I am often rightfully accused of being a Superman fanboy. It’s hard not to be when he is arguably the first superhero and definitely the most recognizable. All across the globe readers (and non-readers) know that he is the “Last Son of Krypton” and that leaping tall buildings or battling gigantic alien is all in a day’s work for the “Man of Steel.” For almost 80 years now Superman and his alter-ego Clark Kent have been a hit in the comic pages, television and in Hollywood. Despite the continued and varied success of this character, the brainchild of Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster in the 1930’s, many creators and fans feel the need to “recreate” him every so often. Which brings us to the latest and greatest graphic novel from DC comics–Superman Earth One.
The first thing that will grab your attention when you open this book is the artwork. Aside from being absolutely stunning and detailed, you will see that this Clark Kent is not the lowly farmboy we’ve come to know and love over the years. The Clark Kent we read about here is confident but uneasy transitioning into adulthood as he moves into the huge city of Metropolis to find a way to support himself and his widowed mother. Unlike most Superman yarns that have Clark being the unassuming type, this Clark Kent dips his finger into many different industries trying to find his niche, but ultimately feels dissatisfied with everything he comes across.
This Superman is not the reluctant hero like you might expect, in fact he is just the opposite. While he does not want to make a spectacle of himself and his powers, he does understand that he can use his intellect and superhuman strength to help people and is almost desperate to do so. The majority of this book focuses on Clark and his inability to find satisfaction in daily life and trying to find a way to use his powers as a help to others and not a hindrance to himself. Ultimately when an unexpected alien menace attacks Metropolis, all that goes out the window when it comes time to save innocent lives and we see the familiar sight of Superman gracing the skies of Metropolis.
This book just feels different from your monthly books or, for that matter, your regular original graphic novel. This Superman, drawn by Shane Davis and written so eloquently by J. Michael Straczynski, feels like he belongs in our world. The universe the creative team put together for this book closely mirrors the real world (with the exception of the alien invasion!) and they make the Superman character act and feel as out of place as you would expect him to feel not only being the last survivor of an alien world, but also as a young adult unsure of the future with a lonely mother at home. For a book centered around an alien who eventually fights off a horde of other aliens, this book is decidedly human. It deeply explores the nature of self, and the uncertainty of the future and will surely stand as not only one of the most original interpretations of the Superman but one of the most compelling.
Do yourself a favor and check out this book. The panels are drawn in such a way that even those who don’t read many comic books will easily transition from page to page and not miss any story. The art in this book is staggeringly detailed and the images are richly colored to show the deviation from the human and the later alien elements. In making this book so unique they have also made it accessible, much in the same way that Watchmen or 300 were crafted and later became intrinsic pop-culture icons. It would not be surprising to see this book in some way shape the future of the franchise as it has garnered praise from within the comics world and also from major players in the Hollywood landscape who have appreciated it cinematic nature.
It may not sound original or classy, but simply put, this book is good. It will make you cheer one the hero. It will make you resent the villain. And if you haven’t had anything to believe in for a while, it will make you think, just for a while, that a man can fly.