Monday, February 22, 2021

Future State: Superman Worlds At War #2

Future State Superman Worlds At War #2 came out this last week and was another good issue showing us one potential destiny of the Man of Steel. I have to say, between his stint in Imperious Lex and his death brawl with Darkseid in Immortal Wonder Woman, this Superman gets around.

For me, this series was a key one to read. Phillip Kennedy Johnson is on writing. He is writing the Superman books after Future State and so this is a peek into what he thinks of our hero. I was pretty impressed with the first issue and I thought this one was also very good. There is no doubt that Johnson thinks of Superman as an inspirational and pure hero. This issue's telling is a bit ham-fisted in driving that home. But it shows why Superman believes in humanity. He is us. He learned from us. And as a result, we need to be like him.

Mikel Janin's art is, as always, beautiful. This is more impressive because the story jumps back and forth from two teenagers talking in a field and a barbarian brawl in space. In both settings he shines. My one slight complaint on the art is how the Warworld bits are colored only in tints of red or orange. It started to feel almost monochromatic after a while.

This also ends with a solid cliffhanger. Inspiration indeed!

On to the book.

Last issue, a young girl named Sadie traveled to Smallville. There she found Superman to be worshiped. Thinking that these people don't understand Superman, she goes off on her own into the cornfields of the town.

A young boy joins her. At his insistence, she divulges why she said Clark Kent saved her life. 

Clark wrote a story about a homeless man who died in Metropolis but whose story needed to be told. This man lived quite a life as a hero, a defender of family and humanity, and fighter for truth and justice. 

As we read Kent's story in caption boxes, we see how the words can also describe Superman and his life on Warworld.

Edgar Watters, a disabled African American, heard about the atrocities of WWII in Europe and became a soldier to free the downtrodden and fight for what's right. Superman is on Warworld for the same reasons.

As we cut to Warworld we see Superman defending the alien thrown into the ring with him, suffering injuries as he does so.

As Watters did. 

When the war ended, Watters joined the civil rights movement, marching and organizing to free his people.

When counterprotesters became physical, Watters fought back hard.

Again, the words mirror Superman's fight. We see how bloodied Superman is as he fights.

Watters set up a scholarship to help the poor. He fought his whole life for equality and justice. And yet when he died, some called him a failure for being homeless and alone. 

Clark can't believe anyone would call Watters a failure given his selfless life of service.

Again, all these words mirror Superman's plight, fighting on a foreign soil, demanding equality for all, protecting his son and family.

Great first panel showing how Superman is dwarfed on this planet by the monsters Mongul is throwing at him. 

But when it is clear that Superman has defeated these warriors (incapacitated them without killing them), Mongul steps in blasting Superman into submission.

I think this panel exchange is the key. In all this fight, Superman isn't aiming at the warriors. It seems he is aiming at the chains of others. 

Is he slowly freeing as many of the chained slaves here as he can? Can Mongul and his men not see that some of the fetters on the crowd and enslaved have been broken?

But that idea, that Superman is becoming a leader and freeing the downtrodden? Pretty brilliant.

The news story mirroring Superman's story did become a bit heavy-handed at times. But all the sentiments in it are things I think about Superman. So if this is what Johnson thinks of Superman, I'm happy.

What I don't like is the next scene. 

Superman is caged in front of Mongul.

Mongul says he has killed and resurrected Superman countless times, all in hopes of turning Superman into a mindless killing machine.

Mongul resurrects Superman?? I don't know why but I don't like it.

In the end Superman is back in the ring. 

But this time the inspiration takes form. Superman once again standing up to fight ignites the crowd. And suddenly those broken chains are evident. The crowd of slaves rise to their feet. The revolt is on.

Sadie meanwhile finds the Kent's cellar, undiscovered all these years, and finds baby Kal's rocket. (I can't believe that the government didn't do a huge sweep of the area. How did this not get discovered.) But the thing that gets me here is that while Clark wrote the story, certainly it is the person of Edgar Watters that 'saved' Sadie, making her realize she had something to live for, something to thrive for.

Still, of all the Future State books I have read, this one was pretty solid both in story and in art. It does make me want to see what Johnson has in mind in 'the present'.

Overall grade: B+

1 comment:

Martin Gray said...

Great review, I never noticed him knackering the chains, I just glaze over when it’s page after page of swordfighting. Did he spark a revolution, though? I just assumed that was crowd cheering on the final page.

Come on, read those back-ups, you’ve paid for ‘em!