Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Shane Davis
Published by DC Comics
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Wait a minute, he didn’t like the first volume, so why the bloody Hell did J.R. even buy the second one?!?”
This IS what you were thinking, right?
Well, that’s a good question. The answer I guess is…I like Superman. That’s why I have this whole category on my blog dedicated to writing about him. No I didn’t like the first one, but I like the concept of original stand-alone graphic novels not tied to any other continuity. And I hoped that maybe now that JMS got his origin story out of the way he would do a better job just telling a Superman story within this new status quo.
I was wrong.
This story picks up an unspecified amount of time after the end of the first volume, but it’s pretty soon, since Clark still hasn’t even written his 2nd article for the Daily Planet yet. He has just moved into a new apartment, where he meets his new next door neighbor, a beautiful young woman named Lisa Lasalle, who immediately asks him out on a date (to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show) that night. This is a running subplot throughout this book, as Lisa aggressively flirts with Clark and practically throws herself at him every time she sees him. Later in the book she invites him into her apartment for dinner, and she changes into a see-through nightgown. Clark is hesitant because, as we see in flashbacks of teenage Clark talking to his father Jonathan Kent, he’s been warned about having sex with women due to his powers. His involuntary movements and passion during sex could hurt or even kill a woman, due to his super-strength and invulnerability.
WHY IS THIS A TOPIC THAT JMS FELT THE NEED TO ADDRESS IN THIS STORY?!?
Seriously, Jonathan even uses the phrase “man of steel, woman of tissue paper”, paraphrasing the infamous Larry Niven essay Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenix
The villain of this story is The Parasite, which is a good choice for a follow-up, in my opinion. We get his new origin, a troubled kid who grew up to be a contract killer. An accident at a science lab that he was breaking into transforms him into The Parasite, and he goes on a rampage. Superman arrives to confront him and The Parasite absorbs his powers, making himself even more dangerous. While Superman is powerless he manages to change back to Clark and then makes it back to his apartment, where he passes out for almost three hours. When he wakes up we find that Lisa has been watching over him, after getting him out of his clothes and putting him to bed. She makes a point of letting Clark know that she’s seen him naked (and was impressed by what she saw). But as she’s about to make a move again, Clark’s powers kick back in and his has to go to confront Parasite, all the while he’s pissed that he’s just missed what, according to him, could have been his only chance to ever have sex with a woman.
So he has to confront The Parasite, knowing that he’s risking his life doing so…I won’t spoil the ending but I guess it’s no surprise to say that Superman is triumphant in the end (you’ll have to read it yourself to see how he does it). Then he makes it back to his apartment in time to find a man beating Lisa. Superman grabs him and dumps him in Alaska, and then heads back home as Clark, where Lisa reveals that she’s a part-time hooker (she only occasionally has sex for money when she really needs to make ends meet). Ooohkaaay…still don’t know what the point of that was.
There are three other running subplots. Superman flies to a foreign country to aid victims of a tsunami, but is ordered to leave by the brutal dictator who runs that nation, which forces Superman to decide how much direct action can he take in international affairs. Lois Lane spends most of the issue researching Clark’s background, because she thinks there’s something suspicious about him. She learns that he has a history of being average and seemingly going out of his way to not be noticed (which somewhat contradicts the part in Volume One where he was trying out for multiple pro-sports teams and fancy science labs), even interviewing his former elementary school teacher back in Smallville. The teacher later calls Clark and lets him know about her contact with Lois, and says “I hope everything works out for you and Lois Lane”, to which Clark replies that he hopes so too.
Lois and Clark have barely had much interaction in these two books, so I don’t know if that line is supposed to foreshadow future involvement. And also there’s the story of the Colonel Sandra Lee (who is also referred to as a “Major” in one panel) from Volume One, who had been in charge of the base that was studying the spaceship that brought Kal-El to Earth. She attends a private session of Congress as they discuss the national security concerns regarding Superman, and she is put in charge of a new top secret project to figure out some way to neutralize or kill him, if it ever becomes necessary. For that she hires some civilian consultants, Dr. Alexandra Luthor and her husband Dr. Lex Luthor (or Lex2, as they call themselves).
This is a potentially interesting new take on Superman’s arch-enemy. But their introduction in this book leaves much to be desired, as we see them laying naked in bed together, and then get several pages of them talking while walking around naked, with all naughty bits strategically blocked, but still it’s unnecessarily provocative. I swear I’m no prude, but I thought the whole point of these Earth One Original Graphic Novels were to serve as jumping on points for new readers outside of the traditional comic-book fanbase. So why put all the sex stuff in this book, making it potentially unsuitable for kids? Speaking as an adult, I didn’t find any of this sexy or interesting, it was just felt forced and lame.
There some good bits in this story. Parasite’s background is sort of tragic. There’s also a conversation Clark has over the phone with his mother, talking about how it felt when he was powerless, realizes for the first time how vulnerable humans are. There’s also a bit about a lonely guy who lives in Clark’s new apartment. But it’s not enough for me to justify giving this a volume a higher grade.