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Superman: Earth One Vol. 2
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
DC's Earth One books were designed to be the companies' attempt at making stories in graphic novels for their respected characters, as opposed to making individual comics. These stories exist outside of the main continuity as to let writers have more leeway in writing about aspects that haven't been written about before, without interfering with overlapping details. And it all started with 2010's Superman: Earth One. Writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Shane Davis made a cinematic reimaging of Clark Kent becoming Superman, that became a huge seller overnight. DC made JMS drop all of his projects at the time of release to get to work on a volume 2. After 2 years, does it proceed or trump Vol.1? I think so.

SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE VOL.2 picks up right after the end of Vol.1, where we see Clark settling into his new persona of glasses and keeping to himself. He finally gets his own apartment with some new neighbors, including a flirtatious woman named Lisa Lasalle. Lois Lane, questioning how a young nobody like Clark Kent could get Superman's story, starts an investigation into Clark's background. And Raymond Maxwell Jensen, homicidal killer, accidently becomes the Parasite, a metahuman who can suck living beings powers and essence. How will Superman fight a creature who can steal his powers away? You'll have to find out.

After reading both Earth One books of Superman Vol.1 and Batman, I've come to the conclusion the EO books are more about humanizing our protagonist and changing some aspects of the mythos, while stretching some of the taboos of the character. Batman: Earth One did this exceptionally well, with making a Bruce Wayne who never left Gotham, as well as being angst-ridden and making human errors. Superman Vol.1 did some subtle changes, but it played safe to the overall mythos. Vol.2 on the other hand, actually takes more risks on dealing with Clark Kent, the human side of Superman, including the subject of the 70+ year old question regarding sex for The Man of Steel, and I find it commendable. It's different to read about and is handled fairly well, which I'll talk about in a bit.

There are two over-arching themes here: Superman represents power and Clark Kent represents isolation. Of the two, Clark Kent takes majority of the screen time and for someone like me who doesn't see a lot of stories on Clark, this is fresh perspective. The theme of being alone is so prevalent that a good majority of the interactions Clark has throughout the story are brief. Lois looks up Clarks background and finds out his whole life has been about keeping away from others due to his power and origins, and to the point that Clark had straight C-grades in school to stay under the radar. Lois, Jimmy, and Perry White are rarely seen for this intention as well to further this theme. It's handled well and you actually care for Clark being an outcast because of who he is. It makes his turmoil that much acceptable to the reader--especially a sad and lovely story about Clarks first pet.

But this theme gets challenged by the only friend Clark gets (and love interest) Lisa Lasalle. Lisa pushes Clark into new territories, being a voluptuous redhead with tattoos immediately coming on to Clark from page one. The interaction of this one and only friend, as well as pushing Clark's boundaries in intimacy, gives Clark human qualities we all feel and sympathize with. And the taboo with dealing with sex for Superman (and the awkward and funny scene with Jonathan Kent and Clark over sex) is something that works out well, and adds those qualities never talked about before. I know JMS gets a lot of heat for shaking things up for characters, but I applaud him for trying.

The other theme is power; power to rule, corrupt, and lust for. Power of Superman doing just about anything he wishes, and because of it, the world views him from both perspectives: a savior of a god or a destructive weapon ready to go off. This is shown when Superman goes to a foreign land and tries to help, only to be threatened about "guns are the power". The Parasite represents greed and monstrosity of what power can do. Even Superman has an edgy persona about him that drool's power. And even when Superman loses majority of his power, he finds something more about those who don't have it. It's a good metaphor and theme about where Superman stands in this world and universe, and it offsets the more somberness of the book with action. The theme isn't handled as well as the theme of isolation, but it works.

As for art, Shane Davis is up there with some of the more underrated artist. He puts on the same level of detail and cinematic feel about it here like he did in Vol.1, but even more so. His detail to human expressions are key here. They go well with Straczynski's writing. 80% of the book is in the expressions, with only 20% in the action. So you'll do well to take your time and really take in the panels.

As for complaints, it lies in the character usage of Lisa, Lois, and the Parasite. The Parasite is written somewhat one-dimensional. He plays a great monstrosity of a character, but lacks some polish on his background. As for Lisa, she is and will probably be the biggest lighting rod for debate, due to the nature of her. For one, JMS writes some horribly cheesy lines for her. She immediately slathers her way onto Clark from page one, which is something most people would never do. JMS could have at least eased into her coming on to Clark, but it feels way to fast and ridiculous to believe. The other is her being the new love interest over Lois. Lois and Clark barely have anything to do with one another in Earth One, so this will feel uneasy with readers who feel Lois should be the love interest. And the other...well sorry if this feels like spoiler, but...Lisa is a prostitute (occasionally). This little nugget of information has already made people up-in-arms over feminist as seeing Lisa as stereotypical. People might see this as Clark being around a women who is "impure" to someone like himself. I don't mind this take, but some people out there might really go nuts over this.

SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE VOL.2 does everything Vol.1 does, but ups it up greatly. This is a great character study on Clark Kent, and using the Earth One title to deal with such forbidden discussion to great effect. If you're one who didn't enjoy Vol.1, then this book probably won't change your mind. But if you did enjoy Vol.1 and want to take it further, Vol.2 shouldn't disappoint. And if your one who wants a different take on the Clark Kent/Superman mythos, then this too is worth checking out. The big teases and set-ups for the inevitable Vol.3, I'm looking forward on what JMS and Davis do in the future.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2012
The first volume of this book re-imagined the creation of Superman in an updated world and gave readers a look into the "why" he chose to don the symbolic "S" on his chest. The second volume depicts Superman's battle with himself, the world, and Parasite, a serial-killing super-powered human that gains strength as he steals energy from humans, electrics, cars, and even Superman himself.

Stracynzski has taken the Perry White character and developed him into a mentor for Clark Kent the journalist, instead of just the tough boss. He has also added another love interest, Lisa Lasalle, Clark's redheaded next-door neighbor. While Clark has another love interest Lois Lane is not forgotten as she investigates a story only she notices. Jimmy Olsen is a Crazy do-anything-for-the-picture photographer.

Shane Davis and Sandra Hope have done an amazing job in this phenomenally drawn comic. The book is edgy,colorful, and both Parasite and Superman look tremendous. The battle scenes in Earth One Volume 2 may seem short-lived and quick, but their point is made and drawn beautifully.

Clark is challenged on a number of different levels as he determines what he will and will not do with his both powers. Parasite that brings him down to Earth in miserable fashion, two of his neighbors suffering from their own societal ills, and a brutal dictator of a war-torn country brings into question the political significance of Superman. the main focus of the book is to explore Clark Kent's mind. Drawn in by Clark's human feelings readers are offered a look into his past and what went into his becoming Superman.

I highly recommend this Story to anyone who enjoyed "creation of" or "evolution of" a hero story lines in the past, this one is with the best.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2012
This is the 2nd volume in the superman line of Dcs earth one books, but you probably already knew that. Now as for the book itself its even better than the 1st. We get to see how the arrival of superman impacts the world at large and clark kents personal life. We get to see an awesome new love interest for clark as well as a kick ass version of the parasite. The art in this book is even better than it was in volume one, the action looks awesome and the quieter character scenes are drawn to perfection. One of the best superman stories of 2011-2012. Overall 5/5
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2013
J. Michael Stracyzynski (JMS) in accordance to things he has written in the past, is one of the biggest Superman fans ever, and now he gets to shape his dream. The writing is brilliant, the illustrations are phenomenal, and the carefully constructed story brings this rendition of Superman into full view. Take place after the events of the last book (as any good comic does) this adventure...whoa, wait, what?
You're kidding me? Right? You didn't read the first one? Dare lord! Ok, I guest I won't spoil anything about the previous story, but you should be ashamed of yourself for not having picked up the first book! That's all I have to say about that. Ok, so the first book introduces Superman, now he's out there, what's he gonna do now? Great question. Read the book, find out. You'll like it.
Thanks for reading and have a nice day!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2014
Wow, what a thoughtful, well-written and well-conceived Superman story. I wasn’t as enamored with Volume One. But this follow-up is thoroughly more satisfying.

DC Comics’ “Earth One” graphic novel series re-tells the origins of their superheroes as if they were conceived by writers today, as opposed to some 75 years ago, and if characters lived in today's world. Great liberties are allowed to be taken, with writers and artists picking and choosing what elements from what’s been written before to keep, what to be inspired by and what to completely revise. The hope is that the tone and material will be more accessible, relatable and appealing to new readers wanting something less fanciful or, essentially, less comic book-y, yet still present the same spirit of what made each hero so popular and lasting to begin with.

Three books have been published in the series so far, one for Batman (with a broad-shouldered, combat-hardened Alfred who walks with a cane as the reluctant assistant and mentor to Bruce) and now two for Superman, whose lead shares much more in spirit to the alien orphan played by Henry Cavill than the all-American charmer fighting for truth and justice presented by Christopher Reeve or George Reeves. Until now my favorite was Batman Earth One, but this second Superman book is also a surprise winner.

A direct sequel to Volume One, Volume Two explores some very common sense ideas about a super-powered boy concealing his abilities his entire childhood and how it affects the way he thinks as he grows into a young man now burdening himself with the responsibility to help those in need while still maintaining an alternate identity among mankind.

It also includes the best quote ever to come from Pa Kent to his teenage son: “All I’m saying, son, is – man of steel – woman of tissue paper.”

That tells you one topic that’s covered! There are a few PG-13 topics in this story, which chooses to skew the story more into a character study about Clark than an action-adventure tale about a caped hero. This story spends more time showing a Clark Kent awkwardly pursuing a hidden, normal life behind his horn-rimmed glasses than the destructive nature of his alter ego which is a big question mark to the world at large, particularly how concerned should they be about this person that governments cannot control. There’s also a really sweet flashback to Clark’s first pet, a cat named Fuzzball.

Lois Lane is here, as are Perry and Jimmy. But she’s not the one in a relationship with Clark shown in decades of Superman stories. Instead, a sexy red-haired neighbor goes after our naïve lead character and what develops is both funny and meaningful. Instead, Lois can’t get over Kent scooping the entire world by getting The First Interview with Superman. So being a naturally competitive reporter, she’s out to find dirt on this new guy from Smallville. It’s a plausible, adversarial reaction for someone like a Lois. And the villain, the Parasite, is introduced in a well-developed, fairly grounded storyline whose addictive search for physical strength also feeds organically to the subplot about the world’s and its government’s fears about Superman and how they wish they could control him.

So it’s less about titans fighting each other, skyscrapers demolished in their wake (which does happen here). Instead, it takes its time crafting real characters in plausible situations, especially Clark’s. And it slowly drew me in so by the end, I was genuinely surprised and satisfied by the conclusions reached in the handful of subplots told. I'm not a Superman fan either, I'm a Batman fan. But I really enjoyed this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2012
Superman Earth One Volume Two Review
By David B. Levenstam

I loved J. Michael Straczynski's Superman Earth One and his Babylon 5 TV series. I wanted to love his Superman Earth One Volume Two, but I merely liked it. It didn't quite live up to the stellar first volume, although it was still good enough that I look forward to a Volume Three.

Volume Two did begin outstandingly, with some great humor in the relationship between Clark and Perry. I actually did laugh out loud. Volume Two also contained some humor and one nice surprise between Lois and Jimmy. A touching story that Clark tells a new neighbor and potential love interest really brought a lump to my throat, and Straczynski brought a fresh approach to two major villains from Superman lore.

I found the story difficult to follow, however, in a couple of places. When the first villain gets his superpowers, we see almost nothing that explains what caused it. In one scene Superman appears to deliberately kill people, and we have nothing at the time but our faith in Superman--and the knowledge that this isn't Frank Miller's Batman--to tell us that it's just a fantasy. (A much later scene justifies that faith.) We see a scene that's supposed to show us that the first villain was already a monster before his transformation, yet the kid whose ear the villain bit off as a kid certainly had it coming, so the villain doesn't look so monstrous after all. When Superman fights the first villain he's losing, and then some stranger activates an electronic device over the villain, and suddenly Superman has won. It's not clear whether the stranger is just snapping a photo of the downed villain, and we don't actually know how Superman suddenly defeated the villain, or the stranger's device somehow deactivated the villain's powers--in which case we still don't know how the villain was defeated.

In other places the story doesn't really make sense. In one combat scene Superman gets a protective suit, and his ship warns him that the suit will prevent the sun's raise from getting to Superman to energize him--but then the suit turns out to be transparent, so it shouldn't stop the sunlight. Toward the end of the story, Superman finally decides how to deal with the man he fantasized about killing--which itself seems very unlike Superman--in a way that frankly seems little better than if Superman had done the deed himself, and maybe worse since Superman essentially allows others to take responsibility for what he himself has put into motion. That doesn't seem very like Superman either.

The book, like its predecessor, ended with two Daily Planet stories, once by Lois Lane and one by Clark Kent. Unlike the predecessors' stories, however, these were no better than mediocre.

On the whole I found that the humor, excitement, and drama outweighed the weak portions of the story to the point that the story deserves better than 3 stars, but not really 4. Since I can't give it 3.5 stars here, but I'd like it to sell well enough so that Straczynsk does a third volume, I'm giving it 4 stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2012
I totally swept through this book as fast as I could. The writing is amazing. For some reason you can tell this guy has worked for films before and is not just another comic book writer. I totally LOVED it. And the art is amazing as well. This is another view to Superman's story and its a great one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2012
Straczynski's second volume picks up nicely where the first leaves off, both humanizing and distancing the Kryptonian in such a unique fashion, it's almost stunning to think that is hasn't been down before now. Truly a great read. Kudos to Straczynski for making the Man of Steel relevant again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2012
Sometimes I think I expect too much when diving into a book written by a renowned scribe like J. Michael Straczynski. Is it fair to have higher expectations just because the author won Hugo, Eisner, and BAFTA awards? "Superman: Earth One Volume Two" is evidence that a person can't hit the lottery every time they play. While the graphic novel isn't a complete disappointment, it just doesn't live up to its hype.

Clark Kent continues to deal with love, life, and other everyday problems while coming to grips with his super powers and secret identity as Superman. His biggest foe yet comes in the form of a mutated man who's become an energy-sucking creature. The monster's hunger for power and invincibility can only be quenched by one - the Man of Steel. Can Superman find a way to defeat the beast known as Parasite? More importantly, can he hold on to his humanity while striking out against other inhumane forces in the world?

It's not that J. Michael Straczynski's version of Clark Kent's earlier years are unreadable. They are mildly entertaining. It's just nothing comic book fans haven't already seen before in one form or another in the pages of Action Comics and Superman or onscreen in "Smallville."

I guess the whole concept of the "Earth One" series is to make the hero relevant for a newer generation. If a person was picking up "Earth One Volume Two" with no prior knowledge of Superman it would be new and fresh. This graphic novel does get the job done from that perspective.

Artist Shane Davis brings J. Michael Straczynski's words to precise life through his illustrations. One thing his work makes evident is his love of drawing Superman looking fierce with glowing red eyes. He also takes the character of Parasite and makes him more disturbing than I've seen him for a new generation of readers. Davis's penciling combined with Barbara Ciardo's strong coloring gives the book a darker tone than many picture when they think of the Man of Steel.

If you're completely oblivious of the Last Son of Krypton's past adventures, "Superman: Earth One Volume Two" will satisfy you. Lifelong enthusiasts of the character will feel as if they're treading on acres of ground already harvested. It can be temporarily satisfying, but leaves you wanting more from the "real world" of the 74-year-old character.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2012
Bad guy gets caught in a weird machine which zaps him and rather than killing him, warps him into a monster called Parasite. Superman worries about getting involved in developing nations' politics and having sex with a human woman. Then Superman and Parasite fight - guess who wins? That's pretty much the whole book.

There is a super-ton of stuff I didn't like about this book. Probably the worst by far is the dialogue. J. Michael Stracynzski has a tin ear for how people, especially young people, speak. On the first page Perry is talking to Clark who immediately sounds like an annoying dweeb, punctuating Perry's "wise words" soliloquy with feeble attempts at humour. Jimmy Olson thinks a haircut, putting his feet up on his desk and a blog make him cool and utterly fails to convince, while a new character, Clark's sexy neighbour, doesn't sound at all like a semi-real, semi-intelligent woman and more like a nearly 60 year old man trying awkwardly to write dialogue for a twentysomething woman.

And then there's Lois. On a night in, Lois and her boyfriend (unnamed) are sat in front of the TV, Lois is bristling, and they fight. Lois ends the brief argument, dismissing the man with "the only thing you're supposed to do is smile, look good on the couch, don't talk and then leave". Why does she sound like a `20s gangster talking to his moll? Her depiction in the book is devoid of charm - new readers coming to this book will wonder why anyone gave a damn about such an angry, irritating character.

Enter the arbitrary bad guy for this book, Parasite. He's an evil geezer, murdering people left and right, before he even manages to wind up in a government lab, trapping himself in a test chamber, and accidentally blasting himself with experimental stuff, turning him into a monster that looks like he's trying to break the world record for most tennis balls crammed into his mouth. Everything about this guy is uninspired from the lab/test chamber trope instantly turning the guy into a monstrous villain, to his ridiculous appearance, to the motivations behind everything he does, yelling on every page he's on: "power, more power, unlimited power!!!". It would have been just as effective if he'd been saying "villain motivation!" over and over. You still don't care. Also their final battle reads like a Street Fighter 2 fight with a dialogue box in the bottom of each panel indicating how much "power" both combatants have, their power bars decreasing as they trade punches.

The myriad storylines in the book are there to show how Superman becomes the morally upright character he's famous for. At least that's how I think it was supposed to be. Stracynzski muddies the water with his ham-fisted handling of the story strands. Clark moves into a low-rent building filled with low-lives to meet a charming and beautiful young woman, so we get a flashback to Smallville where an embarrassed young Clark winces as Jonathan Kent talks about intimate relations between men and women and how it's going to be very different for him because of who he is. I only mention this because I re-watched it recently but "Mallrats" has a scene where Brodie talks about Superman hypothetically having sex with a human woman, saying the only way would be with a Kryptonite condom. I wondered if Stracynzski would explain this conundrum but instead he just tapers off, leaving the reader uncertain whether Clark would ever be able to have sex with a human woman (or man if he swung that way - hey, this is a re-imagining right?). So why bring up this flashback in the first place if not to resolve it? And why is Jonathan Kent referring to his teenage son as the "Man of Steel"?

There's a limp side story about a junkie that's just crassly sentimental and shoe-horned in for no reason except to make you feel something the writer hasn't earned through his writing, and a weird non-romantic story with his sexy neighbour. Then later he has Superman rather questionably impose himself upon a developing nation's political system, thus altering that country's destiny (for the better - maybe, the liberators still hang onto the guns - but I still think it's not up to Superman to decide these things).

I like the potential that the "Earth One" series has. Geoff Johns' "Batman Earth One" was definitely one of the best comic books I read all year but Stracynzski's a far less talented writer and whose version of "Superman Earth One" is noticeably poorer and uninspired. An alternate take on a familiar character should shed new light and reveal something about that character we didn't know before but this reboot doesn't have anything to distinguish itself from the range of Superman books already out there. It's so bland and pointless, I don't know why DC bothered with this at all. Compared to a superior Superman title like Grant Morrison's "Action Comics", both volumes of "Earth One" are shown up as the weaker efforts they are. And why does Clark look Chinese, Shane Davis?
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