On the whole, Superman: Year One #1 is a hard book to review. There are moments of beauty, followed by moments of almost head slapping inanity, and as a reader, it’s hard to balance it all out.
Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird.it’s a plane,actually i’m not sure what it is.
The first issue of this latest Black label offering from DC comics, feature Superman by Frank Miller and John Romita Jnr, in a retelling of the classic origin story, and his formative years growing up in Smallville.
Miller must be mellowing in his old age, as there is nothing but honey covered scenes of Clark, Ma and Pa Kent, and a supporting cast of classmates sprinkled through the books 60 odd pages, however there is a jarring tonal change, involving Lana and the local town bullies, that makes you double take at it’s inclusion.
This groove jump is something that plagues this first issue. There are moments that we are very familiar with, juxtaposed with blatant character subversions, the most notable one being Clark.
In this story, Clark fast becomes the hero of the school. there is no bumbling around trying to hide his powers, and unlike the scene from Superman The Movie, with Clark left to tidy up the football teams equipment before kicking the ball into orbit, here Clark plays in the team, shines above the other players and wins the game.
As well as sports hero, young Master Kent is a hit with the girl’s, is friends with the nerds and does his best to stand up to the bullies. I suppose it’s more natural that this would be the path he might have taken, but strangely it feels off. Coincidentally, I had also just watched Brightburn, and it left me with a similar feeling. Brightburn is essentially the Superman story, but he’s a very bad super alien instead of a good guy, but had Brightburn been a Black Label graphic novel it would have left me with the same thoughts as Year One, it’s Superman, but it doesn’t feel right.
I’m hoping that the upcoming issues will be easier to digest, with Clark older and growing into the role of Superman that we might expect. Like I said before, this book is over 60 pages long, but we have still to see Clark in costume, and behaving anything like the Superman we expect to see. I know it’s an origin story, but perhaps more editorial input might have helped clip the over long introductions and helped with the leisurely pacing. I would venture that everyone reading this book will have a good idea about the Superman mythos, and with Miller simply retreading the story, things could have moved on a bit quicker.
Miller’s dialogue was also a problem for me in places. Characters are given the strangest things to say , especially Ma and Pa Kent, who seem to have developed a weird kind of phrasing all of their own. Often I find that dialogue in comics does nothing except drag me out of the action. Comics are a visual medium, if you can’t find the right words to say, let the artist do it for you, that’s what they are paid the big bucks for.
So, on the plus side, the art work is a definite improvement from Romita Jnr , and that’s probably due to the crisp inks from Danny Miki and gorgeous colour from Alex Sinclair. There are some panels that seem awkward, with some of Clark’s classmates looking either too cartoony, or just weird, but on the whole the art suits the story. I’m looking forward to seeing Superman in full action so I guess I will be around for the next few issues.
On the whole, this is a hard book to review, there are moments of beauty, followed by moments of almost head slapping inanity , and as a reader it’s hard to balance it all out, but there’s also something nice about the tactile nature of this brightly produced oversized square-bound first issue that appealed to me. It feels like a quality product, and has an almost European quality to it. Hopefully the creative team can drop a gear for the next issue and dispel some of the lukewarm storytelling from the first outing. I look forward to the second issue, but with a little trepidation.
3.5 – 5