Recently, J. Michael Straczynski announced that he would be leaving monthly comics behind and instead focus on graphic novels. Well, if they’re all as great as Superman: Earth One; we’re in for an amazing run of books. The first in what will become something of DC’s “Ultimate” line of out-of-continuity stories that reintroduce the iconic characters for new readers, Superman: Earth One retells Kal-El’s origin excellently and again manages to make the Man of Steel relevant for the 21st Century.
Now before you get all defensive about retelling the origin, JMS handles it amazingly well and with a level of emotional weight that will make fans of Donner’s Superman movies pretty happy. This isn’t a Superman: Flyby retelling that takes drastic liberties with the mythos that is such an ingrained part of our culture. Krypton does still blow up, Kal-El is still the last Son of Krypton, he was still found and raised by the Kents and their goodness is ingrained in him.
The story is just updated for our time. That doesn’t mean it’s made hip or edgy. Just believable. It begins with Clark, after graduating from junior college, arriving in Metropolis to try to find a job. Through flashbacks you see his relationship with Pa Kent and how he would rather get a good job to send money back to the farm than really face what he’s meant to do mostly because he’s still unsure of exactly what that is, who he is, where he came from, etc. He’s also afraid that by revealing himself he’ll truly be and outcast and alone. It takes a worldwide “9/11” scale attack from an alien force to trigger Clark into action and make him reveal himself as Superman to the world.
At first this attack, and how it ties into the destruction of Krypton, didn’t really sell me on the concept. But in the end, I feel it worked really well and left one dangling thread open for JMS to pursue in the future. Through the flashbacks that are inter-cut with the events going on around the world you completely buy Clark’s decisions and by the time he is Superman you get a profoundly more rewarding origin story than the crap Supes fans had to go through in nine seasons of Smallville. This is classic, Donner-level, Superman here.
Straczynski had a small dedication in the beginning of the book that is so perfectly written to Superman fans that you can’t help but get your hopes up that he nails what he set out to do. By the end of the book he does live up to what he wrote in the beginning. Superman: Earth One is one of the greatest Superman books ever written and one that deserves a place on your bookshelf right next to Miller’s Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns. This modern updating of the Superman story makes you want more from JMS to see where he takes his young Clark Kent from here.
Superman: Earth One is now available in hardcover and cannot come with a higher recommendation.