Future State: House of El #1 – Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Writer; Scott Godlewski, Artist; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Ray: What’s the only thing better than a Superman? How about an entire army of Supermen and Superwomen? Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s Superman run is just beginning, but he wraps up the Future State chapter with this oversized one-shot entirely drawn by Scott Godlewski. Set far in the future, it finds the House of El now a massive clan of warriors, scientists, and heroes fighting a seemingly hopeless war against a mysterious enemy known as the Red King. Making it more interesting, the line has changed a lot since we last saw it. The man holding the mantle of Superman is black, a Brainiac is their closest ally, and the line includes children with other alien species like Tamaraneans and a group of refugees loyal to Superman’s mission.
The only thing missing? Superman himself, who has not been seen in so many years that many of the younger generation speculate he may be little more than a story. This falls in line with Johnson’s exploration of Superman as a myth and inspiration as much as a living person. Superman’s not around, but he’s created a massive group of heroes in his place—for all it matters, as we see the Red King’s army (containing some iconic old enemies) decimate them. We only get to know these characters for a short time before the war finds them, and it’s a testament to how good Johnson’s writing is that deaths already pack an intense emotional punch based on those few pages.
There are a lot of double-page splashes in this issue, with Godlewski getting the chance to show off some great battle scenes. The plot comes fast and furious, feeling more like a war comic than a superhero comic. When the twist comes about the identity of the Red King, it took me by surprise—especially a reveal about where they come from—but the final few pages deliver a great emotional coda that reminds us of the greatest thing about Superman—no matter how hard things get or how long it takes, he never backs down from a fight and he never gives up hope for a better future. I’ve only read three issues by him, but I already feel pretty confident in how good Johnson’s Superman run is going to be.
To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.
GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.