In another time, in another world, Lex Luthor was Superman’s greatest enemy. That was before Superman and his wife, Lois Lane, found themselves on another Earth—one with its own Superman and Lois Lane, who were younger than them and had yet to find their own destiny. The couple hid in the shadows, helping where they could, focusing on raising their son, Jonathan, until the day when the Superman of the New Earth died and Lex Luthor announced his intention to take his place.

Of course the Lex Luthor of the New Earth had become a hero of sorts, leading the charge to save the world when The Justice League was incapacitated by their evil counterparts from a parallel world. But donning a power suit emblazoned with Superman’s symbol—the seal of The House of El—was more than Superman could abide. Yet try as he might, he could find no evidence that the Lex Luthor of this world was any more than what he claimed to be, an honest businessman trying to honor the legacy of a fallen comrade.

Confirmation of Superman’s suspicions seemed to arrive with L’Call The Godslayer, an alien hero cursed by dark visions of probable futures, appointed by cosmic powers to act as executioner of those beings whom he foresaw becoming villains on a intergalactic scale. L’Call’s visions have foreseen a day when Lex Luthor, corrupted by his own immense power and intellect, will take over the alien world of Apokolips and become a tyrant more dangerous than its fallen ruler, Darkseid.

Luthor finds the whole idea preposterous, of course. Yet he is helpless to resist L’Call and his shield-bearer Zade, who has the power to negate the strengths of any foe, including Lex Luthor’s vast intellect. Now, Superman finds himself standing in reluctant defense of the man who, in another time and place, was his greatest enemy. For Superman cannot abide a man dying for what he might do…even if that man is Lex Luthor!

Men of Steel builds upon the classic scenario of enemies forced into a reluctant alliance against a greater threat. What makes this story stand out, however, is that the battle is primarily one of morality rather than brute force. Dan Jurgens, one of the most experienced Superman writers around, knows all too well that there’s little tension in a story where Superman is faced with mere physical threats, though the story does challenge him in that regard with the power-negating Zade and one chapter that sees Lex Luthor and Superman marooned on a world with a red sun that negates Superman’s powers. Suffice it to say that Jurgens’ story challenges everything we think we know about Superman and Lex Luthor as characters—at least in this reality—and the story is all the more riveting for that.

The artwork proves equally accomplished. As in the previous volumes of Action Comics since the beginning of the DC Rebirth initiative, a team of three artists alternate between the various chapters of the book. Tyler Kirkham, Patrick Zircher, and Stephen Segovia each sport a visually distinct style but splitting the work in this manner—presumably done to help the artists manage the biweekly deadlines better—also prevents visual discontinuity by having each artist do a few pages in each chapter.

This volume is rated 12+ and I consider that to be a fair rating. Apart from some disturbing images taken from L’Call’s visions, there’s nothing in this book inappropriate for a teen audience. No inappropriate language or sexual content. Indeed, this story could be used by educators to prompt a discussion on the ethics of the death penalty and the question of whether or not it is acceptable to kill in order to save lives.

Superman: Action Comics, vol. 3: Men Of Steel
by Dan Jurgens
Art by Tyler Kirkham, Patrick Zircher, and Stephen Segovia.
ISBN: 9781401273576
DC Comics, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 12+

  • Matt

    | He/Him Librarian

    Reviewer

    A librarian with over 10 years experience in public and academic settings, Matthew Morrison has been blogging about comic books for nearly as long as they’ve had a word for it.  Over the past two decades, he has written regular columns, commentary, parodies and reviews for such websites and blogs as Fanzing, 411 Mania, Screen Rant and Comics Nexus.  He has served as an Expert in Residence for a seminar on Graphic Novels and Comics for Youth and Adults at the University of North Texas and has given several lectures on the history of comics, manga and cosplay culture at libraries and comic conventions around the country. In addition to his work for No Flying No Tights, he is the Contributing Editor of Kabooooom.com and maintains a personal blog at MyGeekyGeekyWays.com.

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