99 of 133 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2010
I'm a longtime J Mike fan, having enjoyed his work on Real Ghostbusters, Babylon 5, Rising Stars, Squadron Supreme, Thor. . .and I'm a longtime Superman fan, too. I had high hopes for this book, thinking it'd be a case of two great tastes that taste great together. Imagine my surprise after reading it this morning and discovering that, no, J Mike fundamentally doesn't understand the character of Superman.
I know he loves the character, I know he's a longtime fan (longer than me, given the difference in our ages). But reading this comic, I got no sense that J Mike knew what that special magic is that makes Superman so very different from all the other comic book superheroes on the market today. Absolute All Star Superman did a much better job with Superman than J Mike is doing, and Grant Morrison is really much better as a Batman writer.
Overall I have to say this book is "good enough. . .I guess." The scenes involving the Daily Planet and its cast are top-notch material. Much of the rest of the story is recycled from other, often better stories into a patchwork quilt of Superman-like ideas without Superman-like heart. The art is very good, though in some places the artist trips over himself.
So what specifically went wrong with this book? (SPOILERS AHEAD)
There are a lot of great touches in Superman: Earth One. There is a scene wherein Clark buys a newspaper even though the newspaper machine is broken and he could have simply taken a Daily Planet without paying for it. The scenes with Perry White, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen working at a dessicated husk of a Daily Planet are no short of brilliant.
But Clark/Superman himself. . .and the morality that makes him. . .are the problems here. We're confronted with a Superman that doesn't WANT to be Superman. His parents tried to push him into being a superhero--his mother sewed his suit, a holdover from John Byrne's Superman: The Man of Steel, Vol. 1, but in this story the "S" stands alternately for "Son (of another world)" from Martha's perspective or "Superman" from Jonathan's perspective. After Jonathan Kent's death, all Clark wants to do is find a great job with gobs of pay so he can help support his mother. . .he's not interested in truth, or justice, or any of that nonsense. This entire story shows us a Clark/Superman coming to terms with who he is, who he wants to be, and who he SHOULD be.
And that would be a great story, except that almost all the dialogue outside of the Daily Planet reads like actors who know their lines but don't understand them. They ring false and hollow, like a poorly-executed stage play or a high school production of Shakespeare. Clark walks around with a slouch and his hoodie up, like some kind of street punk. He has a fantastically emo speech while sitting on his father's grave in the wee hours before dawn. Beyond that, he has very little to say--much of what it means to be Superman comes in pointed sermons from his father and mother in flashbacks throughout the book that serve as underscores to what is happening to Clark at that moment in the story--a "See, this is what they were talking about" sort of narrative structure. I suppose I would like it more if I weren't so familiar with J Mike's writing, but I am, and at this point the technique just feels tired.
J Mike also isn't above cannibalizing his own ideas from other books he's written. After the Kents take baby Clark away from the mountainside spaceship crash (I think J Mike or Shane Davis, the illustrator, needs to bone up on his geography if he thinks mountains are in Kansas), the government arrives in "black helicopters" and captures the spaceship. . .and proceeds to experiment on it in secret for the next 20 years. An idea last seen in Supreme Power Vol. 1: Contact by none other than J Mike Straczynski.
So, cutting to the chase, an alien dressed like a member of Insane Clown Posse. . .but with metal-and-energy wings. . .that he doesn't need to fly, he just has them because they're cosmetic, I guess?. . .arrives with a bunch of spacecraft and starts tearing the planet apart. Turns out he and his people. . .planetary neighbors of Krypton. . .blew up Krypton 20 years ago and they've been on the hunt for the last remaining Kryptonian ever since. Why did they hate Krypton and go to war with them? Because the plot compelled them to! So these aliens show up to find the last Kryptonian and, whether he shows or not, they're going to kill a lot of people just cuz. And with that, Clark actually has (an albeit brief) debate with himself on whether he should reveal himself.
But of course he does, and they fight and fight and it's all supposed to be very epic. . .except that Mark Waid did it better in Superman: Birthright. And while they fight, the people of Earth aren't really interested in helping Superman and aren't really inspired by him--the way they see it, this is all his fault anyway. Only Lois and Jimmy seem to really give a hoot, and help rescue Superman from the anti-Superman-weapon-du-jour, a red sunlight energy beam. Meanwhile, the ship that brought Superman to Earth, the one in the custody of the government, self-repairs, joins him in the battle to free Earth, and he climbs aboard and uses it to attack the alien capital ship.
Yes, that is correct. SUPERMAN doesn't defeat the enemies with his own powers and abilities. He climbs into his interplanetary baby carriage and lets it do all the work for him.
And after the end of the battle, in a recording from his spaceship, he is told that part of his purpose in life is to "Avenge the murder of Krypton."
Now, there are a lot of problems with this as a Superman book. The feel and flavor of it are all wrong for these reasons:
First, Superman is an inspirational figure. That is one of the things that makes Superman, among all the superheroes in comics, unique. People (in the comic universe) look at him and are inspired to be better people or do greater things because of him. People LIKE him. By taking that away from Superman, you're left with another "big strong guy who does property damage." I suppose you could say that this is the story of proto-Superman, of Superman before he's learned to be an inspirational figure, but in that case this is the story of Superman BEFORE THERE WAS A SUPERMAN. Not really an interesting or engaging story there, more of a "oh, we've seen this before in Batman Begins [Blu-ray]."
Which leads to another problem--Superman's previous raison d'être was to help people. To fight for truth, justice, and (originally) the American way. He was the Boy Scout. I would argue that to change that aspect of the character is to make him into a completely DIFFERENT character. . .in which case, why don't you just make that completely different character? (Answer: J Mike already has, in the aforementioned Squadron Supreme. . .itself a Marvel take on a more "realistic" backstory for Superman). Now, in this book, we're presented with a Superman who must avenge the murder of his world. Sound familiar? It should. That's Batman's backstory.
So in this book, J Mike successfully both removes the flavor of Superman stories and transforms Superman into Batman with a different power set. Which is done specifically to try and make Superman more engaging for a modern audience. The problem is, when you change Superman into a completely different character to make him interesting for a modern audience, you're not presenting the modern audience with Superman. . .you're giving them something, oddly enough, COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.
The art in this book is, like the writing, satisfying but occasionally clumsy. Shane Davis suffers somewhat from that mid-90s tendency to shove as many superfluous lines in his artwork as possible. Not as clumsy as Rob Liefeld, not as skilled as Jim Lee. The overall look for the book is fantastic, very moody, with a 30s vibe to the buildings of Metropolis that I think works really well.
That said. . .I do not understand why he felt the need to redesign Superman's costume. It's very much like Superman's normal costume. . .but there's a gold edging around the S-shield (that, I'll admit, bothered me probably way more than it should have), there appears to be some kind of extra padding around the sides of his torso and inner thigh (and I can't help but wonder if the costume sounds like corduroy pants when he walks as a result), and his (stirrup) boots are flared at the top. He also has enormous Beltloops of Power that were large enough to be distracting.
I wish I had been able to love this book. But this is not the best work of its writer, or of its lead character. And the freshest Superman of recent memory remains All-Star Superman, with its wacky--but absolutely SUPERMANy--oddity.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I love Superman as much as anyone and hey I'm open to new versions of the character, so if a new Superman origin story has to happen in today's world with a twentyish Clark Kent moving out of small town Smallville to big town Metropolis, I'll go along for the ride. What people said to me about it was that this was an "emo" Superman but I didn't see that here. Sure Clark is 20 and wears a hoodie but so what? That doesn't make him emo.
No, what made me dislike this book was how booooring the story was. Remember Bryan Singer's "Superman Returns"? Remember how bored you were? That's what this is like, though J. Michael Straczynski does correct one of Singer's big problems with his story by allowing Superman to throw a punch, to get angry!
So why boring? Well, we go through the rigmarole of Clark starting life, wowing people with his amazing athletic abilities and amazing mental abilities. Life's not tough for Clark, though Straczynski attempts to show him "struggling" by giving him a less than appealing apartment to live in. But so what? He's Superman! And before he knows it, he's offered a six figure sum so I guess there goes any attempt of Clark struggling for long.
We get the flashbacks of Clark growing up in Smallville, Jonathan and Martha giving out wise instruction, raising this alien child as if their own, and Clark slowly understanding his role, not as a man, but as a Superman. It's nice but if you've read Superman before you'll have read this origin story a hundred times already, hell, even people who don't read the comics know the origin story; having it regurgitated here is just plain boring.
The only interesting part was the alien invasion in the middle of the book with lots of robots. Sounds interesting on paper, kind of de rigeur in the comics world, and not much different from other Superman or other superhero comics before. Mildly interesting, it was good to see Superman kicking ass.
And then it's done. Baddies defeated, then there's the Daily Planet, Lois and Jimmy and Perry, and of course Clark winds up working there. The book is done! Straczynski doesn't reinvent the character, or even retell the origin story in a daring new way, and frankly the only readers who would find this book interesting would be new readers who are coming into contact with this brilliant character for the first time. Seasoned comics fans will find little here to distinguish itself from other Superman origin comics, despite some decent art from Shane Davis.
on April 6, 2013
A vaguely entertaining but ultimately unessential take on the Superman origin story that, unfortunately, doesn't bring much new to the table. Unlike the Batman Earth One book, which makes some interesting changes to continuity and supporting characters, all the changes here are superficial. Jimmy Olsen goes by Jim or James, is a bit more serious. Clark Kent wears a hoodie.
Straczynski goes out of his way to tell us how much Clark is struggling -- to belong, to fit in, to be one of us -- but he never does the work to actually show us, to convince us, to make us feel, so his version of Superman isn't someone we can easily relate to. The character is one dimensional, and it's a story that's been told so many times before, and so much better, which is the crux of the problem I have with Superman: Earth One. It never rises above the mythos.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2011
Other people have written some really good reviews of this product, but I'll try to provide something helpful. This isn't a horrible story, in general, but I don't think it does that much to expand on the mythos of Superman. I'm not really sure what the point of this story is, other than DC deciding that since Earth One is new territory, they should do stories set there.
As others have pointed out, Superman doesn't really come across as inspirational in the story. In fact, he reminds me more of Spider-Man by the end of the story, "everyone may hate me, but Uncle . . . er . . . Pa always said I should make the world a better place."
The addition of an race of evil beings that look like Lobo had a tryst with cyborg mime doesn't really do much to expand on the Superman mythos. In fact, the best "villain was complicit in Krypton's demise" was probably the twist of Braniac in the animated series messing with data to convince the Kryptonians there was nothing wrong. In fact, why didn't JMS go with Braniac in the "evil alien" role? I can understand, perhaps, veering away from Lex, but Brainiac seems like he would be a natural fit in the role, instead of a very poorly motivated species that came out of the blue and is motivated by really hating Kryptonians because . . . well, because.
There are also long stretches of this book that seem to exist just so that there can be more dialog, as if JMS doesn't think this will be a "mature" retelling unless people stand around yakking about things for pages and pages at a time. That would be great, except the dialog isn't particularly engaging or entertaining, and just does in multiple pages what could have been done in a few panels.
Finally, the thing that just seemed to be the worst fit to the whole Superman story was the fact that Superman is suppose to "get revenge" for the destruction of Krypton. A moody, grumpy, revenge driven hero really doesn't scream Superman to me.
on February 1, 2014
For all the hype that this was a "new" Superman and a different take on his origin, I felt like we've seen / read this story before. This was just another Elseworlds. Not going to bother with No. 2. Batman: Earth One was a better take on Batman then Superman: Earth One was.
on November 10, 2012
Okay story but £9 feels a lot for a comic will not buy anymore until the price comes down .
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2011
This could have easily been called Fantastic Man, or Amazing Man, or even Ultra Man. It could have been called anything but Superman because this book doesn't star anyone recognizable. I'm not sure of the point of this. Superman's origin has been a million times and many a million times better. This baffles me to as why its popular. The only redeeming quality this has it the absolutely gorgeous artwork from Shane Davis. Overall, maybe you should just browse through this at the store. Its not worth anything more.
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2010
I can't call this book a misfire. I was engaged by the idea of the new Clark Kent presented by JMS. But being engaged by the idea of something is different than being engaged by what is actually presented. Which in the end, is a plot full of nearly nothing and paper thin characterization.
The most developed and engaging character in the book is Perry White of the Daily Planet. I'm ok with this, it's nice to see Perry getting his time. But when I'm more engaged by the presentation of a supporting character than the main protagonist... something is quite amiss. It's not to say there isn't anything brought to the table by the new Clark, it's just that he is given no choice in his action as the story goes on. His origin story has been stripped down to the bare bones and he takes it with blind acceptance once it's finally presented to him. He is continually mulling over the same decision between revealing his powers or 'living the normal life,' waiting for the choice to be forced upon him. Even after the ridiculous deus ex machina of 'writing on electrons' explains to him Krypton's history, he's still uncertain. It's not until a fleet of alien space crafts arrive, with ground troops, that he makes the choice. Before this and even after, he's barking a ludicrous ideal about 'leaving humans to human problems,' all while having no problem to exploit his powers for his own personal gain in life while job hunting.
The arrival of the alien fleet also brings with it one of the worst villains in recent history. I've seen Kirkman introduce numerous throw away villains in a page or two who have ten times more depth and purpose than Tyrell. I've seen Morrison do it in a few panels. Neither of them using terrible expository monologue and happily pointing out its awkwardness when finished. This guy is dull, mindless, and featureless. All he has that is threatening is his armada and desire to come out for a face to face confrontation just so he can bore the reader to death with forced back story. Oh yeah, there's also the introduction... well erm, not really more like existence of, military figures who... well they do nothing, but for some reason keep showing up as things truck along.
In the end, nothing really happened. It feels that way at least. Earth was visited by aliens, aliens who started destroying things... a single man in a blue and red suit appears to fight them with superhuman abilities... and after all of this, it feels like nothing really changed in the world. For a re-envisioning of a mythology, we were given examples of how the familiar characters are or aren't different. This was nearly always presented through non-choice, heavy handed moral characterization, where any options presented were illusions. And this brings me back to Perry White, he's the only person in the book who makes novel decisions that feel sincere. Maybe this should have been Perry White: Earth One, because everything else that happened, that was focused upon, it felt single dimensional enough to sit in the background of a story about a man running a news paper.
On a positive note, Shane Davis' art is gorgeous. It's the main thing that pulled me along through the story. But its strength also bares down upon JMS's failure here, the art deserved better. Hopefully this is a beginning that can be taken in stride, that what is to come will make up for all these flaws. I'll check out the sequel, because I trust JMS. I really don't want to be angry with him for abandoning the monthly Superman and Wonder Woman for this and time will only tell.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2013
I've read or watched several different versions of Superman's origin story. This one is probably my least favorite. It's rather dull; I don't even remember how it ended.
I guess Straczynski was going for a more "serious" take on Clark Kent and his fellow co-workers in Metropolis. He accomplishes that goal at the expense of joy and lightness to these characters.
For a better time, read any other Superman origin story besides this one!
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2010
This story was largely underwhelming. It was by no means terrible, it just seems that even a masterful story teller like Straczynski simply isn't up to adding anything to the absurdly often re-told origin of Superman. Also, if you're at all familiar with Straczynski's other work, he does a lot of his grandstanding philosophizing throughout the story. It's couched in dailgoue and flashbacks to divert from some of its overt "in-your-faceishness," but ultimately it's distracting. To be perfectly honest, the villain in the piece was silly and his design was lackluster at best. He looked a little like a death metal version of a member of the Insane Clown Posse, and that's by no means a good thing. Which brings me to the art of Shane Davis. Overall, I thought this story was leaps and bounds over the work he did in Superman/Batman where his linework came across like a slavish imitation of Jim Lee but with far less natural draftmanship. There were some splash pages which were awkwardly designed and felt very unnatural. So, a definite step up for Davis, but still extremely underwhelming. My biggest compliment to the story is that it made Jimmy Olsen a very cool, very engaging character in ways that other Superman stories have tried to do but have never actually succeeded at doing. So, kudos on that one. Personally, I'd spend my money elsewhere, and I did, seeing as how I read this for free from the library.