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Review: 'Action Comics 23.3' gives us the wrong portrayal of lex luthor

A comic review article by: Tyler S Gross

Can I be the first to acknowledge that this Forever Evil thing is just a way to catch most of the regular artists and some writers up on their deadlines?  Yup?  OK. 

How does everyone else feel about these Forever Evil villain issues? My guess is that most people hate them… I kind of like them. They are one-off adventures, which is cool, even if I am sort of lost sometimes. I love a great one-off issue. I don't really think this one is great, but we'll get to that soon. I've been floating in and out of comics all the time lately and selling off my old collection to pay for my idiot adventures and to buy girls macaroons for their cravings.  I guess one-off issues help with jumping in and out.  

Action 23.3

Huh? Apparently I'm being told that this actually isn't my personal journal and that it's my responsibility to talk about the subject material. Oh. Well then. Let's talk about Lex Luthor.

Lex Luthor has been many shapes over the years. I'm not going to talk about them all because I don't feel like it. Mainly, he's oscillated between a mad scientist and a shrewd businessman. Recent adaptations have attempted to meld the two versions, creating a character for whom making millions is child's play. The main problem I have with this issue is the general portrayal of Luthor as a psychotic asshole. I just don't jive with that. Often times I take issue with portrayals of villains as assholes because that's the easy route. That's easy, lazy writing. You want people to hate a character? Make them stomp around and gloat and be angry and dickish. But that's not real villainy. Let me explain.

Action Comics

Once upon a time, I was 17 and it was Saturday. I had to go to Saturday morning high school football practice because that was a thing I did.  Played high school football.  I don't want to talk about it either.  It was 7:00 am.  It was foggy and mildly cold and everyone there hated being there just as much as I did.

I sauntered over to two friends of mine, Danny and Nick, and began asking them about how they finished their evenings after the previous night's game. Nick was one of the nicest kids I ever met. He would do things for you, and he was always inclusive and polite to the people around him.  He didn't make fun of other kids. He was funny; he was friendly. He was likable.

But I think he was kind of a mean douche. That morning, Nick regaled us the story of how he fucked the girl he had just broken up with in the woods and left her there after. She said to him, "I love you," and he said, "OK." He laughed jubilantly as he high fived Danny and said, "I don't even love her at all! hahahahahahahahaha."

I should honestly has written that "haha" as "bwahaha".  Do you see the difference? Nick had an incredible demeanor, but his kindness was nothing because in reality he treated people like objects. He used them. He was an asshole, but not a dick. He wasn't mean, but he was. Someone can shoot you in the face while they're smiling, right? On the reverse of this, Steve Jobs was an incredibly shrewd man and a dick to most people. But he was a fantastic businessman who generally seemed to care about the well-being of others and of the planet.

Action 23.3

The point I'm trying to make here is that being a dick doesn't make you a bad person. And that you can be the most polite person I've ever met, but you can still be an evil motherfucker. Real villainy is a measure of action, not disposition. And Lex Luthor's disposition in this issue is all wrong.

He shouldn't be some horrible dick, barking orders of this and that. That's easy. Luthor is a better character than that. Lex Luthor should be the kindest person you'll meet. He should be confident, but not arrogant. He shouldn't be shrewd. He should be likable. His disposition should be that of a person you'd see on a late night talk show: laughing, funny, light-hearted. Then behind your back, he's building death machines to destroy the world's savior because he's jealous.

He's petty. He's not above us like he pretends to be; he's just like the rest of us and that difference is what makes him a great character. The businessman Luthor has somewhat neutered Lex's effectiveness as a character by keeping his hands clean. The grinning Lex of All-Star Superman has gone away and I want him back. The calm contractor tasked with destroying Superman in Action Comics #1 is also gone and I want him back. Let's even the character out so he can grow, so we can love him a little. There's nothing to love in this issue's impression of Luthor. He's a cold, calculating fuckface.  And I don't like that.   

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