A spacebound sword and sorcery-esque tale reaches its climactic confrontation in this “Action Comics”-derived one-shot!
Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Illustrated by Brandon Peterson, Will Conrad, Max Raynor, and Miguel Mendonça
Colored by Lee Loughridge
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
It has all led to this: the final battle between Superman and Mongul, and between the Authority and Mongul’s Unmade Champions! The identity of the hooded stranger has been revealed, uncovering a shocking betrayal that threatens to crush Superman’s rebellion forever! But as the fate of Warworld relies on Superman, the last chance to return his powers now lies with Natasha and John Henry Irons.
From the visionary creative team of Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Brandon Peterson, and Will Conrad, empires fall and rise and the fourth world is reborn in this jaw-dropping final chapter!
For nearly twenty issues of “Action Comics,” Phillip Kennedy Johnson has crafted a story of a relatively elderly Superman (which is to say, Kal-El, or Clark Kent) with limited powers facing off against the might of Warworld alongside various allies, completely separate from Earth (where his son is still the resident Superman). Across ‘Warworld Rising,’ ‘Warworld Saga,’ and ‘Warworld Revolution,’ among other related issues, there is quite a lot riding on the conclusion to this saga in the one-shot “Superman: Warworld Apocalypse” #1. In this finale, it seems as though the rising tensions of the entire multi-arc Warworld saga (not to be confused with the middle arc of the same name) finally come to a head and reach a rather explosive climax. How well did Johnson and the rest of the creative team pull it off?
In all, while leaning toward successful, the result from Johnson is something of a mixed bag, though one leaning toward a success. First, let’s look at the positive side of the writing. Even without knowing exactly who these characters are, the basic idea of them is easily identified. The emotions of the piece are worn on its figurative sleeve, to the point that even those with the most cursory knowledge could at least understand which characters are allied with one another or in opposition to one another, with some focus on how their personalities clash or mesh into a greater whole. Most prominently, of course, is Superman himself. His selfless heroism is such that even when armed with a weapon of war and lacking his powers, he still comes across as a protector, so clearly that his influence can be seen in the heroic acts and speech of his various allies, be they usually benevolent or not. In the shadow of the preeminent superhero, all but the most brutal and antagonistic people strive to be better. At the same time, Johnson also puts forward, with the antagonist, that not everyone can be so moved, and that perhaps “hope” is not always the best thing for society. After all, Superman is great, but he is not perfect. In all, these elements show how Johnson is good at portraying both a dangerous battlefield and the emergence of a chance for a better, or at least different, tomorrow.
The main potential failing of this one-shot from Johnson’s part in things is its very nature as a conclusion. The distinction may be purely academic, but the fact that the conclusion to eighteen or so issues of “Action Comics” comes not in the pages of that book, but in a one-shot that does not have the same name may leave readers a bit confused. Without prior knowledge of the events of the overarching saga, this finale, while interesting, may not have the same level of impact as it might have if more deliberately noted as part of the same story. However, this problem is relatively minor, and the recap of basic events of the series early on may help to lessen the confusion.
Brandon Peterson, Will Conrad, Max Raynor, and Miguel Mendonça are all involved in the illustrations of this one-shot, but it is difficult to discern where the influence of one artist ends and another begins, so the entirety of the artwork will be addressed as one cohesive unit. The artwork harkens to the style of sword-and-sorcerer stories like the older stories of Conan the Barbarian, with highly realistic imagery. The focus is on the action first and foremost, including wide shots of war or closer ones of the duel between Superman and Mongul. Interestingly, in spite of the overwhelming, fast-paced action, Peterson, Conrad, Raynor, and Mendonça draw the reader’s eye not to the impact of blades, blasts, or bullets, but to the faces of various characters in conflict. The more human the faces, the more they draw in the reader, with Mongul being the least likely to draw forth the audience (and thus the least likely to evoke any form of sympathy). Overall, these faces bring out a sense of determination against tyranny, of a need to fight to secure a better future, all without needing a single word.
The reason the artwork flows so well is the expert use of colors by Lee Loughridge. For much of “Superman: Warworld Apocalypse” #1, the hues and tones are rather muted, except where it comes to explosive violence (be it literal or metaphorical). The brighter lights are harsh in their extremes, and the overall effect is one of discomfort. That feeling holds to everyone, as if showcasing how war such as this revolution corrodes all it touches. However, these all fall away with the closing moments, in which Loughridge makes use of a calmer, far more hopeful perspective to make for a warmer turn leading to the next issues of “Action Comics” after such an aggressive, brutal tale.
Final Verdict: 7.5– Despite being derived from an ongoing run, this finale works well for new readers to drive them into the next stage of Superman’s story.