Lex Luthor Is a Better Batman Villain | CBR


WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Batman #118, now on sale

The DC Universe is full of some of western fiction’s most iconic superheroes and supervillains, with some of the most established rivalries. But those long-established antagonistic relationships can sometimes become somewhat tired, making it perfect when established characters get the chance to come up against each other in new ways or pairings.

Batman #118 by Joshua Williamson, Jorge Molina, Mikel Janin, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles shows how Batman and Lex Luthor are perfect rivals for current society and set up a nice change of pace for both characters.

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Lex Luthor is one of the foundational villains of the DC Universe. As Superman’s longest-running nemesis, the super-wealthy, super-genius has attempted, time and time again, to defeat Superman. Oftentimes, proving that his human intellect and ambition were enough to counter and overcome anything. Over the course of 75 years, that rivalry has been at the heart of plenty of interesting stories. But it’s also a rivalry that has become increasingly an afterthought. Lex’s role has been molded and shifted across the last decade, at various points becoming a ruler of Apokolips, a servant to Perpetua, and even a hero. Meanwhile, Superman has been more focused on his family. The rivalry still exists for both characters, of course, but it has been increasingly less important to each of them.

That’s why it’s been such a boon to see Luthor increasingly paired up against another hero: Batman. Batman #118 reveals that the Club of Heroes, comprised of many of Batman’s allies in Batman Incorporated, has been accused of murdering the mysterious Abyss. But due to the chaos of Gotham’s recent events, Bruce Wayne has no longer been their primary benefactor. Instead, it was the business mogul Lex Luthor who stepped in, revealing how turning Batman into a global idea could be co-opted by others with likely less altruistic motives. It’s quietly setting up a major conflict between the pair. Batman and Luthor share a number of specific qualities, and can actually be seen as a counterpoint to one another on multiple levels.

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Both men are hyper-rich geniuses who rely on gadgets, inventions, and their wits to overcome their normally far more overpowered opponents. They are both also as adept at dealing with problems in the boardroom as they are on the battlefield. In many ways, Luthor and Wayne’s rivalry makes more sense from a modern perspective. In the real world, ultra-wealthy moguls like Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson compete in the public arena to the tune of millions of dollars — all to prove how much more advanced or adventurous they are. Seeing that kind of rivalry taken to a superhero level makes sense, especially in regards to these two characters and their places in the DC Universe.

It’s an effective stand-in for what has increasingly proven to be one of the most bizarre aspects of modern culture. On top of that, it’s a fun diversion from the typical fodder that both characters deal with, and instead forces them to pit their own strengths against someone who shares many of those positive attributes. The pair have come up against each other before, but having Batman’s compatriots from Batman Inc. involved as the collateral makes any upcoming duels with Luthor — either in costume or out of it — carry some additional tension. It’s an ideal rivalry that has been teased in previous stories (like Lex’s brief tenure on the Justice League), and one that could help define Batman going forward as he becomes a more global figure.

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