It’s a special review week this week, as we look at the latest DC “Earth One” graphic novel!
It seems like I was one of the only people on the internet who enjoyed the first volume of Superman: Earth One when it was first released two years ago. The start of a new line of graphic novels aimed at the bookstore market, the Earth One imprint has released only three titles since it’s announcement, the most recent release included. Season One, Marvel’s copycat imprint, has released about 7 titles in an even shorter time frame.
Despite the long gap between volumes, the second part of the “Earth One” version of Superman’s saga continues today, and it’s a fairly good Superman tale. Placing a bigger emphasis on Clark Kent and his struggles with leading a normal life, the second volume contains more familiar locations and characters for long time Superman fans, albeit trough the new “Earth One” prism. Some of these changes are good. I particularly enjoyed Clark’s new living establishment, complete with a brand new set of characters for him to interact with, including redhead neighbor Lisa Lasalle, who takes a not so subtle interest in the young farm boy from Kansas in the big city. Her moments with Clark were the best parts of the book, and showcased a moment from Clark’s youth that nearly made me tear up. There’s also a clever twist on a classic Superman villain at the end of the book that teases the next volume perfectly.
However, some of the other changes aren’t so great. Jimmy Olsen blogging for the Daily Planet? Eeeesh. Why can’t he still be a photographer? Plus the redesign of Parasite (the big bad in this volume) is very strange. He keeps the purple skin tone, but has these weird yellow orbs popping out of his skin and lips, which at times make it seem like he has giant beach balls attached to his body. The fights between himself and Superman are okay, but at the same time, I felt myself waiting for the moments when Clark would come back. Seeing Kent slowly try to figure out just what he should do with his powers is more fun for me than actually seeing him use them. I can’t explain it, but that’s how I feel.
That’s not to say that every moment with Clark in costume is ho-hum. There’s a fantastic sequence early in this volume where Superman goes to help a foreign country in the grip of a tsunami. However, he’s cut short by the county’s tyrannical leader, who tells him that the people that are killed in the tsunami deserve their fate for rebelling against him. For every person Superman saves, the dictator will take a limb from one of his citizens, and it will all be on Superman’s head. Superman leaves, and the aftermath shows us a chilling account of what would happen if Superman decided to turn his powers against us, instead of for us (and don’t worry, Superman returns to get payback on the dictator).
I have to commend J. Michael Straczynski for once again providing an interesting light on Superman. Yes, he famously bailed on the “Grounded” storyline before the DC reboot (a storyline which wasn’t that great in my opinion), but with both this book and the previous installment he’s created a great angle on a character that everyone and their mother knows. It’s apparent how much Superman means to him, and volume 2 continues to focus more on Clark Kent than Superman, which is key to writing the character. There are numerous flashbacks to his life on the farm, including a hilarious scene in which Pa Kent does his best to teach his son about the “birds and the bees”, an already awkward task without being from another planet.
Shane Davis’ art is improved from the last volume. While still photo-realistic, this time it doesn’t look like he based every major character off of a well known celebrity. His action scenes are easy to follow, and do their best to punch up the somewhat lackluster fights between Supes and Parasite (although the final blow Superman deals to Parasite is pretty boss). I do wish that JMS and Davis had come up with a cooler design for the “Kryptonian warsuit” that Superman has to don to battle Parasite at the end of the book, though. I was expecting something cooler than clear crystal armor. However, the backstory on Parasite is pretty chilling, and once he’s all Superman-powered up, an excellent warning to Clark about the dangers of losing control.
Even if you weren’t a fan of the first volume of Superman: Earth One, you’d still find things to enjoy in this volume. It’s a marked improvement over the first, and has some very surprisingly touching moments. I’ve always liked the idea and story behind Superman, but never found him all that relatable until now. I’m eagerly waiting to see if what has been hinted at will come to fruition in volume three, I just hope I don’t have to wait two years to find out.
Jonwahizzle is a jack of all trades: Educator, comic book slinger for Jetpack Comics, and member of Another Let Down. Follow him on twitter and check out his blog, The Collective: Examples of Nerdery for more!