Spoilers ahead for Justice League #18.
Brainiac and Lex Luthor have connected their minds in this week's Justice League #18, allowing readers to learn the history of Vandal Savage, Lionel Luthor, and the doorknob Lex found at his father’s Legionnaire’s Club.
Written by James Tynion IV with art by Pasqual Ferry, Justice League #18 is the latest Legion of Doom-themed issue that tells a story from the point of view of the villains. Following up on revelations from the last few issues, issue #18 reveals why Lex Luthor killed Vandal Savage all the way back in #1 and why Lionel Luthor kidnapped Martian Manhunter when he was a child.
It’s a complicated history, but it all ties back to a fragment of the Totality that fell through time to Earth and came into the possession of Vandal Savage, and later Lionel Luthor. It was that fragment that became the doorknob that sent Lex on his current path toward “doom.”
Let’s take a look at spoilers for the issue to find out more.
Perpetua’s Gettin’ Woke
Perpetua’s body has formed, but her mind is still dormant, and Lex is trying to wake her up. The Legion has formulated a device (to Brainiac’s specifications) that will allow Brainiac to link with Lex’s mind so they can share knowledge (Lex’s knowledge of Perpetua and Brainiac’s knowledge of the universe). Plus, Brainiac will get back the data stored in his old ship, which was taken from him during Justice League: No Justice (and which Lex has captured).
The goal is to access the sixth “hidden energy” required to bring Perpetua’s mind back “online.”
Of course, once the device is activated, Brainiac takes control of Lex’s mind and body. He wants the “fruit of knowledge" in Perpetua’s mind for himself.
“When we conclude this mission,” Brainiac says, “I will assume control of your body and mind, puppeteering you to keep your Legion of Doom in line. Once Perpetua has awoken, I will systematically destroy each of them.”
But Lex points out that the computer system Brainiac is interfacing with doesn’t just contain knowledge from his old spaceship.
The system also holds an imprint of the mind of Vandal Savage, which Lex shares with Brainiac so he will understand the “weight” of what he’s doing.
What Vandal Knew
The story switches to a scene set 46,000 years ago in the Himalayas, where Vandal Savage has finally found the fragment of the Totality which he sensed traveling through time to this era.
Over his immortal lifetime, Vandal journeyed to different wise men to research the fragment he found. “They discerned the existence of seven constant energies underlying creation,” Lex says. “There were also dark aspects of each energy, locked away from use, lying in wait for a being powerful enough to wield them.”
Vandal formed a secret “Legion” who would share information, but he did not give any of them the overall picture that he had formed. Gathering their knowledge, he discovered that the Totality would arrive now, and that it would pull Earth toward “doom,” all in service of the dark god Perpetua.
Who You Gonna Call?
So what does Vandal do with this knowledge?
He shares it with Lionel Luthor. He asked him to unlock secrets for his “Legionnaire’s Club.”
Time passed, and Lionel formulated how to access the Still Force, the Invisible Spectrum, the Tear of Extinction (the opposite of the Life Force), and the Sixth Dimension.
But the final keys were still outside his grasp. “The first of them has to do with knowledge, and the second is a kind of protective cosmic force that may require the breaking of a hypothetical Multiverse wall to activate,” Lionel says.
Lionel Did an Oopsie
Lex recounts how Lionel also brought Martian xenotypes (including a young Martian Manhunter) to Earth to try to create a new type of humankind like the ones that roamed the universe under Perpetua.
But Lionel (and a man named Erdel) conducted these experiments in secret from Vandal and his Legion.
When Lex freed Martian Manhunter (as a child), Vandal found out about the experiments. As a result, Lionel was captured.
But first, he hid the fragment where Vandal could not find it.
Why doesn’t Vandal want Lionel to release the power of the Totality and bring Perpetua back to enhance humankind?
Vandal explains to Lionel that he instead wants to knock the Earth out of orbit and entirely out of the trajectory of the Totality.
Vandal wants to make the Totality miss Earth and spend eternity lost in space: “I will not leave my planet set on a course toward certain doom!”
In fact, to make sure Lionel never shares what he knows, Vandal erases his memories and turns him into a man who has never accomplished anything.
Lionel became an angry drunk who beat his kids because they were smarter than him. He spent his evenings at the local Legionnaire’s Club, drowning his sorrows in beer.
He was incapable of seeing the door he’d created there (that Lex found recently).
Lex points out that he would have never allowed failure to consume him this way.
The Big Sell
So, what’s the point of Lex sharing this story with Brainiac?
Lex tries to convince Brainiac that he lacks the faith and belief to see this through. He relies on cold logic. “I have learned to believe in doom,” Lex explains, “in its clear and present power.”
However, Lex also reveals that he planned ahead for Brainiac’s betrayal. He expected it.
“I designed a virus lying in wait in my mind that, if activated, would leave you nothing but the hollow shell I found you as,” Lex says.
Lex tells Brainiac to choose. And he chooses to allow Lex to revive.
In the end, the two willingly share their knowledge, and as the issue ends, they prepare for the next step together.
Justice League #18 concludes with the tagline, “Next: Journey to the Sixth Dimension," teasing March 6's #19.