DC's Superman is one of comics' biggest characters. With the Man of Steel comes the tragic lore of his homeworld, Krypton. While DC Comics' main canon has explored what happened to the planet through several ongoing series, House of El Book Two: The Enemy Delusion takes readers to Krypton before its doom. The graphic novel series explores what set the hyper-advanced society up for failure through the eyes of Sera, a lower caste soldier, and Zahn, an elite caste scientist.
Written by Claudia Gray and with artwork by Eric Zawadzki, The Enemy Delusion continues what Book One started. The graphic novel follows Sera and Zahn as they learn the truth about Krypton in differing ways. Superman's mom reprograms Sera, so she is no longer genetically designed to conform to her role as a soldier, undervaluing her life and comrades.
Like many young adult stories, The Enemy of Delusion is about challenging corrupt systems and forming an identity outside society's predesigned boxes. What makes The Enemy of Delusion stand out is Krypton's scientific lore. In Krypton, genetic engineering rules how children will behave. Due to this societal design, individuals don't see faults in the system -- let alone see its impending demise. The Enemy of Delusion tackles some complex and relevant themes concerning systemic oppression, class systems, free will, and the false notion of genetic "perfection."
However, The Enemy of Delusion's handling of these complex issues can be murky. For instance, by claiming the Kryptonians are designed not to see faults in the system, the subject of accountability is somewhat in the air. Overall, this graphic novel shows that societal problems are caused by systemic issues more than individual choices. However, this outlook makes it unclear whether those in power are exempt from accountability since Krypton's downfall might be their programming's fault. Hopefully, with this being the second of three books, the series will clarity its view on societal and individual accountability. Yet, even when the book is unclear about some of these themes, it prompts interesting conversations about complicated themes.
In The Enemy of Delusion, YA's tried and true formula of featuring a romance pops up, and this time it's between Sera and Zahn. Readers hoping for a classic romantic storyline would do best looking elsewhere -- like DC's Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven. Given the stakes of The Enemy of Delusion, it's best that its focus not be on its love story. Plus, this allows readers to see how this couple deals with all the troubles they face together, strengthening their bond. When the story leans into traditional romance tropes -- star-crossed lovers, a jealous ex, unnecessary lies -- it feels forced at times as these elements are not the story's main focus, and it feels like the characters know that too. Their love story is best when Sera and Zahn are there for one another and dealing with their real problems, not ones contrived to make this book feel more like the typical YA romance.
Krypton's politics are more interesting than the story's romance. The Enemy of Delusion spends time developing General Zod and Superman's parents: readers get to see who Zod was before he became a villain for Clark and why he's enraged at Krypton's bureaucrats. Superman's parents also receive the spotlight, and it's frustrating to see how closed-minded those in power are, refusing to believe the undeniable science presented to them by their best scientists.
The Enemy of Delusion's Krypton is brought to life on a grand scale thanks to Zawadzki's art. Many of the pages' panels have room to breathe, so readers can see Krypton's vast technical space unfold. Zawadzki uses plenty of splash pages to show Krypton's scale and the story's looming threats. Along with this, the balance of warm colors against cool ones helps show off Krypton's caste disparity. However, when it comes to the drawings of characters, Zawadzki's facial expressions can come off as stiff, which is a stark contrast against the book's dynamic action scenes. While there are moments where characters look genuine, this is not consistent, thus making those stagnant expressions stand out more.
The Enemy of Delusion does what it needs to do: establish higher stakes for the last installment in the graphic novel trilogy. The story takes Sera and Zahn's relationship to a more personal level. By the end of the story, The Enemy of Delusion opens doors for thematic and plot-related questions to hopefully find closure in Book Three. If you enjoyed Book One, this builds off well from it, and it makes one want to root for this young couple, even though we already know the outcome of their home planet.
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