The Man of Steel #4 (November 1986)
John Byrne-Byrne/Dick Giordano
Karen: With this issue we enter the second half of the mini-series. John Byrne has established the new Superman, new Lois Lane -isn't it time we met Lex Luthor? Well, we'll get there, but first we get to see how the relationship between Clark Kent and Lois has evolved. It's been eighteen months since Clark showed up at the Planet and scooped Lois on the first Superman interview (very naughty of him). Lois is still ticked off! The two are going together to some big event and Lois has shown up at Clark's apartment to pick him up. She's early, and Clark still needs to shave. Being invulnerable, however, makes that personal hygiene task a bit difficult. Clark excuses himself and goes into his bathroom, where he turns on the electric razor that he apparently keeps for situations like this! Then he pulls out a piece of curved metal, from the rocketship he came to Earth on. Using his heat vision, he burns away his five o'clock shadow. Then he and Lois head out. He starts for the elevator, but she leads him to the roof. Their host has sent a helicopter for them! Clark frets that the roof is not designed to hold its weight, and Lois remarks that Luthor is pretty much above the law. Ah yes, they are going to a party held by Lex Luthor!
Doug: Byrne sure gives us a different Lois Lane from what we're used to, doesn't he? I thought Clark's personal shrine to his own football career was... interesting. He never comes across as conceited, so I'm not sure even if it was a ruse why he'd have such a thing. Did you think the step-by-step explanation of the shaving was a bit long? I did -- I mean, it's clear that some of Superman's powers have been revised but I just thought that played a panel or two longer than it needed to.
Karen: The shaving sequence seemed very Silver Age -maybe it was a tribute. As they fly off, Lois says that Luthor pretty much owns Metropolis, and this disturbs Clark. Lois states that Lex has an interest in just about every business in Metropolis, and that he is the second or third richest man on Earth. Despite his power, he's never been caught doing anything illegal, although Lois has tried to dig up any dirt. They fly out of Metropolis and head out to sea, where Luthor's gigantic ship, the Sea Queen, awaits them.
Doug: Despite my misgivings above about the shaving explanation, the narrative of Lex Luthor's status in the new DCU was handled well. It was necessary information, and provided in the context of the story; rather than just have Lois and Clark show up at Luthor's party, Byrne used two panels showing their flight path to provide this education.
Karen: Once they've landed, Clark mentions that Lois and Luthor are a well-known 'hot item,' and this makes Lois bristle. She says Luthor wants her -he's a collector -but she has no interest in him romantically. But it's because she resists him that Luthor continues to pursue her. Lois and Clark are escorted into a plush apartment, and we get our first clear view of Luthor: a paunchy, balding, middle-aged man. Not quite what we're used to! As an aside: I've been watching the TV series Hell on Wheels and it struck me that Luthor here looks a lot like actor Colm Meaney from that show, right down to the red hair and cigar!
Doug: The panel right before we get our first look at Luthor is really well done, with just headshots of Clark and Lois -- minimalist, but really nice. Too bad the muddy newsprint of 1986 doesn't make it pop. This Luthor... I couldn't even picture this guy in the green/purple battlesuit!
Karen: Luthor tries to give Lois a kiss but she turns her head aside. He shakes hands with Clark and complements him on getting the Superman scoop. We learn that Luthor and Perry White are former friends now. When Lex expresses surprise that Perry isn't there, Lois says, "Oh, come on Lex, Perry doesn't much care for living in the same solar system with you, you know that. He'd never come to one of your parties."
Doug: Curious. But I don't recall that there is any sort of reveal coming later. Could just be my memory failing me again.
Karen: Luthor asks Clark for a moment alone with Lois. He had sent her an expensive designer dress to wear -just a loan, the card said. But now he tells Lois it's a gift. She becomes livid. She never would have put it on if she'd known he was giving it to her. He tries to convince her to keep it. "You know how much I desire you," Luthor says. "Give me the chance, and I could make you the happiest woman in the world." But Lois is having none of it. She hollers for Clark, who enters the room looking confused. Lois asks to borrow his suit jacket. As he gives it to her, she tells him to turn around "and be as wide as you know how." Not hard, considering how massive Clark looks! Lois removes Luthor's gift and storms out of the room wearing Clark's enormous jacket! But just as she leaves, she insults Luthor by telling him he's starting to look like Fred Mertz!
Doug: Luthor is just sleazy, isn't he? The scene with Lois dropping the gown, on the spot, was great -- sexy, angry, and funny all at the same time.
Karen: The two reporters are heading for a way off the ship when a gun is thrust into Lois' face. A group of shabby-looking terrorists have taken over the ship. Clark places himself in front of Lois -who can't believe how fast he is - and when he tries to talk to the thugs, gets clocked in the head with a gun. The terrorists throw Clark overboard and Lois is stunned. She's herded to a room along with the other passengers, including the mayor.
Doug: If I had a dollar for every time I've read "I've never seen anyone move that fast!" in a comic book, I'd be retired by now.
Karen: Well, of course Clark wasn't hurt at all. It was simply a convenient way for Clark to disappear and Superman to make his appearance. The Man of Steel lifts the entire ship out of the water, thinking to himself that it's odd that things seem lighter when he is flying, as our pal William said in the comments on issue 1. As everyone is startled by the ship rising, Lois uses this as an opportunity to wrest a gun from one of her captors and begins firing on the rest. What a gal! However, she misses one and Superman -having already set the ship down on dry land -swoops in front of her to deflect the terrorist's bullets. He makes quick work of the man, and the mayor comes forward to thank him.
Doug: Wrest a gun? Wonder if ol' boy sustained any permanent damage to the nether regions? So what's the story with things being lighter when aloft than when on the ground? Is that part of the "force field" deal? I loved the way Byrne depicted the crushing of the baddie's gun.
Karen: As Superman shakes the mayor's hand, Luthor comes out and gives him a check for $25,000. Supes is puzzled, and Luthor tells him that he's putting him on retainer. When Superman tells Luthor he's not for hire, the plutocrat laughs and says that everyone in Metropolis works for him. He then says though that the Man of Steel was not really needed, as his security team could have handled the situation. He just wanted to see Superman in action. Lois and the Mayor are livid that Luthor endangered people just so he could check out Superman. Lois says that Luthor is an accessory to murder, thinking that Clark is dead. Superman then reassures her that Clark is alive, that he saved him -the first in probably many hundreds of times he'll have to do this, I suppose! Even so, the Mayor says that Luthor is guilty of reckless endangerment, and deputizes Superman on the spot to haul Luthor in. Luthor is incredulous - "You can't arrest me. I'm Lex Luthor. I'm the most powerful man in Metropolis!" "Not any more," the Mayor says. The expression on Luthor's face shows his shock and indignation. Things have changed in Metropolis, quite dramatically. Luthor is arrested and booked, and put in a cell.
Doug: Throughout this book, I think the zenith of Byrne's art was his depiction of various facial expressions, never more passionately evident than on the page you reference. Byrne also shows a defeated Luthor very convincingly. I really cannot say enough about the art in this fourth installment of the series.
Karen: A few days later, we see Superman fly a woman in labor to a hospital just in time to deliver. he's feeling pretty good about it, even chuckling to himself that the woman gave her boy "Superman" as a middle name. Just as he leaves the hospital he has the feeling his photograph has been taken, but before he can ponder that, Luthor confronts him on the steps to the hospital. He tells Superman that he made a big mistake in arresting him. He says it is he, not Superman, who controls Metropolis. He tells Superman flat out that he's going to destroy him for this, and he'll make sure everyone knows it was he who did it, but he'll never be arrested for it! And so Superman's greatest enemy is reborn for the 80s.
Doug: So here we have the burning hatred that was so evident through the Silver and Bronze Ages. This time it's not about hair falling out, but about a man spurned by a woman, and the fear that he may be spurned by a city. This is a powerful scene; Byrne the writer has done a bang-up job, too!
Karen: It was a novel enough idea to make Luthor a powerful businessman rather than a scientist. He had resources aplenty to make Superman's life miserable. But a part of me will always prefer that green and purple power suit!