Superman: Warworld Apocalypse #1 review

It’s been a long time coming, but here it is, the climax to Superman’s battle to free the prisoners of space tyrant Mongul. After many months of chapters in Action Comics, the finale comes in an extra-length special, 48 pages of Superman and his allies, the Authority, fighting Mongul and his warriors on Warworld.

The issue opens with Midnighter, Manchester Black, the Enchantress and their rebel band against their friends Lightray, Apollo and Omac, all of whom have been turned to Mongul’s cause, either by force or misguided passion.

Superman is certainly feeling strong emotions, as he learns that Kryl-Ux, a Phaelosian who has been by his side for months as he won over prisoners whose souls had been crushed, has been Mongul’s man all along.

Meanwhile Natasha Irons and Orphan, Mongul henchbaby turned freedom fighter, face the terrible Teacher and Orphan’s beloved Darling as they bid to spark an artificial sun that could turn the tide in their favour.

Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson cuts back and forth between the three battle fronts with confidence, sprinkling clever moments and surprises throughout. I won’t give too much away in terms of said twists and turns, because this is the conclusion of a story that’s been going on for around 18 months – Johnson has earned the right to tell you how it ends in his own well-chosen words. I do feel able to say that highlights include a cameo by a New God, the characterisations of the Authority members and Lois’ thoughts on son Jon.

Translating the words into images are artists Brandon Peterson, Will Conrad, Max Raynor and Miguel Mendonça. As is modern DC custom, we don’t get a breakdown of who did which pages. I could make guesses but I might embarrass myself. Let’s just say that the big moments – the heroic sacrifices, the fantastic fisticuffs, the explosive elements – are given suitable bombast, while the few quieter beats likewise don’t lack for drama… the final page will have you feeling fuzzy for the rest of the day.

Here’s one page I especially like because as well as the art of, er, the artist (Peterson?) it showcases the fantastic colour work of Leigh Loughridge and letters of Dave Sharpe…just look at the greens in the Enchantress panels, the soaring sound effects!

The cover is rather something. Superman, his warrior’s kilt swirling, poised on one leg as if about to pirouette. Thinking on, he’s in flight, his powers returned at last, but it sent me to Google to see if productions of Khachaturian’s ballet Spartacus had inspired artist Steve Beach. Apparently not, but the vibe remains. I’m not an artist, but the right arm looks awkward, as if back to front, and our hero’s head seems to be oddly placed. It must be me. The logo is as elegant as Superman, to my eyes it’s too delicate for a story this big. The classic logo would have been perfect, but it doesn’t appear once in this issue. We get…

…when what a story this good deserves is…

DC, you have the best-known superhero logo in the world. Embrace it.

I wasn’t a fan of the idea of this story – Superman had an extended period off Earth years ago, and it wasn’t my cup of tea – but Johnson and collaborators such as Daniel Sampere, Riccardo Federici and regular cover artist Mikel Janin quickly got me excited. As Superman won over the sceptical Warworld prisoners, so did Kennedy and co capture my imagination. They’ve given us a Superman who, without powers, Justice League allies or planet, is as much a Superman as he’s ever been. Maybe more so. Johnson and his creative partners have shown Superman’s real power – the purity of hope, of sheer goodness. And that’s a power we can all find within ourselves.

5 thoughts on “Superman: Warworld Apocalypse #1 review

  1. Great review of a great issue.
    As you say, we bounce between three fronts but Superman is evident everywhere, as a role model of sacrifice or a rallying cry.
    Love the ending with Lois.
    And how great to see that New God there at an appropriate time, witnessing the death of Black Razor.
    Like you, I first bemoaned Superman being offworld. But this story has been a treasure. And yes, I wish they would list the artists pages and number the pages. I think this has been removed because of trade implications. Too bad.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Or do we? From my review of Action Comics #1044

        “But the best thing is the mutated Lightray being called Black Razor is brilliant. The rebels call Razor ‘death itself’. See the Fourth World-ness there?? Black Razor … Black Racer … both death. “

        Liked by 1 person

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