We’ve seen Superman and Lex Luthor fight it out countless times over the 80 year history of the Man of Steel. Just how far will this rivalry go? We get an idea of that in the Action Comics Special, which features “The Last Will and Testament of Lex Luthor” among other stories. It gets to the heart of Lex’s hatred for Superman and how that can fuel him in all of his quests for years to come.
Lex has pulled himself up from nothing to become one of the most successful people in the world, however he’s still in Superman’s shadow. He resents the fact that this alien crash-landed on Earth, and with no training or hard work, was able to rise above us all to do amazing things that are loved by the public. No amount of time or energy would allow Lex to reach those same heights and that eats away at him.
This happens both emotionally and physically based on his appearance in this tale. He becomes a withered old man, a husk of the person he once was. His hunger for vengeance is what has kept him going all these years and that’s no way to live. As an older man, Lex travels back in time to stop Superman. Of course, this doesn’t go the way he’d hoped, but we get an incredible story out of it.
Writer Dan Jurgens shows how Lex can be a truly heinous super villain. Upon finally finding out Superman’s secret identity, Lex launches a plan that would bring the Man of Steel out in the open and put his family in imminent danger. It’s a terrifying plan that Superman flies right into without thinking twice. It’s sad that such a brilliant mind is wasted on these evil thoughts when he could be making the world a better place, albeit in a different way than Superman.
Will Conrad was the perfect choice to illustrate this story. His artwork has a larger-than-life quality which is great for a Superman adventure. There are a number of bigger panels on display that capture the epic action sequences well, such as Superman catches a falling Lois or confronting a missile head on in a big explosion. My personal favorite is a shot of Superman flying through the air carrying a pizza for his family dinner. He’s just like us!
Conrad’s design for the future Lex’s battle suit is awesome. It’s a larger suit than we’re used to, looking more like a tank with a broad chest and packed with armor. The telling portion, though, is the top piece that houses Lex’s head. It’s small and almost insignificant, like Lex has lost his humanity and this is all that’s left, almost like one of those heads in a jar in Futurama.
The Action Comics Special also includes three additional stories that further showcase the character and what he stands for. These continues the celebration of his 80th anniversary that was shown so perfectly in Action Comics #1000. “Suprema Est Lex” speaks to recent politics in the United States as Lex attends the White House Correspondents Dinner where Superman is honored with a special roast-like introduction by Clark Kent. Despite his intelligence, Lex shows just how thin his skin is and storms out in a huff after a few insults are thrown his way.
The final story features Firebrand as part of DC’s New Age of Heroes. This was an interesting enough tale, but felt out of place in this book. If she’s going to be an ongoing backup in Action Comics, that’s one thing, but since this was a comic all about Superman and he doesn’t pop up in this final story, it didn’t entirely land for me. This doesn’t seem like the place to introduce new characters. It’s the opposite.
The Action Comics Special is a nice complement to Action Comics #1000. If this is how Dan Jurgens wraps up his stellar run on the title, it’s a nice way to go out. He’s helped along by a few other creators with some fun Superman stories. It doesn’t feel like an ending. This is the next chapter in Superman’s continuing saga and there’s a lot to enjoy here.