Mark Russell has very much become the satire guy of comics over the last few years, and him being in that mode for Future State: Superman vs. Imperious Lex isn’t surprising in the slightest. That’s largely because Lex Luthor feels like a character made for Russell to play with and redefine. Bringing Flintstones and Billionaire Island partner Steve Pugh aboard means that we essentially have a well-tuned comedy duo designed and primed to crank out a hit. I’m not sure they really did here, though, largely because it feels like the team is treading water, and they didn’t capitalize enough on putting a unique spin on these characters they got to play with. At least not yet.
I was most excited to see how the team used Superman here, because he exists in defiance of the more cynical tone of the stories Russell and Pugh tend to make together, but also embodies the hopeful ideas that they use to elevate their stories. Unfortunately, they didn’t use him in a way that felt unique, or in a way that made the issue feel different enough from their previous collaborations. The problem lies with the fact that, on his own, Superman already represents an idealistic viewpoint that immediately overpowers the cynicism that the team knows is at the core of capitalism. This story feels like it needed to get meaner in order to be effective, and Superman stood in the way of that here.
The Superman here is fine, apart from that. There is a really great note in there about how much he values life, and he’s an optimistic, hopeful guy. I just wish there were more to it, or that there was less of him in this issue.
As for Lex, he carries the baggage of being one of my favorite supervillains, at least conceptually, and again, nothing here is very new as far as characterization goes. The concept of him ruling and owning a planet is fun, and the actual story is playing with ideas of colonization in a good way, but it just feels like the same basic premise of many Superman vs. Lex stories, at least as of now. We’re only one-third through, so there’s room for surprises, but as of now I’m not impressed with much of this.
Even the actual storytelling of the book isn’t great. Most of it is Superman explaining what his last “mission” (for lack of a better term) was, and what happened during it, and it’s extremely caption heavy. Normally this isn’t something that would bother me much, but the way it features Superman telling the story of what’s happening on the page makes it feel more like a picture book than anything else. The captions created what feels like a distance between Superman and myself while reading it, and it was an odd effect. Not wholly bad, at least not throughout, but not really good either. Just about average, which is disappointing given how much I’ve enjoyed the creators.
At its core, this is a comic that works. I like the premise, and I like the team. Cool stuff happens in it, the character’s voices feel right, and it’s doing stuff a typical superhero comic doesn’t often do. The problem is, the baseline is higher than that for Russell and Pugh, and I feel like I rightfully expected more from them here.
I will say though, future Lois Lane? Stone cold hottie.
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