Sunday, February 3, 2013

Superman: Earth One

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written by J. Michael Straczynski
pencils by Shane Davis

After Straczynski's bout in Marvel ended with the death of May Parker in The Amazing Spiderman and another death of a member of Fantastic Four, he was signed up by DC Comics to work on the character of Superman. The character of Superman was quite intriguing, with his history seldom changing and the character had always been Kal-El/Clark Kent. Having said that, modern readers are becoming more serious, demanding stories with more depth to it, stories which provoke thought and invoke emotions.

It seemed that Straczynski's work on the character was precisely to redefine the character's initial days as a superhero, rewriting on what we know of Superman. And his initial work of Superman: Earth One was quite an impressive work IMHO.

Synopsis: The Boy who Fell To Earth

It is common knowledge to readers that Clark Kent was the adopted son of Johnathan and Martha Kent, residents of Smallville, and that he would go on to become the guardian of Metropolis known as Superman. But Superman: Earth One sought to revisit that notion in depth, to explore more on the character and how he came to make the choice of becoming a reporter when he could have become a millionaire with his powers.

Krypton was destroyed and the boy from outer space landed on Smallville, saved from the wreckage by the duo who would become his adopted family. Growing up under the name of Clark Kent and with his emerging superhuman powers, he realized his difference from his peers. But his difference set him apart, and he had to endure humiliation when encountering bullies because his parents knew that nobody will accept him if his powers were made known. He would be known as a freak.
Image taken from Paul Lee

Even so, he knew upon graduation that his life could be one of ease, doing what he loved most while earning big bucks with his powers. That made him undecided on his future, with almost each one of his future prospects telling him how much he was valued after seeing what he could do. Almost all of them, saved one.

The editor in chief of The Daily Planet was the only interviewer who turned him down on his job, the only one where Clark's skill and power did not earn him the recognition he enjoyed from his other prospects. Unfortunately, the source behind his home planet's destruction followed his spacecraft to Earth, threatening all life on Earth. It was then that the Man of Steel learned what was most valuable, and what his father's words meant to him.

Plot and Style: Rewriting Superman

To rewrite the story of Superman without veering too much away from what we knew about him took not only boldness but also skill. For that, Straczynski deserves credit for being able to craft a superbly memorable story despite its length as a graphic novel.

Davis' artworks worth mention as well, with the bold strokes in his art supporting the similarly bold strokes Straczynski is working with the story. The deeper tones made the graphics looked more mature than the bright colors Superman used to be adorned with. It also suited the mood of the story, telling readers that this story is darker and more mature, no longer the cheesy big guy shown in the past decades.

Image taken from Think Hero.

What Straczynski really wanted to do in Superman: Earth One though, was to ask readers to rethink the Man of Steel's ideas, about how vulnerable he is despite his relative invulnerability. His powers did not help him understand about responsibilities or about humanity. He did not understand why people would not accept him if he reveal himself as an extraterrestrial.

Verdict: Earth One

Although I still do not understand what this has to do with Earth One, the concept of a Superman in modern days, wearing jeans and street jackets, just another average joe without showing the brilliant blue and red underneath. And what Straczynski managed to invoke was the also the concept of discrimination, about how someone so powerful could still be mistrusted by the public at large. Having said that, this is easily one of the best Superman stories which I had read, one which I highly recommend to the fans of this character.




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