THERE’S ONLY one person who can save the Justice League from the Amazo virus.
This is a job for … Lex Luthor.
Geoff Johns, the Justice League writer and DC Comics chief creative officer, is no stranger to dreaming up the individual heroic exploits of many of the Justice League’s members (having written acclaimed runs on The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Batman [Earth One] and Superman). But now, he says that writing the longtime Superman foe — in a role in which the villain might be humanity’s only hope — has made Luthor one of his favorite characters in this League.
“One of my favorite things about writing villains, but in particular Lex: I think there’s a lot of validity to a lot of their viewpoints, even as skewed as they can often be,” Johns tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “In their own minds, they’re extremely justified.”
In the most recent issue of Justice League (issue #38 landed Wednesday), Luthor — now seen by many as heroic after the events of the Forever Evil storyline — is basking in the moment of being the only one who can stop the Amazo virus — which shuts down meta-humans who have powers, but also briefly turns humans into super-powered weapons. Lex, though, is also dealing with the guilt over his involvement in the virus’s creation, and the original intentions he had for it — the revelations of which will put him at odds with those Justice League members who were convinced that he’d never really changed for the better, anyway.
“One of the cool things about Lex is that he’s lied so much over the years, and now those lies have started to come out — the Amazo virus being one of them,” Johns said. “And that’s something he’s going to have to deal with.”
As with many things involving Lex Luthor, thoughts of Superman forever consume him. Johns says that one of his favorite Luthor moments is when Lex saw Superman for the first time and realized that he didn’t have a plan for everything. But regardless of vendettas — no matter what is revealed to be Luthor’s true intentions in the wake of the Amazo virus storyline — Lex still considers himself a hero to the human race, Johns says.
“I think that Lex certainly has a vision in his head that he is ultimately humanity’s Superman,” John tells Comic Riffs. “He thinks that the existence of meta-humans and superheroes threaten our way of life, threaten our culture, threaten our society, threaten who we are as individuals and a race.
“He is truly convinced that because Superman exists, that humanity will stop striving for new heights. If a man can fly to the moon on his own, why are we going to try? In a strange way, it only drives Luthor more.”
Johns is known for his long runs, with the same artist, on various titles. And he seems to have found another artist for such a journey with Jason Fabok, who has drawn the past three issues of the Justice League. With Luthor taking center-stage in the Amazo virus storyline, Johns says that Fabok’s ability to draw the various emotional stages of Luthor — from beyond confident to fearful to angry — has been a boon to the series.
“The way Jay illustrates [Luthor] and his emotions and everything — he became, I think, one of Jay’s best characters, artwise,” Johns said.
Fabok agrees that illustrating the many emotional stages of Luthor during the Amazo-virus storyline have been an enjoyable part of drawing the Justice League.
Luthor “tries to seem like he’s in control at all times,” Fabok tells Comic Riffs. “Even in this story, he’s starting to unravel a little bit, and I think even he’s starting to worry about the implications of everything being essentially blamed on him. Those are fun things always to draw. Anytime you have a character that gives you that sense that they have dual motives, it just gives you more to translate into the art.”
Ulterior motives have always been a staple of Lex’s makeup. But will the Amazo-virus story show Luthor acting in the interest of people besides himself?
“Can Lex ever get to a place where he just does the right thing because it’s the right thing to do?” Johns poses. “I’m actually not sure. We’ll see, though.”