FROM THE PUBLISHER: From the burning world of Krypton to the bucolic fields of Kansas, the first chapter of SUPERMAN YEAR ONE tracks Clark Kent’s youth in Kansas, as he comes to terms with his strange powers and struggles to find his place in our world. DC BLACK LABEL is proud to present the definitive origin of Superman as rendered by the legendary comics creators Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.!
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, no...it’s just craaazy ‘ol Frank Miller at it again. We’ve seen the origin of Superman told so many times at this point with a dizzying amount of alterations that it’s hard to imagine that we’d even need another version now. There’s been plenty of great stories featuring the origin of the Man of Steel.
Personally, I love Birthright and it’s handling of Clark’s life. That was the Superman comic I read which changed my perspective on the character for the better. But, Frank Miller is a legend. Whether you enjoy his previous works or not, you cannot deny his status. I am not a fan of The Dark Knight Returns for various reasons but I do enjoy Batman: Year One which is why I was interested in reading his take on Superman. Throw John Romita Jr. into the mix and I’m already sold really.
So, how do you tweak Clark’s origin enough to make it feel fresh but not deviate a ton from what we’ve seen before and are comfortable with? Like Miller’s Batman: Year One, you start at the beginning and keep the focus there for a bit. This first book is all about Clark growing up in Smallville and the challenges he faces. Miller and Romita do briefly take us to Krypton in the opening pages, as most Supes origins do, but it moves along quickly and doesn’t linger. The book is narrated throughout and actually, there may be more of that than actual dialogue. It’s strange but it does work for the most part.
The story itself is almost entirely Clark dealing with school, bullies, and of course meeting Lana Lang. It doesn’t quite feel like an episode of Smallville, instead it’s much more character driven and with the help of the clever narration you just get absolutely sucked in. It’s somewhat of a lengthy book and I couldn’t put it down. We see Clark gradually develop and learn to use some of his powers as the story plays out. I liked that he doesn’t just wake up one day and start flying while shooting beams from his eyes. It is important to remember that this is only the first issue, we’ve still got time for him to fully realize his potential.
This isn’t a sad Clark either, this is a very purposeful version even at a young age. That’s another thing I liked. It reminded me of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, which I love, in some ways too. On that note, the way Pa and Ma Kent were written was great. Pa Kent particularly worked for me, he reminded me a lot of Costner’s version from Man of Steel. I think I may have heard Costner in my head as I read through his lines too. Good stuff there.
There were some things I wasn’t crazy about though. It’s not a perfect book, those are rare. There’s a few moments in here that are just so typical Frank Miller that they were jarring since they didn’t really fit with the rest of the story in my opinion. Its like he was trying to slip in some darkness and grit a little at a time, some of it was fine but there’s a few instances where it just really stuck out. There’s also an extra weird little thing or two that’s again just Miller being Miller. I’m not a huge Miller fan myself so maybe those who are won’t mind these bits but they certainly bugged me. One example which isn’t a spoiler is when Miller felt it was necessary to note Clark urinated in a bush. For what? Really?
I felt some of the bully stuff was going a little far too but I get what he was doing. In reality, it’s a real concern and he was using that angle. Again, I get it. It was just strange to see it in this world I suppose. I’m not sure I have many other issues other than that stuff.
Now let’s talk art for a sec! I love Romita’s work, he’s one of my favorite artists out there. He does such a good job here, most of the characters have really nice designs including Clark himself. Everyone looks distinct too which is great considering there’s actually a lot of different characters in this book. The way he draws the Kents, Clark included, as they age was awesome. I was just really impressed by his work in his book to say the least.
This a solid start to Superman: Year One. There’s no telling if it’ll reach the unanimous acceptance and praise of Batman’s famous Year One yet but I am definitely looking forward to finding out. There’s some stuff I’m really interested in seeing how it’s handled. I’m also interested to see if Miller slips more of his usual blend of attitude and style in since it mostly doesn’t feel much like his past work.
Who would’ve thought I’d be praising a Frank Miller story?!
RATING: GOTTA GO!