This review contains spoilers.
In the past decade or so, the comic book medium sure has seen its share of Superman origin stories. Though Birthright was still fresh in our memories, that didn’t stop Secret Origin, Earth One, American Alien or Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run from happening. And while there was a connective thread of sorts, each brought something new to the table. If any of them managed to break new ground, it was most certainly American Alien, though that take is hardly getting in the last word.
Now, as part of DC’s Black Label initiative, industry legends in writer Frank Miller and artist John Romita Jr. look to leave their everlasting mark on the Last Son of Krypton’s enduring mythos with Superman: Year One. But as much as I enjoyed the stories listed above, I can’t be alone in thinking yet another examination of Big Blue’s formative years wasn’t needed.
I guess one reason for this three-issue oversized miniseries to exist is that there’d yet to be a Superman origin story actually titled “Year One.” Ever since Miller penned Batman: Year One back in the 1980’s, the likes of Green Arrow, Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Wonder Woman, and the Flash have followed suit. Maybe somebody thought it’d be cruel to deprive the Man of Steel of such a subtitle.
Funny enough, the material covers more than one calendar year. That said, be sure to brace yourself for yet another front row seat to Krypton’s explosion, baby Kal-El rocketing to Earth only to be discovered by the Kents, etc. By now, you’re probably assuming that you’ve read or seen this a million times before – and you pretty much have.
If there’s anything to be said about Superman: Year One differentiating itself from its predecessors, it’s that Miller takes a closer look into Clark Kent’s upbringing in rural Smallville, Kansas. I really did enjoy the sense of wonder he brought to his narrative, which was amplified by Romita’s artwork. In my opinion, this is JR Jr.’s best work for DC aside from All-Star Batman, with Alex Sinclair providing a great assist on colors.
Once you flip through the opening installment for yourself, maybe you’ll find yourself just as conflicted as I was during my own reading experience. Again, I feel like I’ve been here before, yet I can’t help turning the page. On the plus side, though, we’re given a major hint that the creative team will veer left of what’s expected when the next issue ships because we leave off with Clark joining the Navy later in his teenage years. Color me intrigued.
Since we’ve yet to see this iteration of Supes in costume, I can’t exactly speak of him in that regard. I and many other fans of the character went into this series with trepidation, given how Miller’s written him in past tales such as The Dark Knight Returns and All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder. But factoring in how this yarn is unraveling, it’s probably fair to say that less people will be ticked off in the end.
To be completely honest, my first impression of Superman: Year One is that it’s not “the definitive origin story” DC is billing it to be. If you want comprehensive, read Secret Origin; if you want something refreshing and thrilling, pick up American Alien. Regardless, three issues isn’t exactly a big commitment, so I’m going to see how this plays out – and you should, too.
Superman: Year One could hardly be described as groundbreaking at this point, but it's made for a welcome addition to the Black Label initiative.