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Recently, it’s been announced that in addition to the 7 Leaguers and the villain Steppenwolf, 2017’s Justice League film will feature Lex Luthor. That actually makes a lot of sense, even if the idea never really occurred to anyone before the announcement. Technically speaking Justice League will form the third leg of Zack Snyder’s DC trilogy so it makes sense he’d bring back Luthor from Dawn of Justice to really close things off. What’s more, Luthor’s vague connection to the New Gods in that film, as suggested by his closing monolog, means he’s the only human currently on Earth with any knowledge of the infinitely powerful celestial beings.
I’m not sure if he’ll end up in his classic green and purple power armor or if he’ll just be on hand for information but outwardly there’s enough there to justify this choice. However, things are a little strange with Lex Luthor, especially lately and especially in the comics. There’s been a trend with him recently towards heroism that has me wondering: will Lex Luthor join the Justice League?
Firstly, yes: I understand that this prediction is probably a long shot. It’s an out there notion based on out there comic book lore and recent events that Zack Snyder probably isn’t aware of. All of that is accepted from the outset, however, given that I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted stuff like “Save Martha!” or Luthor’s glass of urine as major plot points in Dawn of Justice I’m willing to grant myself some leeway in the outrageous predictions department. Besides, Geoff Johns is the guy currently overseeing this whole DCEU experiment and a lot of the evidence I’m about to site is either stuff he’s aware of or actually wrote himself.
So, the first thing to understand about Lex Luthor is where we’re coming from with his latest iterations. Now, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was bad, so poor that a lot of fans are actively wondering if he was part of some kind of extended fake out. Seriously, there’s a current fan theory that Eisenberg’s Luthor was actually the son of the real Luthor and that his failure will prompt his much cooler dad to come out of obscurity to put the hurting on the heroes. That actually emerges from an original casting pitch that Bryan Cranston was who Snyder wanted to play Luthor and Eisenberg was to have a bit part as Jimmy Olsen before dying in the film’s opening, because Zack Snyder loves killing Jimmy Olsen.
We’ve established that the DCEU Luthor was both disappointing and hated, but there actually is an out to that problem. In Luthor’s final moments he suggests to the audience that he was directed to kill Superman by some vague higher power. That force was actually confirmed to be the New Gods in Dawn of Justice’s extended cut, a group of incredibly powerful space deities that often act as big villains for major DC events like the founding of the Justice League.
So, what if the idea in Justice League is that the vision of Luthor we got in Batman v. Superman was so wacky and inconsistent and such because there was a dark god of evil in his brain giving him commands. That would be a great way to hit the soft reboot button on the character and get the chance to do a better version before Man of Steel 2 comes out. What’s more, if Lex were driven mad and lost everything due to dark god influence it’d give him some major motivation for revenge against them.
Aside from being a way to fix the Luthor problem created in Dawn of Justice, the idea of Luthor going good is actually pretty common. There’s been a lot of modern comics that feature Luthor as something closer to an anti-villain than a full on bad guy. In Grant Morrison’s JLA: Earth-2 the Luthor of an alternate Earth where he was the only superhero came to the league for help defeating their amoral counterparts, a similar pitch to the plots of Injustice and DCU Online.
Superman has teamed up with Luthor and several of his other enemies to fight General Zod on multiple occasions and during the event Final Crisis Luthor led the villains of Earth alongside Superman in a last stand against Darkseid. Most recently, Luthor designed a Superman-themed power armor to become a hero himself and even joined the Justice League of America after Forever Evil, another event that featured a good Luthor from a parallel reality.
That most recent turn to goodness, incidentally, came to us from the new head of the DCEU Geoff Johns as did the mid-2000s comic where Luthor’s Superman Revenge Squad teamed up with Superman to liberate Metropolis from Kryptonian invaders.
Like I said, all of this is ultimately speculation on a long shot but ultimately it’d be a more logical long shot than anything else Luthor might contribute to the film. We already know that Justice League is being packed to the gills with supporting cast from across the DCEU like Mera and Vulco from the Aquaman mythos, Commissioner Gordon and Alfred, Wonder Woman’s mother Hippolyta and between that and the globetrotting McGuffin hunt storyline it’s clear they want Justice League to act as a springboard for future spin-offs, running damage control and prep work on the inevitable Aquaman, Batman, and Superman movies to come out of this.
Given that, it makes sense to do the groundwork of fixing Lex now, especially given how many other Superman villains like Metallo and Parasite depend on him. Then again, just throwing Lex Luthor into Justice League as part of their trip to Arkham Asylum would be the kind of wasted potential we’ve come to expect from this particular media exercise.
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