A New Superman For The Ages
If there's one character that is either loved or hated by both those in the comic book community and the world of literature, it's Superman. Even though Clark Kent is comic book lore's first superhero and major character, his powers, ideals, and mission have seemed lost on audiences for a very long time. His ability to beat anyone and always acting as the boy scout has had him eclipsed by darker and more brooding characters like Batman. But J. Michael Straczynski has changed all that with his story, Superman: Earth One.
Earth One refers to the fact that there are 52 different parallel Earths in the DC Universe, in which 52 different versions of all of the heroes and villains live. In this universe, Clark Kent has just gone for a week to search for a job in Metropolis after the death of his father, Jonathan Kent. He has no idea where he got his powers, but is trying to find a job that will allow him to support his mother Martha and use his powers to help people. When the city is attacked by an alien extermination force looking for the Last Son of Krypton, Clark is forced into a role that his adopted Earth parents had mentally prepared him for when he was younger, and hoped he would aspire to be someday.
The wonderful thing about this incarnation of The Man of Tomorrow is that he doesn't set out to stop criminals or save the world. He does encounter a mugger in the beginning of the story, but does nothing to stop the situation except escape. He instead tries to use his advanced intelligence and physical skills to find work that would better mankind indirectly, not wanting to step out into the spotlight. It's this take on the character that really intrigues me. At no point when he found out he had powers was he thinking, "I should be a superhero." Instead Clark thinks practically about how he can be an ordinary person and help humanity the old fashioned way. He is only forced into the role of Superman near the end of the story, and accepts that it's the best way he can contribute to a world that might not be able to deal with threats that loom in the depths of space and human hearts.
The artwork by Shane Davis is very striking, and paints a much more realistic color scheme for the world of Metropolis. It feels like most Superman stories are over-saturated with colorful buildings and characters, and although he still wears his classic colors and battles a villain with a seriously different skin pattern, it still feels more genuine that other incarnations I've seen before. The pacing and tone of the artwork completely compliments the story, and I couldn't picture it being done any other way.
Green Lantern: Secret Origins has become my definitive origin story for Hal Jordan, and I think that Straczynski and Davis have crafted the definitive origin story for Superman for this generation. I would love to see a continuation of this character and his views on the world and being an outsider. This book was an impulse read, but I'm so glad that I picked it up. Anyone who has ever felt like they didn't belong, but still wanted to achieve something out of life should read this book. Superman fans of old and those looking to give the character a new fighting chance, rejoice, this book is for all of you.