her, which would catapult them both out of this universe and into the "secret astral plane" called the "L-Zone!" Which is totally different than the Phantom Zone, even if that's how Lex found it. Patent pending! Once there, Superman's molecules would be so transformed he would never, ever, ever be able to escape; but Lex needed to sneak up on Superman with the perfect weapon, that he would never expect!

The robots show Lex the "intra-spacial viewer," so he can get a gander of the utterly defeated Superman...and instead it's just a clone floating alone in the L-Zone. Which is right about when Superman shows up and starts wrecking the place. Lex is seemingly paralyzed, as Superman casually yet furiously destroys the robots and equipment. Even after all their years of conflict, Superman is almost surprised that Lex was willing to brainwash himself to be good; but not really surprised that Lex would murder--and yes, this was straight-up murder--a terminally-ill girl, before taking the time to study her disease and find a cure.

Superman reveals Lex's brainwashing was too good--it also erased his previous marriage, and there were some suspicious-looking blank spots. He was playing along the whole time, in the hopes that the real Angela might still be alive, then "disappeared" at super-speed before he would've been sucked into the L-Zone. Lex is crushed, though; crying like a little girl, over having lost his love. Or the clone of his love, which could be his love, I guess. Or failing to kill Superman again. Or maybe for having been subjected to that lecture. You decide.


SallyP said...!

You really do have to wonder what those writers were smoking.

Dale Bagwell said...

The smart-ass in me says it was the lecture that made Lex cry. Lex don't love nobody but Lex Luthor baby!

And how is Lex not tried and sentenced to death for straight up killing or allowing a person to die of their disease and then clone said person? Only in comics does that shit happen and allowed to stand.

googum said...

You know, I was kind of wondering if maybe that presidential pardon wasn't part of Superman's plan, and maybe Lex got away with it...

Dale Bagwell said...

Hmmm. But that would imply that like the Joker and Batman, Supes and Lex have a twisted symboitic relationship. Meaning he needs Lex free as a bird to make him look good. Fuck that's twisted. Plus, even if Lex was pardoned and all, didn't he still have a criminal record as a felon, thus excluding him from ever being able to serve as President of the US?

TrisakAminawn said...

*turns up over a year later* Nah. It's technically legal for a felon to be President, for one thing--it's just also technically permissible for Congress to impeach them as soon as they take office. And unlikely for them to get the electoral votes together in the first place. But the point of a pardon is that it reverses felon status and wipes clean the slate--that's why people seek them even if they've already served their time.

Then there's the particular form of pardon that acknowledges the conviction was in error, which entitles the recipient to reparations. Of course the details of this stuff vary somewhat by jurisdiction, but a pardon is serious business. It makes someone no longer a criminal by executive fiat.