When Bad Guys Go Good: A Look at Forever Evil's Lex Luthor
When Forever Evil #6 finally revealed the identity of the hooded prisoner first seen and teased at during the finale of "Trinity War," we felt vindicated—but also completely and utterly shocked and surprised. In the back of our head, we sort of figured it might just be the Alexander Luthor of Earth 3 under that hood. Evidence certainly pointed in that direction as the character has long stood as the biggest threat to Earth 3's Crime Syndicate. However, we certainly didn't guess that he would be some sort of backwards, possibly evil Shazam. It was an incredible and exciting twist we absolutely did not see coming, and it seems to be setting up something we don't really get to see that much: bad guys gone good.
Don't get us wrong. There have definitely been instances of bad guys doing good things. The hero and villain reluctantly teaming up to tackle a common foe is a trope that's existed for some time. Arguably we're seeing that exact thing right now, with a number of notorious DC villains joining forces with Batman and Catwoman to take down the Crime Syndicate. (Although, is it really a team up when the villains far outnumber the heroes and are clearly the ones in charge?)
There are even villains who constantly walk the line between good and evil. The Gotham City sirens—Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy—regularly hop between heroism and villainy (granted, some like to stay on one side more than the other). Sinestro, on the other hand, exemplifies another type of villain: one that sees his actions as the correct course and better for the greater good.
But we rarely see instances of a villain straight up deciding to become a hero and joining a super team. Writer Geoff Johns did this to tremendous effect previously in JSA with Black Adam, but more often than not, we see the reverse—heroes turning bad, which makes sense because it showcases the very real fear of the ones who protect us turning against us. The concept of a villain becoming a good guy is a very appealing and interesting one, and it definitely appears we're going to see exactly that with one of the biggest bads the DC Universe has, Lex Luthor, who is not only leading a team against the Syndicate in Forever Evil, but who will also be joining the Justice League beginning with issue #30.
Lex falls under a very unique category: the villain that sort of has a point. We've pointed this out before (jokingly, but still). Lex's criticisms of Superman stem from a reasonable concern—albeit a warped and overblown one—and every single one of those concerns proved true when Ultraman and Co. took over the Earth. Lex constantly says that he's capable of doing great things, and it looks like during and post-Forever Evil, he's out to prove it, first by taking out the Syndicate and freeing Earth and then by continuing to protect it alongside the League.
It's especially interesting if you look at the implications of Alexander Luthor of Earth 3. Since Earth 3 is a direct reflection of our Earth, where things are the opposite, we started with the heroes as villains and the villains, more or less, as heroes. Presumably, the Luthor of Earth 3 gained his Mazahs power to combat the Syndicate, but these powers corrupted him and turned the hero into the very type of villain he was trying to defeat. If that is the case, then it could mean that our Lex was destined to become a hero.
Following the logic of opposites, our Lex started as a bad guy, but during the events of Forever Evil, he's playing the hero. What if this act "corrupts" him with good? If the Lex of Earth 3 was a hero gone bad, then it follows that our Lex might very well be a villain gone good. And if Mazahs is the greatest threat on Earth 3, could it mean that Lex has the potential to become the greatest hero of the DCU?
The possibilities are countless, which is exactly what makes this move so exciting and why we're pumped to see how the final issue of Forever Evil plays out and even more excited for what's to follow.
What are some of your favorite villains going good stories? Do you think Lex has the potential to be a great hero? Let us know in the comments below!