Superman’s Future State Teases a Twisted Fate for the Phantom Zone

Action Comics just revealed a future for Superman’s person prison dimension, the Phantom Zone., that’s even darker than DC’s Future State.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Action Comics 2021 Annual #1 by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Siya Oum, Scott Godlewski, Hi-Fi, & Dave Sharpe, on sale now

One of the most infamous prisons within the DC Universe, the Phantom Zone has long been prison to the worst criminals of Krypton, and a terrible last resort for Superman. However, there’s a potential it could become an even worst place down the line. If the future of the Superman family is true, then the fate of the Phantom Zone and the Kryptonian criminals trapped within it is one of the most hellish possibilities within the DC Universe, and it could see one of DC’s most powerful malevolent forces unleashed once again.

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Superman Future State Phantom Zone

Action Comics Annual #1 takes place in the future teased by Future State, with the family line of Kal-El extending centuries later. Taking place at the wedding of Alura and the warrior Khan, Superwoman serves as the officiant for the occasion, only for Pyrrhos — the villainous son of Superman and Morgan le Fay — to arrive on the scene. Pyrrhos then uses a device to trap the happy couple — along with the current Superman of the era Brandon Kent, his half-Tamaran daughter Theand’R, the heroic siblings Ronan and Rowan Kent, and Brainiac 4 — within the Phantom Zone. However, it’s clear that the years have not been kind on the dimension.

The realm is full of collapsing rock and molten magma, giving the impression of the Phantom Zone melting around those unfortunate souls trapped within it. Aethyr, the god-like being who is deeply connected to the Phantom Zone, is revealed to have been awoken from the sleep it had previously spent untold centuries under. As a result, almost every being in the Phantom Zone has been seemingly transformed into a monstrous new form that’s quick to attack the new arrivals. This means all the Kryptonian criminals trapped in the realm in the years are seemingly fated to this terrible fate. Only one figure hasn’t been transformed into a monster: Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg-Superman, who seemingly ended up trapped in the Phantom Zone for the good of the world.

Coming to the aid of the Kent family, Cyborg-Superman reveals that his belief that only Brainiac-4 can help them escape. He leads the group to the body of an unidentified Mister Miracle, long dead and reduced to a skeleton in a costume. However, he still possesses a Mother Box, which Brainiac-4 is able to utilize thanks to his impressive intellect. Although most of the group slowly grows to trust Henshaw across their travels, Brandon Kent never does — and along with his daughter, prevents Henshaw from abandoning them and escaping with the Mother Box as soon as Brainiac-4 opens a Boomtube back to the rest of reality.

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Superman Future State Phantom Zone Monsters

Barely escaping the coming of Aethyr, the group returns to Sanctuary and quickly overwhelm Phrrhos before he can truly respond, forcing him to retreat and  — in an act of mercy — allowing Henshaw to escape back into the universe, hoping his experience has left him a changed man. It’s an exciting showcase into the future of the Kent family and their potential, but also a terrifying fate for the Phantom Zone. The prospect of Aethyr — one of the more underappreciated cosmic threats of the DC Universe — waking back up is a genuinely terrifying one, especially as it results in a new race of Kryptonian monsters.

It’s a powerful enough force that even the Pre-Crisis Superman considered a threat, and that was a version of the Man of Steel who could easily move planets when he needed to. The fact that the Phantom Zone could become an even worse place may seem impossible given the inherent darkness and terrors found in that realm, but the future of the El family seems to have discovered just how fearsome the Phantom Zone could really become.

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