written by Brian Azzarello
illustrated by Lee Bermejo
The trade collecting issues #1-5 of Lex Luthor: Man of Steel (also known simply as Luthor) tells the Superman story from the perspective of Lex Luthor. And from his perspective, we see Superman from another angle; we see him as an alien who has essentially invaded Earth, a threat to humanity. Likewise, we see how Lex Luthor views himself not as a villain, but as a hero of humankind, the only person willing to stand up to this seemingly unstoppable alien threat.
So, as he is wont to do, Lex Luthor creates a master plan. He “recruits” a scientist from Russia, manipulates Bruce Wayne into giving up technology, and bullies a union while creating his new Science Spire in Metropolis. It is all with the purpose of creating a woman named Hope, who seemingly has Superman-like abilities, but comes from human origins and is a hero for the city on behalf of the company. Then he gets to work on turning Hope into a hero for the people.
Meanwhile, Superman is left distracted by some other issues, and has no real reason to attack while Lex seemingly creates a hero, a nonprofit, and monument to science. But obviously, more sinister things are in store, which Kal-El will have to face.
Man of Steel also sees the precursor of Azzarello’s team-up with Lee Bermejo in Joker. As with Joker, Bermejo’s art is incredibly realistic and detailed in every panel, bringing forth an incredibly gritty style with the help of Dave Stewart’s dark, muted colors. It plays well with Azzarello’s distorted vision of the Superman tale.
If nothing else, it provides a nice departure from the ho-hum tales of Superman’s invincibility. It strives for and achieves something bigger, with its end-game being more conceptual and idealistic than the usual “villain tries to make something blow up” scenario, though there is plenty of action as well. It’s much smarter than the average comic, and offers a great alternative look at two longstanding characters.
In 2010, DC Comics released a hardcover version, simply titled Luthor. It features roughly half an issue’s worth of new material, such as sketches and story pages.