29th Jan2021

‘Future State: Superman vs Imperious Lex #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Mark Russell | Art by Steve Pugh | Published by DC Comics

I’ve been enjoying the Future State books from DC a lot more than I thought I would. I just thought it would be another case of what sounded good in an editorial meeting really underwhelming in practice. They’ve not all been slam dunks of course, yes Suicide Squad, Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes we are looking at you, but the ones that have put effort and real thought into their scenarios have really worked well. I’ve especially enjoyed Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Dark Detective, check them out if you can. So, I picked this book up because I loved the title, love the writer (Mark Russell), love the artists (Steve Pugh), and of course love Superman. That’s a lot of pressure for the book to be good. I didn’t like the cover , though, didn’t make me want to pick up the book, which is what a cover should do of course.

So, what’s this one about then…

We are of course (this being a Future State book) in Earth’s future, though only moderately jumping ahead, as an older Clark and silver haired Lois show. We are in Metropolis, home to the United Planets HQ and a whole bunch of aliens who are getting pretty well. Lois is the Earth representative, and brings up the fact that the planet Lexor has been seeking membership. No-one’s that keen. Why? It’s run by none other than Lex Luthor himself, who has managed to find an entire planet to run. Superman himself has also returned after months off-world, an older Clark going gray and sporting a cool, Eradicator style costume, and he has something to contribute. While travelling to the further reaches, he encountered a robot army called the Reticulants, who had been systematically destroying and looting planets to take their resources. Three guesses who they work for, and you won’t need the first two.

Everyone is obviously horrified and the planet is to be quarantined immediately, so no one in or out. Superman continues by telling the UP that Lex controls the planet by way of using a propaganda news network, so no one is aware of anything other than what Lex tells them. He has also caused some trouble for Lex, as he has disabled the robot army. Not only that, Superman flew to Lexor itself and tried to explain to them that their planet’s wealth was based on theft. It didn’t go down well. When Superman started destroying the robot manufacturing plant, all they saw was a stranger destroying where they worked. Clark was in the odd position of being the ‘bad guy’.

Up to now I’ve been enjoying this return trip to the old Silver Age ideas (older Superman, Lex’s planet etc) by Russell, and it stepped up a notch more when Lex appeared in his green and purple battle-suit. Lex is the hero here, defending his world from this interloper. Russell is making some subtle digs at a certain now gone President, showing us how the ‘conned’ inhabitants choose to turn their anger on the person trying to reveal the truth, rather than the con man himself. Superman escaped, and returned to tell the UP his story. Lex needs to join, as without the robot army Lexor’s economy will collapse and they will turn on him, and he desperately wants to stay in charge of his planet. Bizarrely, Clark asks Lois to support Lex’s application. Say what now?

Clark’s logic is that the inhabitants should not suffer, as they have been lied to by Lex, and deserve a chance. By the UP being involved, they might be able to reduce Lex’s influence and make Lexor a better place. It’s an interesting idea, again considering real world concerns on olive branches being shared between opposing political creeds, and one you would expect from Clark. The only bad side to all this? Earth has to sponsor Lex’s application, and Lois will be the one to go and tell Lex. Swings and roundabouts I guess.

This was a fun read, but quite a light one overall. Russell can be quite subversive with his writing, and here throws in a couple of nuggets but otherwise writes quite a standard story. I did enjoy the characters, especially the older Superman, and the witty dialogue, banter and sight gag remains a Russell strongpoint. Pugh’s art was superb, lovely clean line art and very nice layouts. It had the feel of a Bronze or Silver Age Superman Family story, like the Mr. and Mrs. Superman back-ups, though with a little bit of politics thrown in. Which is a good thing.

Next month, hand out those green and purple MLGA hats. Make Lexor Great Again!

**** 4/5

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