Superman Earth One

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Click for availability and more information Superman Earth One, written by J. Michael Straczynski ; pencils by Shane Davis ; inks by Sandra Hope ; colors by Barbara Ciardo ; lettered by Rob Leigh
The latest updating of Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster's classic Superman character, as handled by writer J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5), artist Shane Davis and company, can be found in the YA-friendly graphic novel Superman Earth One. Straczynski, with considerable help from Davis, retells the origin story of Superman, keeping to the already established backstory of the character Kal-El, sole survivor of the planet Krypton, raised by the Kents, meets Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White and works at the Daily Planet newspaper as reporter Clark Kent when not in costume, but adds more shading and motivation to the Man of Steel and his supporting cast. The book focuses on Clark arriving in Metropolis looking for work that he can use his super skills for (we discover Clark's very adept in both the sciences and, obviously due to his powers, sports). Meanwhile, via flashbacks to his growing up on the Kents' farm, Clark's also struggling with how he can use his powers while not violating the moral values his foster parents instilled in him. Subsequent encounters with the greedy head of a scientific research firm, Perry, Lois and Jimmy at the Planet office, and a frightening worldwide alien invasion that may be linked to the earlier destruction of his home planet, all provide Clark with more than enough incentive to put on the familiar (though slightly tweaked by Davis) red-and-blue costume and cape.

Straczynski and company do a lot of updating/rebooting with Superman and his cast. Besides acknowledging today's current scientific advances and social atmosphere (the military's had an ongoing secret investigation on alien technology that began over two decades ago the night baby Kal-El first arrived on Earth; Perry worries that the Internet will put the Daily Planet out of business), Straczynski and his collaborators take a more mature approach than previous writers and artists had. For example, one reason Clark decides to join the Planet is seeing the selfless bravery shown by Lois and Jimmy during the invasion. (In a previous reboot during the 80s, a more immature Clark only became a reporter because he went ga-ga over Lois.) Also, US Military Intelligence wants to learn more about--and possibly capture/experiment on--this mysterious Superman. The general public is depicted being divided over whether to trust Superman or not. And even better, Straczynski avoids, on this outing at least, bringing in the overused and frankly more-annoying-than-interesting Lex Luthor, instead giving our hero foes more worthy of his abilities.

The story's pacing never flags, and Davis' art complements the script, although there are one or two flaws. For example, did Tyrell, the leader of the alien invasion force, really have to resemble Heath Ledger's Joker from The Dark Knight? Toppling skyscrapers and threatening to destroy the Earth wasn't enough to show how evil he was? Otherwise, Superman Earth One is a terrific and sensible updating of a classic American icon for modern audiences. Can't wait for the sequel.

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This page contains a single entry published on January 5, 2011 3:18 PM.

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