DC made a wise decision to return the multiverse to continuity. For one thing it allowed all the great Elseworlds and Earth-2 through Earth-Z stories to be told, but it also gave creators a chance to tell new alternate continuity tales that haven’t been explored yet. This past week saw the release of Superman: Earth One hardcover released, and though the price was steep, it was well worth the price for entry.

SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Shane Davis
Inker: Sandra Hope
Colors: Barbara Ciardo
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editors: Eddie Berganza and Adam Schlagman
Publisher: DC Comics

Previously in Superman: You know the story – sent to Earth to avoid dying on the exploding planet Krypton, young Kal-El grew up with powers far beyond those of normal man.

EARTH ONE IS NOT EARTH PRIME

When it comes to retelling the origin of Superman there are a couple of ways you can go about it; you can retcon current continuity, spread it out over six issues and hope the fans buy into the new continuity, or you can retell the origin in a parallel dimension. It’s the later that J. Michael Stracznski opted to go for in his interpretation of Superman’s first great adventure.

In Superman: Earth One, young Clark is looking for his place in the world. With his powers he can have any job and career that he wants from pro football player, to all-star researcher. Readers get to see employers fall all over themselves trying to get Clark to sign multi-million dollar contracts, but it’s the job at the Daily Planet that peeks his interest. I really like the fact that there are things that Clark doesn’t excel at; writing being one of his weak points. For a while I was concerned that Straczynski was simply going to make Clark someone that could do anything he wanted to, but fortunately, he knew when to pull back.

Scattered throughout this young man’s adventure in Metropolis, we’re given flashbacks to Clark’s youth, and we see his upbringing, and discover bits and pieces of what makes Superman, simply a man. And as cheesy sappy as some of these moments are, they are moments that can bring a tear to the eye and make you pull for this small town boy. Some have pointed out that this version of Superman seems too Emo for their taste, and while Clark is sullen and introverted, it’s only because he hasn’t found the thing that makes him happy. For about half the book, that’s the person we are presented with – someone who needs an Earth shaking event to knock him out of his malaise.

That Earth shaking event is the sudden attack by an alien armada. Turns out the alien in this story was at war with Krypton and plotted with another alien race to bring about Krypton’s destruction in exchange for power and knowledge – providing every Kryptonian in the universe is eradicated. For 20 years, the alien race has searched for the young Kal-El, and it is only now that they have found him.

What follows is a great and powerful slug-fest that really gives Superman a run for his money. In Earth One, Straczynski doesn’t give Superman the power to fly through the Sun, or to lift a mountain above his head without breaking a sweat. Clark does feel pain, he does get injured, and it takes the faith and belief of those around him that ultimately helps him save the day.

I can’t stop thinking about this story. It was so well done, as it pulled on the emotional strings, while giving those who have only a passing knowledge of the Superman mythos something they can build upon and enjoy. The characterizations felt very modern, and the dialogue was fresh and snapped at just the right moments – whether it was Perry White and Lois’ exchange about editorializing the news, or Ma Kent telling Clark to do what makes him happy. The only thing that was sort of frustrating was the over use of splitting a sentence with the final word or two carrying over to the next panel or next page. I understand it was used to help make the story feel like one continuous moment, but it became tiring after a while.

ART WORTHY OF A HARDCOVER

If you are going to charge readers $19.99 for a 136-page story, the images better be worth it. Shane Davis more than gives the reader their money’s worth in this book. Every page is a treat to examine as the detail in the landscape and cityscape gives the world life, while the quiet character moments, and fantastic expressions allow the reader to fall deeper into the story.

While I’m not fond of the “villain” in this story, I do find the juxtaposition of the character design to be very interesting. The alien’s wings and costume design will remind many of an angel, even though his actions betray that impression. But is he really? Before his defeat he proclaims the Kryptonians were the real evil and he is just doing his part to protect the rest of the universe, and with Superman’s overuse of heat vision in this story, the red devil impression might cause a few to hesitate over the possibility that there is a dark legacy yet to be revealed somewhere down the road.

While Davis’ pencils are nice, and the inks are done well, the coloring is something we don’t normally see in comics, it is something that doesn’t sit particularly well with my tastes. I do appreciate what is going on, even if it does seem a bit smeary overall.

BOTTOM LINE: BUY THIS BOOK NOW

I simply can’t stop thinking about this story. Straczynski did not give us an open and shut story in this book. There are still many story elements that go unresolved, and I like that open ended feeling. DC has plenty of other Earth One tales to tell featuring other heroes in the DC catalogue, but if DC wanted to replicate Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, this is a fantastic story to kick things off. When all is said and done, I really do want to continue to read the adventures of Superman in this alternate Earth. While $19.99 may seem like a mighty price to pay in this economy, the story and art inside are well worth it. This is a book that needs to be read and celebrated and is definitely something you need to go out and buy. Superman: Earth One is deserving of 5 out of 5 Stars.

Rating: ★★★★★

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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13 Comments

  1. October 31, 2010 at 3:24 pm — Reply

    5 outta 5! I should be getting this in my end of month shipment next week. Your review makes me excited to read it!

  2. thedexter102
    October 31, 2010 at 3:30 pm — Reply

    I was considering buying this and those five stars tipped me over the edge. When it comes out on softback it’s mine!!!

  3. Young
    October 31, 2010 at 3:39 pm — Reply

    Ah, man…they had JMS at my local comic shop signing this book on Wednesday…I have to go there see if they have any signed copies left.

  4. October 31, 2010 at 6:25 pm — Reply

    Whoa! That sounds really cool. I wasn’t sure if I was going to check out yet another Supes reboot, but your review has piqued my interest mightily. Curses, Schleicher! Now I fear I must find this book and give it a read. Thanks, man.

  5. kunderemp
    October 31, 2010 at 9:04 pm — Reply

    I love the ‘Daily Planet’ scene and the scene where Clark Kent tried to apply work including the scientific research one. I really hope the future Snyder’s Superman will have Daily Planet very lively, the newspaper which struggle with ‘citizen journalism’ of internet.

    It is unfortunate most of the newspaper review seemed never get pass its first five pages. The only thing they said was ‘Robert Pattinson from Twilight’.

    Pleaseeee.. It was far from it.

  6. arcee
    October 31, 2010 at 9:04 pm — Reply

    Great review! But things being the way they are (for me) gonna wait until the softcover.

  7. Obsidian
    November 1, 2010 at 11:47 am — Reply

    This is one of the reasons that I really love this site and the reviewers here. You guys really understand how things fit within and OUTSIDE of continuity. Many other reviewers (and fans) haven’t seemed to be able to grasp the simple concept that Earth One Superman is not “your grand father’s Superman.”

    Excellent review. Well done.

  8. Doctor Sleepless
    November 1, 2010 at 2:14 pm — Reply

    A good (Not great) book. But it has me scratching my head, I simply can’t wrap my mind around the fact that this is made by the same JMS who is currently writing the (Not even decent)Superman ongoing. (Which suffers from more than just a weird concept)

  9. Brainlock
    November 8, 2010 at 8:45 pm — Reply

    only saw the preview, but I had to laugh where the punk who tries to hold up Clark looks EXACTLY like my dealer, Brendan! LMAO!
    (was he wearing a kilt, too? cuz he does that. a lot. homemade leather or pea soup green denim.[shakes head])

  10. Frank
    November 18, 2010 at 9:26 am — Reply

    First off, I am not a Superman fan. That said, I really enjoyed it. Clark struck me as more well rounded than past versions. The supporting characters are great. James Olson really stood out for me. It’s worth reading.

  11. Damascus
    November 25, 2010 at 11:50 pm — Reply

    I really loved this book, and I rarely like reading Superman stories. I like Superman as a character, but I just always have a hard time finding him interesting. The preview pages you guys had up a while back got me interested in it, the art was fantastic and wonderfully detailed, and I’m really glad that I picked this one up. I felt that this Superman was modern and that his supporting characters seemed a little more than just a supporting cast. I also kind of chuckled to myself when I saw his Clark Kent costume toward the end, I had been wondering how he was going to change his appearance and I was happy to see that the way he’s most often known to dress wasn’t his real style but actually was a bit of a costume to hide his identity.

    I do hope that there are more stories that expand off of this first volume, I’m interested in finding out who the person was that gave the inhabitants of the neighboring planet from Krypton the advanced tech and the mandate to kill all the Kryptonians in the universe. My guess would be Brainiac, possibly with him already having the Bottle City of Kandor and wanting his city and Kryptonians to be the only ones in the galaxy.

    I like that they made Jimmy Olsen a little cooler than he’s usually portrayed, more overly-enthusiastic about photography instead of just bumbling and green. I also read the story that Clark wrote that was at the end of the book and thought that it was well written too. It was interesting and it was cool to read a back-and-forth between the same person. If this was what the main ongoing Superman title was like, I’d start reading it right now.

  12. Chuck's Right Foot
    March 27, 2011 at 10:32 am — Reply

    I ended up buying this and loving it. I like the idea of an “Ultimate” Earth One. Does anyone know of further plans in this setting?

    • Damascus
      March 27, 2011 at 11:57 am — Reply

      I believe JMS is working on a follow-up to this book, but I’m not sure if they’ll flesh this world out with the inclusion of other DC superheroes that aren’t specifically Superman related. I’d be all for it though, as long as it keeps up the same level of art and hopefully same level of writing.

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