Warning: SPOILERS For Justice League #5
The latest issue of Justice League has revealed Lex Luthor as the ultimate architect of humanity's future in the DC Comics universe. The sinister mastermind and business mogul had often boasted of being "the greatest criminal mind of all time," but now it's been revealed as the literal truth.
What's more, the humans of one million years in the future have adopted Luthor's teachings as their own, transforming the super-villain scientist into a dark messiah figure at the heart of their culture. Which leaves the Lex of our time with all the knowledge he needs to bend the future to his will.
Casual comic fans may be surprised to know that Lex Luthor has been considered a reformed man in the most recent run of Superman comics. Following Superman's apparent death just before the start of DC Universe Rebirth, Lex took up his symbol, joined the Justice League, and seemed to make an honest attempt at reformation. More recently, Lex stood alongside those heroes and villains who faced The Omega Titans - four beings made from the cosmic forces that formed the universe, who sought to devour those worlds governed by the corresponding force. Faced with the realization that the DC Universe will die in a year, Luthor attempted to use an experimental time machine to travel forward one million years and see what future (if any) lay in store for the people of Earth.
To his surprise, Luthor found himself in a technological utopia - and discovered that his arrival was actually anticipated. The people who greet Lex explain that the city he has traveled to is named Lexor City in his honor and that human society rebuilt itself around Luthor's philosophy of personal empowerment and embracing one's inner-self rather than aspiring to be something better. Humanity went on to forge a great galactic empire and conquered the whole universe in the name of Luthorian ideals.
For a moment, Lex seems truly awestruck and humbled by what has been accomplished because of his work and the respect that the people of the future give him. That changes the moment Luthor discovers "The Great Tragedy" - that he was never appreciated for what he was in his own lifetime and that he died having overlooked that which might have brought about his utopia far sooner.
Though the future people cannot tell Lex what his work eventually led to, they do show him the symbol at the heart of the Luthorian philosophy - a way of living they simply call Doom.
It is a fitting summation of Luthor's character that the fact that he goes on to be revered as as the most brilliant man in history and that his legacy outlasts that of Superman is completely meaningless to him. As he later tells Gorilla Grodd, "what is the point of being right if nobody realizes it for a million years after you die?" For all his claims of being capable of doing so much more to help people than his arch-enemy and seeking to inspire others to become the heroes of their own stories, Luthor seeks vindication and acknowledgement over true enlightenment.
The truth is Lex Luthor is a proud yet petty man and while he seems to be winning the day at the end of this issue of Justice League, there's an old saying about what follows pride.
Justice League #5 is now available from DC Comics.