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MW Book Club! Superman: Year One #1

So it seems like quite a few of us are picking this up this week, and I thought it might be worth a dedicated thread.

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I enjoyed this issue - I didn’t know exactly what to expect, and which Frank Miller would turn up for this book. But it turned out to be a very classic-feeling story, albeit with a few small surprises.

The main surprise is how much emphasis is placed on Clark’s school years, to the exclusion of almost everything else. It’s all fairly familiar stuff (I found myself wondering if Miller had recently watched the first Raimi Spider-Man), but it feels like Miller effectively puts us in Clark’s shoes, and the situations play out fairly naturally, albeit predictably. It’s Smallville, basically, and even the Miller/JRjr take on the Kents reminded me of that show at times.

But it’s outside these school scenes that the book really shines. The opening destruction of Krypton is well-worn territory, but Miller makes it feel fresh by presenting it all from Clark’s viewpoint, and JRjr makes the destruction look great.

And later, there’s another great artistic take on another essential Superman origin scene, the ‘first flight’ sequence.

I particularly like the dreamlike quality that’s captured here by both the writing and the art.

Overall, I feel like there’s a slight imbalance to the book: the school stuff is a bit repetitive and begins to drag after a while, and I found myself a little impatient to move on. Luckily the final section of the book takes things in an interesting and original new direction that I’m keen to see explored next issue.

Also, the art team is so good that I’d happily read even a dull story illustrated by them. Miki seems to bring out all the strengths of JRjr’s lines without overwhelming them, and Sinclair brings a lovely warm glow to the daytime scenes and a cool blue hue to the nights.

So overall this is a good if imperfect start, and next issue promises to be something fairly unusual for Superman in comparison to this reasonably familiar opener.

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Superman Year One: Book 1 -

I can already tell this is going to be a divisive book. And that was my impression before all of the discourse starting blowing up. After I read it I just knew off the bat that it would engender a lot of different impressions. Even as someone who liked it, and yeah I do genuinely like it, there’s some things that I felt didn’t quite work or that flat out fumbled out of the gate. Yet, in a way it reminded me a lot of another Miller project that received a giant amount of derision - the Spirit. Not in terms of tone or anything, but more that like that movie Superman Year One is such a specific and exacting vision that it’s almost impenetrable. Not that such an aim makes it good, but it does make me interested. Things like how Miller is clearly trying to imbue a lot of the early to late Golden Age stuff, like Superman arriving on Earth as a fully cognizant being, or all of the Superbaby stuff.

Things he weaves in through a very purposeful detached narration. It’s interesting…but it doesn’t make it entertaining. In fact, it makes it kinda very offputting. A lot of the appeal of Superman stories is the hearty, heartfelt, core moments - and every modern origin has tried their hand at a few. So Year One’s emphasis on depicting his “otherness” in such a way is…pretty much unnerving. It doesn’t really engender or ingratiate Superman to the reader. In fact, it almost does the opposite. However…this is an area where Miller does something fascinating. In setting all of this up, he briskly counterpoints it in a very understated, but powerful way…he switches the POV. It’s not brilliant, but it does have impact.

As much as the detached third person inner monologue emphasizes how different Superman is, the first person monologue - only done sparsely - only brings into sharp relief how intimiately human Clark is. And those moments are…well, beautiful. Not in least part due to JRjr’s artwork and the colors. I know some people can’t stand his artwork, and believe me - he has some real groaners, even here, but that doesn’t mitigate the pages and set-pieces that do have a magestic, or powerful, quality to them. Even with the oddly creepy Superbaby stuff, there are still sparsed in a few adorable and even cute moments. And there are many. Hell, one of my favorite pages is Clark cartwheeling in the sky because of how much he loves Lana. The plot of the issue itself is more or less set dressing we’ve all seen before though, Pa Kent advice, Smallville High, Football stardom, but punctuated by very lifting aspects that at least brings something new to the table of how to approach Superman, how to approach Clark Kent. Does it all work? No. Like I said, things don’t really gel together, and the intent works maybe 70% of the time. I won’t even touch the Lana Lang gang rape rescue bit. I mean, I feel like there are a bunch of ways to discuss that scene that I am not at all confident I can do with grace. It didn’t sour the issue for me overall, but what did give me pause is that it is just so close to Lana and Clark becoming a couple and that tenses me up in a wrong way. Even then the scene itself shows how Clark is trying to find a way to manage his emotions and his powers and it feels weighty all the same. Did that need to be the set up for that character beat? I don’t think so…but that’s a discussion for another time.

It’s definitely not a perfect issue, but it did leave me intrigued. There’s just something about this version of Clark…I want to follow his journey. I want to see him grow. I want to see him…find his place. One of the best parts of this origin is how Clark, coming to Earth with all his faculties, is very aware of what happened to Krypton. Very, very, aware. And it adds such a heartbreaking element to it. So yeah, overall…not great but definitely left me interested in knowing more. One thumb up, one thumb middle. Also, some clowns out there are calling this Holy Terror 2 because Clark joins the Navy…which is insanity.

Not the least of all because it’s such a clearly a way to set him up to meet Lori Lemaris next issue. But still…can’t wait.

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Good shout Dave. I don’t get mine for a few weeks but I’ll pitch in when I do.

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BOOM!

Right, so, this is without a doubt one of the wildest and best comic book reading experiences I’ve ever had.

It took me almost two hours and to put it short: Superman Year One is really DOING IT for me. There’s so much to like, so much to take in. It’s absolutely marvellous.

It doesn’t just DO IT, it keeps it up from start to end.

I won’t give it universal appraise, there are a few things, like the navy bit, but I’m not sure it’s headed in a bad direction, that aren’t fucking amazing. But even then, Lana Lang just goes ahead and sells it. What an ending.

I don’t know what to say… It took me a loooong time too read it through, so much was going on in this book. The art? Come on!? The art is JRJR 11/10+ and not a single panel or facial expression is wasted or repeated. It’s mind-blowingly good! It’s alive! Just look at Martha’s face in this cropped panel compared to her calm and serene demeanor earlier:

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I’ve been laughing, I’ve been crying, I’ve been flying! I was looking forward to this a lot but I sure wasn’t expecting it to be this good. I really wasn’t.

12/10

Even the lettering is really doing it!

12/10+ it is!!

edit: Am tempted to do a recap consisting only of the words in bold and big bold or otherwise. That’s bound to be poetry.

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I didn’t even know this was happening; I was tipped off by a Comixology ad on Facebook today - I might just grab the first issue digitally.

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If you get a chance to pick up the physical issue, it’s worth it - this is a large-format, square magazine-sized book, similar to Batman: Damned, and the larger page size is part of what makes the art look so good.

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Has anyone mentioned that this is the origin of Earth-31 Superman?

It’s the Superman from TDKR, of course he’s in the bloody navy, like.

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I hadn’t thought of that.

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I think it deepens the story even more. I sure like it a lot more like that (so far) than considering it an out-of-continuity elseworlds or in-continuity all-star or whatever.

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I liked this. Some people were never going to like it because it’s a classic to pick up on Miller and exaggerate what he does. But the guy does get Superman.

Sadly, I expect Frank Miller to be the last comic book star to take on an out-of-continuity Black Label Superman project. The rest seem to be Batman only projects.

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From the New Comics Thread.

Superman: Year One #1 - Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. on a Superman book? Yes, please. Man Without Fear is one of my all time favorite books. So I knew we were in for a treat here. The way the opening scenes on Krypton were told was pretty incredible. It seems like we’ll be getting a blending of sensibilities between Pre and Post-Crisis Superman, one that has been given all the Kryptonian programming of Jor-El but still grew up as Clark. There were a few small things I didn’t care for like Ma and Pa Kent sounding like they were taken out of Grapes of Wrath and the sheer nastiness of the bullies especially the attempted rape of Lana Lang. Those are small though. I was initially surprise that they focussed a whole issue on Clark before he leaves high school and Smallville but that really lines up with Man Without Fear. There are some great scenes like the one below of Clark (in a Smallville-esque blue hoodie and red vest) and Lana flying. I’m definitely excited to see more.

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Yeah, that’s the standout page of the book for me.

And “he flies” feels like a conscious callback to this:

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I see I am probably in minority now. I don’t think the book is really bad, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it either.
I was surprised when I heard Miller is doing Superman book. Okay, this may not be anything new. Miller was one of the top contenders for Superman reboot in mid 80s. But I didn’t see him as the right guy to tell a Superman story, considering “blue scout” treatment in TDK trilogy and Miller’s penchant for telling dark, moody stories, opposed to Superman’s character where is light and hope. And Black Label.
Here, I feel Miller refrained himself from showing his darkness. Story pretty much evokes Loeb/Sale For All Season in terms of tone and storytelling. On which, Miller makes some changes to established version of Superman origin. For e.x, Kal-El witness destruction of Krypton, Kal-El takes Lois on a sky trip (possibly referencing 1978 Superman film), but what I didn’t see coming is ending. For some reason, Clark/Kal-El/Superman decides to join the Navy?! In between, there is a weird scene that may exists to justify Black Label, Lois is nearly raped, but it’s nothing gratuitous. Apart from that, we follow Clark/Kal-El’s life as usual; growing up, discovering his powers, relationship with his parents and peers, dealing with bullies. There is neat mention that a man is found naked and gagged around a tree (possibly reference to Batman Year One) and that’s it.

Art… So-so. I suppose Miller is saved by Romita here. Opening destruction of Krypton is stunning, character’s faces occasionally have odd look and in general, art has some light, cartoonish feel (hm, again For All Seasons ring a bell).
What really bothered me is painstaking, crowding use of internal monologues and dialogues. Just nearly every panel some word, some line. What happened with “show, don’t tell”? Also, what annoys me about Miller’s writing are repeating phrases over and over again. Something he did too in infamous All Star Batman, but here is no radical as is in the latter.

Either way, it’s good and nice refresh from Bendis melodrama.

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Yes, I detected this too. I think it’s a little inevitable given the era and setting.

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It’s not a Year One book is it? It’s an origin story. :smile:

I liked that it focused on other areas to previous ones though, I never watched Smallville but in the comics at least Clark in school has never been covered much.

It’s surprisingly traditional, a lot of little bits (I’d need to go back and check specific examples) reminded me of classic 80s comics by the likes of Claremont and Byrne. Just ways narration and dialogue aren’t done that way any more. That is not a criticism as I adore that stuff and it’s far from exactly the same but evokes a lot of it. Even Shooter and Romita Jr’s Star Brand - the art may help there but JR Jr’s style has changed so much probably not so much.

I’m fine with it veering off with the navy stuff at the end. This is explicitly out of usual continuity and it’s an oft-retold tale so by all means mix it up. I’m looking forward to the next one.

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It’s Lana. I can’t imagine you missed it in the issue… :wink:

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I think I became so used to Lois significance in Clark’s life I put Lana as very minor character in his arc.

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I don’t think people really understand the Kill Bill Superman monologue. They think it tells a truth about Superman, but in fact it says more about Bill that it does about Superman.

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