Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artist: Siya Oum and Scott Godlewski
Letter: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Scott Godlewski & Gabe Eltaeb
Variant Cover: Valentine De Landro
Release Date: July 6, 2021
TALES OF THE HOUSE OF EL
In Action Comics Annual 2021 #1, Phillip Kennedy Johnson brings us back to the Future and the House of El, the last scene in the Future State House of El one shot. But our story doesn’t start there, rather in the past of our current continuity and the events that are unfolding in his current Action Comics run. On Warworld, we see a young Thao-La pretending to be Superman complete with a cape wrapped around her neck. She arrives back at her home with a few other younger children as Mr. Byla agrees to tell the children a story. However, not from the past but the future…
Queue the wedding of Alura and Khan. And for this nuptial, Kara Zor-El is brought in to oversee the ceremony between the House of El and a Phelosian of WarWorld Prime. Things do not go as planned as Pyrrhos makes an unwelcome appearance and sends our Wedding Party into the Phantom Zone. It is here where the majority of Action Comics Annual 2021 #1 takes place.
Inside the Phantom Zone, the El’s meet up with a familiar foe from Superman’s past, Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman. He agrees to help them find a way out. However, has Henshaw truly reformed or does he have any ulterior motives? At the end of the story back on Warworld, Thao-La questions Mr. Byla as to why this story appears made up asking if he’s truly been to the future. He replies that her answer requires another story and that will come at a later date.
At first glance, Action Comics Annual 2021 #1 seemed like a throwaway issue, like many annuals tend to be. Yet, I was overlooking one very important detail. After a very brief exchange of emails with the writer, he enlightened me on Thao-La. She is the same girl who is currently at the Fortress of Solitude in the main Action Comics run. Phillip Kennedy Johnson could have told The House of El story without her and Mr. Byla but he didn’t which leads me to believe, Action Comics Annual 2021 #1 is more than just a filler issue. I am also glad Johnson went back to The House of El timeline.
In a recent interview on The Aspiring Kryptonians Podcast episode 6, Johnson revealed he has a complete lineage of the House of El mapped out from Clark to the cast of characters in this issue. It is obvious that he has a lot of stories to tell with this cast and I hope DC Comics continues to allow him to play in this Future State sandbox.
The art in this issue is superb, with three different points in time and place: Warworld, The Future, and the Future inside the Phantom Zone. Each area had a distinct style to let the reader know where they were at a glance. The ghost-like outlines of our cast while inside the Phantom Zone were a unique touch that I do not remember witnessing in the past. My only complaint is most of the backgrounds seemed empty and void of objects, a common theme in the couple of books I’ve read featuring Scott Godlewski. Nevertheless, that is just a personal preference and in no way takes away from the stunning visuals on the page.
Overall, Action Comics Annual 2021 #1 was a pleasant surprise. It had a compelling main story that may end up taking a back seat to the bookends of this annual with Thao-La and Mr. Byla’s interactions. If you were thinking of passing on this annual, I implore you to reconsider. This creative team delivers a great story and incredible art with so many possible implications for the current story arc making Action Comics Annual 2021 #1 a can’t miss issue.