The fires of Apokolips have been snuffed out as civil war brews on the planet. There’s a power vacuum in the absence of Darkseid and everyone is fighting to take the throne. Caught in the middle of all this are Superman, Lois Lane, Superboy, and Lex Luthor. The person to fill that void may surprise you.
…Or not, if you saw the cover to Superman #36. I mean, it literally features Superman sitting on the throne. Before we get there, let’s talk about this epic battle. It’s huge. The issue opens on a gorgeous double-page spread illustrated by Doug Mahnke that is a sight to behold. It is filled with warriors big and small. Kalibak and Granny Goodness are locked in heated combat with the Female Furies, a horde of dogs, and parademons fighting all around them. The Super Family in the thick of it, trying to stay alive and keep each other safe.
One of the best moments in this fight comes when the Furies criticize Lois for joining her husband on the battlefield. She was welcomed into their ranks after showing herself capable of holding her own, but now she’s subjugating herself to Superman. Lois is quick to point out that their love is not a weakness. It’s the opposite and she uses it to beat the living crap out of the Furies. I have to say, this arc has given me a newfound respect for Lois Lane. She’s so much more than an ace reporter.
Mahnke delivers a great balance between big, bold images and closer, more personal moments. Seeing Granny Goodness jumping through the air to punch Kalibak in the mouth is not something I’m going to forget any time soon. This is a larger than life battle that rivals that seen on the screen in movies like The Lord of the Rings.
In the aftermath of the battle, Superman is put in a strange position. He’s installed as the ruler of Apokolips and handles this authority in a manner that’s completely foreign to its residents. He brings them hope for perhaps the first time. The Man of Steel breaks their chains, freeing slaves and brings democracy to a land that only knew dictatorship. It’s inspiring and shows what the character stands for, especially if he’s able to shine a light in the darkest corners of the universe.
Apokolips is still a rough place to live and it’s still cloaked in shadows. The literal light Superman brings stands out like a beacon of hope. Colorist Wil Quintana contrasts the two well. The dirt and grime that coats most of the planet remains, but there’s a new gleam to it, like maybe it can be cleaned up now.
Lex is unconscious for most of this issue which is a little too convenient. He came too close to discovering Superman’s secret identity and the existence of Superboy. There’s a final interaction between the two men to finish out the issue that I fear will re-install Lex as a villain. That’s a bummer because I’ve really liked his turn as a hero, fighting his own past to stay on the side of the angels. Here we see him pushed past the breaking point. Despite his best efforts, he will never move beyond the image Superman has of him in his mind. He’ll always be the dastardly bad guy to the Man of Steel. If that’s the case, why not turn into the skid?
“Imperius Lex” has been a whirlwind of a story arc that has tied Apokolips closely to Superman’s future. We’re left with a conclusion and a wide open door for new tales. Writers Patrick Gleason and Peter J. Tomasi continue to knock this series out of the park, delivering epic adventures and personal moments of brilliant character development.