This is Graphically Awesome, a series of reviews where we look at new and old graphic novels and tell you just how awesome (or not) they are.
This time I will be looking at the stand alone graphic novel: Superman Earth One Volume 2. The “Earth One” graphic novels are a series of books that allow different authors that work for DC to do there own take on a certain character with out the limitation of any other continuity. It can almost be treated as there version of Marvel’s “Ultimate” line of comics. The “Earth One” books are only sold in graphic novel format and should not be treated as an ongoing series. The plan is to release one every one or two years. So far there are three books in this line: Superman Earth One: Vol. 1 and 2 and Batman Earth One: Vol. 1.
I have never been the world’s biggest Superman fan. He normally bored me, he felt over-powered and too nice (big, blue boy scouts don’t interest me). However, upon seeing the previews of the first Superman: Earth One book in 2010, I got interested. I pre-ordered it and was blown away. It was one of the best comic stories I had ever read and really brought depth to a character I once thought shallow. The fact that I had to wait until 2012 to read the next volume was hell.
The graphic novel starts off with Clark Kent and Perry White discussing Clark’s first article, which is an interview with Superman. He assures him that even though it was a great story, it is now in the past and he has to look to the future for the next one. In his personal life, Clark meets a girl in his apartment building and they begin a semi-romantic relationship. Lois Lane has dedicated herself to researching Clark because she thinks there is something slightly off about him. Meanwhile, a crook named Raymond Jensen is breaking into a lab and gets caught up in an explosion (a la Sandman in Spider-Man 3) and gets transformed into the murderous Parasite, who needs to feed on life force and power to survive. The military uses this as an opportunity to test the limits of Superman, in case he needs to be brought down. It all comes to climax with Superman facing off with Parasite, and ends with a cliché but well-written ending.
This book was awesome! There is no denying it; it has everything you could want from a comic book: action, a multi-layered plot, and an exuberant amount of character development for all that are involved, even some of the minor ones. There is also a decent amount of humor that was definitely needed to distract from the otherwise grim plot. Both Clark Kent and Superman feel very human in this. They have a wide range of emotion, such as depression, anger and happiness. We get a little bit more of Clark’s past when he recounts a touching story about his pet cat.
He may be the Man of Steel, but Clark is almost killed by the Parasite. If he even touches the guy, his life forces is drained, which makes Parasite stronger. It was a fitting classic villain to bring into the story. There is a line in this book that pretty much sums up who Superman is as a character when he loses his powers to Parasite; he claims that humans are braver than he is, he goes through this dangerous world knowing he is invincible, but humans are not, they can be easily killed, but they go out every day with little to no fear. We also see Superman struggle with not being able to save everyone. He tries to help a people being killed in a foreign country, only to be strong-armed by the dictator who claims for every person Superman saves, his men will cut off the arm of another person. People think that Superman has no weaknesses, but this book shows that he has plenty of them, even if they are not physical ones. Clark has a huge heart, and a strong moral code. These are big weaknesses as they stop him from hurting anyone who disagrees with him. He can’t stand to see innocents hurt. Their weaknesses can be used against him and they are very effective. The plot is layered and makes the book feel longer than it actually is, which is good. It is one of the few times I have seen decent pacing in a comic book. Every single page is needed for the story and characters to work. There are multiple story lines that all deal with the same thing: Superman being human.
To me, bad art can be saved by good writing, and some times excellent art can distract me from a terrible story. Luckily, the art and the writing in this book are both amazing. Shane Davies is a spectacular artist, it is unparalleled. You can tell he had great love for the story. Some of it almost looks as if it is painted (and if that is the reason it took two years to come out, then it was well worth the wait). His design on Superman, in my opinion, was a much needed redesign. I don’t mean the costume, I mean the physicality of the character. The thing that had always bugged me about Superman was the fact that he was so big. For a man who is already super strong to begin with, he would have no need for large muscles. For him to look that way would mean he would need to lift the earth every day just to work these muscles, yellow sun or not. Therefore, having a design that shows he has a more athletic build makes sense.
For the longest time I had hated Superman, but this version made me eat every bad word I had ever said about the character. It modernized Superman with out having to resort to clichés and bad Miley Cyrus jokes. I really hope this is the direction the Man of Steel movie franchise will be taking. The art is wonderful and the story will captivate you from beginning to end. If you love or even hate Superman, this is worth a read. I give Superman Earth One: Vol. 2: 10 out of 10 Capes.