Vol 1: The Shadow Threat, illustrated by Eric Zawadzki
House of El is a story of Kryptonians before Superman is even born. There is an impending doom of the planet that the Tribunes refuse to admit is real, but citizens are starting to act out and investigate what's happening. A group of dissenters recruits Zohn, of the House of Re, who is part of the upper caste and destined to become one of Krypton's future leaders. Zohn knows that the earthquakes are getting worse and could be a sign that the planet is near to collapse. Elsewhere, Zohn's cousin, Lara, wife of Jor-El, is experimenting with rewriting the genetic code of Kryptonians in order to introduce missing elements left out from generations of genetic manipulation. Their chosen subject is Sera, an Ur, a lower caste, genetically engineered soldier bred to be completely loyal to Krypton. Urs are modified to live life without fear, without questioning orders, and without regard to their own lives. Lara hopes to create a better soldier with some semblance of self-preservation, believing that these omitted traits are essential for Kryptonians to fully serve their society.
The pre-collapse of Krypton is an interesting time in Superman's lore, as many people often question how an advanced civilization didn't realize their own planet was doomed. This series has started to explain what happened, and I appreciate the direction Gray is taking in her rendition of Krypton. There are some familiar characters: General Zod, who is Sera’s commanding officer, and Jor-El and wife Lara, Superman's parents. There isn't a ton of prerequisite knowledge needed to jump into this title, so this is a perfect place for new fans to get into Superman stories. There is one heck of a cliffhanger here, the frustration of which is compounded by a volume two release date of 2022.
Zawadzki's illustrations beautifully depict the futuristic society of Krypton. Most of the world is set in a light blue with decadent gold accents. The places frequented by the lower caste are anchored in browns and darker, dingy colors. Action sequences are fluid and easy to follow.
There are some action sequences with explosions, earthquakes that destroy buildings, and gunfire fighting, but no gore is seen on the page. This title would easily find a home on middle school and high school shelves.
Sara's Rating: 9/10
Suitability Level: Grades 7-10
This review was made possible with a digital reader copy from the publisher.
Tags: Rating: 9/10, Suitability: Middle School, Suitability: High School, Comicbooks, Action Adventure, Science Fiction
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