Superman: Year One, Issue One of Three
Story and Art by Frank Miller and John Romita, Jr
Inks by Danny Miki
Colors by Alex Sinclair
Letters by John Workman
Cover by John Romita, Jr with Danny Miki and Alex Sinclair
DC’s Black Label “Superman: Year One” is out and I just read it last night. I have to admit this is the first Superman book, any book, i’ve read in over a year due to personal reasons and it felt nice being reintroduced to Superman as I was reintroducing myself to comics. I like the feeling of symmetry it gives me, even though it’s made up and only in my head.
I’ve read that Black Label is basically a new version of the now dead Elseworlds line of books, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I could see this story become new canon/continuity.
It starts out with the familiar scene at the beginning of Superman’ life, of Krypton dying and his parents Jor-el and Lara Lor-van quickly loading him into a ship to escape the planets death. The art illustrating this was excellent. I’ve probably seen that scene in quite a few books and I’ll admit, I never grow tired of it, never grow tired of different artists putting their own style to it.
I’m not a Superman buff in any way, in-fact i’m hardly what you’d call knowledgeable about comics in general,I’ve only been reading books for about 8 years. I always find myself learning new things other guys in the bookstore all seemed to know and take for granted, but there were a few things that stood out to me right away in the Krypton scene.
One was that it seemed like Kal-El was surprisingly aware and sentient, in a toddler-like way, about what was going on around him and during his trip to Earth, wasn’t he an infant in other versions? Second was that his mother, Lara, wasn’t nearly as stunningly beautiful as she’s usually drawn, this is a problem for me. Third is when Superman is found in Jonathan Kent’ field he steps out of the ship under his own power, again I thought he was a baby, but this is a what-if kind of thing, so it’s probably a dumb thing to get tripped up on.
Non of the above stated things I noticed are either good or bad, expect Lara not being as beautiful to my eyes as befits the mother of a living god, just different. It let me know right away Miller and Romita are making this their own story.
What follows is a series of what I’d call brief cut-scenes showing his early years on earth and then moves onto Superman’ boyhood, tween years, and then onto high school.
The authors did what I thought was a nice job of showing the good influence of Jonathan and Martha Kent on young Clark, showing us how he became the moral, and just, Superhero we all love so much. There’s one scene in the book where Clarks parents are talking with him at dinner after Clark had gotten into a fight at school defending a boy who couldn’t defend himself and his mom Martha says something like, and I’m paraphrasing:
“…there’s no actually bad people, just confused people..”Superman: Year One, Issue One of Three
His father half-agrees by saying Clark is just as confused as the bullies and makes a joke about flattening their butts, and then later says, in Clark’ bedroom before bed:
“you know, your Mom’s as fine a woman as you’ll ever meet..but nobody’s always right about everything. Clark?”Superman: Year One, Issue One of Three
“See, you do gotta take the high road, and maybe you’ll get yourself taken advantage of a little bit, now and then..but you’re nobodies doormat, Clark Kent.”Superman: Year One, Issue One of Three
I thought this was an outstanding example of the good parenting of Superman’ Earth parents showing him right from wrong, and the masculine and feminine influences of his rearing.
In the middle of the story there’s a good amount of scenes just showing Clark growing up and getting used to, and learning about, his powers. Having trouble sleeping due to his sense of hearing, and having to be careful with his strength and speed, his parents being surprised by his abilities.
Towards the end of the book Superman makes use of his ‘Pops advice about not being too visible with his talents and powers to put a stop to a gang of bullies who’ve been terrorizing his friends from the not-so-cool crowd and then ends up taking Lana, his first girlfriend with the green eyes and gorgeous red hair, up for a flight around town. After rescuing her from the afore-mentioned bullies, of course. This was after failing to heed his ‘Pops advice and making a very public show of sticking up for one of the not-so-cool kids and humiliating the aggressors.
The book ends after Superman decides to show-off at the last football game he’s in before graduation and then, which surprised me, joins the United States Navy.
One of the only things about this book that I genuinely didn’t enjoy was his bus ride to boot camp in Great Lakes, IL, it was filled with all the cliches you’ve seen your whole life about joining the military and less believable than a super-powered alien joining the navy.
I really liked the art in this book, I understand that John Romita, Jr can put some people off with his blocky art style and wide faces on people, but I like it, and the color work by Alex Sinclair is great, I really enjoyed it. The colorists work in any book is usually what makes or breaks the art for me. My favorite set of panels in the whole issue was a set of 3 in which tween-Clark is sitting on top of a decrepit grain silo thinking about his place in, and reason for being on, Earth. Just great art by Romita and beautiful colors by Sinclair, it really stuck out in my mind after being done reading the whole thing.
As to the experience of reading the book itself, it was very enjoyable due to the large format of the physical copy itself and the complete lack of ads. It really took some time to read the whole issue. I wish more books didn’t have the ads everywhere, but I also wouldn’t want to pay a few more Dollars per book either, such is life.
This was issue 1 of 3, and I can’t say I’m going to be dying of anticipation for the next issue, but it was good, the art was good, I really liked the colors and it was very satisfying to see some school bullies get theirs even though I felt like we’ve been here and done that in so many other stories. I’m not sure if I’d honestly say this book was worth $8, I’m torn on that, I liked it, and the large format of the book made it feel good in my hands and the art looked its best on those large pages, eight dollars is a large amount for one book in the end.
One last stupid gripe is the book doesn’t have that wonderful smell so many others do, why? I don’t know, I don’t know anything about printing books, but if you’re somebody that likes the inky-smell I love so much don’t look for it here.