Villains Make the Best Heroes: Batman vs Lex Luthor

Happy new book day, everyone! I hope you are all doing well this week. I am quickly closing in on the six month mark on this column, and for this entry I decided to look forward instead of backward. The first true big event of DC’s New 52, Forever Evil by Geoff Johns and David Finch, recently wrapped up, and I believe it has been out long enough to talk a bit about it here. Be forewarned, though, that this post contains spoilers if you haven’t read Forever Evil #7.

Forever Evil has been quite a treat for me to read. Its tagline, “Evil is Relative,” plays well with my growing belief that villains make the best heroes, and that small evil actions can be committed for the sake of larger good ones. Criminality and disposition aside, you cannot argue with the effectiveness of the methodologies of such characters as Lex Luthor and Sinestro, two of the characters featured as defenders of the earth in Forever Evil.

Why, then, is Batman featured as the sole active hero in this team of villains? Though he is initially hesitant to work with Lex Luthor’s team, it can be argued that Batman functions better with them than he does with the Justice League. I can write entire posts (and have, and will again) about the things that differentiate Batman from his fellow heroes, from his lack of superpowers to his personality.

I have previously raised the question of whether or not Batman may even be in the right fictional universe, and I now pose a new question: is Batman a villain who decided to fight for justice rather than personal gain? As I’ve pointed out before, Frank Miller wrote Batman from the perspective that the darkness in Batman is greater than the light, but he makes this darkness work for the benefit of everyone around him. I believe this thought is worth meditating upon for awhile.

All of that said, and despite differing opinions on the fallout from Forever Evil, it cannot be ignored that it has changed things in the DC Universe in a big way, whether those changes become lasting or not. Several of these changes are certain to make Batman’s life more complicated in the near future. For one, the entire world believes that Dick Grayson is dead, and Batman is one of the only people who knows differently.

The second, larger concern is that Lex Luthor has figured out who Batman actually is after observing him in close quarters for a short amount of time. There have been relatively few storylines that have pitted Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor’s intellects against one another, which is a shame. It seems like a no-brainer that such a conflict could yield a rich story. I am looking forward to seeing where this revelation leads us.

Now that Forever Evil has run its course, many of DC’s titles are catching up and reestablishing themselves in their proper time frames. Though it has been an interesting diversion, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Zero Year stories in the main Batman title need to reach their stopping point. I, for one, saw no need to revisit Batman’s origins yet again and undo a great deal of Frank Miller’s work on the character (especially Year One) in the process. Hopefully, once Snyder and Capullo return Batman to the eternal present (outside of Batman Eternal, somewhat ironically), the potential conflict between Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor can grow. There will be plenty of other opportunities as well. After all, Luthor is now a member of the Justice League, believe it or not.

Unlettered cover of Justice League #30 courtesy of DC Comics. Art by Ivan Reis.

What do you all think of these recent developments in not only Batman’s corner of the DC Universe, but across its entire breadth? What do you think of the observations I make and the potential stories I discuss in this entry in my weekly column? Let me know in the comments below, and feel free to tweet me @quaintjeremy. You can also visit my finally up-and-running blog, quaintjeremy’s thoughts.

My comics picks for this week:

Batman Eternal #11

Avengers #31

Avengers World #8

Daredevil #4

Thor: God of Thunder #23

Fatale #23

The Witcher #4

2 thoughts on “Villains Make the Best Heroes: Batman vs Lex Luthor

  1. There’s no way that Luthor is going to stay a member of the Justice League for long. I don’t see this sticking as a lasting change. Luthor is too good of a bad guy for DC to make him a good guy.

    Great article!

    Liked by 2 people

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