When you hear of J. Michael Straczynski and comics in the same breath, you tend to think “Amazing!” JMS appears to have done it again with this hardcover book from DC, Superman Earth One, Volume 2. With the success of Volume One, Superman fans were eager to pick up this newest addition to the origin series – myself included. The excitement continues in knowing that this book made it to the New York Time’s Best Seller List!
This story arc is a continuation of Clark’s adjustment to his new life in Metropolis, and his mission to help people as Superman. It’s never a dull moment, and the problems he deals with ranges from morality issues, such as genocide, to how to interact with his neighbors in the apartment building he’s just moved into. The villain of this story is Raymond Maxwell Jensen, a man who becomes the Parasite, a man-monster with an insatiable appetite for leeching energy from everything he touches. Major Sandra Lee returns with a mission to help the government learn all they can about Superman, and have a contingency plan set in place if there is ever a need to kill him. Another surprise is how Lex and Alexandra Luthor become involved in the story. Lex even has hair!
Volume Two‘s art is good, but not as great as Volume One because of what I feel were some missed opportunities thanks to Shane Davis. He drew some odd facial expressions that contradicted the dialogue of the scene, and a few fight panels with Superman and Parasite bothered me. If you have just started reading comics, keep in mind that without a great artistic team, well-written comics are doomed to fail.
Angst and humor play key roles in the story. An examples of this is when Superman converses in Earth lingo with his spaceship pod’s Artificial Intelligence in the newly created “Fortress of Solitude”. It was clever to dive back into Clark’s childhood by having Lois (who is upset that she didn’t get to interview Superman) secretly investigating him because someone so average and “clean” as he is must have something to hide (which he obviously does).
The juxtaposition between past and present-day Clark Kent reminds us how lonely Clark is. It’s subtly reminded during Lois’ investigation, as well as the quiet moments when Clark is talking with Lisa (his attractive neighbor) about his cat. There’s even a moment where he’s talking to his mother on the telephone (while floating cross-legged above his Superman costume on a rooftop). His observation of how much he respects humanity’s endurance, while powerless mid-story, reminds readers what type of person he was raised to be, thanks to the Kents.
I’ll be honest – I wasn’t excited about the villain chosen for this story arc. I’m used to villains such as the Joker and his madness. I failed to understand the motives of Raymond before he “tragically” becomes “The Parasite”. I also didn’t like that he was designed to resemble a purplish bug man. It was frustrating that no time was spent diving into the villain’s perspective and other character’s stories. Clark’s neighbor, Lisa, was quite sexualized and while I found it humorous at first, she quickly became an annoying character that later revealed (no pun intended) that she was a “part-time prostitute”. I didn’t know that was possible, but it felt haphazard to me.
I’ll admit that the ending with the Luthors left me curious about what will happen next for Clark Kent. I’m hesitant to pick up the next volume, though, because it wasn’t a home run story for me. While the art is mostly solid (minus the Parasite design), the handling of some characters were a hindrance. Yes, the purpose is to redefine Superman’s origins, but I feel that building up the world around a main character is crucial, and it did not succeed here. If you’re looking for a relatable Superman, definitely pick this second volume up. I’d recommend this Man of Steel instead of the current one in the comics based on this fact alone.