Review – House of El Book Two: The Enemy Delusion – Countdown on Krypton

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House of El: The Enemy Delusion cover, via DC Comics.

House of El Book Two: The Enemy Delusion – Claudia Gray, Writer; Eric Zawadski, Artist; Dee Cunniffe, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Ray: So far, most of the DC OGNs have been stand-alone stories, and those that have received sequels weren’t really designed for them. House of El is an exception, being designed from the start as a trilogy and ending each installment with a cliffhanger. Like most second installments, The Enemy Delusion has the problem of having neither an introduction nor a conclusion, meaning anyone interested should definitely pick up the first volume before starting. Fortunately, this doomed romance set among the complex politics of Krypton’s last days is as compelling as ever.

The main characters, elite scientist Zahn and young military-class soldier Sera, are separate again but deeply changed by their experiences in the first book. Zahn, an activist in a family of callous rich people, is starting to think more critically not just about Krypton’s future but about the strict class structure that defines it. Sera, meanwhile, has undergone more literal changes. Thanks to Lara, she’s had her DNA altered to remove some of the programming that makes Kryptonian soldiers so obedient—and finds she thinks radically different now.

Close escape. Via DC Comics.

This leads to no small amount of trouble for both. Zahn’s cruel teacher soon exiles him from the classroom for questioning orthodoxy, sending him to military observation duty—something he doesn’t particularly mind. More troubling is his growing involvement with the rebels of the mysterious group Midnight, which seeks to strike against Krypton’s elites. Sera, meanwhile, starts taking bigger and smarter risks in military missions that essentially treat her and her fellow soldiers as cannon fodder—earning her the anger of her commanding officer, and the appreciation of an intrigued General Zod.

Their slow-burn romance is frequently interrupted by bouts of mistrust and isolation, as both their “families” try to pull them apart. Zahn faces a class structure that intends to keep him on top and opposes any mixing with those born “lesser,” while Sera’s fellow soldiers have a sense of pride about their humble work and resent anyone from the privileged classes coming to observe them. The true brutality of Krypton’s class system is painfully clear when we see Sera’s unit risking their lives to protect a repair and supply system that bypasses their own class.

High skies. Via DC Comics.

But as compelling as these two leads are, the main strength of this issue comes in the characters we know already. Jor-El and Lara, working on a secret project that we know is that fateful rocket, are more paranoid and morally grey than we usually see them. It makes a lot of sense—we’ve only seen them in an idealized way through Kal-El’s eyes, but the mission they’ve undertaken is one that would push anyone to their limit. This Jor-El—scruffy and radical—doesn’t make a great face for the movement, which makes it all the more tragic that he’s completely right.

But far and away the most compelling character in this book is General Zod. Again, we only usually see him as a villain through Superman’s eyes, but he’s probably one of the most subtly complex villains in comics. A Kryptonian patriot with as much to lose as anyone else, he at times seems to be a genuinely nice man, but with a ruthless core lurking under the surface. However, several shocking reveals late in the book send everything we know about him for a loop, leaving us wondering exactly who the real Zod is and what he actually wants.

One of my few criticisms of the first book was that it was hard to get invested in the two leads knowing that they were doomed, but I think that might be the point. This issue brings us closer to that end, as Sera and Zahn start piecing together Krypton’s fate before reaching an emotional conclusion. Barring a shocking swerve, it’s unlikely they’ll have a happy ending, but it feels like their story might play a critical role in sending Krypton—and its most famous citizen—towards their inevitable destiny.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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