In his quieter moments away from the Warworld arena, Superman has been keeping a journal. Back on Earth, Lois Lane is also writing.
As it turns out, Thao-La, a Phaelosian escapee from Warworld injured in battle after a Fortress rampage, is having fits and power surges as she slowly recovers. Lois intuits that a piece of tech containing ‘Genesis energy’, the Orphan Box, might be able to help.
Meanwhile, the depowered Superman is leading the resistance against a horde of thugs led by Mongul’s lieutenant, Teacher. Among the attackers is one of Superman’s own comrades, Omac, who has been turned by the promise of a return to life for their beloved Lightray. The stronger Omac can’t believe Superman is standing against them.
And that’s Superman. Never mind the odds, never mind the attitude of his foe, he wants the best outcome for everyone. I’ve said this a lot, but Phillip Kennedy Johnson really gets the Man of Steel, making him inspiring without coming across as unbearably preachy. He also writes a terrific villain, making malevolent mentalist Teacher truly fearsome in his attitude to the lives of others.
And then there’s Mongul himself. Artist Riccardo Federici ensures we don’t need words to understand how he’s feeling.
Brrrrr. Johnson and Federici are a great partnership, worldbuilding in words and pictures so that Warworld, after decades of floating around comics, finally feels like a place rather than an object. A place of punishment and pain but, thanks to the presence of Superman and allies such as Natasha Irons and Midnighter, hope too. The characters of supporting players such as Kryl-Ux also shine through, adding to the story texture. The stakes feel truly high, and I’ve no idea where the story is going.
The muscularity of Federici’s illustrations is something else – the warriors, the creatures… this Warworld is a realm that wouldn’t shame a Frank Frazetta Conan painting. The effect is completed by Lee Loughridge, whose colours evoke a dusty, twilight world. The Warworld Saga – this is part seven, and I’m nowhere near bored – is going to be a fantastic-looking collection. And Kennedy’s words look perfect on the page thanks to letterer Dave Sharpe – emphasis is important for dramatic exchanges and Sharpe gets it right every time.
The story ends on a very intriguing note, so bring on Action Comics 1043. Next month promises more pages for the Warworld story, as the Martian Manhunter serial ends here. I’ve been enjoying the story hugely, with all its callbacks to J’onn J’onzz’ Silver Age adventures. Sadly, writer Shawn Aldridge and Adriana Melo’s conclusion rather drops the ball. Our hero ends the conspiracy against him, but the villain’s motivations, while spelt out, make no sense to me. He’s unmasked but I’m not sure if I’m supposed to recognised him as one of the two similar-looking brown-haired cops, Certa and Fox, who have been around throughout, or if he’s someone we don’t know and a point is being made about the randomness of evil. It’s left unclear if the Zook kid with the rugby ball head who showed up is actually J’onn’s old alien sidekick of the same name in disguise. At the end, J’onn picks up a police badge, presumably from the one of the cops – is he going to take their identity?
Answers, as they used to say, on a postcard.
It’s such a shame, this serial was going so well, there have been good character moments, and J’onn’s powers are used in ways that show he’s not a Kryptonian clone, but, finally, Aldridge under-explains things. Melo’s art is again pretty good, the fight scene has impact, and the colours of Hi-Fi are, as always, great. Dave Sharpe letters, so no complaints there.
Should DC ever collect this story they could do worse than tweak the last chapter, clarify things. Or is it just me?
As usual, I’ll close with a few words about the cover. In this case, all you need is one.
Wow. Riccardo Federici has produced a knockout, full-colour image, with the logo positioning and treatment unusually effective. The cover is as gorgeous as it is powerful.
The Warworld Saga is going to go down as a Superman classic.