After a string of (mostly) disappointing issues, the Future State version of Kal-El delivers what may be the best issue yet of this two-month initiative.

Future State: Superman: Worlds of War 1
Written by Phillip K. Johnson, Jeremy Adams, Becky Cloonan, Michael Conrad and Brandon M. Easton
Pencils and Inks by Valentine De Landro, Mikel Janin, Gleb Meinkov and Siya Oum
Colors by Hi-Fi, Jordie Bellaire and Marissa Louise

Reading these FUTURE STATE comics the last couple of weeks and looking for a bright, shining hope for better days has been an exercise in futility, as most of these books continue to bash us over the head with DC Comics’ core tenet over the last few decades: the future will suck, no matter what. Combine that with jumbled and disjointed storytelling, and I wouldn’t call many of these stories a success.

But Superman: Worlds of War (along with a handful of other books) takes a different tact in telling stories about the future. Yes, it references that things are bad in places, but the central theme of the main story is about the most important thing that the original Superman represents: hope.

Under the pen of Phillip K. Johnson, who will take over both Superman and Action Comics during March’s INFINITE FRONTIER, the main story in this anthology book looks at Superman’s legacy now that he’s no longer on Earth. Years after he passed the mantle of Earth’s protector to his son, Kal-El of Krypton is still remembered fondly. The town of Smallville, Kansas is now a giant ongoing outdoor Superman convention, selling memorabilia and allow people to gather to discuss his legacy.

I don’t think they named this kid, but I’m calling him Zack…

It’s a good look at the various ways you can look at what Superman did for the world and what his presence – or lack thereof – means to different people. The issue is certainly a sterling advertisement for checking out what Johnson has planned in the next few months, and it gives me hope that we’ll continue to have a writer who gets Superman.

For an issue titled Worlds of War, and advertising that Superman is now on Warworld – the traveling planet where people fight for the enjoyment of Mongul – we got little more than a glimpse of what that truly means. I’m honestly OK with that storytelling tact, because the talk of what Superman means was a nice break from the rest of the overall dour future. But there’s nothing wrong with a good battle between the Man of Steel and Mongul, so hopefully we get back to that in the next issue.

Worlds of War also features three back-up stories: One featuring Mister Miracle Shilo Norman, taking place after the similar one in SUPERMAN OF METROPOLIS; Another story focuses on a young girl who becomes the Black Racer; and the last one focuses on Midnighter. I’m still trying to understand the connection between Superman and Wildstorm’s Authority, because the back-up story drops us well into the story of how they’re connected as Midnighter goes on a mission to try and help Superman.

I’m starting to appreciate these back-up stories more and more, as they fill out the various timelines we’re exploring in Future State and it’s giving us all a better understanding of what lead us here. But it’s a very risky narrative choice and I’m not sure it will pay off in the long run, because it assumes that everyone is reading everything and can put the puzzle together the right way.

Who knows, maybe by the end of Future State, I’ll have a much more positive view of the comics that came out in January and February. A book like Superman: Worlds of War actually gives me hope that it can happen.