Superman succeeds where few heroes could, turning his personal morality into the skill around which generations of writers craft unique stories.
Warning: Contains spoilers for Future State: Superman vs. Imperious Lex # 1!
In the long history of DC’s Man of Steel, nothing has been as consistent as the depiction of Superman not just as a good man, but as a great man, applying his almost divine power to both worldly and world-threatening problems. But while many have equaled his power, no pop culture hero has balanced it with a simple virtue without appearing corny, naive, or irrelevant, and yet even in 2021, writers can write exciting stories in which he exhibits unwavering empathy. which is truly aspirational.
In dc Future State: Superman vs. Imperious Lex # 1 – by Steve Pugh and Mark Russell – The Man of Steel story jumps into the near future, where readers meet a very familiar Lex Luthor. Power hungry, manipulative, and the makeshift king of his own little planet of sycophants. The planet Lexor has recently been enriched by the evil bald man and his army of robots called the Reticulants. Robots are being sent to steal the natural resources of other planets to make Lexor richer and bigger and to that end make Lex Luthor the apple of the eye of the entire planet as its benevolent benefactor.
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When Superman hears the news of Luthor’s robots rampage, he goes to investigate, but specifically states that he does not intend to react in anger, stating: “I know what happens when someone with power gets carried away by anger.” When you fight with them, you make it clear that you won’t let go of your feelings. That control and empathy benefit him when, at some point in his battle, he recognizes something in robots: fear. A robot with feelings, to Superman and many others, is a robot that has the potential to change. So instead of destroying it, deactivate the mechanical monster. “Maybe I’m just naive” thinks Superman, “But I thought they at least deserved a chance.”
In the fight with Luthor that follows, the Man of Steel realizes that even though he is weakened by Lexor’s red sun, he can still escape Luthor’s loose control. In a moment of true empathy, Superman looks into Luthor’s eyes and describes him as a man who “He never held onto anything in his life.” Instead, Luthor was a man who was always desperate for power, for possessions. A rich man who took everything he could and didn’t keep anything that matters. At that moment, Superman takes pity on Luthor. Superman escapes, asking the United Planets to provide aid to the planet for the citizens, if not Luthor himself.
For any other hero, spending so much time thinking about the welfare and nature of his enemies would be forced, but somehow Future State: Superman vs. Imperious Lex # 1 It taps into Superman’s unique tendency toward sincerity, treating his moral accomplishments the same way that Batman writers might try to solve a clue or invent a new device. As characters become icons, there is always the possibility that they will lose the little detail that makes them special, but decades after their creation and even in their own fictional future, Superman he’s still a hero defined by an often heavy, heartfelt moral core that would be a lot tougher even for his Justice League colleagues.
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