Review: Superman Earth One By J. Michael Straczynski And Shane Davis

Superman: Earth One
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Shane Davis

I’m starting this review on about page fifteen, because I need to express that I already don’t like where this book is going. Clark Kent is a super athlete that not only plays football, but he plays EVERY position excellently. Left tackle, wide receiver, quarterback, hell, he fends off multiple much larger men and all anyone can think is how awesome it is. Then he goes into a prestigious research laboratory and proceeds to solve the problem they’ve spent three years trying to crack, in minutes, by just looking at their work for a moment. He’s everything he wants to be except for likable, and because of that the book hurts. Yes, I get this is a modern retelling of Superman and his origins, but one of the things that always made Superman so great and powerful was the humbleness and humility that he allowed himself by not using his gifts for profit. It was a point of respect you grew into for the character, that he didn’t abuse his powers for selfish reasons.

Hello Detective Morgan....I mean, Ms. Lane.

Even when he goes to the Daily Planet, I still get more of an ungrateful egotistical jackass feeling off of Clark than I do that of a hero, or even someone aspiring to be something more like that. It’s a recurring issue with several of the characters in this book. Clark is a jackass who can do anything, Lois is an over editorialized parody of herself, and Jimmy Olson is a photographer who will die for the truth. Yes, re-imagining, I get it, but should the crux of what has made these characters work be what they are built off of again? Just because Clark Kent is a Kansas farm boy doesn’t make him the same guy, he lacks the ideals and thought process that came along with that upbringing.

Then there’s arguably my biggest pet peeve, and something that I’ve seen a few other reviewers take issue with, and yes, it’s a spoiler, but too bad, you’re going to have to deal with it. Krypton is a dead world, this is the same, it blew up and little Kal-El was rocketed off to safety at the last moment, leaving him the sole survivor. That’s all well and good, I mean, Jor-El tried to warn the Council and they refused to listen to him as he warned them of imminent doom, thus making the death of the planet a tragedy that could have been averted, and in turn makes Jor-El into his own kind of hero. So, of course, that all had to change. Change how? Well, essentially, the planet next in line in Krypton’s solar system was pissy that Krypton had better resources and conditions, so the two planets warred for countless amounts of time before the other guys just blew up Krypton to kill everyone.

And, as you might suspect given that now Jor-El is sending his son away to not get blown up by angry alien neighbors, Kal’s mission is no longer to live and be a good person, it’s to get vengeance for Krypton! Superman! Vengeance! Which part of this doesn’t make sense?

See Clark, see Clark go. Someone is a showoff.

In an attempt to make the Man of Steel more modern, to feel more like a creature of the times, Straczynski instead took him several steps backwards. This is a Clark that makes me want for the characteristically emo Clark Kent of Smallville, as opposed to the visually emo one here. I mean, I never in my life thought that I’d say the problem with a book is that it’s not enough like Smallville, but I’m going there. Smallville may have created a bunch of convoluted plots concerning Krypton, but at least they left the pillars in tact. The planet blew up, it could have been averted had those in control listened, and Jor-El saved his son as he could not save his planet. Clark is raised humble, understanding his powers and respecting why he can’t go run around and use them all the time. Yes, there’s rebelliousness, but it was never so…..he was never so flagrant about having powers that he would allow himself in a situation where they were on display while he was using his own name.

I guess that’s my biggest issue with this book, as were I not a fan of Superman I could see myself liking it more, but the lead character I just don’t buy as being Superman. He has the name, the costume, the supporting cast, the powers, but he just doesn’t have the same heart. To be honest, I’d actually be scared if this was someone’s first experience with the character, as it just feels….angsty for the sake of it. There’s too much emphasis on the fact that yes, he is a pretty super guy as far as the things he’s capable of, but even in the moments where you’re supposed to get into his head and sympathize for him, he still comes across as a complete tool.

You know what else this book desperately missed? Lex Luthor. We’ve got some crazy alien that seeks to kill Kal and blow up Earth because he stayed there, but we don’t have Lex. I can understand that maybe JMS felt that everyone used Lex and it was over done, but let’s be honest, Lex would have made more sense than this dude. Lex would have made more sense than making Krypton the loser of a war between neighboring planets, the explosive-goes-boom loser. Because now, if this story were to continue, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see hordes of random aliens show up looking to kill the last Kryptonian because they’re either from that warring planet, or from some sort of ally. Yes, ready made rogues gallery, but is it worth it? Not to me.

Doesn't he just look like a bad guy?

Shane Davis on art is probably the highlight of this story, but even though I loved what he did and I do dig his style, I’m still not convinced that he was the best choice for this job. Clark looks like a character out of Twilight, Lois is very clearly Deb from Dexter, Perry is….well, Perry, he looks the same as he does in DC proper. But the art is solid, for the most part. Action looks good, characters maintain consistent visuals, Davis definitely poured everything he had into this, and it shows. I just think DC would be better off finding a monthly for him and letting him pour his heart and soul into that. This book does a great job showcasing him, though, I won’t lie. He really does carry this story from cover to cover.

At the end though, this should be a review over the content of the issue, as opposed to what they’ve done with the Superman mythos to create it. It should be, right? Fair and balanced without my bias creeping in? Well, here goes, if you’ve never read Superman before, if this is your first encounter, I seriously doubt you’re going to come out of this story wanting more of him. He’s not a likable guy, and the only reason he becomes a hero is because his options are save the world or die along with everyone on it. Yes, he’s a stand up guy when push comes to shove, but you’ll spend more of the issue wondering why this guy becomes the greatest hero in history then you will being like “This is Superman!”

It’s just not very good, I mean, kudos to JMS for trying something different, but he should have left his Superman mark with his current run on the core title. It’s enjoyable, it’s well characterized, and despite the slow pacing, it feels like Superman.

This book, does not.

Overall?

4/10

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