As Superman: Unchained heads toward its conclusion with the ninth issue, writer Scott Snyder said readers will find out Lex Luthor's role — and will see more of Batman and Wonder Woman.
"Lex's part really becomes apparent, coming up," Snyder said. "We wanted to keep it pretty secret for a little while, and take him off the table so readers would think, oh, well they forgot about him and he's gone.
"Where he's going to come in, and how he's going to come in, I think will hopefully surprise and please a lot of people."
Lex Luthor is playing a larger role in the DCU in the coming months, as he not only leads a team of heroes against the Crime Syndicate in Forever Evil, but ends up joining the Justice League.
But Snyder's book, which features illustrations by superstar artist Jim Lee, doesn't deal with any of those ramifications, concentrating instead on Lex's role in the specific story of Unchained. However, Snyder admitted that his story also doesn't cast Lex in the role of villain.
"He's not really the villain of the story, and I think that's why his role is so interesting in this story," he said. "And he's a lot of fun to write."
Superman: Unchained, which ends after its story concludes in issue #9, has been exploring the differences between a character named Wraith and Superman himself. Both are powerful aliens, and both believe they're using their powers to benefit the human race. But the difference in their approaches seems to be building toward a showdown.
Snyder said Superman: Unchained #6 starts the "end game" of the whole story. "The pieces we've laid on the table come together to really begin the climactic fight."
And although the solicitation for issue #6 talks about a "no holds barred" fight between Wraith and Superman, the writer said the "climactic fight" he mentioned isn't just between those two characters, but between some "surprising characters" as well.
"I don't want to give too much away," he said with a laugh, "but I think you'll find Luthor and Jimmy and Perry and Lois have very, very interesting positions in the story, coming up. I'm really proud of how they all come out, in the story. They all have a very pivotal role to play, coming up.
"You'll also see how Batman and Wonder Woman come into play, and the Justice League," Snyder said. "You're going to start to see the cast expand as things get crazier and crazier."
In issue #5, Superman was confronted by Wraith about what is means to be a hero. "We wanted issue #5 to be the issue where, you know, Wraith has made his case, and I think Superman has seen that the governments of the world have issue with Superman in a big way, in the series. They're really not happy with the idea that he can do whatever he wants, and he stands outside the agenda of any particular government.
"What Wraith is saying to [Superman] is, of course, 'That's going to eventually pit you against them — and me,'" he said. "It's only a matter of time before you stand in the way of a bomb being dropped, of a war being fought… and when you do that, I'll be there. I'll be your enemy.
"And we all have weapons that will kill you. So your time is limited."
Snyder said he also wanted to confront Superman about being Clark Kent. "We're basically saying, you might be comfortable right now, doing this thing you think you're doing, being a human and being among everybody, being among these people. But at the same time, if you think about it logically, that's not going to last very long," he said.
"So you better join the right side. Who you are as a human will be over very soon.
"We wanted to make this full case — one that puts Superman's whole mission, his whole existence, into question."
The writer said the idea was to make Superman question the way he's been living. "We're asking, does it make sense? What he's trying to do? Does it really work? And is he in for a terrible, terrible fall really soon? And is there some way to avoid that, that he should be taking?
"Does Luthor know better than you?" he said. "Does General Lane know better than you? Does Wraith know better than you? Is there a way out? Because this end is coming toward you, and you're going to be in big trouble."