Future State‘s initiative to provide a glimpse of the next generation of heroes has introduced readers to a variety of new and old faces. With regards to the mantle of Superman, all the titles thus far have centered around Clark’s son and successor, Jon. Superman of Metropolis provided a look into Jon’s growing pains of assuming the mantle, while Superman/Wonder Woman delivered a more mature successor who has forged his own path. Now, Superman: Worlds of War seeks to provide a coda to Clark’s departure and a look at how the world reacts to the loss of an icon.
In “The Many Lives of Clark Kent”, standout writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson and all-star artist Mikel Janin paint a portrait of a world without Superman that offers a reflection on the heroic ideal. Johnson’s narrative emulates what some of the most revered Superman tales have done by providing more of a meditation on Superman than a thrilling adventure — readers expecting grand gladiatorial combat will have their expectations subverted in a fantastic way.
The narrative takes place through everyday people recounting their personal experiences with Superman. It’s through this narrative setup that Johnson provides his own meta-textual commentary on the character of Superman. Though the ordinary citizens weave tales of Superman exerting his great power to save the day, the story’s protagonist does not lose sight of the man behind the cape. Johnson’s protagonist seems to function almost as a stand-in for the writer and gives a glimpse at the characterization the future Super-scribe will bring to the series. It’s a hopeful tale that serves as a stark contrast to the other Future State releases and leaves room for a promising follow-up.
Here, Janin’s unique art style pairs perfectly with the narrative. His crisp line work gives the book a realistic texture that supplements its focus on ordinary citizens. On one page, he can craft the blur of Superman’s cape flickering through the city, and on the next deliver detailed alien monstrosities for Superman to combat. One of the best aspects of his style is his consistently unique page layouts. Janin varies his paneling from page to page, giving each tale its own style. Alongside this is his creative usage of 2-page spreads, giving the art room to breathe.
Paired with Janin’s excellent style is Jordie Bellaire’s vibrant colors, whose talents also lend themselves to each narrative. The colors vary between each story recounted and help make each one unique in its own right. This artistic duo comes together to accentuate the grounded nature of the narrative while also giving the story its own artistic voice.
Following Superman’s narrative comes three more backup stories, all centering around Warworld. The first of these centers around the new Mister Miracle, Shilo Norman, and serves as a continuation of Mister Miracle’s adventure in the Superman of Metropolis #1 backup. Unfortunately, its inclusion here comes off as a jarring entry. This is due to the narrative picking up immediately after the yet to be released Superman of Metropolis #2. Such a starting place leaves one with more questions than answers especially considering the brief 10 pages this story is given.
The best aspect of this backup is the artistic talent of Valentine De Landro and colorist Marissa Louise. Landro’s art style serves as a stark contrast to Janin’s realistic renderings and gives the story a cartoon-esque quality. Louise’s colors and shading then come in to complement Landro’s line work. While overall a strange entry, this backup does assist in fleshing out the backdrop of Warworld further and setting up the next story.
The next backup is given more room to breathe in a full issue length story centering around Midnighter. Here, Midnighter is tasked with saving the galaxy from its imminent destruction. It’s an action-packed issue that grips you from page one and does not let up. Michael Conrad and Becky Cloonan immediately capture Midnighter’s gritty tone and deliver one of Future State‘s better supplementary stories.
What really sets this backup apart is Gleb Melinkov’s art. He imbues the narrative with a visceral flair that perfectly suits the action-packed narrative. His rugged line work gives the story its own unique texture and plays into the violent tendencies of the protagonist. Melnikov’s art is then even further enhanced by Jordie Bellaire’s coloring. Bellaire’s stylized punches and gunshot flairs give each fight frenetic energy. Letterer Travis Lanham’s striking onomatopoeia usage also contributes to the overall tone of the story. This backup comes as a welcome addition and makes for an exhilarating read.
Rounding out this collection of backups comes a Black Racer narrative. This serves as an update of the Fourth World character and introduces a new persona to the mantle. Much like Mister Miracle’s story, its inclusion here serves to further flesh out Warworld as a whole. While the story is largely comprised of expository narration, it does provide a few moments of action and a set piece seemingly ripped straight from Alita: Battle Angel. It also does a satisfactory job at setting up an intriguing premise for the new Black Racer. This story’s inclusion serves a broader thematic purpose for the issue as well, carrying over the same thread from Superman’s narrative, which gives the issue a strong sense of coherence.
On the whole, Superman: Worlds of War delivers a strangely cohesive collection of stories spanning the broader ends of the DC universe. Johnson’s Superman debut serves as an indicator of the direction he will bring to the character, while also providing an engaging look at a world without Superman. The accompanying backups each bear their own merits and serve to further expand the looming backdrop of Warworld. This is a solid Future State entry that provides something for everyone.
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