Between the Panels – Superman Earth One

I am back and ready to do some more comic book reviews. Sadly most of these for the foreseeable future will not be new comics as I have no money! But I will be reviewing some of my favourite single issues and some great collections in the upcoming weeks. Next week I should have my hands on Batman Year One so that will be an exciting book to review, but other than that I don’t predict too many new comics on here for a while. Not only will I be talking about some of my favourite comics but I’ll also be talking about some of my pet peeves in comics and issues that were just not that great. But for now let’s talk about one of the most gorgeous comics that I have read in a really long time, the brilliant retelling of Superman’s origin story by J. Michael Straczynski. I’m trying to make things as spoiler free as possible over here on my posts but forgive me if a few spoilerish things pop up, however it is more or less an origin story so you all should have it pretty well figured out.

Comic: Superman Earth One

Publisher: DC Comics

Author: J. Michael Straczynski

Artists:  Shane Davis, Sandra Hope, and Barbra Ciardo

I guess saying that this is an origin story is not quite correct, it’s a coming of age story, and a grand one at that. We start off with an early 20 something Clark Kent just moving to Metropolis and it is quite obvious by the end of the first page that he doesn’t know who he really is, or what he wants to become. I think this is a side of Superman that we don’t get to see enough, the more human side of him, one that more people can relate to than the “I can do everything” character that everyone knows. I think that is in part why this comic was so successful when it came out two years ago. As it goes on we see Clark trying to find a job in Metropolis that he likes, or is good at, which is damn near everything. He manages to do every position on the football field, he can do theoretical physics and baseball, those are just a few examples of the things he attempts to do.

Then he comes across The Daily Planet where he is told that he needs to prove himself to Perry White, Perry gives him an application and Clark leaves and in the ally tosses the application in the trash. Now is when we get some flashback of Clark as a kid showing him getting bullied for being different or having no friends, but he stays out of trouble. We get some always sage-like advice from Jonathan and we go back into the action. That’s when the major threat of this story appears, an alien race who have been searching for Clark for twenty or so years, ever since Krypton was destroyed. They say that if the man they are looking for does not stand up they will destroy Earth. This brings us to my favourite and probably most effective flashback in the book.

Martha has just given Clark the iconic Superman uniform and Clark says that it’s too colourful, he asks “Wouldn’t it be easier if I had a mask or something?” which leads his mother into the most beautiful speech about the outfit I have ever heard. She says “Yes, it would…but you can’t ever wear a mask. When people see what you can do, when they see how powerful you are, they’re going to be terrified. A mask would only add to that. They’ll need to see your face so they can see that there’s no evil in it…to see the gentleness and decency in you…and know that they have nothing to fear. The mask – the mask is what you’ll have to wear the rest of the time.” Clark Kent gets a lot of flack for only wearing glasses as a way to disguise who he is, and I think that what Straczynski has written here is the real reason no one looks at Clark and says “That’s Superman!” It’s because they don’t want to. They don’t want to know who the man in the Red and Blue tights is, all they want to know, all the need to know is that he is everything that is good in the world and he is there to save them.

With incredible art work throughout the book Superman Earth one is a pleasure to behold and I would recommend it to anyone. If you are a fan of Superman already and you read it you may have gripes about a lot of the changes they’ve made to the story but that is the whole point of the Earth One stories, they are reimaginings that the authors long to tell. They are not cannon and will not effect the monthly issues of Superman, or more recently Batman, they are just there as a new way to look at an old, in this case the oldest, superhero. Yes it does have its problems, one of them being that some will not appreciate a new take on a classic character, sometimes things are a little muddled and you aren’t exactly sure why certain events are occurring, and the speech balloons are sometimes awkwardly placed, but Earth One is still a very solid story.

Superman Earth One: 8.5/10

Superman Earth One Volume 2 will be released October 31st, 2012, so now is the perfect time to check this book out.

***

That’s all I’ve got for you, sorry I don’t have any new comics but hopefully that will change in the near future. For this weeks latest and greatest, and not so greatest, comic reviews head over to IGN for their weekly round up. That’ll do it for me until we next meet, remember life happens between the panels, what happens between shots is up to you.

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Follow Nathan on Twitter @Nait93.

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