By Scott Mitchell
The new Earth One line of graphic novels is DC’s latest attempt at reimagining the world(s)? of some of its most famous superheroes.
“Superman: Earth One” is written by J. Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Shane David. “Superman: Earth One Volume Two” follows a volume which was poorly received by most comic book critics. This reimagining of Superman didn’t have enough of the core character to justify the same mythos as the Man of Steel the world has come to know. This trend continues with Volume Two, but it’s not entirely a bad thing.
“Earth One” is at its core an origin story, and like many origin stories of late, tries the “Batman Begins” approach. On the surface, that doesn’t sound terrible, but trying to apply a gritty, human element to one of the most morally unshakable and physically impervious beings in comic books creates major problems.
With the expectations I had for Superman, “Earth One” definitely does not deliver. Kal-El is more human than any reimagining of Superman before, and sadly, seems to get bogged down in angst more than any other emotion. The character definitely feels like he has more depth than a normal Superman would, but diverges from the standard too much to be seen as the same character.
That being said, the character development in Volume Two is the best part of the book. There are some flashbacks and character interactions that feel so genuine, so emotion-provoking, that one can’t help but somewhat enjoy this new Superman. He is more relatable, more understandable and his motivations are easier to comprehend.
This is undoubtedly a product of the direction that many superhero comics are going in recently. Superman was too pure, too one-dimensional, for consumers to really feel any connection to him beyond nostalgia.
This new Superman has a depth that was desperately needed.
Sadly, the conflict between the antagonist, Parasite, and Superman was one of the most boring parts of the book. The villain’s abilities were pretty interesting when matched against Superman, but he was so short-lived that nothing came of the villain’s unique powers. It would have been great to see that character appear in more than one book.
The backstory for the villain was one of the most frivolous, wasteful endeavors in the book. Not only does the reader never truly understand what the character was doing before he became the villain, but Straczynski even tried to throw in a couple of flashbacks to flesh out the character’s origin. In the end, it meant next to nothing, and didn’t help to make the villain more dimensional.
The art is very middle-of-the-road. There aren’t any glaring flaws, but also aren’t any memorable scenes. Superman often looks angrier than you’d expect of the character, but it’s mostly attributed to his eyes constantly glowing red. The action scenes are done well enough, but are short-lived.
The over-arching story has potential. Straczynski introduces a familiar face toward the end of Volume Two, which opens up some very interesting avenues for the story. This causes some problems for the volume-specific stories. They feel almost useless, more filler than anything of true substance. The bulk of the importance of the story comes from flashbacks or scenes not including Superman/Clark Kent.
Overall, “Superman: Earth One Volume Two” fails to deliver a memorable read. The series has potential, but if all following books are directed in a similar vein, there isn’t much to look forward to.