With “Action Comics # 23.3: Lex Luthor,” writer Charles Soule has to live up to readers’ expectations of a brilliant madman achieving the impossible and untraceable through selfish plots and masterful manipulation. Penciler Raymund Bermudez joins Soule as the two take readers through the day of Lex Luthor’s release from prison.
Soule masterfully slides this story in between all of the goings-on in the DC Universe with Lex Luthor’s appearances in “Trinity War” and “Forever Evil” and even, to a lesser extent, “Superman Unchained.” The writer cues up this story to the beginning of “Forever Evil,” but along the way demonstrates just how vile Lex Luthor can be. Through self-centered dialog boxes, Soule shows readers how Superman dominates Luthor’s thoughts, despite the criminal mastermind’s best attempts to transfer the obsession from himself to Superman and to point it back towards Luthor. The scope of Luthor’s accomplishments throughout the issue never stray far from having some connection to the Man of Steel, but vary in discipline from space exploration to hostile takeovers. Additionally, Soule displays Luthor’s ruthlessness by having him destroy a handful of lives through creative means.
Raymund Bermudez and Dan Green combine for visuals that beg to be compared to the work of Sal Valletta and Bob Almond. The duo gets a significant assist from colorist Ulises Arreola in the multiple panels that lack detailed backgrounds. Some of those backgrounds border on distracting, but for the most part, Arreola simply brightens the imagery from Bermudez. “Action Comics” #23.3 is filled with talking heads, most of them Lex Luthor’s, but Bermudez does a fine job with lighting and emotion to convey the story as necessary. Some fashion choices could have been altered, as the on-the-scene reporter looks more like a field interview than a newsperson and Luthor’s business suit just seems odd, but for the most part, Bermudez brings a nice combination of detail and design.
Of all of the “Villains Month” offerings I’ve read, “Action Comics” #23.3 is most relevant to the “Forever Evil” event and does a fine job of lining up the pieces in seamless prequel fashion. Soule and company bring readers a day in the life of Lex Luthor. It just happens to be a very productive and fulfilling day, although not a particularly memorable one. This comic book serves as a nice primer to the events of “Forever Evil” #1 and a decent fill-in piece between issues of that series, but pales in comparison to other Lex Luthor stories that have been published under the “Action Comics” banner.