Monday, February 18, 2013

Review of Superman Earth One

Superman Earth One [Kindle Edition]

J. Michael Straczynski (Author), Shane Davis (Illustrator)

Brilliant art, good story - could be better

Cover image of Superman Earth One

I enjoy superhero comics that are intelligent, coherent and rewarding.

Superman Earth One is rewarding. Clark Kent experienced a repressed childhood during which he found that he was extraordinary but could never show it. He put up with bullies and never retaliated. He comes to the big city of Metropolis, melancholy and frustrated by being unable to express who he really is and not knowing what course to take as an adult. Enter bad guys, self discovery and the reward of seeing Superman arise.

Clark Kent's development into Superman is coherent. The essential elements of his origin story are nothing new of course, but well told. He finds peace in being able to express himself as a superhero at last and is troubled but accepting of the need to wear a mask at all other times. I enjoyed the portrayal of Clark Kent as a character who is not afraid to look inwards (even though this was thinly veiled exposition through flashback).

However, the story is not as intelligent as I wanted it to be. It is too black and white. I did not find sufficient motive to explain why the bad guy acted as he did and I am not OK with accepting that his entire species would be so utterly ruthless. I want adult comics to be better than that. (Yes, I understand this is a *Superman* comic.) In addition, I did not like one particular sci-fi element in this story involving electrons: it is a minor nit-pick but I thought that element of the story could have been handled differently.

The artwork is great. There is superb detail, colour and expressive characterisation. The way the panels transition from scene to scene is really well done. Sometimes a panel will just focus on an expression - great artistry is required to communicate emotion in these stills and it is here.

The formatting of this comic is extremely well done on the iPad. Double tap and you zoom in on one panel, swipe left and right and you zoom in on the next or previous panel. This makes scene transitions *active*. At last I have seen Kindle comics do what Comixology comics do.

The one big flaw with the formatting is the lack of pinch to zoom - and I really wanted this. The art is so great that often after reading through a page or two as it should be read, I wanted to go back and examine the art in greater detail. I wanted to zoom and pan about to get a really good look. I think this should be added: the art is of sufficiently high definition that it would not suffer from allowing greater scrutiny.

In summary, the art and formatting of this comic is excellent apart from the lack of pinch to zoom; the story is rewarding and I enjoyed this introspective Clark Kent, but wanted a more intelligent motivation for the bad guy.

I would happily recommend this for Superman and comic fans, but don't expect the complexity of motivation you might find in Watchmen.


This review also appears on Amazon.


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