SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Superman #36 by Patrick Gleason, Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza, Wil Quintana and Rob Leigh, on sale now.
Lex Luthor is one of the most recognizable villains on the planet, and certainly one of the most iconic. It’s impressive that compared to the visual panache of a Doctor Doom, Joker or Loki, a bald man in a nice suit is just as intimidating, but there's a reason Lex has thrived for 80 years as Superman’s number one nemesis: He's one of the scariest, most manipulative villains in all of fiction.
However, for the past year and a half, Lex has served as Superman’s ally as a fellow protector of Metropolis and wearer of the S-Shield. That is until the latest issue of Superman, week when the Man of Steel and Luthor’s tenuous friendship finally came to a head. In the end, Luthor ripped the crest of the House of El from his own chest, seemingly hinting at a return to the dark side in the near future.
I Need A Hero
Lex’s heroic journey started way back in 2013 with the first major crossover of The New 52, Forever Evil. When the Crime Syndicate of America ravaged the world and the Justice League were nowhere to be found, Lex Luthor stepped up to save the day from the League's evil interdimensional doppelgängers. He worked alongside Captain Cold and Bizarro to bring down the CSA and save the captured Justice League, earning his place on the team in the process. After proving to Batman that he had figured out his identity as Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor was granted a probationary membership on the team and seemed to revel in the accolades that come with heroism; even when given the chance to let Superman die due to a deadly metahuman virus, Lex Luthor saved his arch-enemy and proved himself as a worthy member of the Justice League.
When both Superman and Lex Luthor were transported to Apokolips during the war between Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor, Lex was discovered by The Forgotten People and convinced them he was the savior their prophecies spoke of. He ended the event on Apokolips on a throne, in his very own Superman armor while his personal Mother Box’s traditional “ping ping ping” transformed into “Lex Lex Lex” -- but by the time DC Rebirth rolled around, Lex was back on Earth. He chose to return home to prove himself as Metropolis’ Superman following the death of the New 52 Superman, but quickly had competition in the form of the pre-Flashpoint Superman who had been in hiding since the destruction of his universe. This was a Superman who had known a Lex Luthor on his world and considered him his greatest enemy, a problem for Luthor for sure, but also a fresh chance to prove himself to be better than his multiversal counterparts.