Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Review: SUPERMAN: Year One #1

DC COMICS/DC Black Label – @DCComics

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

STORY: Frank Miller
PENCILS: John Romita, Jr.
INKS: Danny Miki
COLORS: Alex Sinclair
LETTERS: John Workman
EDITOR: Mark Doyle
COVER: John Romita, Jr. and Danny Miki with Alex Sinclair
VARIANT COVER: Frank Miller with Alex Sinclair
64pp, Color, $7.99 U.S. (August 2019)

Mature Readers

Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Book One

Superman: Year One is a new three-issue comic book miniseries written by Frank Miller and drawn by John Romita, Jr.  It is published in an over-sized softcover format and is part of DC Comics' prestige imprint, “DC Black Label.”  Superman: Year One is a retelling of the early life of Clark Kent and of his first year as the superhero, Superman.  The rest of the creative team includes inker Danny Miki, colorist Alex Sinclair, and letterer John Workman.

Superman: Year One #1 opens on Krypton on the last day of its existence.  While the planet convulses in its death throes, a Kyrptionian man and woman send their infant son, Kal, off in a rocket ship to Earth.  There, under the Earth's yellow sun, Kal will more than thrive, and a human couple, Martha and Jonathan Kent, will make him their son, Clark Kent.

From the destroyed planet of Krypton to the bucolic grain fields of Kansas, this first chapter tracks Clark Kent's youth in Smallville.  He struggles to understand the nature of man and seeks to find his place in his adopted world.

If I remember correctly, Superman: Year One was meant to be the inaugural “DC Black Label” series and was supposed to debut sometime last year in the late summer or early fall.  [Batman: Damned became the first DC Black Label publication.]  DC Comics recently stated that Superman: Year One is to be Superman's official origin story.  I think Frank Miller also said that Superman: Year One is set in the world of his seminal comic book miniseries, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

All that aside, I find Superman: Year One intriguing.  There is a section of a line in the promotional material for Superman: Year One #1 that says “...the first chapter of SUPERMAN YEAR ONE tracks Clark Kent's youth in Kansas, as he comes to terms with his strange powers and struggles to find his place in our world.”  That is not quite accurate.

Writer Frank Miller does depict young Clark Kent finding a place to fit within the micro-world of Smallville High School (the freaks and geeks and outcast kids).  His only struggle is him trying to figure out when he should use his powers on bullies and to what extent he should use those powers.  In this way, Miller recalls the classic Superman character, a man of the people rather than as what he is now:  the greatest superhero of them all who is fighting the greatest threats of them all.  Also, by my reading, Clark does not seem to need to come to terms with his powers.  His powers are not something he doubts or fears; perhaps, he has to come to terms about when and where to use them.

Many previous stories about Superman's youth deal with the development of his powers in a physical context, especially concerning his strength and flight.  Miller delves into the development of Clark's super-powers in the context of his intellect and mental prowess.  Miller's young Clark Kent is thoughtful, but he is also devious and conniving.  It seems as if he is always thinking, learning, and planning, even when he is learning and receiving wisdom and knowledge from his parents, especially from his father, Jonathan.

Artist John Romita, Jr.'s storytelling is clear, offbeat, and, at times, quite dramatic.  I like how he captures the subtleties in Clark's nature and also his secretive side.  I am not quite sure that I like Romita's clear-line drawing style for this comic; Superman: Year One #1 is no where near Romita's best work, although it is better than most other comic book artists' best efforts.  Still, I am glad that super-inker Danny Miki's inking brings a lush, brushwork feel to the art.

Alex Sinclair's coloring pounds the sentimental shit out of this story; without Sinclair's power-hues, this story would, in places, trend toward the nostalgic.  Also, a book that aspires to be important needs an important letterer, and John Workman is a monumental letterer.

So I am happy to report that I am happy that Superman: Year One is off to a fine start.  As I said, I am intrigued, because I had been cynical from the time this project was announced.  Yes, let's see where Superman: Year One goes.  Maybe, it will be worthy of being the definitive origin of Superman.

7.5 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2019 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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