Before the Destruction of Krypton – “House of El: The Shadow Threat” Graphic Novel Review

House of El
Images Provided by DC Entertainment

House of El: The Shadow Threat is part one of a three-part young adult graphic novel series from DC Comics. It tells a new story about the destruction of Krypton, Superman’s home world. Book one focuses on two teenagers, Zahn and Sera, who couldn’t be more different. But due to circumstances bringing them together, they form an unbreakable bond while uncovering the dangers that threaten Krypton.

I was provided with a free eARC of House of El: The Shadow Threat from DC Entertainment. All opinions are my own.

The Shadow Threat takes place not too long before Clark Kent was born, when the planet was still alive and apparently thriving. I tend to be more of a Batman and Batfamily fan, so despite the huge popularity of Superman, I am not as familiar with the character. I was interested in this story mainly because it is an unfamiliar mythos for me. I will admit, it took me a little bit of time to get into the story, but once it got going, I found it to be a very interesting and enjoyable read.

Please note that there will be some brief spoilers below.

House of El: The Shadow Threat begins on what looks to be a city street with a man speaking out against the tribunes of the planet Krypton. Guards quickly catch up to him and take him before said tribunes. Zahn, a young man who is from the House of Re and a member of the elite class, volunteers to speak on behalf of the “common criminal”. He claims he is doing so because he is interested in the judicial process, but it’s obvious that he wants to hear what the man has to say. The man brings up problems on Krypton, but the tribunes quickly shut him down. Krypton is perfect after all.

Sera-Lir is a teenager in the soldier class. Her job, along with the rest of her team, is to carry out missions for Krypton on other planets. They seem to put everything into their missions, which they consider to be more important than their own lives. But are these soldiers that way by choice and dedication or is there something else that dictates their extreme devotion to Krypton?

Sera and Zahn know each other despite being from different classes. At first glance they do not get along very well, and her friends even tease her about him. Due to their varied circumstances, both Sera and Zahn come to learn that everything on Krypton is not what it seems. Zahn gets involved with a group of people who do see the problems on Krypton. Meanwhile, Sera receives a secret message from Jor-El and Lara-El, whom we know to be Clark Kent’s parents. (As a fun aside, Lara-El is pregnant with him at the time of this story.) Little does Sera know that answering the Els’ call will let her in on a huge secret that will change her life and the life of Zahn forever.

House of El: The Shadow Threat is written by New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray. She is best known for writing young adult science fiction and paranormal fantasy books. She has also written several Star Wars novels. What I appreciate about Gray’s writing is she basically is creating an entire new world. Sure, Krypton is a planet that most people who know even a little bit about Superman are familiar with, but this story provides a huge opportunity to explore Krypton and its culture. Gray not only created a planet that feels very real, but she also doesn’t hold back from heavier topics of rebellion and resisting the establishment. Of course, there is a little bit of doomed romance as we read about our star-crossed lovers in there as well.

Eric Zawadzki, who is most well-known for The Dregs and Eternal, lends his pen to the art in this graphic novel. What stands out the most in Zawadzki’s art is how there is so much action in each panel. The characters are always doing something, even if it is just talking with their hands. He also makes great use of the character’s emotions through their stances, facial features, and hand movements.

The colors are done by Dee Cunniffee. The pallet is mostly darker tones of blue, green, and black with some orange throughout. It paints a feeling of an industrious, yet almost clinical world. There are few instances of brighter colors throughout. One thing that sticks out for me is how bright and colorful Lara-El’s outfit is. Overall, the art and the lettering done by Deron Bennett does an amazing job of enhancing Claudia Gray’s story and dialogue.

House of El: The Shadow Threat is recommended for young readers ages 12-17. There are not really any trigger warnings or adult material within. Some younger readers may have some questions about DNA, class systems, and rebellion within an establishment, though.

Overall, I enjoyed House of El: The Shadow Threat. Admittedly, stories that are more sci-fi in nature are not generally something that I read. So, it took me some time to get into the plot. However, the main characters are very personable, and I enjoyed learning about them throughout. How they interacted with their friends and those in authority felt very real.

I think for me, most of the disconnect that I felt in the beginning of the story was probably purposeful. These characters act kind of strangely and they live in a land somewhat different from our own. The further you get into the story, the more things become clear. Certain characters act certain ways directly because of their circumstances. For instance, Sera and Zahn become more and more aware of the world around them as the story progresses. They begin to see these problems and come together forming a strong bond across the elite and soldier classes for a common goal, to save Krypton from itself.

I recommend House of El: The Shadow Threat to those who enjoy space and sci-fi stories and to anyone who would like to know more about Superman’s home world. The graphic novel ends on a cliff hanger that sets the reader up for book two in the series, House of El: The Enemy Delusion, which is set to come out in the spring of 2022. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but I think just like myself, readers will be excited to see what comes next when they see the very last panel!

House of El: The Shadow Threat is available today from DC, comic book shops, local and online indie bookstores, and your local library and their digital apps.

Author: Jessica Rae

Jessica has a BA in music with an emphasis in voice and spends her day typesetting, editing, writing, and moderating webinars. Jessica primarily reviews anime and comic book series. She also offers insights on various movies, books, games, and other geeky topics.

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