Another Take on Superman: Earth One

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This book was reviewed yesterday by our very own WPR owner Xopher Reed, who did his best to touch on the story and why he felt that the reboot was warranted and how good it really was. I found myself agreeing for the most part, but he needed to put more into it…so here are my thoughts.

Superman: Earth One is good. Very good. I had been thinking about picking up DC’s new Superman and Wonder Woman, and the announcement of Straczynski taking over as writer for both of those titles cemented the deal. Superman: Earth One is the perfect example of why.

A general summary of this story would be Clark trying to answer the simple life questions of “who am I?”, “why am I here?”, “what will I do with my life?” and him finally finding that answer and becoming Superman.

The way the story unfolds isn’t original, but it is unique because of who Superman is. He, of all people, can literally do anything…and that is what Straczynski shows with the scenes of Clark looking for something to do with his life. Whether it be sports, science, whatever he tries for, he can do it…except for journalism, because it lacks soul, a mirror of what is going through in his life.

Prior to 1986, Ma & Pa Kent had been dead for all (or most of) Superman’s adult life. They appear in Action Comics #1 briefly, before they are written off as having died sometime before Superman goes public. When John Byrne created “The Man of Steel”, he reintroduced them and made them central to who and what Superman is. They raised him, taught him the morals and ethics that he lives by, taught him to care for others. Perhaps most importantly, they taught him that for all he can do, he will still fail and that is a part of life he must face.

Ma’s presence in this book serves to create within Clark a sense of responsibility and concern for his mother and her well being. Although dead, his father’s presence serves as inspiration to do the right thing, and to become the best he can be.

A carryover from “The Man of Steel” is of how Ma Kent created the Superman outfit, including the symbol. Most other well-known origins do not feature this, although Smallville has included this in their storyline. This is a nice touch because it furthers the idea that Ma wants her son Clark to succeed, and she knows that he truly can do great things and will need a public and a private persona.

(I don’t know if this was done on purpose, but Ma’s lecture about masks is the same idea that has been done in Batman for decades: Bruce Wayne is acting, the portrayal of a buffoon to throw people off from who he really is.)

This all serves to help humanize Superman, to make him one of us. Often times, people complain that you cannot identify with Superman because he is an alien and has powers that none of us will ever have (naturally). And if you focus on those things, then you are right, you cannot identify with him in any way. I think that is a part of the story, to help relate with him: despite all of those powers and abilities, he still struggles with fitting in, knowing who he is, taking care of his loved ones, and the other day to day things we all must face.

I did like the new background details of Krypton’s history and destruction. Another bit of history that Byrne did, published in “The World of Krypton” back in 1988, was that he showed the Kryptonian society as having evolved from a violent, warring society into one of peace and harmony.

I’m focusing so much on the story and its elements, that I need to say that this art is fantastic. Shane Davis nails everything in his work for this book. His illustrations are beautiful, and they work very well in telling the story by illustrating the emotions and actions occurring in this story.

One thing about comics that bugs me is how writers seem to have the need of placing dialogue or exposition in every single panel. This is a visual medium and the art should tell the majority of the story. Thankfully, Straczynksi respects the visual aspect of this medium and doesn’t put in all of that clutter. In turn, it strengthen’s the story and Shane’s work.

I haven’t read anything drawn by him before, and I wish I had so I could compare his other work. The script calls for a variety of scenes that only a comic book story could call for: sitting alone in a barren apartment; football tryouts; floating high above the Earth; an alien invasion followed by alien fighting and massive property destruction. Shane nails each one of them.

I will buy this book. Somehow.

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