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on September 13, 2008
"People know now, it stands for courage. It stands for hope. It stands for SUPERMAN."

What makes the Man of Tomorrow take his stand? What goes through a young boy's mind that causes him to don tights and a cape and a big red "S" and stand up to fight for truth, justice, and the American way? These are questions that get asked when the real question is, "Why should we care about a man who cannot be hurt?"

These are the questions that Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu set out to answer in Superman: Birthright.

This book was the big effort from DC to bring the Man of Steel into the 21st century, and it was the job of the writer, artist, and the rest of the collaborators to accomplish this while keeping true to the spirit of the character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. A new view of a familiar origin was needed, a new perspective on characters that had been loved for over six decades, and Superman Birthright accomplishes all that and more.

We first see Superman as Kal El, infant son of Jor El and Lara during Krypton's last dying hours. The familiar elements are there - his parents will send him to earth where his Kryptonian biology will gain incredible powers from the radiation of Earth's yellow sun, but before he goes, he is wrapped in the Flag of Krypton and given a recordings of its history. This is where Waid and Yu really start to dig into the mythology and explore some new motivations. The "S" symbol is not just the El family crest, not just a sign on a blanket sent with the last son of Krypton to his new home - it is a reminder of his heritage, a symbol of his people and what they stood for, and something that Clark Kent will always carry with him.

When we first meet Clark, adopted son of John and Martha of Smallville Kansas, he's in the middle of tribal war that's broken out in Ghana, and trying not only to protect a charismatic civil rights leader, but also find his purpose in the world. Any time he tries to use his powers to help someone, he ends up distancing himself from people who fear his strength, his. . . difference. Clark has spent years traveling the world trying to find himself, and trying to find a connection to his otherworldly birthplace. When he decides to take on the identity of Superman, it is not only as a way of helping those in need and honoring the lessons his adopted parents taught him, but of honoring the memory of his native people.

This is what Birthright really plays up - what it means to be a symbol in a world where symbols are corrupted every day, what it meas to use power for good when power is only used for selfish corrupt means, and what it means to truly inspire people. These are ideas that Siegel and Schuster used when creating Superman, and they're called to the fore again to reinvigorate the character when cynicism and corruption are more pervasive than ever.

Of course, when Clark moves to Metropolis and starts displaying his awesome abilities, his alter-ego attracts the attention of Lex Luthor. Keeping the suave businessman version of the character, complete with a closet of dirty secrets, Birthright echoes TV's Smallville in that Luthor and Clark knew each other as kids back in Kansas. However, Birthright's Lex is a twisted bitter sociopath, alienated from a world he feels he has outpaced, and disgusted with the city's fascination with a muscle-bound alien. With various criminal schemes foiled by the Man of Steel, Luthor wages war against Superman for the trust of the city, playing on Metropolis' fears of a man with so much power and about him they know so little. This culminates in a climactic clash between Superman and a climactic "invasion" that tests our hero not just physically, but emotionally as well.

The classic standbys all play a part here - Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White at the Daily Planet (the last honest newspaper in the city), Ma and Pa Kent back home on the farm, and all stay true to the spirit of the characters that have been in comics for so long (even if Ma Kent is pretty computer savvy and has a thing for alien conspiracy web sits). But they all have their moment to shine, especially Lois, who defends the intentionally meek and quiet Clark against mocking coworkers and marvels at Superman - a man who shatters her preconceptions about what Prince Charming is really like.

All this is drawn in Yu's bold, thick strokes, and while the characters tend towards the more simplistic style favored in many comics today (a bit more John Romita Jr. than John Cassidy), they still have fine detail and incredible emotion on the page. And the colors, whether in the smaller "in between" panels or on the huge full-page action spreads (and there are some images so incredible that they will stick with you forever), pop out and shine with beautiful clarity.

Whether you're a long-time fan of Superman, or are looking for a good introduction to the Man of Tomorrow, Birthright is a great book. The Daily Planet may have a web page and digital cameras, but it's the same bastion of decency trying to report the truth to the world, where a mild-mannered reporter watches for signs of trouble. For anything that might be a job for Superman. Because it's his birthright, his legacy, his duty, both as a decent man in an indecent world, and as the last son of Krypton. And he will never forget.
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on November 16, 2006
I am a big fan of the Superman world but it was only during this summer that I shelled out money to buy Superman products after seeing the latest movie. Two dvds of the Reeves movies snowballed into seven comic books. This was one of the seven. Out of all of them this one really stood out. I just love the first few pages. It is a given that it talks about his parents and how they sent him to earth in a pod. How they drew and colored and placed the panels and used them as part of the title and credit page and then a time transition....wow. Its like a openning title sequence for film... so beautiful. I'm like YES!!! THIS IS WHY I LOVE COMIC BOOKS! This story talks about a part of Clark's life that is rarely if never addressed. Life after Smallvile but pre Daily Planet. I like it for its youthful hip energy and the addressing of problems in a different country. Lois Lane is a big reason I follow this franchise. Seeing the many incarnations of her is watching the evolution of the independent modern woman. Some depictions leave more to be desired than others. The way they introduced her was refreshing. Her intelligence and her courage has a slightly new flavor. I'd like to see a follow up of this story arc. I recomend everyone pick up a copy and take a good look. I don't regret buying this one. I enjoy looking at it over and over.
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on December 28, 2005
I read all of the bad reviews before picking up this trade, believing that it would pale in comparison to the John Byrne modern-age revamp of the character back in the 80s. I was almost tempted to tell the clerk at the store as she was ringing up the trade that I had changed my mind on buying it, thinking it might be a waste of $20. I sat down for a couple hours and read it front ot back, which is something I usually don't do for something 12 (comic) issues in length, and I found this instantly became my definitive origin for the Man of Steel, despite my love for Jeph Loeb's interpretation in his "Superman: For All Seasons." He wasn't instantly accepted by society as a savior, instead having to prove himself the hard way, against the machinations of a (for once) truly menacing Lex Luthor. This was the first trade in a while that I felt compelled to pick up again to flip through on the same day I read it. I'm generally a Marvel fan, but in these handful of instances such as with "Birthright" and "Batman: Year One" where DC publishes a gem that shines above the rest, at least within my opinion.
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on May 1, 2016
Superman is one of the most scrutinized comic book heroes, as everyone has their own ideal image of what the Man of Steel ought to be. As a result, when even the most minute detail of Superman is changed or reworked, whatever issue or collection this was done in is labeled with negativity. Sometimes it is small, other times, not so much. For the life of me, I cannot see how Birthright could, in any way, offend a Superman fan, long-time or new (unless having Clark becoming a vegetarian is sacrilege to you).

The writing is outstanding. Mark Waid, author of my favorite comic Kingdom Come, has a firm grasp on the character of Superman. Additionally, he can portray the whole cast of Superman characters, from Lois to Lex, with wit, energy, and engaging dialogue. The story is very linear, despite it literally crossing continents. The chapters are not broken up by issue covers, which is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the story flows without stopping. On the other hand, I find these natural breaks allow for material to be digested. This is minor, and doesn't reflect the quality of writing, but I felt is important enough to make note of.

The plot is extraordinary, and respects the history of Superman while also creating something new for the reader to enjoy. There is humor, tragedy, and adventure in Birthright, exposing the reader to several flavors of Superman stories. The origin of Lex Luthor is especially enjoyable, as it both humanizes and demonizes the megalomaniac. This is an origin story, but it's refreshing and deep. Superman's origin was given for years as just one page containing all the essentials. It takes skill to expand on this and make it interesting. Waid does this with ease.

The art is great, though it took some getting used to. It's not really comparable to any other art I am familiar with in terms of style. Yu uses very angular shapes and figures, but rest assured, they are not abstract Picasso renderings. The cover chosen for this collection does not reflect the best art from Yu, so if it made you hesitate, don't worry. Yu's style really works for Superman, especially his wide, open shots that are frequently used to define this interpretation of Superman. At times, his facial expressions appear a little too angular to work, but this is infrequent. It's an interesting dichotomy, as certain aspects appear very realistic, while other panels are pure comic-book abstracts. Yu is something unique, and I'm glad this title had his talent.

Overall, this is an easy recommendation. It's not the most thought-provoking work on Superman, but it is one of his greatest appearances. Don't confuse my previous remarks as saying Birthright is vanilla, because it's not. This is a clean, classic Superman that is placed in brutal real-world environments with both fantastic and all-too real villains. If you are just getting into reading Superman, I cant think of no better place than Birthright to start with. It's undeniably great, and captures the true essence of Superman.
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on June 22, 2016
After more than 60 years, DC Comics decided it was time to revisit the origins of Superman. For this, they turned to the Golden Ages biggest fans, Mark Waid. And Waid did not disappoint.

Birthright is not the story of Clark Kent as a teenager, as you might expect from reading the description. The story starts our when Kal-El is 25, breaking into the reporting game and desperately searching for a purpose in life. From their, Waid reconstructs all the major elements of the superman mythos, from his parents, his disguise as Clark Kent, and his relationship to his main antagonist, Lex Luthor.

Other than Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid may be the best comics writer alive when it comes to stories like this; hopeful, and light-hearted with just enough edge to keep them from being cheesy. This volume has tons of great jokes and jaw-dropping moments to make it worthy of being one of Superman's all time great stories.
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on July 29, 2013
I have been on a major Superman kick lately. Some might call it an obsession.

And of all the Superman I have absorbed over the past year, I am pretty sure I can say that this is my favorite Superman title. While 'Red Son' and 'Kingdom Come' also have great stories to tell, this is the world and the Superman I want to believe is the true version of story, whether it is considered "cannon" or not.

The thing I love about this story is that while this is obviously an origin story about Superman, it is also a Lois Lane and Lex Luthor origin story. You really get into Lex's brain with this one. And Lois, well, she is the strong willed Lois we all love.

This is a story about feeling alien in your own skin and wanting to know where you fit in the world, and its something all humans can relate to. An invincible man kicking the crap out of one alien after another without ever taking a moment to enjoy the simple things in life? Or a cocky self righteous God that never feels a twinge of loneliness? Not so much. I feel like any time a Superman writer chooses to ignore Clark Kent (aka Superman's "humanity"), they are not writing Superman correctly. Superman's humanity is on full display here, and the story is better for it.

If someone came to me and had never read Superman before, this is what I would start them with. And if you are already a Superman fan, this is a must for any library.
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on May 19, 2013
I've always been more of a Batman/Wolverine/Punisher kind of guy, so I haven't paid much attention to Superman. I have always had a soft spot for him because I love the concept of a "pure hero." But he was always hit and kiss with me. So with a bit of a cynical eye, I picked up Birthright on the advice of a coworker/friend.

To say I was pleasantly surprised was an understatement. This is everything a comic book fan could want. Great story, slick dialog and clean art. This is the type of book I'd steer the uninitiated toward to show me how comics should be done.
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on June 21, 2013
I think the title says it all. I am not, repeat NOT, a Superman fan at all. I bought this because I read that the "Man of Steel" movie was based off of it, in part. While this book takes off in a different direction as far as the antagonist of the story is concerned, I enjoyed it all the way though. I could not put this book down and finished it in a couple of sittings. However, I read it over a longer period than that as I kept going back to enjoy the art and reread certain sections. It's also made me want to go back and get a second viewing of the movie now.

But probably the best thing I could say to recommend this book is that it made me buy both "Superman Earth One" by J. Michael Straczynski but also "Action Comics Volume 1" from the New 52 by Grant Morrison. Considering that all three of these guys are all Hall of Fame caliber writers, it should come as no surprise that I have been impressed by all of them. The fact that I now can't get enough Superman should tell you even more. I still don't think he's gonna occupy the same place as the rest of my favorites on regular rotation, but I would but "Birthright" in the same category as the best stuff I've read from anyone.

High recommend.
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on October 4, 2013
I've got to say that this has got to be one of the best origin stories for Superman that I've ever been exposed to. What Mark Waid has done here is given us a Supeman that is (ironically) quite human, and so well presented, that I'm actually a little saddened that Man of Steel (the movie, that is) didn't take a couple more notes from this novel, which it was very much inspired by. The amount of meaning Waid has managed to put into the character (even elements that I would have earlier found silly, like Superman being able to see people's auras)has made Superman a much more enjoyable character then I would have guessed. After reading this and Secret Origin, I'd have to say that this is the superior Superman origin (although I'd say that Secret Origin has better art). With such a great portrayal of the character, by the time you get to the last page, you can't help but feel like that "S" has come to mean something to you (also, this novel has one of the most beautiful final pages I've ever read in a comic; very nicely written). I'd fully recommend this to anyone who wants to get a great Superman story.
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on July 12, 2010
If you have ever felt that Superman has become an icon rather than a character, this story is a breath of fresh air. You actually get to see Clark Kent as a person, a fallible person, and how he constructs both the "Clark" and "Superman" personas. It also deals with the secondary characters intelligently. The Kents are real people with thoughts, feelings, and flaws rather than just paragons of American parenting. The reporters in the Daily Planet bullpen are well done as well, especially Lois. All in all, if you are a die hard Supes fan, or have never been able to connect with him as a character, this is worth a read.
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