As someone who considers himself a comic enthusiast, I see more hatred pointed towards Superman than Spawn these days. That, dear readers, is a serious travesty. Most people just look at our red caped Man of Steel and see an unbeatable opponent. Superman is almost always considered too good, too powerful, and too forgiving to be the center of a driving story line. He is said to be too much of a boy scout to play a meaningful and truly heroic character because at the end of the day, he just doesn’t have much to lose. A man invulnerable to speeding bullets doesn’t usually get associated with someone who might be overly self-conscious. I’m here to tell you, stop assuming and read more Superman titles. If you want a fresh new take on an old superhero that quite literally puts other heroes to shame, you are going to want to pick up the Superman Earth One series.
A few years back, genius creator, Geoff Johns, wrote “Superman: Secret Origin.” The story is, at its core, an attempt to modernize the character and set his origin in our current era. Gary Frank Art with Geoff Johns’ entangled webbing makes for a really great comic but an even better hardcover. DC Earth One was announced to be a new playground for writers to work on new story ideas. Much like the Marvels Ultimate Universe, Earth One gives writers the opportunity to play with the origins of much loved characters in a new and intriguing way. We were given teaser images for both the Superman and Batman Earth One Hardcovers coming out way back. An emotional looking Clark and a clumsy Batman were new enough ideas to get the fans a buzzing over the possibilities. I, for one, was gleaming with excitement when learning Johns was going to be writing a Batman story, but I had no idea how good the Superman title could be.
In Superman Earth One Volume 1, we come into the story as Clark is leaving for Metropolis. He is attempting to find his way in life and in a world where he doesn’t belong. A man’s early 20’s are a tough time to survive, much less come out with any real idea of self-worth or enlightenment. It’s a time when people struggle with who they are, what they want to be, and what they will inevitably become. This is, arguably, the most pivotal time in young Clark’s life. In my mind, I have always wondered what stopped the man of steel from just becoming a linebacker, or a genius scientist (Not too many people realize he has an unbeatable intellect). Why go through all the work and deal with all the pressure of being the world’s most powerful man, when you can take it easy and still impress everyone around you. This is easily clarified in the first volume by addressing how badly the world needs a Super Man. It’s not a matter of whether Clark Kent SHOULD be a hero to the world; it’s a matter of the world needing a protector; Someone who we can look to for both armament as well as advocacy.
We see Superman battle a foe unlike any other in that first volume and he shows adversity in the eye of defeat. Volume two picks up almost right where the first one left off with Clark trying to settle in at the Daily Planet after his first real article is published. He has to learn the techniques needed to be a good writer and not one who just writes about himself. It was nice seeing him struggle in that area because we get a unique opportunity to see Clark attempt something he actually has to put effort into. Fortunately for us, we also get to enjoy stunning fight scenes with the villain of this arc, Parasite. The contender may be a known adversary to fans of Supes but this new spin on this vile character makes for an interesting comparison to the Marvel serial killer, Cletus Kasady, otherwise known as Carnage.
The writer, J. Michael Straczynski, is known for his intricate science fiction based stories but when he gets on a superhero book, all bets are off. He wrote one of the best Spider-Man runs I’ve ever read, “The Amazing Spider-Man: The Other.” He also did a revamp of Squadron Supreme with Gary Frank which I have read several times for its sheer prowess. It started as Marvels mocking of the Justice League(which JMS still hasn’t gotten a crack at writing yet) but then ended up being completely badass thanks to Straczynski. A couple years ago, we saw what he could do with DC characters on the Superman and Wonder Woman monthlies. Reading Superman Earth One only makes me long for JMS on more DC characters. Although, you can get a slight fix from Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan. It’s only a four issue miniseries but it’s still fantastic!
Art by Shane Davis is incredible but he never lets me down. I only wonder how far his contract with DC will take him and if he will ever do work on something creator owned. I think it would be interesting to see how far his imagination can go. He has an odd ability to show emotion on the faces of these characters, especially Superman, in a way that that really sets him apart. I’d be lying if I said the way he draws the female form doesn’t scream Mary Jane Watson. I would kill to see him on a Spider-Man monthly. I have been known to demand far too much from my favorite artists, though.
This second installment into Superman’s Earth One series really gets me excited for more to come. Without giving any spoilers, volume two does leave it open for another chapter in the growth of Clark Kent and if the current state of DC is any indication, we will more than likely have to clear plenty of shelf space for all the Earth One hard covers to come. For having deep character interaction, strong moral conflict, and damn good looking women, I will give Superman Earth One volume two 5 out of 5 Nerdskulls.