Superhero comics are pretty much stuck in eternal limbo. No one really ages past their mid-thirties, unless they started out old. Even the timeline itself keeps getting dragged forward to the present day. But sometimes, it’s nice to see what happens to these characters as they age. One way writers get around this eternal youth involves the classic superhero comic staple: alternate universes. The Dark Knight Returns, Kingdom Come, and Earth X are some of the biggest graphic novels in the medium, and they all offer a glimpse at future versions of some of the biggest superheroes.
But where go superheroes, so too do supervillains. After all, what is Superman without Lex Luthor? Batman without the Joker? While these future stories sometimes introduce new villains for a new time, they will also occasionally revisit the past, pitting the aged superheroes against similarly aged villains. Sometimes, age and wisdom have made the villains all the more threatening. After tangling with the superheroes for so long, perhaps their conflict has become routine, which the villain seeks to break by doing something wild. In other stories, the villains have been mellowed by time, with age taking its toll more than the repeated defeats.
25. SCARIER: KINGDOM COME LEX LUTHOR
Alex Ross and Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come is a much-beloved comic about the near-apocalyptic future of the DC Universe. A Revelation (like the Bible) narrative runs through it, Kansas gets nuked (twice!), and everyone acts like a jerk. While the primary conflict of the piece involves Superman and the older Justice League battling against a new generation of heroes, a cabal of aging villains carries out their own machinations. As the heroes battle over whether fascism or anarchy is better, the villains enact plan ostensibly to defend mere mortals from the clashes of gods.
Since Kingdom Come is mostly a Superman story, so it’s fitting that Luthor acts as one of the main antagonists.
At the head of the table sits Lex Luthor. Since Kingdom Come is mostly a Superman story, so it’s fitting that Luthor acts as one of the main antagonists. Luthor organizes the villains into the Mankind Liberation Front, supposedly to free humanity from the grip of the superheroes, but in actuality to usurp control of the world. To do this, he brings in Bruce Wayne and the Outsiders, a group of young heroes descended from the heroes of the past. As part of Luthor’s plan, he manages to brainwash Captain Marvel, the only metahuman capable of matching Superman. While Luthor’s plan ultimately fails, he establishes himself as one of the more threatening Luthors in the multiverse.