Written by: Neil Davies, Special to CC2K
The latest installment of the Superman: Earth One franchise is beautifully illustrated and full of action however, the story rests on its laurels and lacks the originality that initially made this saga interesting.
Author: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils: Ardian Syaf
Inks: Sandra Hope
Colors: Barbara Ciardo
J. Michael Straczynski accomplished one of the hardest feats in the comic book world: making Superman a truly relatable character. This Earth One Superman isn’t the bright shiny boy scout that traditional DC Comic readers are accustomed to seeing. He’s a young man with baggage, who is trying to navigate a job, dating and defining what it means for him to be Superman.
Straczynski’s version of Clark Kent is probably the only one I would like to spend time with in real life. He’s witty, a little bit damaged and he’s not the typical messiah figure that Superman has been in the past. Ironically, his lifetime of feeling like an alien outsider has made him more ‘human.’ This is a young man who has grown up with struggles and difficulties, the scars of which are still evident.
Superman: Earth One set itself apart by taking elements from traditional Superman storylines and looking at them with different perspectives and possibilities. This volume in particular gives a lot of panel time to the Luthors’ and splits the personality of an otherwise well-known villain among two separate characters, and explores the yin and yang duality and struggle between them. Unfortunately, that’s about as creative and original as this comic gets.
Where this installment goes wrong is the antagonist and overall conflict. Rather than striving for something new and creative, the author uses unoriginal characters and exhausted motivations. Superman isn’t presented with intellectual challenges, and eventually falls in to the same tired trope of ‘punching him harder should work.’ The aforementioned interesting Clark Kent is nowhere to be seen when conflict arises, and instead the reader is presented with a bland hero fighting a blah villain.
Ultimately, Superman: Earth One vol. 3 is a disappointment for fans of the original story. Ardian Syaf’s absolutely gorgeous illustration is unfortunately the strongest component to this blasé story. The unique and relatable elements of Clark Kent are fascinating, but are overshadowed by a story that’s as timeworn as the franchise itself.