This is another installment in Capstone’s illustrated chapter book series, DC Super Heroes. This newest series features super villains, rather than heroes and this particular title focuses on Superman’s arch-enemy, Lex Luthor!
Luthor has finally found a way to destroy Superman – he has built a deadly kryptonite plasma cannon and the perfect trap to house it. He has prepared for every possible eventuality and his graduated traps within the cavern are set to slowly strip Superman of his powers. Everything seems to be working as Luthor planned – he’s safe in his Control Center and Superman has been lured by a false signal for help. Once he has the superhero in his clutches he uses a gravity ray with kryptonite filter to remove Superman’s power of light. A clever snare destroys Superman’s x-ray vision. Deadly gas removes Superman’s freeze breath. Sonic waves, amplified through kryptonite, take away his super strength. Luthor miscalculates and Superman retains his super hearing sense, but he uses his fake help call to force Superman out into the open and take away his invulnerability. Now Superman has no way to escape or fight back when Luthor releases his kryptonite plasma cannon! Luthor has finally won and Superman is dying. Unfortunately, Luthor has miscalculated and the radiation-enhanced creatures he told his robots and systems to ignore have grown at an alarming rate. His only chance for survival is to take down his traps, restore Superman’s powers, and allow himself to be rescued. One final attempt on Superman lands Luthor in the hospital, en route to jail.
This title, and its illustrations, doesn’t hang together as well as some of the other entries in this rather odd series. To find out Luthor’s motives for destroying Superman you have to read the villain file at the beginning. No reason for Luthor’s destructive trap is given in the story itself. Forty of the fifty pages are devoted to a blow by blow description of each trap that Luthor has carefully calibrated to destroy one of Superman’s powers, which gets rather boring after the first couple. The illustrations are colorful and sharply outlined, but mainly feature Luthor staring at his computer screens. One illustration shows him watching the writhing radiation creatures, although the text says “Lex didn’t even check on the strange animals on his monitor.” The other illustrations rather sadistically feature Superman’s sufferings as his powers are painfully removed, one by one. There’s not much of the action and excitement that my young patrons look for in these titles.
The book concludes with author biographies, glossary, discussion questions, and writing prompts.
Some of my dislike of this particular title comes from my own disinterest in the Luthor-Superman face-off, but this book is really rather boring for its superhero vs. super-villain theme. If you’re purchasing the whole series at once for your library you’ll need to include it, but if you’re buying title by title I’d skip this particular entry and purchase Capstone’s Superman illustrated Superman chapter books instead.
Lex Luthor and the Kryptonite Caverns
by J. E. Bright
Art by Luciano Vecchio
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12