Superman: Warworld Apocalypse #1 is finally here and it’s been well over a year since a depowered, gladiatorial Superman was teased on Warworld taking on Mongul in the demented world’s arena in Future State after Death Metal. Now, that very story that Phillip Kennedy Johnson has been penning since the beginning of his run in Action Comics comes to an explosive close.
So much has been leading up to this, including Grant Morrison’s Superman and The Authority miniseries. This story was just too big it couldn’t be contained in one comic book line. What began as a simple matter of liberating Warworld from the current and most ruthless Mongul became possibly years of slavery, pit fighting, and trials in a story of hope, honor, and revolution. Conan the Barbarian has never looked so good on Superman before this.
More in-depth looks at the variant covers can be seen here at the announcement for the book, but what Steve Beach, Mario Foccillo, and Mikel Janin cooked up deserve to be briefly revisited. Even though Warworld is more of a sci-fi setting, one can’t help but shake the feeling of swords and sorcery. That’s exactly what Beach and Foccillo give us with their variants in their respective styles.
Superman’s barbarian garb and Kingdom emblem with cape have become a synonymous style with Warworld and give him a more medieval fantasy edge. Beach cinematically puts him under Warworld delivering an impact in his trademark pose. The Warworld saga was all about how Kal was stirring an uprising among the slave inhabitants – his bigger scale here is reflective of the strength of the rebellion and not just himself. Beach’s smooth, photographic style adds to the movie poster quality of this cover.
Foccillo also takes the fantasy movie poster approach with Superman once again arm raised and one knee out, but this time with a sword and the supporting cast of characters behind him, all beautifully juxta positioned with red lightning. The movie poster influence is undeniable, but Foccillo makes it comic booky with his Jim Lee-like art style.
Janin had drawn for the Superman and The Authority miniseries, so it seemed more than right to have him revisit Superman at this time. It’s a simple manner of Kal-El of Krypton vs. Mongul of Warworld here. Janin always seems to exaggerate smoothness in his art and it works to his advantage when it comes to faces and bodies. The orange sun-like streak in the background is a nice touch that makes them pop.
In Superman: Warworld Apocalypse #1, Superman and The Authority make their last stand against Mongul and his Unmade. While Midnighter, Enchantress, and Manchester Black hold the line and work to get Apollo, OMAC, and Lightray back on their side, Superman squares off against Mongul, and Natalie with their new alley Orphan tries to commandeer the planet’s start forge to create a new white sun to restore Superman’s powers.
Every character at least gets an opportunity to shine with their powers and abilities like any good climatic final battle. Midnighter and Manchester Black have amusing banter as they try to break Apollo free from his mind control. That’s a team-up not many DC fans could ever predict. Enchantress has also been playing hero this whole time as she fights against OMAC. While this specific set of characters seemed like a first odd choice to pair up with Superman, these punkish heroes were the absolute correct choice for a destination like Warworld.
Steel plays the ace in the hole role here. Natalie is in the belly of the beast that is the star forge as she does what she does best and makes whatever technology it is her own. Her and Orphan’s friendship is one based on inspiration and understanding, which shows why Natalie is more than worthy of having the emblem of the House of El on her armor. Orphan has some pretty cool powers too that flood the pages with bursting energy.
Of course, the main event is Superman vs. Mongul – a confrontation one we’re all too familiar with. While Warworld has been stopped from invading Earth and even destroyed in the past, it has never been liberated as the slave world that it is. But this isn’t the atmosphere breaching super fight like they usually have. It’s more of a grounded but fantastical fisticuffs with swords and weaponry – more suitable for the depowered Superman and arguably more satisfying. Clark shows us even without the full potential of his powers, he can still be a contemporary Hercules. The supporting cast he has met on Warworld has interesting twists and turns as well, especially Osul and Kryl-Ux.
This finale couldn’t be done without a squad of artists on this book – Brandon Peterson, Will Conrad, Max Raynor, and Miguel Mendonça. Smooth character design, dynamic backgrounds, and the aforementioned flooding explosions fit the scope of what is meant to be an arc finale. Sadly there are some great artists that have been on Action Comics in previous issues that don’t return for this issue.
Every page has its own dominant color because that’s the kind of power the characters command. All this was done by colorist Lee Loughridge. Explosions and energy in comics often require vast amounts of shading to be convincing and Loughridge does that superbly. The colours combined with the art make for a truly bone-rattling comic book.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s writing during his Action Comics run has been widely praised as not just understanding but utilising and even surprising readers with the bare essence of Superman’s character. It’s not hard to see why after everything on Warworld is said and done in Superman: Warworld Apocalypse #1. As readers eagerly await Superman’s announced return to Earth, they also await how he will tackle Clark Kent in similar ways. His Warworld saga will go down as one of Superman and Mongul’s most iconic battles and Superman stories.