Superman: Earth One

Superman: Earth One (Written by J. Michael Straczynski and art by Shane Davis & Sandra Hope) is another take on the origin of Superman.  I will admit here and now that I am not a huge fan of Superman, and have been exposed to very little of his series so this probably prompts people to ask ‘Then why are you reviewing it?’  I can now say this would probably be considered from a ‘new fan’s’ point of view.  What I’m reviewing is whether or not the graphic novel is a successful retelling; and is fans (old or new) would be able to enjoy it.

Just so no one gets upset I’ll put this here:  THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE.

 

We open up with him arriving at Metropolis and he gets settled in a run down place and he goes out for a walk.  It’s obvious this is a crappy neighborhood and he is about to get mugged.  He has a confrontation and it ends by him using his heat vision on the thug.  This was my first disagreement with the graphic novel.  As we all now, Clark is the Boy Scout.  I found this to be extremely out of character for Clark Kent.

 

Then we go to many different scenarios of him picking a career for himself.  He tries out for football and doesn’t hold back using his powers and he gets picked.  He tries for a job in a research lab and by giving a formula to the exec that solves something the research team has been working on for ages, he is then offered a job there.  As we all know, Clark never used his powers to get ahead in life so I’m wondering why is it happening in this graphic novel? Well the answer comes to us shortly.  It seems Clark is doing all this for Martha Kent cause before Jonathan Kent died; he made Clark promise to take care of her.  Martha tells Clark that all she wants is for him to be happy.

 

Next we see him meeting with Perry at the Daily Planet for a job.  It’s obvious this place didn’t leave any impression on him and we see that he throws out the application later.  We skip to how Martha and Jonathon Kent found him and they are explaining it to a young Clark.  Then time jumps to Clark getting a beat down at school.  And then we return to the present where Clark is visiting Jonathan’s grave.  Here is where I think it depends on the reader how they can interpret the scene.  What Jonathan wanted for Clark was to be able to be happy and not have to hide his abilities from people.  He knew that Clark’s abilities could also allow him to help people.  But he didn’t want him to reveal where he was from to others.  Seems like a complicated, jumbled mess to try and explain to a kid in my opinion.

 

After that, it skips to a military scene where it seems they are investigating the ship that Clark came in.  I’m just going to skip through this scene cause its importance is factored in later.

 

Skipping to the rising action of the story that is that an alien adversary whom turns out is behind the destruction of Krypton has come to finish off the job and kill off the last son of Krypton. They threaten to destroy Earth if Clark does not reveal himself.  This is also the biggest news story of the century so Jimmy and Lois are right in the middle of it because a good reporter never runs from the truth.

 

Clark then receives the memories of Krypton from the scrap of metal from his space ship and he springs into action…sorta.  By going to the exec he talked to at the research facility to get his research team to analyze the piece of metal he got from one of the alien killing machines.  The guy, of course, refuses and is just a complete douche and says that it isn’t his problem.  Way to represent humanity.

 

We have flashbacks of when he is in Smallville and Martha Kent is making his Superman costume.  After a touching scene of Jonathon talking to Clark we come back to the present where he puts on the costume and starts kicking ass.  He saves Jimmy from nearly getting shot at and he beats the alien robots down.  There are tons of panels of property damage, the usual for a super-hero comic.  Then there is the flashback again of how this alien adversary was hired to assassinate the planet, Krypton.

 

The bad guy then uses drills in every major city and Superman threatens him to pull them back and then a red light smashes him to the ground.  Jimmy hands his camera off to Lois and tries to get there to help Superman but he is unsuccessful.  Jimmy pulls back and Lois gets the idea of driving a tractor-trailer that was abandoned in and Superman grabs hold of the chain attached to it and it pulls him out.

 

Superman then goes to fight the alien (who I just never bothered to remember his name) and then the spaceship that brought Superman here appears and hits the alien.  The spaceship is made of kryptonian metal so its nearly impervious so then Superman uses it to destroy the bad guy’s ship.  So they have one quick final showdown, Superman wins and that’s the end of that.

 

Clark comes back to the crummy hotel he has and he buys a suit and a completely cheesy tie and puts on those glasses we’re all familiar to.  This is his mask, and he has the most CHEESY, TERRIBLE smile I’ve ever seen as he looks in the mirror.

 

He heads to the Daily Planet again and meets with Perry, Lois and Jimmy and offers an exclusive Superman interview.  The reason that Clark returns here is mainly because of Lois and Jimmy.  He saw that they didn’t run from that alien invasion.  They stood their ground and stayed to get their story.
That is pretty much the graphic novel in a nutshell.  If you stuck through this review this long then thank you.  The reason I went through a whole summary of the book is because I feel that to enjoy this graphic novel you have to look at it as a whole.

 

I’ll be honest, when I first started reading it, I did not like it.  I felt complete confused on Clark’s morals and I felt that they didn’t reflect the character of Superman we’ve known for years.  But later it was explained to us.  He used his powers to try and take care of Martha.  But he realized soon that wasn’t what she wanted and abandoned that goal.  He still has his strong sense of morals and his ‘Boy Scout’ routine.

 

Another thing that seemed to make people not a fan of this graphic novel is that Clark had NO personality in this.  He really has a listless attitude throughout most of this graphic novel.  But thinking more on this I realize that people that don’t fit in, or feel that they don’t fit in, do what Clark does in here.  He shields his emotions from others and tries to remain listless.  But that still doesn’t make up for hardly any change in the characterization at all.

 

Basically, these are my problems with this graphic novel.  The time skips are everywhere.  It’s sometimes hard to follow.  Characterization of Clark/Superman was bumpy and no significant change was made from the beginning of the novel to the end.

 

The art though, which I have not talked about, is really good.  The panel set-ups are nice and just the best I’ve ever seen in a graphic novel.

 

Going back to my main point, after reviewing this graphic novel and talking to some Superman fans I really think old fans will not enjoy this graphic novel.  New fans may have a bit of a hard time following this because of the characterization of Superman in here.  In terms as to whether or not this graphic novel is successful, I would have to say no.  There are other origin/retellings that I believe have done it better.

 

So here is my overall score of the novel:

Writing:  6/10

Art: 9/10

-Julie

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