Justice League: Generation Lost #20
Written by Judd Winick
Art by Joe Bennett
The Secret Origin of Maxwell Lord. At no point in this issue is it called that, but that’s what it is. With the twentieth issue of the series Winick folds back the curtain and lets us see the events that forged Max Lord into the man he is today, and how they created his game plan. That’s the bulk of the issue, though it does open and close with scenes involving the JLI as they deal with the climax of last issue…Max putting a bullet in Blue Beetle’s head.
Max’s story begins when he was sixteen and his father discovered that the company he was employed by was aware that their products caused cancer, and attempted to blow the whistle. Max found his father ‘s corpse, gun in hand, it looked like suicide even if everything you’re shown and told tells you otherwise. This was how Max learned the first of many lessons from his mother, who would have a powerful guiding hand in his life. Never underestimate powerful people, plan every single step, and understand that when you fight them, good people always get hurt. This lesson coincides with the first shot of Max standing over a recently head shotted Blue Beetle, which is fitting. Yes, he killed the Blue Beetle, or at least tried to kill him, I won’t go into that there, but he didn’t twirl his mustache and monologue in the process. Max is the hero of his own story, and while we don’t fully understand just what endgame he’s approaching in his mind, we also get the nice subtle notions that his shooting of Jaime is something he feels extreme guilt over. Or maybe the guilt is just in Booster wanting his head on a platter.
Max Lord grew into the successful and wealthy business man that we originally knew him as out of a desire to be in control, and in part because he one day wanted to buy and crush the company that had killed his father. He wanted to wipe any trace of them from history, force their legacy to be forgotten for what they did to his family, but he was unsuccessful. Lex Luthor bought the company instead, because he played by his own set of rules. The inspiration that Max needed to pull the strings, to break the rules, to put together a Justice League under his control. Even when he gained his powers, his fear overtook him, but it was his mothers voice that pushed him to embrace what he had become. He wasn’t one of them, after all, a super hero, he was a man just like any other, and he would never forget where he came from. He was Max Lord, he was in control.
The first time Max lost control was the first time it mattered to him. The destruction of Coast City. He couldn’t wrap his mind around it, incidents like Superman vs Doomsday were one thing, but Coast City fit in the banner of trouble coming simply because of heroes. Mongul and Cyborg Superman wanted revenge against Superman, they were there because he existed. Max lost his mother that day, and despite unloading the entire story onto Booster, it’s not one that leaves the room. Max cared, he wanted a friend, he wanted someone to talk to, but he couldn’t cede that control even for a sympathetic pair of ears. His plans grew that day, Checkmate being the long term payoff.
Flashforward to the return of Max at the end of Blackest Night, his big second chance. His powers increased, and full knowledge of everything that’s come before. Max Lord wiped the minds of the Earth because he needed to be in control. He needed to save the world, he needed to plan every step. He’s Max Lord, and when he’s not in control horrible things happen. He wants to save everyone, he just has to look like the bad guy to do it.
Joe Bennett might do big action, but he also does the smaller moments. This issue is mainly done in flashbacks, as we see Max throughout his life, and the subtle touches are nice. Sixteen year old Max with longer shaggy hair, young corporate Max, Max at rockbottom, and Max at his most depressed. He takes care to age Max, to keep him growing, to keep his mental state worn on his sleeve. It’s the evolution of Max Lord, and it’s very well managed.
Poor Blue Beetle. Poor Booster Gold. Poor Maxwell Lord. It’s not a happy existence, and it’s almost a self punishment that Max puts himself through. It was great to finally spend an issue digging into his head and seeing how Max works, as despite being a main character, he hasn’t had a lot of time to develop his motivations. This issue marks the close to this act of the story, and with six issues left it’s time to bring it all home. How will the League react to what Max has done? What is Max’s goal? How long until the rest of the world finally remembers the villainy of Max Lord, and will it be too late? And most importantly, can Max ever walk on the side of angels again, or is he truly too far gone?
Tags: Brightest Day, Joe Bennett, Judd Winick, Justice League International, Justice League: Generation Lost, Max Lord, Reviews