Friday, January 28, 2011

Graphic Novel Review: Superman Earth One

Superman is one of those classic superheroes that I love as a concept, but rarely read any really good stories about. There are probably lots of reasons for that; his near invulnerability, his Earth-bound adventures despite having a very science fiction origin, his lack of very many powerful enemies, his boy-scout nature, even his hidden identity thing can be a bit hit and miss. And yet, there’s something appealing about him, something that makes me seek out stories featuring him hoping for something that’ll really stand out. Superman Earth One is that kind of story. I’ve read a number of reviews that have said you need to forget what you think you know about Superman. I suppose that one way of looking at it. You could also consider this an addition to his origin if you so choose, it didn’t entirely have to be set in an alternate universe from the one we normally understand these characters to come from. I also found a lot of the reviews focused on the differences in Clark’s origin, or his broodiness at the beginning of this book. Honestly, neither of those things are particularly worth dwelling on except to say that yes, there are some differences here and there – just like there are differences between the origin of Batman in different films. Here we see that Clark is an incredibly smart alien life form, like his scientist father, and could do any multitude of jobs here on Earth with ease. He’s also only a young man, who hasn’t quite figured out what he wants to do with his life – but who gets thrust into the role of hero because no one else can handle what’s been thrown at the Earth. Which is really where this story shines, because J. Michael Straczynski really knows how to add in the science fiction elements. You see, he takes things that are known about Superman’s origin and asks questions that very few others have tried to do before. Krypton was destroyed, but planets don’t just blow up – unless they’re at war with another planet, a war in which the other civilization intends to make sure that there are no survivors. They are aware that one ship escaped the destruction of Krypton, and they’ve searched for years along its trajectory and have finally come to Earth. The battles are spectacular, because this is an enemy that knows the weaknesses of Clark’s race, not to mention that they’re so advanced and he’s such a novice. Into the mix comes Lois and Jimmy, the only ones who don’t run when the going gets rough, and help this complete stranger who may be Earth’s only hope at survival – which in turn helps convince Clark that he wants to join the paper at the Daily Planet, where perhaps he too can learn to make a difference. Throw in a little government conspiracy stuff, where they’ve long held Clark’s ship but never known if the alien lived through the landing on Earth – and now that Superman has appeared they want to get their hands on him, and you’ve got the makings of a nice sequel. But Superman Earth One stands completely on its own, certainly as one of the best Superman stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading.


DJL said...

It sounds as though this graphic novel answers a lot of the "why" questions readers forgot/forget to ask with previous Superman comics. I've not been a huge fan of Superman in the past, mostly because as you mentioned, he does have the whole 'boy-scout' persona and very few of them do explore the science fiction aspect of Superman's origin. However, this one seems a refreshingly new take on Superman's origin while also adding more of the science fiction factors that are missed or glanced over in other comics.

Andy the Time Lord said...

That's good news, I've been wanting to read EARTH ONE since it was released. The Krypton-at-war concept sounds COOL!

TheMoose65 said...

I'd love to see a Superman Vs. Captain Planet comic. Just saying.

Lightning Bug's Butt said...

I can dig it.

I always thought that too: Superman's omnipotence and hokey identity make the stories tedious.

But you sell Earth One well!