In the middle of fighting Lex Luthor, Superman completely redefines the Justice League’s entire reason for existence, all while saving the day
Warning: contains spoilers for Superman vs. Imperious Lex #3!
In Superman vs. Imperious Lex #3, Superman just redefined the Justice League’s mission. The issue, written by Mark Russel with art by Steve Pugh, shows Lex Luthor as a dictator on a planet where he controls everything – or so he thinks. Superman comes to the rescue and provides the true reason for the Justice League’s existence.
The planet Lexor is in a terrible state. The inhabitants are poor and destitute, living in tent cities next to large statues of Lex Luthor – whom the citizens are encouraged to call “Great Benefactor.” Lex controls the media and blames all of Lexor’s problems on X-99, a small serving robot whom Lex promptly banishes to the moon. Eager to win back the favor of the Benefactor, X-99 returns with an army of harvesting robots – who quickly malfunction and begin razing Lex Luthor’s planet. Now Luthor must deal with a disaster of his own making.
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Superman arrives on Lexor to rescue the terrified civilians as they run from the robot army. Readers are privy to Superman’s inner monologue, and considering the circumstances, it’s quite eye-opening. “When you are called upon to fight as much as I am, you’ve got to remember what you’re fighting for. Who you are. But you’ve still got to fight. We dare not lose our souls to conflict, but we cannot afford to be naive. Justice is finding the ground between.” It’s important to note that Superman says this all while Lex News (a very thinly-veiled Fox News analog, with logo and all) reassures the people of Lexor that reports of a robot invasion are completely false – even as the murderous machines knock down the studio walls.
Superman’s analysis of the concept of the Justice League is particularly important on Lexor; recontextualizing justice as a form of nuance between two extremes. On Lexor, Luthor has instituted a 1984-style dictatorship, clearly an extreme overreach of the law and order values that outlets like “Lex News” loves to trumpet. Anarchy is the other extreme and just as ineffective. Superman, being a hero and not a villain, believes in nuance – that the many members of the Justice League should neither ignore crime altogether nor enjoy the fight and crackdown on civil liberties in the name of security. They exist to fight crime, not to enjoy the conflict.
While the rest of the Justice League doesn’t appear in this issue, it would be interesting to see the individual team members’ reactions to Superman’s statement, should he ever share it. For example, Wonder Woman was raised by warriors in a warrior culture – is it wrong for her to enjoy the fight, so long as the enjoyment concludes a battle that much sooner? In any case, with the imminent conclusion of DC’s Future State slate, there’s little chance of Lex Luthor’s dictatorship to rise from the ashes of his own creation.
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