Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Superman: Earth One Volume 1 Review

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Shane Davis

Since watching the Man of Steel a couple of weeks ago I've been in a big Superman mood, and decided to start my Superman reading with Superman: Earth One. When I first bought this book I was sceptical, as although J. Michael Straczynski is a good writer he wasn't doing that good on the normal Superman series at the time, as Grounded was simply disappointing. I did however decide to buy it, and was very happy to have.


Having arrived in Metropolis Clark Kent looks for a job that will make him enough money to look after his mother. He soon however learns that he can no longer keep his secret, and has to do what he must to save the world from the evil Tyrell by becoming Superman.


This was a phenomenal book, and I love it even more with each read. I've always been a fan of J. Michael Straczynski's work, having loved his runs on Spider-Man, and Thor, as well as his first series of Supreme Power (second series, re-named Squadron Supreme wasn't as good), and although he disappointed me with Grounded, I still had faith that he could write a great Superman story. This book was just that, giving the level of quality I knew Straczynski could produce, and the same quality that should have been in Grounded. Staczynski showed that he understands Superman perfectly, and although we saw this in Grounded, we didn't get as deep as story, or as much excitement in that as we have here. Straczynski also did a perfect job of taking Superman's origin, and making a modern story out of it, as it feels like the origin story we all know, but set in the 21st Century. I also loved how he modernised Clark, having him go about in a hooded jacket, which shows that this is a young man, in the current world, and time, which is very different to the young Clark from old. Straczynski also did a great job with all the character's involved, showing that he truly understood them, whilst adding his own twists, as well as depth to their character. The action that Straczynski added also made this story that much more exciting, and explosive, making it feel like a film in a book, which I loved, and overall Straczynski did a wonderful job with this story.

Now when I originally read this book I hadn't seen much of Shane Davis' art, having only read a few comics that featured his art. I did however love his art on this book, and felt that along with Straczynski's great storytelling that his art was the reason this book was so brilliant, and fun to read, and DC really chose the right creative team for this story. His art was simply stunning, and the detail was perfect, with little to none imperfections. What I loved most about Davis art however had to be the way he showed the character's emotions, and reactions to certain actions, as it made the story feel much more alive, giving it more drama, and excitement. Talking of excitement, the action sequences that Davis drew in this story were epic, and were very explosive, and exciting, and it was truly awe-inspiring. The redesign of Superman, as well as the design of the villain, Tyrell, and his alien fleet were also brilliant, and although there was minimal change to Superman's look, he made Clark look much more modern, and Tyrell looked very menacing, and calculating, which is perfect for a villain. The way he drew the other character's, making minor adjustments to make the more well known character's look slightly more modern was also fantastic. The layout of Davis' art was also spectacular, adding yet more depth, and drama to the story, and overall his art was outstanding, and I'm happy that both Davis, and Staczynski returned for Superman: Earth One Volume Two, and look forward to reading it.

Near the start of the story Clark goes looking for multiple jobs, including American Football, Science, Business, and Construction, before going to the Daily Planet for a reporters job. Now I understand that Superman has all these super abilities, and some of these jobs make sense, but I question how he's all of a sudden so good at science, or business, cause as I've never seen any signs of this in the past, although I'm not the hugest Superman fan so I may be wrong, but I believe I'm a big enough fan to think that I'm right. I did however slightly like the idea of the Superman being able to do everything better than others, but deep down I'd rather he kept to his normal traits, as if it was just sport jobs he went after I'd accept that, as he's considered a sports background in the past, but avoided due to his abilities.

As I said he finally decided to try the Daily Planet, which allowed for the introduction of the famous Planet staff, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White. Now it was obvious that these character's would feature in this story, as a lot of classic Superman stories have the Planet involved. I did however love seeing them at a younger stage, as although we've had this since in the New 52, when I originally read this I can remember loving the daringness of Lois, and Jimmy, as although we saw this in the pre-New 52 series, they also seemed more mature, as they developed over the years, so it was nice to go back to this less developed state. I also loved the way that they all interacted with one another, and how their individual charm's came through. The thing that I liked most about the Planet in this story however was that they were the underdog, being in a bad patch, as although I can't recall if this has happened prior in Superman's history, I enjoyed seeing it in this.

The military was also shown in this story, as a research team headed by Major Sandra Lee study the ship that Clark landed in. Now the military have always been an interesting addition to Superman stories over the years, and this is no different. Now we don't get a lot from these scientists, but it does show that there are people who know of the possible existence of Clark, and that he's an alien. I also find it interesting how Sandra Lee is obviously smart, but still a military person, who thinks like a soldier. I do however look forward to seeing more of these scientists, and mainly Sandra in the second volume, as with the events that happen in this story they're bound to still be on Superman's heels.

As with most Superman origin/opening stories we get to see both his Earth parents, Jonathan, and Martha Kent and his Krypton parents, Jor-El, and Lara Lor-Van. Superman's parents have been the thing that I feel have shaped who he is as a person, as you have his good nature, and heart from being brought up by the Kent's, whilst also the lust for knowledge of his home world, and real parents, due to them not being able to bring him up. Straczynski did a good job of both, but focused more on the Kent's. I loved how we had the Kent's in the form of flashbacks during this story, as it allowed the pace of the story to be much quicker at the start, allowing the reader to get into the story easier. I did however wish that Jor-El, and Lara Lor-Van would have featured longer, but loved that their message was cut short, leaving a hint of mystery.

With all great stories comes a great villain, and although Tyrell isn't the best villain that I've ever seen, he was still very interesting, and really acted like a proper villain, making sure that Superman, and the world knew who he was. Now personally I saw Tryell as a cross between General Zod, and Brainiac, as he had all the soldier, and leader skills that Zod possesses, but looks more technology advanced. I also loved the fact that Tyrell came from a planet that shared the same sun as Krypton named, Dheron, and how they were bitter enemies of Krypton. The things that Tyrell would later reveal also made him that much more interesting as a character, and left me asking questions, which is brilliant, as it gives suspense to the series. Tyrell's army was also awe-inspiring, and they really had a presence in the story, adding more depth as well. The fight that would embroil between Tyrell, and Superman was also phenomenal, and really exciting, and although not the best fight that I've ever seen, whether in a Superman story, or elsewhere, it was still a fantastic fight, and the dialogue really helped with that.

Final Verdict

This was a great way of introducing Superman to a new audience, as although the New 52 is very modern, I feel that this is even more so, being more in touch with the modern world. As a story it was also exciting, and dramatic, whilst also having some deep character development, and some brilliant dialogue. The art was also fantastic, and the paring of J. Michael Straczynski, and Shane Davis has truly been magical. Due to all this I'd easily recommend this book, and can't wait to finally read Volume Two, which I'm about to do next.

Rating: 5/5