With all the anniversary tributes to the death of Superman it was merely a matter of time until a death of Lex Luthor story emerged. Superman: The Last Days of Lex Luthor #1 by title alone suggests such a story, but the first issue proves to be much more. Being published under the Black Label imprint promises a more hard-hitting take on Clark and Lex’s relationship through their years in Smallville to the book’s present, but thus far nothing too outrageous has occurred.
Five covers accompany this initial release with the standard created by Bryan Hitch and David Baron. The Sun providing aura and backlight, Superman appears as a saviour figure descending from the heavens. A look of disapproval adorns his face which leads me to believe this piece is meant for us to see Superman as Lex does, someone who thinks they’re superior and looks down on us.
The variant by Yanick Paquette and Dave McCaig continues playing with biblical themes with an homage to Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” from the Sistine Chapel. Once again Superman is cast as the god-like figure with Lex in the Adam role. It’s definitely a testament to Lex’s point of reference viewing Superman as nothing more than an all-powerful being who’s disconnected from the world around him.
Chris Samnee and Matheus Lopes’s variant is reminiscent of the final pose from the opening credits of Superman: The Animated Series. It’s a very vibrant cover that instantly catches the eye aided by the playful look on Superman’s face.
The other two variants are by Kevin Nowlan and Evan “Doc” Shaner and are definitely worth seeking out.
The interior art team consists of Bryan Hitch on pencils, Kevin Nowlan with inks, and colors by David Baron, together they cram a lot of visuals throughout the issue. There are several different nods to various movies especially the exterior design of the Fortress of Solitude and the falling glass scene from Superman Returns. There’s a realistic quality to their art that lets us read the facial expressions and body language of the characters in every panel. It’s almost as if we’re getting to read the art layouts of a live action project.
Written by Mark Waid with letters by Richard Starkings & Tyler Smith of Comicraft, Superman: The Last Days of Lex Luthor #1 is an era spanning tale showcasing what both sets Lex and Clark apart and against one another. Essentially by tampering with kryptonite, Lex has inflicted a slow, yet fatal, wound on the molecular level and is betting Superman won’t just let him die.
It turns out to be a safe bet and we’re whisked away on a quest to try and save his life. There’s also a narrative running through the book as Clark begins to reminisce about his childhood in Smallville alongside Lex. Waid gives some interesting perspective on the kinship Clark had for Lex as they both felt out of place in the community they lived. There’s definitely a theme of these two being opposite sides of the same coin throughout the story and it will be interesting to see how the title plays into Lex’s demise.