I'll happily confess: I've never been a fan of Max Lord. Or, as they started calling him when he became overtly evil, "Maxwell Lord".
|Gods know, WW84 was a non-ideal film but I give them credit for making Max a cheesy '80s hustler again.|
Many people remember Max fondly as the paterfamilias of the Keith Giffen's "Bwahaha" League of the '80s.
|Whether you LIKE the concept of the Justice League as comedy: |
they made it work.
They forget that he was always manipulative, shady, and amoral.
|In his first appearance, Max was behind the terrorists who attacked the UN during the '87 League's formative mission. Nobody remembers that.|
But JL became JLU and got warmer and fuzzier and wackier, and so Max had to be redeemed.
|Oh, Max and his wacky, terribly drawn hijinks!|
As Max became more beloved due to the hijinks he presided over, the writers gave him an out (or two?) for his shadier behavior, like, he was being influenced by some evil alien machine or such. Regular comic book stuff.
|Was it... Brother Eye? It wasn't but, I don't really care and |
|Aw, poor Max!|
And of course there was... The Invasion.
People gush endlessly about "the original Crisis" (by which they mean "Crisis on Infinite Earths", which, they don't know because they read nothing written before they were born, was named after the ACTUAL original crisis and the 97 others that followed it) and how it changed the DCU FOREVER and NOTHING WAS EVER AS IMPORTANT.
Which is hogwash. It was just another reboot, the kind of thing DC did without fanfare to individual books all the time.
|Pictured: old school fanfare.|
Read Batman during that era; you will notice next to no difference between pre- and post-Crisis Batman. Some figures got more thoroughly rebooted than others (e.g., Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash). And some characters that used to live in multiversal suburbs moved into the big city. DC made a big deal about this being their chance to do Something Different but having given too little thought as to what that would be, they wound up simply doing Everything Again.
You know what REALLY changed the DCU? The Invasion, which happened a mere three years later. In many ways, it was the opposite of COIE. COIE was a long drawn out overcomplicated incoherent mess with an ersatz Big Bad who might as well have been Agamemno or King Kull. Frankly, I think Barry intentionally killed himself just to get away from it all for a while (and obviously the rest did him good, because he's had two television series and a new movie coming out).
|And finally has the legs he deserves.|
Invasion, on the other hand, was a tightly plotted three-issue series which explained most of how the DCU now worked (and would work 1000 year in the future!) where the threat came from pre-existing DCU entities (all the bad guys species of outer space) with sensible political motivations for wanting to attack Earth (specifically, that Earth positively sweats out dangerously powerful superheroes).
|Somehow, the dirty stinking Rannies were not among them.|
It introduced the "meta-gene" as the cause of most superpowers and explained the future world of the Legion of Super-Heroes elegantly. It's full of real, powerful but understated moments; the Denial of Arani, the death of Scott Fischer, Buddy Baker versus the Thanagarian bomb, J'onn's final trick, and THE GENE BOMB, which almost killed Max Lord.
|Max succumbing to the Gene Bomb, which was like COVID for superheroes, except everyone got infected at the same time.|
|People, including Max, in meta-gene comas.|
But it DIDN'T kill him. It 'activated his meta-gene'. making his mind-control explicit; his having had it operating before unconsciously at a low level became the explanation for how he formed and reigned in the members of the Justice League.
And that was the beginning of the end. Because one of the many truisms of comics is: mind-controllers are (almost always) evil. It's the ultimate power and, ultimately, it corrupts the user.
|Including her, too. "I know what you did, Imra!"|
Plus, it was too good an opportunity for the Serious Comic Book Writers of the dark '90+s to pass up. They loved nothing more than perverting the light-hearted or wacky elements of past comics into sordid grimdark versions of themselves (this would show how Adult the writers were).
|Remember when Kevin Smith made Stanley (& His Monster), from one of history's most innocent series, into the victim of satanic child abuse by his own grandfather? Because god forbid anyone should not think of Kevin Smith as a Serious Adult Writer.|
|Screen-capped, thank god, but not stopped.|
|Once you become a supervillain you have to wear the gloves.|
It's a union thing.
|THE DUKE OF DECEPTION|