While DC is already well into Infinite Frontier, there is still one last "Future State" story to close out this potential future for the DC Universe—the finale of Superman vs. Imperious Lex. In the first two issues of the miniseries, writer Mark Russell took readers into a rich satire about how the rich and powerful exploit the powerless set on the planet Lexor—a world in which Lex Luthor plans to make a major move with the planet's natural resources (energy crystals) to continue his prosperity only for his plan to backfire when Superman intervenes, underselling Lex and bringing Lexor to an economic standstill. The finale maintains the satire, drawing some uncomfortable parallels with real life, but falters in how it pushes the characters into boxes they don't quite fit in furtherance of that main satirical thread while simply repeating the same story found in the first two issues.
In this issue, things are only getting worse on Lexor, which prompts Lois and Clark to get the United Planets to agree—albeit reluctantly given that a United Planets survey team was killed by Lexorians—to relocate the desperate people. However, on Lexor Luthor is spinning lies to the planet's people in a thinly veiled satire of Donald Trump, blaming Superman for their woes. He banishes his loyal droid X-99 and, in the process, sets off a devastating chain of events that leads to a showdown between himself and Superman. On its face, this feels like a standard Superman and Lex story, but it's also an unnecessary one. While nothing here is bad or poorly crafted—Steve Pugh's art remains a standout of not only this issue but the series overall—issue #3 is primarily a repeat of the one before it, but now with some behaviors and actions for the characters that feel very out of their character.
It's the lack of anything really new that diminishes the impact of Superman vs Imperious Lex #3. The first two issues of the series held a story that, while it had a rather open ending, felt like a natural conclusion. This third issue feels a bit like an excuse to make Lex look even more stupid and incompetent—which itself is bothersome because, while Lex is a genuinely bad guy, he's never stupid. Also, a bit puzzling is how Superman manages to still be powerful against Lex despite the previous issues (and indeed DC Comics lore generally) making it clear that the red sun of the planet weakens him. It's an odd choice to be sure.
Ultimately, what prevents Superman vs Imperious Lex #3 from sticking the landing comes down to how superfluous it all is. The story adds nothing to prior issues except to give readers a bit more of Pugh's fantastic art and make Lex look a bit more foolish. If anything, the issue turns the satire on itself with this last installment feeling more like a weird cash grab than an important part of the story—something made more uncomfortable given that it arrived a month after the rest of "Future State" concluded. While not a bad read, Superman vs Imperious Lex #3 misses the mark, overstays its welcome, and simply leaves readers wondering what the point was.
Published by DC Comics
On March 30, 2021
Written by Mark Russell
Art by Steve Pugh
Colors by Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letters by Carlos M. Mangual
Cover by Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn