Future State: Superman: House of El #1
One thousand years from now, the universe will have changed beyond recognition. Civilizations will rise and fall as they always do, and the planets will shift --culturally, physically. Humans will meet many alien races, they will co-mingle, form alliances, and move beyond the planet's borders. The United Planets will grow stronger with time... and then take losses in the intergalactic war against the rise of the Red King.
And in the midst of all these changes there will be the House of El.
A union of Superman's descendants, they are currently all that stands between the Red King and complete domination.
This is how that battle ends.
One part Science Fiction, one part Superheroics and one part Arthurian Epic, House of El brings us to the far future where the descendants of Clark Kent have joined to form a united house, passing his mantle down through the generations. Even centuries after the ancestor who coined the phrase is long gone, they continue to fight for Truth and Justice, though some of his descendants struggle with the question of whether or not he ever really existed at all.
Clark’s descendants are an interesting lot – diverse in both race and species. A Tamaranean princess is among them, as is a Blue Lantern, the sister of the current Superman. For those wondering how Clark came to have such a mix of descendants, well, writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson has hinted in interviews that Clark was not married to Lois’s shade once she passed away; he has a much longer lifespan than Lois and I doubt that Lois herself would want him to trap himself on a lonely emotional island, forever mourning her loss. I much prefer to allow Clark to love again, and it seems he did. Still, powerful as they are, their abilities are presumably somewhat weaker than that of an earlier generation Kryptonian; this, more than anything else, is the reason their situation has become so dire.
You see, an army beyond comprehension is on the move – an armada made of the ships of many worlds as well as the gods of Apokolips and New Genesis. They ride alongside their leader, the Red King. He and his followers have already brought the United Planets to its knees… and it isn’t at all evident that the House of El can stand against him.
Now, you may have noticed that I mentioned that Clark’s descendants aren’t even sure he existed. Yes, that does mean that, despite covers that may imply otherwise, House of El does not involve a gathering of Clark’s relatives taking commands from Clark himself. There is no throne upon which Kal-El sits, surrounded by his numerous progeny. This isn’t that story.
House of El is, instead, a story about tradition and faith and standing for right in spite of the odds. It’s about the power and importance of symbols and legacy. It’s about hope; consider how telling it is that Rowan, the Blue Lantern, draws on the color powered by hope. It’s also about a crucial moment when the House of El must either survive or fade into oblivion, and how it is that they do it – whichever “it” they do, in the end. It’s a story both epic and personal – and in keeping with the epic overtones, the narration is written in iambic pentameter which lends a grandiosity to the already grand events.
That kind of move is hardly a surprise coming from Johnson, and having read a fair bit of his previous work, I’m guessing he has notebooks (or word files as the case may be) of untold backstory and worldbuilding waiting to be explored. If there is one thing that he’s sure to be remembered for it’s his worldbuilding, and it shows through in the lore that bubbles up from between the words. There’s a history here – relationships as yet untold, and I’d really like to see them given a stage. Because as it stands, each individual character is interesting enough – and well-designed enough – that I’m left entertaining speculation and guessing at their lineage. Why does that one woman wear a helmet and is she descended from an Amazon as the use of a “lasso” suggests? Who is Theand’r’s mother? There’s a multipart epic hiding in here somewhere and I want to see it.
Scott Godlewski (with Gabe Eltaeb on colors) show off his prowess in both quiet moments and magnificent double page action scenes that play out across wide panels as characters burst out from skewed chaotic borders. The story takes place against a backdrop of futuristic buildings and a homebase that resembles a science fiction take on a medieval fortress. Outside, the sky is an otherworldly starscape painted in purples and blues with the Earth hanging above like a blue marble moon in the distance.
I won’t give away the twists and turns, of course – you’ll have to read them to see where it goes. But I am hyped for what’s to come in Johnson’s Superman run. And I hope these characters have a life beyond Future State the way so many others do; really, just imagine the wealth of potential characters and stories that could unfurl.
An epic scale finale for Clark's lineage... or perhaps the beginning of a new era? House of El delivers superheroics meshed with a science fiction war narrative featuring interesting characters and history both, with the potential for more pulsing under its surface. It will leave you satisfied, yet with your appetite whetted for more.
Future State: Superman: House of El #1: The Future of Hope!
Writing - 9.5/10
Storyline - 10/10
Art - 9/10
Color - 9/10
Cover Art - 10/10
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