13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
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.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2006
At 54, I hadn't read a Superman comic for 42 years, though I have a fine collection of several hundred. I saw the movie, missed the TV show, missed all the updates etc. My (US) kids, all born in the 80s, devoured my collection of 10- and 12-cent comics.
Then a teenager from Ghana urged me to try this comic novel reconsideration of Mr. S. I found this to be very operatic and heart-rending. The artist/observer's POVs were fantastic and each panel seemed frameable, making the oldies I remember seem so quaint and camp. Operas get updated in similar ways, and it's risky, but this team pulled it off to one reader's complete satisfaction.
The process of updating/adaptation/re-imagining reminds me of the saying: ''If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.'' --Tancredi, the young aristocrat in Giuseppe di Lampedusa's novel, ''The Leopard"
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2010
I've recently rediscovered my love for graphic novels that I thought had long since passed. Although I've never been a huge Superman fan (outside a few of the films), I was intrigued enough by Amazon reviewers to pick this book up. I am a lifelong Spider-Man and Batman fan. If this had been my first introduction to the superhero world, Superman might very well be my favorite of all.
Updated and somewhat modernized for the 21st century, this story introduces us to Clark Kent. We're given background on his adolescence, his drive to find out who he is, where he's from, and what his purpose is. We're given a great back story on Lex Luthor, and the events that shaped who he is as well.
A few days before reading this, a friend who also reads graphic novels told me his biggest complaint about Superman is that his emotions never change. I now find that comment ironic, in that we see a wide range of emotions from the character in this book. Emotionally, Superman seems more (dare I say it?) human than he is usually presented to be, and that is a great strength of this book. We see Superman/Clark Kent move between rage and defeat, and many emotions in between.
This 21st century re-imagining of Superman's origin would make a fantastic motion picture. Several times throughout the read, I wondered if Zack Snyder has been exposed to this story, and if he would consider adapting it into a screenplay. The only drawback that I could see is that audiences might want a fresh villain, rather than the fifth appearance by Luthor in what will be a sixth film.
The artwork is amazing, and the story is fantastic. I give this book a very strong 5-star recommendation to Superman fans, and to casual fans (such as myself) alike.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2011
Five-six years ago I was bored and went to the local Barnes & Noble. I found this, sat down, and was unable to walk away from it until I finished it. (No, I didn't BUY it! What do you take me for?) Recently, I've had the opportunity to take full advantage of my local library and, in between actual books, I've read something like 25 graphic novels over the last three months. Many of them are Superman stories. And nearly all of them were gawd-awful, and for mostly the same reasons: they relied on boring staples such as destroying the Fortress of Solitude or bringing some Kryptonians into play; they made Superman into a whiny wimp who cries all the time about how no one understands him; and/or they stretched reality farther than they reasonably should in a story about a human-looking alien who is bullet proof and can fly and completely destroy any chance of me taking it seriously. I began to wonder if that "retold Superman origin story" I had read all those years ago was nearly as good as I remembered it, in light of the awfulness of its peers.
Well, it absolutely was.
The ONLY issue like that I have in this is (spoiler!) that it doesn't easily make sense how Luthor has the resources to create a mechanical spider-like monster that is taller than most buildings in Metropolis. The whole fake-kryptonian invasion thing would have worked a lot better (with the hired thugs and reliance on holograms) without that. But that's the ONE flaw that I've found in this and the rest is so good it's hard to hold it against them.
If ever there was something in Superman's origin that made you roll your eyes or just didn't make sense, THIS one gets it right.
* His reason for doing what he does makes sense. He's a good soul with good intentions, nurtured correctly by his upbringing from the Kents, but also sees and recognizes his place in an honorable family line, as viewed through the Kryptonian . . . iPad . . . that was stored in the rocket with him when he was a baby. This, by the way, is where the title "Birthright" comes from--he's mostly driven by his deep understanding that he has a valuable role to play in the world that is not about his personal gain.
* His disguise as the bespectacled Clark Kent makes sense. We see that he has a difficult time in getting people to trust him once they find out what he can do. This makes him understand that he needs a secret identity, but the trust issue makes him shun the idea of a mask, so he has to make Clark the mask, resulting in a squirrelish demeanor, different hairstyle, baggy clothes, poor posture, and unattractive eye ware. I'm still not convinced it would work in real life, but they at least go beyond the minimum in justifying it.
* His feelings for Lois seem real, and Lois falling for Superman is convincing. Over the decades, justifying the Lois and Superman/Clark relationship has seemingly been difficult, and lots of times writers tend to assume it rather than show it. Here, they really establish it. Clark is interested in her via her writing, and then clearly smitten when he meets her in person. She is intrigued by Superman and has followed his pre-Metropolis appearances with great zeal, even to the point of nearly damaging her career for chasing "alien stories," therefore meeting HIM in person makes her schoolgirl-like weak knees all the more believable. Their spark is solidly established. His sense of satisfaction of impressing her via the cape really comes across, too, so that you get easily that he doesn't mind Superman getting the attention over Clark.
* Lex Luthor's motivations are made crystal clear. I'll even quote the line where, if you hadn't picked it up before, he lays it out for you. Page 215. " . . . You deliberately humiliated me. You looked at ME like *I* look at the ANTS. You don't get to do that. Period." He's a genius, he's rich, and he's a complete, self-absorbed egomaniac. This also brilliantly helps establish how Lex can't recognize Superman as the only boy he was friends with in Smallville--his ego gets in the way.
* He's confident. One of the problems I've had with so many incarnations of Superman is that in an attempt to make him more human and relate-able, they make him wimpy and whiny. Well, relate-able and "human" are great traits to give to him, especially when he's starting out in the blue suit and red cape, but at the same time Superman should be SuperMAN, and he should have a maturity, intelligence, and confidence that is noticeable and likeable. I wish I could easily put my finger on exactly what it was that the writers of Birthright did to get this right, but I can't. It's subtle--he's clearly not Super-Emo-Man, but he's also not coming across like he's compensating for anything.
It breaks my heart that this great origin story has been put on the shelf in favor of one that involves Superboy (sigh . . .), and has further convinced me that as much as I like Superman's potential (fully realized in this graphic novel/collection), those who write the character refuse to let it be any good.
I certainly hope that those behind the upcoming Superman movie draw from this graphic novel a lot . . .
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2013
I have been a long time Marvel fan, and when I do stray into DC it is usually somewhere in the Bat family. Superman has never held much appeal for me until recently. I read somewhere that Mark Waid had done a revamp of the Man of Steel, and one of the changes was to make him a vegetarian. Intrigued, I gave it a shot.
In this origin story Ma Kent is a conspiracy nut who watches the X-Files and convinces her son to fly her into Area 51, fitting for a mom raising an adopted alien. Pa Kent has a strained relationship with the son that he felt surpassed him early and slowly grew more distant- any son will recognize a piece of their relatoinship with Dad in this. Clark takes off early in life to travel the world, developing a passionate love for the people of his adopted homeworld. Lois Lane follows the rumors of the miralce man who appears in the nick of time to avert disasters, always one step behind Clark.
Then, of course, there is an invasion of giant robots and crap tons of supercombat.
Birthright is great modern retelling of Superman's origin, and the first comic in nearly 30 years of collecting to make me interested in Clark Kent.
29 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2004
When Mark Waid and the editors at DC Comics first announced their plans for Superman: Birthright, I was excited. From all accounts, it looked like it was going to be the continuation of the Smallville Superman, taken out of the TV show and moved forwards eight or ten years, and the story of how that Clark Kent first came to put on the costume. Which I was quite excited for; the tying in of this newest part of the legend back to its original format seemed like a very good idea. By the end of the first issue, it was somewhat obvious that it was more Ultimate Superman than Smallville; while taking elements from the TV show, it was clearly set in its own universe.
But then came the big news; the sources from on high had ruled that, after seventeen years, Superman's origin had grown stale and needed revision - and that Birthright would henceforth be the origin of the one, true Superman. For a while, it seemed like the entire Superman universe was in limbo; was the S-man about to be rebooted? Were nearly two decades of history about to be written over? Well, yes and no.
It ended up that this story was designed to be a sort of prequel to the current Superman's history, that they were rewriting his history from the present but that it was actually to take place in the past. Unfortunately, either someone forgot to get Waid the memo or the story was too far along to change, as the entire run seems more like the first 12 issues of a new continuum than the rewriting of Superman's past in a way that would make sense in today's continuity. For example, in the first issue, Lex Luthor is clearly shown as he is in Smallville, as the rich, bald young hotshot; however, when we finally learn the truth, he ends up being an alienated, whiny red-haired arrogant youth who Clark befriends out of sheer pity (and who in the future becomes a wisecracking evildoer straight out of a James Bond flick). In issue 3, Clark refers to Lana as if they had been together (which the picture he has seems to validate), but again when we see the flashback, Clark has been reduced to geeky waterboy and Lana to airhead cheerleader. Superman has retreated from his kind, Boy Scout attitude into a silent, cursing vigilante who could probably clear up a lot of the trouble about him if he would just take the time to act pleasant and let the world know that he's just there to help. Lois Lane is written as an arrogant hothead who seems ready to fly off the handle at any moment, while Perry White seems to have left said handle a loooooooong time ago. The only characters who recieve any improvement of their character are the Kents and Jimmy Olsen, who has finally shrugged his Howdy Doody persona for something more mature. These characters deserve far more than this. Clark Kent, Superman, Lana Lang, Lois Lane, and the rest of the cast are heroes and idols for people the world over; they deserve to be known as more than stereotypes.
In addition, if the story is supposed to take place before the entire current continuity, then why does Waid seem intent on beating us over the head with references to modern times? Superman is only 25 here, just beginning his career, and yet we have camera cell phones, yellow alerts, internet news organizations, instant messenging, the Department of Homeland Security, e-mail - heck, the year 2004 is even specifically mentioned on a very prominent newspaper! It's clear that Waid originally intended this to be something more along the lines of Marvel's Ultimates series, a seperate continuity to exist alongside but never meet with the regular books.
This is not to suggest that I was completely unhappy with the story; far from it, it is actually quite enjoyable - so long as you make sure to take it on its own and not make anything more of it than it is. The relationship between Clark and his parents has been tightened, and many of the scenes between them are classic. Clark's efforts to divide his two identities are presented excellently, and the sense of isolationism that comes along with it is shown perfectly in the scene when...well, I don't want to give it away. Yu's artwork also delights at times, but his style is better suited to a smaller scale; while many of the scenes where two or three characters interact work well, many of the more complex action shots later in the book are slightly jumbled and confusing.
Overall, Superman: Birthright is an interesting take on the Superman mythos, one that is certainly worth reading. Get it, and form your own opinions about it - don't take what I have to say as gospel. It's a good story on its own, just not a necessary after-the-fact retelling of the "true" Superman's past. But certainly give it a try.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2012
This is my personal favorite Superman tale (yes, even over "Red Son" or "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tommorrow?", though on equal footing with "All-Star Superman") and my preferred version of his 21st-century origin story. I sorely wish that this book had remained in canon, because THIS is the book that tells readers who Superman really is as a superhero and as a man. Mark Waid & Leinil Yu managed to craft a new and compelling take on the character while still staying true to his core traits. A terrible missed opportunity for DC! Forget the New 52 and the "Earth One" garbage.
Alas, this will probably never happen, but I still wonder if the publisher will see the error of its ways and restore Waid's continuity. Perhaps in a nice one-shot? A man can dream...