Sunday, November 25, 2012
Review: SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE Volume Two
DC COMICS – @DCComics
WRITER: J. Michael Straczynski
PENCILS: Shane Davis
INKS: Sandra Hope
COLORS: Barbara Ciardo
LETTERS: Rob Leigh
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3196-5; hardcover (October 2012)
136pp, Color, $22.99 U.S., $26.99 CAN
Superman: Earth One re-imagines various Superman stories, setting them on a new Earth with an all-new continuity. Superman: Earth One Volume Two is the second in this series of original graphic novels that depict the early years of Superman. It is written by J. Michael Straczynski and drawn by Shane Davis, the authors of the first book, Superman: Earth One.
As Superman: Earth One Volume Two opens, 20-something Clark Kent is basking in the glow from the journalistic scoop that earned him a job at the Daily Planet, the top newspaper in Kent’s new home, the city of Metropolis. This “beginner’s luck,” however, has earned him the scrutiny of fellow (rival?) Planet reporter, Lois Lane. Lane is not the only complication. Kent has moved into a new apartment, where he captures the attention of a lusty neighbor, a young woman named Lisa LaSalle, who starts turning his world upside down and inside out. Lisa awakens in Clark feelings and emotions he thought that he had tamed.
Clark is also struggling with how to use his power as Superman. How can he be effective? Can he make sure that he won’t inadvertently hurt any? But Clark isn’t the only man struggling with power. Raymond Maxwell Jensen is a stone-cold killer, but when an accident turns him into a thing called Parasite, he cannot get enough power. Only Superman can stop him, but the cost of stopping a monster for this still-new hero is a level of vulnerability he has never experienced.
Where as Superman: Earth One was like an action movie that introduced a new take on the origin of Superman, Superman: Earth One Volume Two delves into Clark Kent’s character and personality. In fact, writer J. Michael Straczynski approaches every character he places in this story from a personality/motivation point of view, even if he is ultimately vague about motivation.
With an opportunity to build a version of Superman from the ground up, Straczynski seems determined to start with Clark Kent, the man. His new Kent, like practically all the other Clark Kents, keeps secrets. Straczynski’s Kent not only keeps secrets, but he also constructs a life in which he does not stand out. Kent makes no waves and makes sure no one really notices him, so few people will realize that there is even a personality with secrets to keep. Straczynski is clever in the way he writes this new Clark Kent, but sometimes it becomes too anal and detailed. There are a few passages in Superman: Earth One Volume Two that read like fan fiction. This is balanced, however, by wonderful scenes such as the one in which Pa Kent and teen Clark have an awkward conversation about sex that rings with authenticity.
Artist Shane Davis really improves from his work in the first book. His art is not pretty in terms of style, but as storytelling, it is gorgeous. Davis doesn’t alter his style when he needs to switch from romance to drama to action. The way he draws is good for everything, so without theatrics, he authors graphical storytelling that encompasses the human drama of struggling characters and also the theatre of fantastic beings locked in struggle. I don’t think that Sandra Hope’s inking does Davis’ pencils in any favors, but Barbara Ciardo’s colors augment the subtle intensity of Davis’ art.
Superman: Earth One Volume Two is more about the man than it is about the Superman. Superman does his super things, of course, but this new version of Superman wants to dig deeper into the myth and mythology that is the Man of Steel.
Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux