Lord's ruthlessness at this time was illustrated when he set up a disturbed would-be terrorist as a villain for the League to defeat, resulting in the man's death. (The would-be terrorist believed he had a bomb connected to his heartbeat, but in fact, Max had disconnected it.) Later, however, he rebelled against the computer and (seemingly) destroyed it.
Once free of the computer's influence, Lord was portrayed as an amoral businessman, but not a real villain. During the time that Giffen and DeMatteis were writing the Justice League the character was shown struggling with his conscience and developing heroic qualities, though he would remain a con-artist; however, more recent changes to his character by different writers seem to contradict these previous characterizations.
After he was shot and placed in a coma, at the start of the 15-part JLAmerica/JLEurope crossover Breakdowns, Dreamslayer, a supervillain who, with the aid of the Extremists, a team of robotic servants, had once destroyed all life on their planet, took over Lord's body and "supercharged" this power, allowing him to control thousands of minds at once. Using Lord's body and power, he caused the JLI to lose its charter, and almost forced them to disband. Finally, however, while the possessed Lord forced the JLI to battle itself, the mortally-wounded Silver Sorceress managed to contain Dreamslayer and held it within her mind as she died, taking it with her, and while Lord was freed, his power was burnt out.
Later, Lord is diagnosed with a brain tumor, and seemingly dies. The Kilg%re, however, had been waiting patiently for the right moment to reactivate its control of Lord and downloads his consciousness into a duplicate of one of the Extremist robots, Lord Havok (in a further retcon the body is told to be a New Genesis-built automata, later fallen in Checkmate's possession). In this form he spends some time testing the League, for unknown reasons. He also takes control of the secret organisation known as the Arcana.
His cyborg body later comes to resemble his original human form. Recently, he pulls together several former JLI members, including L-Ron, Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold and Fire as the "Super Buddies," advertised as "Heroes the common man could call." These stories are told in the six-issue miniseries Formerly Known as the Justice League in 2003, and its 2005 sequel, I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League.
The 2005 80-page one-shot Countdown to Infinite Crisis reveals that Lord is no longer a cyborg and, apparently, a criminal mastermind who spent years running the JLI gathering sensitive information about the world's superheroes, whom he considered a threat to the planet. At the same time, he sabotaged JLI efforts in order to render the superhero team as ineffectual as possible. At the end of the prologue special issue, he shoots and kills one-time JLI member Blue Beetle when the hero discovers Lord's secret and refuses his offer to join him.
During this time, Lord is given control of Batman's Brother Eye project (created to monitor all superhuman contact; Batman had grown paranoid when discovering the JLA had mindwiped him; see Identity Crisis) by Alexander Luthor, Jr., the god-like son of Lex Luthor from an alternate earth. Lord takes over Brother Eye and uses it to create an army of OMACs (humans infected with a virus that transformed them into cyborgs) programmed to hunt down and kill all superhumans.
He also uses his powers to influence Superman's mind, causing him to brutally beat Batman and attack Wonder Woman, believing them to be his old enemies (ie Brainiac, Darkseid, Ruin, and Doomsday). After barely escaping from Superman, Wonder Woman confronts Lord and binds him in her lasso of truth. She asks him how to free Superman; when Lord tells her she has to kill him she snaps his neck. In response, Brother Eye broadcasts the footage of Wonder Woman executing Lord all over the world, destroying her reputation and her friendship with Batman and Superman (who rejected her despite the fact that she saved their lives).
At the "Crisis Counseling" panel at Wizard World Chicago, Dan DiDio explained DC's reasoning in using Lord's character in Infinite Crisis. After going through several possible characters who could be the "new leader for the offshoot of Checkmate", Maxwell Lord was suggested. Many of the editors thought that the idea made sense, as Lord had been shown to have a mean streak and to have killed previously. The idea was dropped due to the continuity errors, such as him being a cyborg, but they went back to it later after deciding none of the other possible characters were suitable. "We thought about that aspect of the story [where Maxwell was turned into a cyborg] some more," DiDio explained. "And then asked, 'Did anyone read it?' No. 'Did anyone like the idea?' No. So we moved ahead with Max as being a human, and having been a human, and not letting that small part of the past stand in the way of this story. We wanted what was best for Countdown [to Infinite Crisis], and for us, that meant that Max had to be a human."
A further retcon placed the cyberization of Maxwell Lord in a brief period, after which Maxwell Lord used his connections with Cadmus Labs, Checkmate and Project M to reverse the changes made to him by the Kilg%re and get back into an healthy human body. The narrative captions that explain this also imply that, despite previous suggestions to the contrary, his reformation during JLI was genuine, and only following his cyberization and restoration did he acquire the hatred of metahumans that defined his role in Infinite Crisis.
This has revealed the case even in the current DC Universe (Booster Gold's events were set in a timeline diverging from the Countdown to Infinite Crisis events to present). However, the cyborg body owned by Maxwell Lord is no longer the one owned by the mechanical clone of Lord Havok, but a New Genesis-built automaton. Discarded after the restoration of his biological form, the body was abandoned in a basement at the Castle, Checkmate current headquarters, and retooled to host the current iteration of the G.I. Robot.
A normal human with no special powers, he acts as the manager of the Ultimen, a superhero team that works independently of the Justice League. It turns out, however, that the Ultimen are a series of artificial life forms cloned and given false memories. The team was developed with the assistance of Project Cadmus as part of an ongoing project to protect the earth from the Justice League. As the clones, which are imperfect, die, they are replaced, until one generation of the clones learns the truth and rebels against Lord and Cadmus.