Superman: Earth One Review

November 4, 2010 at 11:56 PM | Posted in (All Posts), Comic Reviews, Reviews | Leave a comment
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Superman: Earth One
Written by – J. Michael Straczynski
Art by – Shane Davis
Price – $19.99
Released – October 27th, 2010

 

Superman: Earth One is the origin of Superman for the modern-day. This graphic novel is a retelling of the early days of Superman set in a new continuity within the DC Universe known as “Earth One” – not to be confused with “New Earth” or the former “Earth One” in main DC continuity.

 

The focus of Superman: Earth One is about a young Clark Kent as he struggles to find his place in the world. Somewhere in his early 20s and right out of junior college, Clark Kent makes his way to Metropolis to find out who he really is and what he wants to do with his life.

 

The basic elements of Superman’s origins have remained unchanged, although visually everything  in this world is much more current — such as the way characters dress or the cars on the road. Krypton was a dying planet off in the distant universe. The El family sent their only child, Kal El, off in a rocket ship just before the planet met its fate. Little Kal El lands on Earth and is taken in by the young married couple of Jonathan and Martha Kent.

 

Jon and Martha raise Kal El in Smallville and give him the name of Clark Kent. This origin involves Clark Kent living in a time where digital media is taking off, everyone over the age of 14 has a cell phone, and the US economy has seen its recent share of highs and lows.

 

But technology isn’t the only new factor to this story. The social aspects of Clark Kent as a character are quite different. Whereas the typical characterization for Superman is to have this unshakable judgment of right and wrong and this sense responsibility that he should help all mankind, “Earth One” Superman is young and very much lost in finding his identity. His first priority with his powers is to help those who have helped him the most. His father has already passed away in his young age, so Clark feels he should do all he can to support his mother and help her however he can. One other noteworthy fact is that Clark refers to his mother as “mom” where as nearly all Superman stories have Clark referring to her as “ma” instead.

 

While some would call Clark “emo” because of his selfishness, Clark is very relatable to young readers, especially in their late teens to early 20s. Clark Kent, in this story, is a young man who wants to be the best he can be, but he spends a lot of time fighting off this guilt that seems to have no origin. To some degree, he despises his powers because of how abnormal they make him, and he just wants to feel like he has a purpose – like he belongs.

 

 

Rather than having the story focus on one major villain like Lex Luthor or Brainiac, Straczynski creates a new villain. This nameless villain and his alien race are the ones responsible for the destruction of Krypton, and they have searched the entire galaxy to completely purge every Kryptonian from existence — with Kal El being the last.

 

As for supporting characters, you still have Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane playing major roles. Lois Lane is still the hard working reporter trying to get the story over everyone else. Jimmy Olsen on “Earth One” is quite different, however. This Jimmy Olsen is a young man who puts his photography in front of everything – even his own safety. He takes risks and he doesn’t need to rely on anyone else for help. Although the interaction between Clark and these characters is not as prominent as you might expect, they still are key figures and they fit in nicely.

 

Without spoiling the entire book – everything about it is great. JMS is the kind of writer that either knocks it out of the park, or just tells a forgettable story that leaves you disappointed. Superman: Earth One is a home run.

 

Shane Davis is a fantastic artist that is becoming a more recognizable name in the comic book industry, and Superman: Earth One certainly helps put Davis on the map. The art is crucial to this book. It is just that good. Watching Clark take a step forward into adulthood on a visual plane is fantastic — Shane Davis draws and colors a great looking Superman. Seeing Clark pull his red hood over his head as he walks down the city streets to draw away from the busy world has become one of my favorite images.

 

Before the book was released and only previews were available, some news outlets and comic fans were coming up with very strange impressions – such as “Twilight” meets Superman. One major complaint that most seem to have is that Superman should never act “emo” and should never be selfish. I can only wonder why this audience can’t accept this as a different take on Superman. The same “Earth Prime” Superman still exists. The Christopher Reeve Superman films remain unchanged. This is just a different story for a different time – and I think it’s great. And if you’ve already dismissed this book as “emo Superman” without giving it a fair chance, your opinion doesn’t amount to much anyways. This is about a young Clark Kent coming to terms with the responsibility he has, and whether he can meet that challenge or not.

 

On a personal note, being a 22-year-old college student with a focus on journalism, I loved this book before I even touched it. This could be my chance to feel relatable to Superman. After I closed the book from reading it for the first time, I knew that all my expectations had been surpassed. From the very scene when Clark is being hassled by his landlord about how far he can go on only two years of a community college, I knew I could relate to this character. What young person hasn’t had some adult question their decisions? What young person hasn’t wondered if they are doing going in the direction they are supposed to? I certainly have questioned myself in the past, but I eventually hit that moment where I had to stand up and just take a chance – and seeing Superman go through the same things is something I never thought I would get to see.

 

 

My only complaint about this book is the ending. Without giving away many details, the direction that this series can go (should it continue) seems to be going down a very familiar path. That being said, I definitely appreciate how “complete” the book feels when you finish reading.

 

Superman: Earth One was a perfect read for me, and I know that there are other readers like myself who will feel the same way. If you want to read a modern story about Superman coming to be the person we know him to be, this is all you could ask for.

 

Superman: Earth One gets a 10/10 — an A+.

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