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DC Comics is taking Superman to War(world)

The Man of Steel battles for the fate of another planet while his son protects earth

A grey-haired and bloodied Superman springs out of a gladiator cage on War World, dressed only in his cape, underwear, boots, and a Superman symbol chained to his chest. He brandishes a sword and shield as the announcer cries “See what remains of the Superman,” in Future State: Superman Worlds of War #1, DC Comics (2021). Image: Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Mikel Janín/DC Comics

Superman’s status quo is about to be upended, and it’s all thanks to Warworld. At San Diego Comic-Con, writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Alien, The Last God) discussed his plan to challenge the Man of Steel with Action Comics’ upcoming arc, Warworld Rising. Led by a new Mongul, the tyranny of the gladiator planet against its people becomes too much for Clark Kent to ignore. “He doesn’t exclusively belong to Earth.” Johnson pointed out. “Clark doesn’t feel like he has much choice in leaving, but he’s compelled to.”

Saving Warworld’s refugees will mean putting together a team, the subject of Grant Morrison (Green Lantern, All-Star Superman) and Mikel Janín’s (Batman, Wonder Woman) four-issue miniseries, Superman & the Authority. The Authority was Wildstorm’s answer to the Justice League, later incorporated into the main DC Universe thanks to the New 52, and the new team will feature fan favorites like Manchester Black and Midnighter.

When creating new looks for the characters, Janín had a simple edict: “Everyone works by themselves, and also together, like a strong image.” His aim was to have costumes that were modern, but also reference the characters’ history. This is most notable with Clark’s new Superman suit, which takes inspiration from Morrison and Rags Morales’ New 52-era Action Comics run — starring a younger Clark in jeans and a Superman t-shirt — plus Alex Ross’ designs for Kingdom Come.

Regardless of their looks, each Authority member will make up for Clark’s diminishing powers — oh, did we mention his powers are slipping away? — while he acts as a leader. To Morrison, it’s a chance for Clark to flex parts of himself he doesn’t always get to use, such as his brains. They explained that the Man of Steel is going through a Kryptonian version of a midlife crisis, and grinned as they promised “the cape is off!” Clark will certainly find it freeing to no longer have to represent his home planet while out in space.

“Suddenly it’s, ‘I no longer have the chains of this role and this responsibility,’” Morrison said. “He doesn’t have to be that Superman anymore.”

With Clark in space, it falls to his half-human son Jonathan Kent to keep Earth safe. Tom Taylor (Suicide Squad, Injustice) will tell Jon’s story in Superman: Son of Kal-El, where he’ll pit Jon against more modern problems than a Superman has faced before. “It’s easy enough to punch a space robot,” Taylor said, “but it’s harder to punch social inequity and the climate crisis.”

Jon Kent hovers above Metropolis in an homage to the cover of Superman #1, in the cover of Superman: Son of Kal-El #1, DC Comics (2021). Image: John Timms/DC Comics

Jon will navigate his new role with a supporting cast that includes his BFF, Damian Wayne aka Robin. But it won’t be easy: Taylor pointed out that even with the best of intentions, Jon will just screw up sometimes, and he’ll face resistance from other forces when he tries to truly change the world.

The future for both Supermans is something that all three writers were keen not to spoil. All Johnson was willing to say was that Clark ultimately had “plans” for Warworld, and the Authority will play a role in that. This may possibly ring some alarm bells, given the character’s recent dips into tyranny in other media. But from the way all three writers spoke about the character, it doesn’t sound like we’re heading into another Injustice scenario.

“I want [Superman to be] somebody that I aspire to be like always,” Johnson said, adding “someone who wields absolute power, often, but wields it with absolute passion and humility.”

Warworld Rising will begin in Action Comics #1033 on July 27, the same day that Superman: Son of Kal-El #1 hits shelves. Superman & the Authority #1 was released on July 20.