"THE MAN WHO MURDERED THE EARTH!"WRITER: LEN WEIN
ART: KURT SWAN & MURPHY ANDERSON
This time out I am once again taking part in SUPER BLOG TEAM-UP. For this purpose I am returning to the blog just in time to talk about the death of the world!
SUMMARY: Lex Luthor, stooped and burdened, walks slowly through his laboratory hideaway and laments his current situation. Recounting defeats at the hands of Superman, Lex bemoans aloud that it's indeed Superman's fault that he has achieved his greatest failure--Lex has killed everyone else on Earth!
Confused? Intrigued? Good. Lex recounts his tale for his own personal records. Lex tells of how he harnessed the powers of Galactic Matter and formed it into something of a golem. This Galactic Golem possessed powers from space that would allow it to withstand Superman's assaults and be strong enough to oppose the Man of Steel. Lex soon learns that he can zap objects with a similar galactic energy that draws the Galactic Golem. The Golem absorbs that energy as though it were eating, so it's natural that it can sense the energies.
After using the Galactic Golem to destroy various buildings as a test, he sets his plans into motion. Superman, who is attending a charity event, gets bombarded with the galactic energies and of course Luthor's Golem senses it. Using a voicebox he installed into the Golem, Luthor taunts Kal-El as the Galactic Golem begins its attack.
The two titans battle furiously. The two seem deadlocked, but slowly the Galactic Golem begins to gain the advantage. Superman can become fatigued. The Golem, being artificial, does not. Eventually, Superman notices that one certain spot in the creature's forehead is the only spot it attempts to guard. Mustering all his remaining might, Superman makes one last-ditch effort to hit the Golem's weak spot. He hits it, but this results in an enormous explosion. We see on Luthor's screens that only the Golem remains. All other structures are damaged and no living beings can be seen. Not only in Metropolis, either. There is no one left on the planet.
We return to Luthor recording his thoughts. He plans to leave in a rocket to search for life elsewhere. Just then, the Galactic Golem bursts into the lab in search of more energy upon which to feed. Luthor hides behind a protective forcefield but too late. The Golem in inside with him. Just then, Superman charges in. A stunned Luthor can't let his protection down, but Superman summons the strength necessary to break the shell and rescue Luthor. The two send all the galactic energy back into space and the Galactic Golem flies into space after it.
Superman takes Luthor outside to reveal that all the world's populace is in fact alive. Superman, in the last moment before the explosion, vibrated them all into a pocket dimension. Superman flies Luthor back to prison. Lex doesn't even protest as he is so relieved to see everyone alive and well.
MY THOUGHTS: OK, I'd normally talk about the writing and the art, but let's face it, they're all pretty amazing. Swan and Anderson? I will argue that this is some art beyond compared for 70's Superman (or 70's DC in general). Wein is a fanfavorite, and aside from the totally deus ex machina device of Superman vibrating people away (kind of a Flash answer and definite Bronze Age shenanigan), this is a really well-written story.
However, I'd like to say a few things about the aspect of death here. Luthor, for all his bravado, intellect, etc., is not an entirely evil individual here. He honestly laments what has happened due to his plans. His ego is the only thing that prevents him from accepting full responsibility for what he believes to be the death of the world. He blames Superman simply because he is Lex Luthor and must always blame Superman.
Luthor's joy at seeing the world returned to normal is a heartfelt moment. He is actually somewhat happy to return to prison. This is the closest we'll ever get to Luthor having a Grinch moment where his heart grows three sizes that day.
Aside from Luthor's reaction at the end, this is actually kind of a dark piece. I honestly went into this story expecting the title to be hyperbole. Within the first two pages I honestly believed Luthor had destroyed the world and began to wonder where the story was going from there. Needless to say, I was hooked. This just goes to show that even seasoned comics veterans can be drawn in by a well-written story, even with a cliched hook like the end of the world.
I don't really have much else to say. The deaths were all false, but they carried meaning, especially when Luthor thought they were real. Luthor learned (at least for this issue) to truly respect just how precious life is, even though it took the supposed death of the world to do it.