Simply stated, Marvel don’t know what they lost. They canceled Paul Cornell’s thought-provoking Captain
One catch: you can’t use Superman. JMS is sending him on a little spirit quest for a year, so you’ll be writing about Metropolis without a Superman. Now that’s the same offer made to a certain other well-known Superman-loving writer (whose name shall remain unsaid), and said writer dropped the offer like a hot rock. But Paul saw opportunity in the scenario, and chose to talk about Metropolis’ biggest brain, Lex Luthor.
As a result of the end of the New Krypton plotline, Lex Luthor has a presidential pardon, has been re-instated as the head of Lexcorp, and odds are, with the help of a gracious media, been able to restore his reputation to the point that he’s top dog in the Big Apricot again, especially with Superman off on Walkabout.
This is a textbook example of a first issue. Give people a solid snapshot of the character, get a couple plot threads going, and end the issue with a SOLID cliffhanger. Hits all the bases.
As opposed to the last year of Superman books (which, I hasten to add, I enjoyed) where you were asked to invest in brand new characters (or in Mon-El's case, a new look at a character) this is a character everyone knows, so there's no hesitance to get over. And still Paul shows new sides to him.
The Lois-bot just speaks VOLUMES about his fixations. She's The One Who Got Away, and if he can't have her, he'll just build one. He couches it in "I need a devil's advocate" but it's such an obvious bit of petulance. LOVED it.
I may be digging a bit deep, but I took “Spalding” as a Marx Bros reference – Geoffrey T. Spaulding had a personal assistant named Jamison in Animal Crackers. I’ve already asked Paul if his other name is indeed Jamison. Which would be awesome. The relationship between him and Lex seems to be similar to Lord Vetinari and Drumknott in the Discworld books. I love it.
If you want to make a comparison to Paul’s work on Doctor Who, it seems he’s playing Luthor as The Master. He’s utterly in control in any situation, playing three games ahead, never mind three moves, and always out for himself. He’s not been played this well in years. Even in recent years he was leaning back to the “mad scientist” mold and away from the corporate wolf that Byrne, et al, re-molded him in. I’m pleased that didn’t complete – I really like the idea of Luthor being a captain of industry. It should be very difficult for Superman or anyone to touch him, as he’s the head of a company that’s “too big to fail”.
Let’s look at all the plot threads Cornell set up in one issue, shall we?
Lex’s Quest For Fire: He got one taste of true power, and it’s bent his brain. Just like Virgil Samms taking one hit of Thionite while undercover and having to spend the rest of his days aching for another, Lex has fallen hard for the power that he can barely contemplate. He’s well aware that’s it’s affecting his actions and perceptions, but he’s equally positive that he can maintain control. Classic junkie-speak.
It’s got to be KILLING him that something could make him so off of his game. So much so that he decides he needs a Jiminy Cricket, someone to walk (three steps) behind him and whisper “Remember, thou art mortal”. And that brings us to…
Lois-bot built with Kryptonian tech that they don’t quite understand: That’s just got “Lois bot out of control” painted all over it, don’t it? Or even better, making the jump to sentience and either allowing Lex to take the relationship to another level, or the old reliable “trying to take over real-Lois’ life” story. Either way, Robot Lois is a great swerve, since it was the one thing in the previews and Paul’s interviews that had everyone partaking in what we call in our house “The ethnic loss of all shit”. Positively brill.
“If I got more support from your people”: That line likely got glossed over by most folks. Who are Spalding’s “people” exactly? I’m thinking he’s not just referring to Lexcorp employees, or metrosexuals. Spalding got a lot of camera time – I’m betting there’s a reason for that.
Mr. Mind: Come on, that was awesome. Virtually unseen since 52, the Venusian earworm has all the makings of a major villain. More subtle than Starro, access to alien tech, and he’s a friggin’ worm. You started the issue not knowing who the weirdos dressed in lots from a Morrison Doom Patrol costume auction were, and you ended not know what their boss has planned. And all along, Lex is just playing them like pan flutes.
What a lovely start.