Friday, April 6, 2012

GN Review -- Superman Earth One / J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis

I've read a good chunk of Straczynski's run on Amazing Spider-Man, and it makes for some of the most interesting stories for that hero I've ever read.  I've also read various re-tellings of Superman's origin story, and I have to say, as far as they go, Straczynski's Earth One is probably the best one I've read at this point.

What makes it most interesting, for me, is that it takes place during a specific point in Clark's life.  He's on the point of adulthood, having just come to Metropolis from Smallville, and is trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life.  He's bound by nothing: he can be a star athlete, work for a pharmaceutical firm, virtually anything he wants, as long as he takes pains to conceal his alien origins.  He's struggling with that point, as well as his mother's desires for him to do what he truly wants, whatever makes him happy, despite a wish to make a lot of money and support her the way he thinks she should be supported.

All that changes when an alien fleet, led to Earth by a signal from the ship that brought Clark to the planet, flood the skies and threaten the entire planet.  Suddenly left with no choice, Clark puts on the costume his mother made for him and dives into the fray to stop the invaders.  What he finds is that the aliens are the murderers of his people, the Kryptonians, and they've tracked him to Earth to finish the job.  With things suddenly a lot more personal and the fate of the entire planet at stake, Clark must use every ability, talent, and resource he can to protect his adopted home and make a life for himself on Earth, his home.

I've enjoyed every JMS story I've experienced, be it in comics or on television, and Earth One is simply the latest in a long line of them.  One of my favorite parts of the story involved Clark's search for a job--how was he going to define his place in the world?  What was he going to do, and why?  It reminded me very strongly of Good Will Hunting, in how he was bound by nothing, and could choose any field in which he would automatically excel, making for some amusing scenes as well as setting up a compelling character exploration.

Clark's decision, at the end of the story, is not surprising--we all know he ends up at The Daily Planet--but his rationale for making the decision says a lot about him.  He clearly doesn't care about money; he is much more interested in the ability and willingness of people to help others.  When the rep from Neodyne offers him a boatload of money to sign him for their company, but brushes off the recent destruction and tragedy from the alien invasion as not being their problem, Clark immediately blows him off.  The staffers of The Daily Planet, however, risked their lives to cover the alien attacks, in dogged pursuit of the truth, even helping Superman in the fight.  In gratitude, Clark decides he wants to work alongside them in his civilian guise.

Artistically, I was pretty blown away by Shane Davis's work.  His pencils made for a realistic look to the narrative that really brought the visual delivery to a whole new level.  I also really loved the colors employed by Sandra Hope; they were very pleasing to the eye without being overwhelming, and really helped the story pop.  Both make a beautiful delivery of the visual package for this story.

Overall, I found this story to be very compelling, and that's saying a lot.  Superman has never been one of my favorite comic book heroes, but as always, JMS writes a story that really makes you root for him.  The art is breathtaking, and the writing makes for a story that is both familiar and freshly reinterpreted.  Highly recommended.

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