The following contains spoilers for Superman #4, on sale now at DC Comics.
Lex Luthor is one of DC’s most established villains, overshadowed only by the Joker and the heroes he frequently faces. However, his malevolence has always been the subject of some debate and questionable characterizations. In the classic Superman films, he was portrayed as a seedy multi-millionaire with the air of a used-car salesman, and Smallville portrayed him as a good man who got mean along with his obsessions. While comics portray his character in many different ways, he is almost always at odds with Superman.
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This is one of the reasons Joshua Williamson’s Attack on Superman is a book for the books. While traditionally a thorn in the side of the Man of Steel, Lex Luthor is now an ally and the series has become an exploration of the relationship between him and Superman. The results are frighteningly interesting and the latest entry has revealed a new twist in their relationship. The longtime antagonist of The Man of Steel once bore more than a passing resemblance to Batman as Metropolis’ gadget-powered billionaire superhero.
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Lex Luthor’s story as the Batman of Metropolis
In Superman #4 (by Joshua Williamson, Nick Dragotta, Jamal Campbell, Frank Martin, and Ariana Maher), Lex Luthor is in prison and personally speaking to Superman about the alliance they have forged. He reveals why he chose to join Clark Kent instead of planning an escape. After Superman confronted him multiple times for withholding information, Luthor finally revealed his true story as the protector of Metropolis long before the Justice League and the age of superheroes.
In response to the disappearance of homeless people from the streets of Metropolis, Lex donned a belted green and purple power suit. He used this costume and the devices he was able to make due to his wealth, which more or less made him the Batman of Metropolis. This includes using his detective skills, disguising himself and fighting the criminals who kidnap homeless people for heinous experiments.
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Lex Luthor and Superman’s new dynamic may be disingenuous
This revelation is sure to come as a shock to those who have followed Superman and Luthor’s relationship from the start. The longtime enemy of the Man of Steel is known for many things, but empathy and kindness, let alone heroism, are hardly among them. Still, Luthor’s new drive is certainly bolstered by his statements. And as he said to Superman, his interests are generally focused on improving Metropolis, even if it keeps coming at odds with him.
As the new dynamic between Superman and Luthor continues to unfold, it’s hard to tell what will become of the fragile alliance between the old foes. It is very likely that Lex has ulterior motives and Superman could find his new ally in nothing more than a snake. However, the dynamic new duo face many challenges first, and Luthor’s new hero role as Metropolis’ former Batman makes for an interesting twist on the story.