SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE By J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis [Review]
I watched an interesting show the other day, about the evolution of the Batmobile, and how it alters every generation to reflect the ideal of that group of readers. So, too, goes Superman and with SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis, the Man of Steel enters the modern age in a very readable, likeable and believable way.
Let me say, right off the bat, I was never a big Superman fan. I watched Smallville in its first few seasons, mostly because I adored Lex, but Clark Kent never appealed to me in any of his many appearances (not just Smallville). From the early comics of the War Years, and the black and white movies to the various modern attempts at the Superman tale, there is something about the squeaky clean, can do no wrong Man of Steel that just gets on my nerves. Oh, that and a superhero without a mask. (Which, by the way, and not to give out spoilers Straczynski explains beautifully in this story.)
All of that has changed with the truly amazing Superman: Earth One. This is the Superman I have been waiting for, a man I can relate to and understand. It’s not just that this Clark has a bit of angst (okay, more than a bit) about his place in the world, it is that it feels real. As Straczynski retells the story of Clark’s arrival on earth, his childhood and his eventual arrival in Metropolis, the reader is drawn into the story, to Clark, in a personal way that I, at least, have never really experienced with this particular superhero.
Clark’s search for a job in the Big City, lets us have glimpses of his past, his choices, his family and what motivates him. Each interview shows us a different facets of a truly multifaceted character. It was a really brilliant way to introduce us to this new for the Twenty-First Century Clark Kent. With his move to Metropolis, he’s left his “super” self behind, wanting to find a normal life and a normal path. Of course his parents (and the reader) know that’s not possible but still Martha lets him go.
When the city-and Earth-is attacked, Clark must face his destiny.
Superman: Earth One, has all the elements of the traditional Superman stories, but with a modern feel. Clark is definitely not the sure of himself hero of old, nor is he universally liked once he makes his appearance. In fact, it is just the opposite. There is a lot of suspicion regarding his fight with the bad guy and the massive destruction to the city and the Earth. The ideals that were there in the past, truth and justice, service to humankind are also there, but in a less in your face way, very much in the background and often appearing in almost Yoda-like speeches from Jonathon Kent, but even these are handled well, attesting to the skill of Straczynski’s writing.
I think what really made me love Superman: Earth One was the realistic feeling of the characters. Not just Clark and his very real struggles. There was very down-to-Earth Lois and her complaint to her editor about how she should be able to add her opinion to her articles and his comment that it’s a news story, opinions belong on the editorial page. And Jimmy and his “do anything for the news photo” attitude that I have seen in news associates. The Daily Planet editor might be my new hero, he reminds me of the first editor I worked for, an “old-time newsman, not journalist, thank you very much” as he used to say. And the ancillary characters were fleshed out enough to feel real as well.
The “bad guy” was my only minor complaint. He was a little comic book-esque. Okay, I know that is a weird comment considering that this is a graphic novel, but everything else was so different, that he kind of stood out a little as over-the-top. Not much, and certainly not enough to not want to read more and more.
Straczynski has done an amazing bit of storytelling with Superman: Earth One, Davis’ illustrations are amazing and fit the style of writing beautifully, adding a darkness I really liked. Although, one of my favorite panels was not dark at all, it was a quizzical polar bear peering down into the ice cave where Clark takes refuge with his ship after the battle. The expression on the bear’s face was magical!
I cannot recommend Superman: Earth One highly enough, even if you were never a fan of either Superman or graphic novels. Take a chance on this one, you will be happy you did.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars | Publisher: DC Comics | Pages: 136 | Source: Purchased | Buy on Amazon