SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis


Released in November 2010 as a 136-page original Hardcover graphic novel. This book was promoted as being produced for a broader audience than the general comic-book audience. As such it is a standalone story, aimed at mainstream bookstores, as opposed to direct market comic shops. It was supposed to be something that anyone could pick up, whether they’re a long-term Superman fan or not, and be able to read and understand. So how did it work?

SPOILERS FOLLOW

This is another origin story of Superman. The premise starts the same, we learn that his spaceship crashed years ago, and Jonathan and Martha Kent found it while they were out camping. They quickly took the baby out of it and left (while the military came and recovered the spaceship), and raised Clark as their own, taking just one piece of the spaceship with them. As the story starts, Jonathan is dead, Clark has recently graduated from college and has just moved to Metropolis, but isn’t exactly sure what he wants to do with his life. We see him walking around the city at night, just looking around, someone pulls a gun on him and tries to rob him, but Clark just burns the gun with his heat vision. He knows that with his powers, he can do virtually anything, work in almost any field, and become hugely successful. We see him trying out for a professional football team, and acing every position. Then he goes to a scientific company called Neodyne, and solves an equation that their scientists had been working on for 3 years. We also get a glimpse of him trying out for a baseball team, and other scientific companies and businesses. Everyone wants to sign him or hire him, for millions of dollars. He stops by the Daily Planet, sort of on a whim, and meets Perry, Lois, and Jimmy. He’s given a job application but, as he leaves, he doesn’t think it’s really promising, as Perry admit that the Daily Planet is losing money and not very successful anymore, and tosses it in the trash. I should point out that Clark doesn’t wear glasses, and he applies for all these jobs under his real name.

Then we learn that his parents had been encouraging him to use his powers to be a superhero. His mother even created the Superman costume, which he brought with him in to Metropolis (along with the spaceship fragment). Clark is the one who is hesitant about that. He thinks he’ll be better off if he just gets some really good job and makes lots of money. We see him go to his father’s grave and confess that he just doesn’t want to go public with his powers, because then he’ll always be alone. We also get an obligatory flashback of Clark has a young boy, getting beat up by a bully, but refusing to fight back.

Then we cut to a secret Army base, where we learn that they have the spaceship that brought Clark to Earth and have been studying it all these years. Major Sandra Lee is in charge of the research, and she’s also determined to find out exactly what was in the ship when it crashed. Suddenly, a swarm of alien ships start to enter Earth’s atmosphere, and this causes the spaceship to turn itself on and start repairing itself. the spaceship fragment that Clark has also starts activating and causes a fire in Clark’s apartment. He quickly flies in and grabs the piece and takes it up to the top of building, where it zaps him and he’s knocked unconscious and his head is filled with images of Krypton and his birth parents, Jor-El and Laura.

Then the alien ships start attack all around the world, with the biggest group being in Metropolis, and Earth gets a message from an alien named Tyrell. Despite the name, no, he’s not Black. He looks like this:

He reveals that he’s searching for the last survivor of Krypton. Clark finally puts on the Superman costume and flies to confront Tyrell, who tells him his background. He’s from a planet called Dheron, which developed in the same solar system as Krypton, and every 20 years when their planets orbits would synch up, the two planets would go to war. This stopped either one from developing long-rang space travel capabilities (I guess that’s a good enough explanation for why Kryptonians never discovered Earth before). Tyrell said that one day “They” came (we don’t know who, that’s kept a mystery) to Dheron and makes some kind of deal with the planet’s population, in exchange for giving them the means to blow up Krypton, they would have to do…something (that’s not revealed either). So Dheron uses this big machine to blow up Krypton, but when it was found out that one spaceship, Superman’s, escaped, Tyrell was put in charge of tracking him down, because no Kryptonians must be allowed to survive, and he has spent the past two decades searching the galaxy for him, destroying other planets along the way. Now they are planning to kill Superman and blow up Earth too.

So there’s a fight, Superman is losing, but gets some help from Lois and Jimmy, and then his spaceship activates and flies to him and he uses it to destroy Tyrell’s command ship, with Tyrell inside (yep, I guess Superman kills him). The spaceship then takes him to the North Pole, where it builds a Fortress for him, and tells Superman that his mission is To Survive. To Use Your Powers Well and Wisely. And To Avenge The Murder of Your Homeworld.

Then Superman decides to take a job at the Daily Planet, since Lois and Jimmy were the only ones who tried to help him, so he buys a suit and tie and puts on a pair of glasses, and goes back to the office with an exclusive interview with Superman. That, along with Jimmy being the only one to get any clear pictures of Superman in action, causes the next edition of the Daily Planet to sell-out, and has all the major news organizations asking to use their photos, so they’re back on top again. There’s a “Person on The Street” segment where we see random citizens being interviewed about Superman, and most don’t seem to trust him, since even though he stopped the invasion, the whole came because of him in the first place. And what if other aliens show up looking for him? Major Lee is put in charge of a Government task force to find out everything she can about Superman. And the book ends with a copy of Clark Kent’s interview with Superman, as printed in the Daily Planet. THE END.

I have so many problems with this story. First the notion that Clark doesn’t want to be a superhero, and wants to just take the easy way out and use his powers to make a lot of money bugs me. He only puts on the suit when he’s forced to by a massive alien invasion that’s specifically looking for him? And the alien invasion, and this whole mystery about this other race that blew up Krypton and then who gave them the power to do that and why? That’s overkill. There’s also the fact that he spends all that time in Metropolis, as CLARK KENT, with no disguise, applying for all those jobs, including the Daily Planet, and sports teams, meeting so many people and impressing them. Then when he puts on the Superman suit to stop the aliens, no one recognizes him? Not even Lois and Jimmy who just met him at the Daily Planet the day before?

Look, the whole glasses-as-a-disguise thing is hard enough to accept in this day and age, but when you just blatantly don’t even attempt to make it work in your story, it makes it seem even more absurd. And I don’t like them now stating that Superman must “avenge” his homeworld. This type of revenge motivation works better for Batman or Spider-Man, but not Superman. And that’s just the writing. Davis’ art was nothing to write home about, either. Just bland. Overall, this book gets a Grade of:

The hardcover is available via Amazon.com

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