Project Ares is a civilian LuthorCorp program created by Lex Luthor that may or may not have been sanctioned by the US government. It has been an ongoing project for three years to produce super-soldiers. Project Ares exists to counter, as Lex sees it, the growing threat of metahuman criminals and alien beings to the United States and humanity in general.
There have been hints of government approval in the form of Senator Ed Burke being able to persuade Congress to fund the project and give Lex access to US military personnel. However, the extent of what Congress and the military know about Ares and its real purpose, mission and methods concerning its connection to Level 33.1, or even its existence, is still in doubt.
Research and Development
Project Ares is a culmination of Level 33.1 experiments on metahumans that were illegally transferred from mental health facilities, such as Belle Reve, by , and abducted across the United States and in foreign countries. Ares also benefited from obtaining genetic material, including peptides, from the alien Titan. This was the breakthrough that Project Ares needed.
The episode Progeny is the first reference to Project Ares' connection with Moira Sullivan's illegal transfer from the Forest Glen Sanitarium and the subsequent experiments on her without her consent. In Nemesis, Lana Luthor, during the crises involving her husband Lex being trapped underground, finds a DVD marked "Ares" in Lex's briefcase. On it was a video of tourists being mauled by a Phantom Zone wraith; this is very likely one of the justifications for Project Ares in Lex's mind in addition to the kryptonite-infected metahuman crimes and his own possession by General Zod.
Field Testing and Operational Mission
At least one previous prototype went rogue during field testing as shown in Smallville Legends: Justice & Doom Part 1. It killed two of the project scientists in its escape.
The first example of a super-solider is shown in the episode Nemesis, with the subject, Wes Keenan, on an examination table. Fooled by Lex into volunteering to serve his country in another field after he was wounded in Afghanistan, Wes became a Project Ares subject against his will. His Ares designation was Prototype Mark IV, the fourth in the line and the fourth to be tested. Wes has a combination of several metahuman abilities that were harnessed via the experiments on Level 33.1 prisoners and the infusion of genetic material from Titan. He underwent several test runs in infiltrating Lex's own secret facilities with great successes despite armed resistance and state-of-the-art security systems.
In Prototype, Senator Burke, out of fear of the immense scandal that would envelope him if the project's real goals, purposes and methods were made public, was going to have the project canceled after Lex lied to him about details and the progress of Ares. To forestall this, Lex ordered Mark IV to kill Burke. The Mark IV successfully killed the senator, in addition to two of the senator's bodyguards. After it was learned that there was an eyewitness to Burke's murder, Lex ordered the Mark IV to terminate the witness. The Mark IV failed to do this initially due to his familiarity with the target, Lois Lane, enabling him to temporarily fight off the programming and become Wes Keenan again. He was untraceable by LuthorCorp and had free will until his systems were successfully rebooted by remote. After the reboot and despite Wes fighting to keep control, the Mark IV attempted to complete its mission. However, it was interrupted by Clark Kent, who defeated and unintentionally killed the Mark IV.
Disposition of the Mark IV and the future of Ares
At least one previous prototype was defeated by Green Arrow's team as seen in the fourth part of the Toyota Yaris interstitial commercial in Smallville Legends: Justice & Doom, the same one that went rogue in Part 1. This one was destroyed in the desert just before the Mark IV prototype was killed at the end of Prototype. What has happened to the two other prototypes is unknown.
After stealing the body from civilian authorities, Lex ordered the Mark IV to be taken apart to ascertain what went wrong and to replace him. He was informed by one of his scientists, Dr. Donovan Jamison, that there was no genetic material from Titan left for a replacement and thus the project could not go on, but Lex assured the doctor that he was working on a replacement source of genetic material. What Project Ares had on hand was the raw materials in the form of dozens, if not hundreds, of human bodies for it to continue.
Lex had been tracking a Phantom Zone wraith, the same one that attacked the tourists, to possibly harvest its DNA to replace Titan's genetic material. The wraith eventually took control of a young boy named Philipe Lamont, and Lex was able to track him down. Lex abducted the child and brought him to Reeves Dam so Jamison could extract the boy's supposedly mutated DNA and use it as a new genetic source for Project Ares. However, the wraith escaped the body and, after a confrontation with Clark, became Bizarro. In the ensuing fight, most of Reeves Dam and the facility within was destroyed.
Since the disastrous events resulting from Bizarro's escape, Project Ares has seemingly been put on hold.In 2012, Dr. Simon Jones, one of the Project Ares subjects now calling himself Psimon, wanted to get revenge on Luthor , for what happened. The drugs administered to him as part of the project increased his intelligence as well as gave him extraordinary psychokinetic and telepathic abilities, but also physically increased the size of his brain. Psimon attacks the citizens of Metropolis using his psychokinetic abilities to levitate and surround himself with a number of metallic orbs. Superman intervenes as Psimon mentally picks up a semi tractor-trailer and attempts to drop it on a small child. As Superman tries to talk Psimon out of his attack, Lex arrives to offer his own solution. Angered that it was LuthorCorp's experiments that altered him, Psimon turns his attack on Lex. Superman quickly rescues Lex and speeds him away from the scene.
Superman returns to Metropolis after hiding Lex away in Mexico. As he tries to capture Psimon, the criminal's telepathic abilities allow him to "feel" Superman's moves before he makes them and counteract them. Moving faster than thought, Impulse arrives to help his old friend. The speedster proves too quick for Psimon and is able to punch him into submission.
- Lex also cloned Lana as part of Project Ares. The clone was known as Model 503, and it seems the clone was never really alive, as it was just a physical clone with no working mind.
- Project Ares may not have been abandoned, as of the revelations in Requiem with Lex's truck being destroyed, with him still inside, by Oliver Queen.
- The name of the project was probably inspired by Ares, the Ancient Greek god of warfare and blood-lust.