The Action Comics 2021 Annual is finally here as Phillip Kennedy Johnson continues to expand upon the rich lineage of The House of El.
This is very much represented on the main cover created by Scott Godlewski and Gabe Eltaeb as the descendants of Kal-El take centre stage. However they aren’t alone as an old enemy from the past makes his shocking return. I love the stylised artwork that features on this cover. Kal-El’s descendants look awesome in their unique costumes, all of which uphold classic Superman motifs. It’s great to see a member of The House of El taking up the mantle of a Blue Lantern. It makes all the sense in the world that a character who has hope built into her DNA courtesy of her rich lineage become a wielder of that light, and knowing that The Lanterns are still around during this time fills me with nothing but excitement.
The variant cover created by Valentine De Landro has a real propaganda feel to it, as The House of El look imperious as part of a visually stunning montage making up their symbol. Alura and Khan look like warriors while Brandon captures a more traditional vibe. Both of these covers truly capture the imagination and surely must entice the casual fan due to these incredible new additions to the Superman family tree. This is a really cool design and though only two colours are used, it is so striking.
Action Comics 2021 Annual opens up on Warworld in the not too distant past, where we find a young Thao-La being regaled by the charismatic Mr Byla. Mr Byla tells Thao-La amongst other young captives a tale set in the far-flung future featuring the descendants of The House Of El. Getting a glimpse of Thao-La’s horrific upbringing adds so much weight to the characters actions in the present day. Seeing the captive Phaelosian’s making the most of their lives while being shackled at the wrists and feet cut me to the core. My heart breaks for Thao-La, her story is riveting to say the least. Her hope for a better tomorrow in a world that is very much devoid of any is inspiring.
Byla’s story opens up during the marital ceremony between Alura Van-El and Khan, warrior of Warworld Prime witnessed by The House Of El and presided over by Lady Kara herself. The ceremony however is interrupted by none other than Pyrrhos, Highfather of Apokolips and son of Superman.
Pyrrhos is a phenomenal character, that I am growing to love. The complexities of his origin, adding to the conversation of nature over nurture makes The Red King fascinating, and his look is just awesome. I love how he still wears The House Of El sigil proudly on his chest even though he stands against its values and the family who also represent it. His costume really does stand out for me, even though we are set in the future, the Red King’s costume is very reminiscent of gladiatorial armour, which cleverly represents his personality.
The dialogue between the family members alongside the subsequent bond they made in the Phantom Zone has made me not want to leave era. Every character feels like the lead. Nobody feels like an after thought. Pyrrhos is a character who I am desperate to learn more about. Past and present. This truly is testament to this wonderful creative team who leave no stone unturned in their quest to bring us this intricately woven era.
The Red King’s attack on the wedding sees The House Of El sent to the Phantom Zone while Kara is held prisoner. From here on in the issue follows them as they set out to escape, if they survive of course. The action is absolutely phenomenal as the family battle the unending hordes who call this place home. Brandon (this era’s Superman) really steals the show for me during this part of the issue. I love how he instantly takes charge and uses his experience and power to lead the fight and take out the creatures inhabiting the zone.
Artist Siya Oum and Scott Godlewski have created really awesome looking creatures and habitats for them to roam in. I love the lava and floating rocks, this really adds to the inhospitable feeling that the Phantom Zone exudes. The perpetual crimson sky really allows for the creatures ethereal forms to pop off of the page. Every page is full of incredible artwork and The House of El look tremendous in their variations on the classic Superman design. This can be said for Ronan in particular who has opted for the no cape look, it’s incredible to see how different each and every design is.
The creatures inhabiting the Phantom Zone look incredible too, the imagination behind their unique designs is nothing short of impressive, they get bigger and better with each turn of the page. It’s lucky that the family bump into an old face from the past, a villain who has seemingly turned a new leaf. This is a character with a very storied history within the pages of DC Comics, his presence makes for a wonderful addition to the story that keeps the family and audience guessing to the very end.
The trials and tribulation the family and their ally go through is captured tremendously via blockbuster splash pages and dynamic panel layouts. The creatures stopping the family escape and the subsequent combat gets bigger and better. The combination of super strength, flight and speed facing off against a plethora of Kaiju like creatures makes for an edge of your seat finale and worthy climax to such a milestone issue.
The Action Comics Annual 2021 ends with a very satisfying conclusion. This is easily one of my favourite issues of the year, writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson is a masterful world builder, who is ushering in an exciting new age in DC mythology full of fascinating characters who have so much to offer. Give me a Pyrrhos mini series or even an Alura and Khan mini series. I can literally go on and on.
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