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Review: Lex Luthor and Superman rides do battle at Magic Mountain

Los Angeles Times staff writer

My palms have been sweating for weeks in anticipation of Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom, the new drop tower debuting Saturday at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

> Photos: Lex Luthor drop tower at Six Flags Magic Mountain

My apprehension stemmed not from the thrill ride’s record-setting 400-foot height or 85 mph speed, but rather from the drop tower’s relative proximity to the Superman: Escape from Krypton shuttle coaster. You see, the Lex Luthor drop tower is attached to both sides of the 415-foot-tall Superman L-shaped track, adding to the excitement of both rides.

> Photos: New rides debuting at Six Flags parks this summer

The Lex Luthor ride is remarkably simple: After a 30-second ascent at about 10 mph and a five second pause at the top, riders drop at 85 mph in a freefall descent lasting six seconds before an abrupt deceleration.

What separates this drop tower from almost any other ride is the potential clash of good and evil - with you sitting ringside 40 stories above the earth.

If you’re lucky and the timing is just right, the twin Superman trains will rocket out of the coaster station below at 100 mph just as the dual Lex Luthor gondolas reach the top of the tower.

And that’s when the shaking starts. The gondola seats rumble violently as the coaster climbs the track, causing the tower sways up to four feet. It feels like an earthquake in a skyscraper - only you’re strapped to the outside of the building.

There’s a brief respite as the Superman trains reach the top of the tower, so close you can almost touch the coaster riders.

And then gravity takes over. The gondolas drop. The trains plummet. And the race is on to the bottom.

The new ride at the Valencia amusement park is different from the air-powered drop towers that have become common fare at theme parks over the past few decades. Rather than bouncing up and down on a cushion of air, the cable-lifted Lex Luthor relies solely on gravity for its thrills. As a result, there are no negative G-forces to pull you out of your seat, with riders experiencing only positive Gs as the magnetic brakes bring the gondolas to a surprisingly abrupt halt after a whisper quiet and lightning quick drop. The ride’s extreme height adds to the overall speed and freefall time.

Obviously if you’re afraid of heights, Lex Luthor is the wrong ride for you. Far taller than any coaster at Magic Mountain, the fun and exhilarating drop tower offers amazing views of the park and the surrounding hills stretching to the horizon.

The one knock on the ride is unavoidable. With the queue sitting beneath the insanely loud Superman coaster, standing in line for Lex Luthor may prove hard on your hearing. Magic Mountain might want to hand out ear plugs to dampen the jet engine howl.

The ride promises to offer a completely different experience at night with the gondolas and towers shrouded in total darkness except for the aircraft warning beacon blinking on top.

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