“Imperius Lex, Part 2 – Fire and Furies” (Superman #34 Review)

After Luthor proves he’s not the leader foretold in the prophecy the people of Apokolips hold dear, they’re ready to kill him. Until he gives them the true “chosen one”—Superman!  Maybe the Man of Steel will be saved by the newest member of the Female Furies, Lois Lane!  And is Superboy what’s for dinner?

Superman # 34
Writers:  Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Artist:  Ed Benes, Doug Mahnke & Jack Herbert
Colorist:  Dinei Ribiero
Cover Artist:  Patrick Gleason & Dean White
Publisher:  DC Comics

What You Need to Know:

After the people of Apokolips kidnapped Lex Luthor and forced him to return to Darkseid’s abandoned throne once more, Luthor sent Lexbots to forcibly retrieve Superman.  Unfortunately, his wife Lois and his son Jonathan (AKA Superboy) got snatched along with the Man of Steel.  Now the Kents are separated and scattered across the surface of Apokolips struggling to get their bearings and just stay alive.

What You’ll Find Out:

Lois Lane hides in an alley waiting for the Female Furies to depart.  The Furies have been wandering the streets hunting down soldiers who were supposed to find Darkseid, but instead tried to kill the Furies.  Lois is trying to figure out where she is and what has happened when someone sneaks up from the shadows behind her and knocks her out.

Luthor is standing at Darkseid’s throne making excuses to Ardora, Prophet and the people of Apokolips so he can weasel his way out of staying there and being forced to rule that hellhole.  Ardora doesn’t buy any of it so Luthor instead asks her to cut him with her sword because “the cloud of deceit I created must be dispersed.” After he starts bleeding, he orders Prophet to recite the prophecy of the one destined to rule after Darkseid and then orders Ardora to ask him if he’s the one…

Superman 34_page fiveSuperman 34_page six

And so Luthor’s plan is finally revealed.  He didn’t bring Superman to help him or save him, but to trap him and force him to take the throne of Apokolips for him.

Now Lois regains consciousness at the Female Furies’ camp and finds herself getting examined by Mad Harriet who assumes Lois is one of those soldiers who betrayed the Furies.  Chained and forced to march along with the other prisoners, Lois complies only to announce to her captors that she feels an earthquake tremor. The Furies tell her to shut up, but that’s when a giant worm bursts through the ground beneath them. Forced to fight together for their lives, Lois grabs a laser rifle from a dead Fury and tells them to shoot out its eyes.

Her idea works and they manage to kill the worm.  Afterwards at the campfire, Granny orders Lois to put on the armor of the fallen Fury whose gun she took up.  They all eat together (fresh roasted giant earthworm, ugh!) except for Lois who is standing on a cliff scanning the horizon in search of Clark and Jon.  Granny brings Lois a piece of the worm’s cooked flesh and says she fought well.  Telling her that Furies are orphans who have become family, she gives her the meat and adds, “Nothing is more important than family.”  Lois never turns around and as she continues to stare at the horizon, she answers, “I know.”

The last 2 pages show Superboy standing in front of soldiers on giant war dogs threatening to kill, roast and eat him.  Jon tries to reason with them, but has to resort to blasting them with his heat vision, jumping off a cliff and flying away.

What Just Happened?

We are 2 chapters into “Imperius Lex” and it’s been almost nothing but bland exposition and mindless fight scenes.

The opening sequence with Luthor trying to weasel his way out of his obligations to the throne of Apokolips are the most interesting part of this issue.  What makes it fun to read is that Tomasi and Gleason show us who Luthor is instead of telling us who Luthor is.  Luthor never comes out and tells Ardora and her people he has zero interest in sitting on Darkseid’s throne or that he’s just looking for a way out.  But we are clearly shown this by his reactions and his behavior.

He gives them a lame excuse. He looks bored and annoyed.  He turns his back to his subjects, then he turns around and half-smiles.  He offers his hand to be cut to prove he’s not the impervious being in their prophecy.  His actions, the looks on his face and his body language reflect the scheming going on in his head.

Once Lex teleports Superman in after announcing that he’s brought them their real savior, it’s the cherry on top of a nimble series of lies and manipulations that is a perfect example of the conniving egomaniac and pompous super-villain we all love to hate.

Most of the pages are devoted to Lois and the Female Furies, but the majority of that is exposition: Lois asking obvious questions, the Furies replying with banal exposition, then shooting guns at a monster that’s easily killed with no suspense at all.  The lines from Granny Goodness about family are unimaginative as is Lois’s reaction to it.

It was a cute bit where the Apokoliptian soldiers threaten to decapitate and roast Superboy over a roaring fire and his responding with heat vision was a mildly amusing comeback. But there’s nothing dramatic or epic about seeing him fly away without any real battle.

We know where this is heading because even a blind man could see (and we can too in DC’s solicitations for the next issue): Superman on the throne of Apokolips. Of course, Lois and Jon will find him and the family will reunite to escape.  Maybe the only real surprise that isn’t obvious is what will be Luthor’s status quo after this.  Will Lex still ostensibly be a hero or back to his villainous self?  Having said that, it could be argued that the cover to Doomsday Clock #2 gives that away, too.

The art is classic DC Comics.  Ed Benes, Doug Mahnke, and Jack Herbert all work so smoothly that it is hard to tell who did which pages.  It is a real treat to get a book where 3 different artists are working together so effectively that there is no clashing of styles at all.  That is the epitome of artistic professionalism.

Rating:  6.8 / 10

Final Thought:  This is an average comic story mostly.  It’s perfunctory getting us from Point A to Point B. It’s all about plot and little about the character.  However, the pages with Luthor were the highlight where Tomasi and Gleason show off their hard-won craft.  It’s top-notch characterization that shows instead of tells.

But for a Superman book where he only appears on 1 page, this was only mildly satisfying—a light appetizer for the main course at the end instead of providing a tasty middle to keep us full yet hungry for more.  If you’re going to focus on Lois for most of the book, we need more than droning exposition, trite firefights and so-so comebacks from Mrs. Superman herself.  Here’s hoping the ending truly fulfills us.

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