In the myth of Metropolis, the city gleams in golden light all the time, there is no crime, and Superman protects every man, woman, and child who resides here. The world believes the myth. Even Metropolis citizens believe the myth. They are proud people and love the sound of their own hype. Of course, it is a beautiful city, if one ignores the squalor in Suicide Slum and all the ancient brick tenements on the south side of town.
And there lies the rub, doesn't it? This is the city of tomorrow. It's orderly. There's little pollution. Criminals avoid the place because they know Superman is always listening, always dashing through the sky in a reddish blue blur. He doesn't patrol; he doesn't need to. Not like Batman. In Gotham City, sometimes you'll see the Batman or Robin or one of the other capes who works for him swinging through streets or jumping from rooftops in the dark of night. No one ever looks up, but people do look down, and Gotham has as many skyscrapers as Metropolis. They're just stained black with coal-smoke and mildew from the endless rain. If you live in a penthouse, and you happen to be a night owl, and you happen to keep your lights turned off as you watch the city at night, you might see a whole flock of capes leaping and swinging and diving from gargoyles and cornices, flying like acrobats in some weird nocturnal circus.
Metropolis, however, is civilized. Metropolis does not welcome costumed hooligans. Besides, any criminal stupid enough to venture into the city dressed in a clown-suit or a spandex unitard deserves whatever the Kryptonian doles out. Lesser cities can have the costumed freaks; Metropolis is a place for businessmen.
There was a miracle and her name was Hope. She was on the news everyday. She attended fundraisers and spoke at Metropolis schools. She averted disasters, stopped muggings, caught children falling out of jungle gyms. She was humble, witty, approachable…everything Superman isn't. And she was all Lex's.
Her sacrifice is all Lex's, but her loss he shares with the city herself.
They call the city a shining jewel, a beacon of light, the pride of the nation. Her harbor is round and deep; her water clean and blue. If Gotham is a gritty, grouchy old bastard, Metropolis is the shy young girl who grew up to be a sophisticated woman, a lady with a radiant smile. All she needed was a little love, a touch of kindness, a little confidence.
She got it in spades, first from Lex Luthor via Lexcorp, with jobs and growth and construction and urban renewal. First thing he did was wipe out the urban blight he grew up in. Then he stepped back and looked at the city for what she was. He saw the way she cradled her harbor, waiting patiently for what would come.
Lex embraced her, planting his tower at her heart, and merged with every part of her, every zone and district, until she was his.
And she was his, until Superman came.
Lois Lane grew up in a brownstone on the west side. As a child, she went a few times a year to the Metropolis Zoo to watch the big cats and seals and bears…and eventually to watch the people as well. She wrote her first story for her junior high school newspaper on the zoo's summertime treatment of the polar bears. Her journalism teacher read the first draft and told her that if she could get a quote from a zoo official, she'd submit it to the Daily Planet. Lois did, and the story ran in the Sunday Children's Supplement at the end of the week. After that, Lois went to the zoo all the time. There are a pair of elephants here she's known her whole life, a great tortoise over a century old, a tired and gray gorilla whom she remembers from long before anyone had ever heard of Grodd.
On those days when Luthor stymies her every question, when the mayor won't acknowledge her existence, and when Clark's gone off to save the galaxy again, this is where she comes. She sits on a bench with one of the snack bar's greasy cheeseburgers, sips her diet Zesti, and watches the penguins play. In the distance, she hears the noise of barges and ferries, trains, car horns honking. If she looks up, she can see the hundred tall buildings that hem in the zoo and the park around it. But right now, right in front of her, a group of little girls races toward the penguin pool, squealing as if they've just discovered the coolest thing since ice cream. And this, she thinks, this is home.
Clark Kent is a bumbling idiot. This is something he excels at. He is a brilliant bumbling idiot who pulls stories out of thin air and by some miracle has Superman himself on metaphorical speed dial. The fact that he's a thoroughly competent journalist in his own right frequently gets lost under the dorky façade, and a disappointing chunk of his professional success seems to be generally attributed to his wife's brilliance. Clark tries not to let it bother him. After all, he is Superman.
But a large part of Clark's mindset might as well be back in Kansas. Every single time he blows off a contact, cuts short an interview, or misses a deadline, he hears the voice of his pa in his head, telling him that good, honest men never shirk their duty, and nothing's better for a man's soul than a hard day's work.
He's seen enough of life now to understand what Pa was trying to give him. Things just aren't that simple, though, especially when you're living two lives at once. Everyone Clark loves is in constant danger simply because he loves them, and far, far too many people already know the secret of his identity. Luthor, too, transcends both sides of his life, baiting him at every turn. Their battles are intimate and territorial, and also as public as anything disgorged across the Daily Planet's front page must be.
The city deserves to know what their great benefactor is doing behind the scenes, under the table, behind closed doors. The city should know the face of its betrayer. Metropolis has the right.
Superman died here once.
If he regrets anything, its that his presence draws supervillains to the city like moths to a light. It draws other vigilantes, too, whom he greets with a hardliner policy of 'obey the law or get out.' It surprises most of them, the minor ones. The important heroes, however, all know him already and know his rules. It's almost never an issue…except when magic is involved.
The weird guy in the trench coat stank of it. He called himself the Question, and while everyone he killed may have deserved to die, that wasn't his call to make. None of them had that right.
Still, it wasn't easy to hear him claim that he'd done it all because Superman was in danger and the city herself had asked the Question to protect him.
He knows the city isn't sentient, not like the Fortress is sentient, at least. But he knows that reality is a strange place sometimes, and he can't argue that different cities around the world don't have distinctive flavors and moods. There's no reason at all why a city in Finland should share a particular resonance with a city in Texas and another in New Zealand, but it does—they do. He's felt it firsthand.
The Question boards an express to Chicago with the news of the decimated Subterranean syndicate gracing every front page, and the new joke on every morning radio show is about bathroom time and whether Superman has decided to start listening to every toilet flush in the city. There's paranoia in the air, and Luthor grabs the opportunity to appear on an MTN talk show to set the city at ease. Because he is Luthor, he turns the conversation to civil liberties and makes the old, irrefutable point that 'mere' human beings require search warrants to discover the things Superman is aware of by means of biology; hence Superman's official sanction by law enforcement violates the civil liberties of each and every person he's caught.
Luthor believes him to be a monster, and he can almost understand. Superman is competition. Superman draws fire from enemies all over the world, all over the galaxy, even from other dimensions. Superman brings chaos, and anyone who has ever observed Luthor at work knows that a lack of control is the one thing the man cannot stand.
Clark should probably take less pleasure in that.
On the other hand, the Question had told him Metropolis herself had called out to him for help, and the Question had not responded by murdering Luthor. No, he had only killed the underground syndicate Luthor was now accused of funding.
Clark knows perfectly well what Lexcorp has done for the city. In many ways, Luthor has given Metropolis more than Clark ever could. But while one hand giveth, Luthor's other hand is always, always taking away, and all of those profits are driven straight into finding a way to rid the universe of Superman forever.
Clark doesn't know what he did to inspire such hate. Sometimes he floats outside Luthor's window, watching, trying to understand. He thinks the games of cat and mouse are stupid, but he won't stop them. If he were to win, Metropolis might never recover. It isn't a risk he's willing to take.
Luthor stands at his window, looking out over the city below, as Superman flies through the canyon-walls of glittering glass. They each are drawn to the gutted hole where Hope died, where the Science Spire used to be. One hundred square blocks in the middle of town, now the center of a reclamation scandal, after a certain weird guy in a trench coat delivered a file of missing property deeds to Lois. It won't bring Luthor down, but it's enough to null the land grab and guarantee the Spire will never be rebuilt.
The city doesn't speak to Clark like the Fortress does, as a self-maintaining artificial intelligence. Metropolis speaks to Clark in the voices of her millions of residents, in their words and heartbeats and pounding footsteps, and the city feels like his in a way unmatched by anything else in the world.
He fears, especially in the wake of destroying Hope, that in his grief Luthor may succeed in breaking the city's trust in him. Lois snorts and says, "Riiight. So, save the world much this week?" It isn't enough, though. It can't be, because for better or worse, Metropolis loves Luthor and loved Hope, and until Luthor's gone, too…Clark can do little but find and hold the shifting balance of power. He must allow Luthor his share of the city today, even while he puts his faith in what Metropolis will be tomorrow.