I don't know if this is the right place to ask this, but the page for this comic is kind of barren, so I hope it's okay to use this. I just read Lex Luthor: Man of Steel. It's was definitely one of the more enjoyable superman comics for me, painting an alternative character interpretation of Lex while still pointing out that he does horrible things. For the most part, the comic seems to be saying that Lex is delusional and really nothing more than a petty evil bastard in the subtext, as noted by many tropers on that. But one thing I didn't understand (and no one seemed to be talking about). Their main argument that for all Luthor's charming rationalization, he is the one killing and hurting others while supes is just helping people. Yeah, well that kind of goes out the window when Superman randomly showed up and beat Batman up for no reason. That pretty much proves luthor's point. All they have is Superman's word that he won't turn on humanity, and Luthor's goal in the comic is to make people realize that, though through extreme means. But the guy IS right, Superman's unprovoked attack on Batman is unambiguous evidence of that.
There's two possible explanations for this here: one, since it's pretty clearly implied if not actually outright stated that Lex is behind every single nasty thing that goes on in this comic, it's a fairly safe assumption that he is also somehow behind Superman's OOC behaviour here (most likely through red kryptonite; it's worth noting that the colour of the sky is a very angry red during their confrontation), but like many other things we just don't see how it comes about. The second is that it's not entirely unprovoked and that Superman's actions aren't without reason; earlier in that same issue, Bruce Wayne accepted a rather large chunk of kryptonite from Luthor, which seems to be where Superman's ire comes from in that fight. The comic was written at a point where Superman and Batman were written less as World's Finest super-friends and more as vaguely allied, vaguely hostile reluctant allies with drastic personality differences, and from Superman's perspective, Batman has just accepted a gift of the only thing that can kill Superman behind Superman's back — and from Superman's worst enemy, the guy who's always planning and scheming to kill him, let's not forget — for whatever reason. That's a bit of a betrayal, however you look at it, so it's not entirely unreasonable that Superman would be a bit pissed. Especially since while he does rough Batman up a bit, given that he's Superman he could have done much worse. Either way, Lex has managed to play things in order to drive a wedge between the two, which was probably his goal all along. Either way, Superman's attack on Batman wasn't entirely unprovoked and Luthor still isn't in the right (at least not entirely; as the book and the page makes clear, he might have a point but it's more than drowned out by his own hypocrisy and malevolence). It is a bit ambiguous in how it's presented, however.
The first explanation I don't buy at all. There is not a single hint that Lex has Red Kryptonite anywhere in the comic. And I'm not that familiar with Superman mythos, but why would the sky turn red even if there is Red Kryptonite around? Even if he can do that, how does he direct it at batman specifically when he's so far away? And if he CAN direct it with such precision, why not direct it at his tower or innocent people or something, making him the reviled public figure he was going to do anyway, this would just be cutting out the middle man by a significant margin. And if Lex could affect Supes with his rocks that fast, he could easily just kill him with Green Kryptonite. Perhaps not in this particular scheme, because he's trying to make superman look bad, than in any of the hundreds of others where he is simply out to kill the guy. No, red kryptonite is far too baseless for me, and even if it wasn't it raises way too many questions. The second explanation makes much more sense, but while Superman did have reason to be miffed, Batman still did nothing wrong. Possessing Kryptonite is not a crime. Furthermore, Superman never said anything about being outraged at Batman, he just came and beat him up with no explanation whatsoever, so even if he was angry at Batman, the way he went about handling him was entirely wrong. I'm not saying Lex is a good guy, but he is right in that all we have is superman's word that he won't go too far, and, assuming that he is angry for the reason you say you are, he just swoops in and fucks Batman's shit up with no explanation for his actions nor allowing Batman to defend his own, then leaves. Furthermore, I don't think it works because it would mean that Lex knows Bruce is Batman, which his inner monologue implies that he does not. He just knows that Bruce's millionaire playboy persona is a facade, but other than that, he wonders what he is. The wording is ambiguous enough that he could, but I don't think so. In any case, if Superman is in control of his actions here, then what Lex says here still applies. Superman is a whim away from a tyrannical planet conqueror, and he cannot remain unchecked. Thanks for replying though, I was worried no one would get to it. If you have any other explanations, I'd love to hear them.
Fair point, #1 isn't entirely satisfying and does kind of require a few leaps of faith on the reader's part — although since Luthor's a hugely Machiavellian person, presumably has a number of different plans on the boil and basically makes a hobby of collecting stuff that will either kill Superman or failing that fuck his shit up good and proper, it's not exactly the biggest leaps the reader will ever have to make (the red sky, by the way, is presumably intended as symbolism, not literally red kryptonite).
#2 is an overreaction on Superman's part, true, but hardly an incredibly egregious one — it might not be a crime to possess kryptonite, but Batman essentially going behind Superman's back off Lex Luthor of all people is still a huge dick move on Batman's part (kind of like how, even if it's not a crime, my best friend taking something that could kill me and only me from my worst enemy to keep me in check is a pretty sucky thing to do, not matter how much you can justify it), so it's not entirely unreasonable that Superman would be a bit pissed. Plus, Superman basically roughs Batman up a bit and punches him in the nose, when he could have easily turned him into a smear on the wall; an overreaction, sure, and evidence that Superman is not perfect, but not exactly conclusive evidence that he's a hop, skip and a jump from a complete Face-Heel Turn; more evidence that he's (not entirely unreasonably) a bit pissed off at Batman.
Ultimately though, I think we have to go with (a) we're getting this from Luthor's inherently unreliable perspective, meaning we're getting a slightly distorted version of what happens (aside from this, we only see and hear what Luthor sees and hears, meaning that we don't get the full picture of what or wasn't said between Superman and Batman) and (b) the work clearly states that while Luthor might have a point, that doesn't make him right, exactly; yes, Superman punches Batman, but we also see a whole lot of him flying around helping people, catching criminals, saving them from Toyman robots, etc. Luthor, on the other hand, doesn't do anything which doesn't ultimately end up in a whole load of Metropolis being blown up and loads of people being killed, and while he makes his motives sound all grandiose and benevolent when you get down to it they basically boiled down to 'making Superman look bad'. So while he may have a point that Superman has the potential to go bad and needs to be watched (which could be said about anyone, really), Luthor is wilfully ignoring the fact that he's already much, much worse. Superman might have the potential to be a would-be tyrannical world-conqueror (although I'd argue that even given what we see he's clearly more than a whim away from being one), but Luthor already is a would-be tyrannical world conqueror, no matter how he dresses it up.
A possible #3; it's all happening in Luthor's head. Since the entire story is basically Lex Luthor's perspective on things, he's imagining what Superman would do if he discovered he'd given Batman kryptonite (and yeah, this does kind of presuppose that Luthor knows who Batman really is when he meets Bruce Wayne, so it's unlikely, but there is a bit of ambiguity on that front if you want to see it so we'll run with it for hypothetical reasons), and since Luthor isn't the most reliable person when it comes to these things, in his unreliable perspective he imagines that Superman would go all godlike on Batman and kick his ass.
There are also a few other hints throughout that Luthor does indeed know that Bruce Wayne is Batman, or at least suspects; in any case, being the super-genius that he is, it wouldn't be outside of the realms of possibility for him to have his suspicions at the very least.
An alternative option; Lex and Bruce are eating dinner, and there's this redhead in a green dress who keeps popping up throughout the panels. Lex has already demonstrated he's not above using remarkably manipulative tactics to get what he wants. Who says that doesn't extend to hiring someone to make Bruce more open to suggestion when he's incredibly vulnerable? I mean, Bruce knows the chef, and he's got an image to protect. He's not about to start checking his food for mind control agents. She never made it into Joker's comic, so why couldn't Lex figure out a way to get help from Poison Ivy? With Ivy's plant based brand of control, all Lex has to do is suggest that things would be a good idea. He'd suggest that it would be interesting to challenge Superman, and Bruce goes off and does it. He suggests that it would be a good idea to hand something over to his labs, and Bruce follows through on that too. Finally, there's the semi-romantic aspect of Luthor's proposal (the ring box with the Kryptonite). Not only does he appear to have hired Poison Ivy, he's following her M.O. to ensure that he gets what he wants.
This interpretation adds an interesting layer of Unreliable Narrator to the fight scene between Batman and Superman; taking this interpretation, Batman is influenced into believing that Superman is hostile and attacking him, when for all we know Superman, while perhaps still a bit pissed for reasons outlined above, is actually trying to calm him down and reason with him, and is ultimately forced to violence to try and snap Batman out of it.
Heck, this interpretation doesn't even need Superman to be there. Let's assume Batman has been doped by Poison Ivy. He's hallucinating the entire fight with Superman. His injuries are sustained because he starts hallucinating while he's leaping around the rooftops of Gotham, and consequently takes a tumble, and he's still in a suggestible state when he calls Luthor. For all we know, there's an off-screen panel with Bruce Wayne waking up the next morning with a horrible headache and no memory of what happened the night before.
I was thinking about this again, wondering if Lex needs to realize Bruce is Batman to make his scheme work. Given that Lex's main tools are manipulation, intimidation, and later terrorism and murder, maybe he expected that Bruce would challenge Superman and get himself killed in the process. With Bruce Wayne out of the picture, Lex would be able to buy the discovery from a more amenable CEO. In this case, the last look on Lex's face in that issue isn't his way of showing contentment, it's surprise to be hearing from a still living Bruce Wayne.
It should be pointed out that if Bruce Wayne goes and challenges Superman and is hurt or killed in any way, then not only would Superman have killed one of the richest most famous philanthropists in the world and a pillar of Gotham's community, he would also have annihilated one of Lex's business rivals. Xanatos is impressed.