Monday, November 01, 2010

Superman – Earth One – A Review

Superman Earth One

Publisher DC Comics

Writer J. Michael Straczynski

Pencils Shane Davis

Inks Sandra Hope

Colors Barbara Ciardo

Format Hard Cover OGN 136 Pages Story and Art

Price Point $20

I heard some other people’s view of this story before I sat down and read the book myself. The complaints I heard was it was $20 for part one of a mini-series. The story was too similar to the every other origins of Superman. J. Michael Straczynski is writing this version of Superman and the regular Superman book. Finally I made mention of the fact that we had just recently completed All Star Superman and Superman Secret Origin, this was too close on the heels of those excellent Superman stories. Guess what, all of that is wrong. This was a great beginning for a different version of Superman, it was also very dissimilar to every other origin of Superman and it had more story packed into it then six or twelve issues of the slow building series that has become the unfortunate de rigueur of today’s comic book writers.

The structure of the story is simple enough. A young Clark Kent comes to Metropolis trying to find his place in the world. I’m sure it evokes a little bit of Smallville as Clark is only 20 years old and just completed Junior College. He is desperately trying to find his place in the world and determine what he wants to be. He tries football, research science and a host of other jobs excelling at all of them and having the employers begging for his services. He sees this as a way to make good his promise to his Dad (Jonathan Kent) who has died, to take care of his Mom. Clark knows he has great powers, but has no idea what to do with them and has no idea of his true origins, other than he is not like everyone else. An alien invasion occurs with the threat of the destruction of Earth if they don’t turn over the alien (Clark). Clark dons the Superman costume made by his Mom and Dad as they always thought he should use his gifts for a greater good. During the battle Clark discovers some of his hereditary history as well as to learn the alien leading this mechanized invasion of his new world is an enemy of his heretofore unknown home world. Krypton didn’t just explode; its destruction was caused by the neighboring planet to Krypton of which the invader Tyrell is a native.

Obviously there is a lot more to the actual story. My point in giving a partial summary is to show how much story is packed into this graphic novel and it well worth the $20 price of entry. The actual format is not my favorite format because of the glued binding. These books remind me of glorified golden books from the ancient times of my youth. Still the printing and paper used are all high quality and the production is well done, I just hate glued bindings of this type with a passion. The story is also vastly different with Krypton being destroyed by someone and not an accident, Clark not knowing his origins until now, his father being dead at an earlier age of his life (this has been done in various ways, but there are only so many variations of that theme), Clark starting his career as Superman at 20, Lois appears to be a slightly older woman, Jim Olsen is a contemporary and not a kid sidekick.

Also while JMS messages are coming through as it does in his writing of the regular Superman, it is not as heavy handed in my view and actually has a lot of good strong core values and soul searching type of stuff that rings true to me. I miss actual good guys and get tired of all the heroes being clay footed or anti-heroes, here we have a man searching for the right way to be a man and be true to himself. I know some people can say JMS is preaching a little too much, but I personally get tired of many writers shoving their politics into their stories, so a little preaching of solid values doesn’t hurt.

As for my own complaint about doing this too many times, heck when it is done right it can’t be too many. All Star, Secret Origins, The House of El Elseworlds series and this are all great examples of Superman stories that I want to read and will read again.

I’d be remiss if I did not mention Shane Davis and Sandra Hope’s artwork. It was a great job. Shane has moments of brilliance and misses a little bit with a panel or two, but the story flows great, works with the narrative very well and is easy to read and great to look at. Davis is continuing his rise to being an artist that could one day be one of the top five super hero artists out there. Sandra Hope’s inks and the coloring by Barbara Ciardo enhance the pencils and add to the overall good look of this book.

The net result is we have a great book that stands on its own and is a complete story that at the same time has plenty of plot threads and stories started to fill out many more graphic novels. It was both introspective as Clark discovers who he is and makes some choices as well as action packed. It plays well with the reaction the world has to the emergence of a Superman and I especially enjoyed the end piece, which is Clark’s interview of Superman in the Daily Planet. It maintains the iconic Superman and yet makes him new again. It draws on the vast versions of Superman from comics, to TV to the movies and still manages to be itself. A great start to a new version of Superman and Earth One just become an interesting place to visit.

Grade A – Worth the price of entry, a new Superman for a new time, retaining the best of the character and in fact perhaps a restoration of the greatness of Superman.

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