I’m not a DC kid, everyone knows that, but I got my hands on a copy of Superman Earth One and had to read it just for you. I’ve read very little Superman and so wondered if this new, standalone, reinvention comic book would be up my alley. Hit the jump to see what I think.
Superman Earth One
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils by Shane Davis
Inks by Sandra Hope
Colours by Barbara Ciardo
This comic is a reinvention. It’s meant to be something new, yet familiar. It’s the equivalent of selling an old product with a new digital clock on it. Or so I feel. But in the spirit of being fair, I won’t complain that it’s not like the Superman we all know. That’s kind of the point, there are differences. We’ll all get over it starting…now.
Okay, I will complain once. It feels like this comic wants to reinvent the stuff it can play with in different ways but then wants to keep the other stuff; which is fine. But it doesn’t seem to completely reveal the other stuff, it just assumes we all know it. Which is unfair because we’re supposed to be coming into this fresh but we’re also supposed to lean on the history that is convenient to keep. It comes across as lazy but that’s all I’m going to say about it. Maybe it's just a preference thing, or a matter of streamlining.
We come into the story with Clark first arriving in Metropolis. He is completely unsure of what he wants to do with his life. So, which comes first, the aimless direction or the hoodie? But I kid. Clark just cannot figure out what is the best thing for him to do. We see a montage, of sorts, of him excelling in many different areas. It feels strange because for him to be doing all that he does, breaking mathematical theorem and knocking them down on the football field, surely someone would piece it all together and realise what an insanely talented individual he is. It doesn’t ring true to the character but it does give us the opportunity to see two mathematicians in the background of a panel jump and high five. It might be telling that this little gag in the background is one of my main highlights of the book.
About a third into the book and the alien invasion begins. An interstellar man of many words, named Tyrell, has come to Earth looking for the last son of Krypton. Tyrell has travelled the stars looking for this last vestige of the planet now destroyed so he can add the lone Kryptonian to the disaster toll. Much of his invasion, an act to call out the survivor he seeks, is played out like any number of alien invasions we’ve all seen before. They know to target iconic and instantly identifying cultural features and they wipe out thousands of people without making any of it feel like any true life is lost.
Much has been made of Tyrell, from his look to his name, but I have to admit I like him. He’s got a unique look, like a Tron Archangel put through some sort of techno-organic Joker virus. It’s an intriguing visual and it matches the whole backstory of the character just fine. He explains, at great length, how he and his people relate to Krypton and its demise. In fact, pretty much the whole second half of the book is Tyrell and Superman fighting intercut with a few moments that show Jimmy and Lois Lane as being awesome examples of Earthlings and a lot of moments of Tyrell explaining how he got here, why he’s here, what he wants to do here, and what he’ll do after he’s been here and done what he wants to do here, which all stems from how and why he is here. Got it?
The tale is a fitting parable about Clark not being happy doing anything and then finally finding his place in the world as Superman. It makes sense and gives the character a round arc, but it feels like one bloated introduction. This could have been more adeptly handled as the first act or else made the Clark story at the start more compelling instead of barraging us with montage moments and little dialogue. Our titular character barely speaks in the first third of the book and this makes it very hard to connect with him in any way.
The coda to the tale is that Superman saves the day but Earth doesn’t quite know if it can trust him. I imagine the second book, which has been fast-tracked by DC much to the detriment of JMS’ monthly work, will play on this idea of Superman as the man both loved and feared and he will slowly win the world over with a wink and a flex.
There are some successes within this book as JMS handles many of the scenes involving the Kents quite well. His flashbacks to the family proper are quite sweet and old school and the moment of Clark at his father’s tombstone is downright touching. These work completely on their own but when juxtaposed against the entire book feel almost anachronistic, which is a shame.
I think Shane Davis does a decent job in the art depicting the fights and physical struggles. He makes the book look like a Superman book, a book of action, a comic for a kid discovering comics. I don’t like that his Clark Kent looks so generic that I’d never be able to pick him out of a line up. He’s got reality tv good looks and it doesn’t fit the character in the slightest.
There is a great homage to the cover of Action Comics #1 but instead Superman is lifting a tank into the invading alien forces. Makes me wonder if an entire OGN could be made up of swiped cover images. Would be quite the challenge, if anyone wants to take me up on it.
Verdict – Check It. This isn’t Twilight for Supes; not in the slightest really. It’s a decent story, and you’ll have fun in parts of it, but it’s sadly nothing special. Reading a retelling of an origin of a character over seventy years old has to get tiresome at some stage, doesn’t it? How many retreads can we really tolerate? Unless there’s something exceptional on offer, I don’t see the point. It’s like covering The Beatles and playing every chord exactly the same. But wearing a retro-ironic tie/hat ensemble. It’s going to get a few foot taps but it won’t be worth it once the beer bottles come through the chicken wire.