Review: Superman – Earth One Vol. 2 / Author: Michael J. Straczynski / Artist: Shane Davis / Publisher: DC Comics / Release Date: Out Now
DC's Earth One range is a series of comics that pops superheroes into more realistic, down-to-earth settings. Because the presence of super people inevitably makes the world around them less and less realistic, these tend to be about the early years of a hero. The mix of a new world plus a re-imagined origin can make for a great tale if it happens to be in the hands of a skilled writer, and luckily for Superman: Earth One, it's being handled by none other than Michael J. Straczynski, the chap who wrote Babylon 5.
At the core of it, Superman: Earth One Volume 2 is your typical Superman story: Superman flies around the world fixing things whilst pretending to be a bumbling reporter in his spare time. However, because this is meant to be a different take on matters, it's all approached from an unusual standpoint. Straczynski treats Clark Kent as an outsider looking in – a remarkable being who has chosen to limit himself in order to fit into human society. Superman’s moral authority is challenged immediately and often, and the solutions he arrives at stay true to the character. This is not a dark tale; the optimism familiar to fans is still there, and made all the more relevant by a grittier backdrop. Though there are plenty of “grittier world” clichés to be had here, they aren't wasted and add spice and story, rather than scenery.
The knock-and-drag fight between Superman and one of his better-known villains is pretty standard, but we get a good deal of backstory as to why that particular monster is the way he is. There's also plenty of foreshadowing for later books, and the pacing is strong and timely. Shane Davis' art delivers the iconic characters in the manner you would expect, and although it's pretty samey in places, this doesn't detract from the story. (There are some sparks of brilliance in the art, but they are few and far between.) The series is continuing in the way you'd expect it to, and this is a worthy edition to the Earth One collection.