Superman Year One #1 is published by DC Comics under the DC Black Label imprint which consists of both original limited series and reprints of books previously published under other imprints, presenting traditional DC Universe characters for a mature audience. Written by Frank Miller, with art by John Romita Jr, inks by Danny Miki, and colors by Alex Sinclair, this issue marks the an update to the early stories surrounding Clark Kent’s origins.
In Superman Year One #1, we watch Clark go from child refugee of the dying planet Krypton to the legend that will change the DC universe. This issue focuses on Superman’s formative years in the small Kansas town of Smallville. There, we see him struggle with the vices of his peers, and how, and when, it is right for him to use the powers he commands.
Beginning with the iconic destruction of Krypton, this time as seen through a baby’s eyes, we see the world consumed. We see as the cockpit closes, a confused babe in the glass, his reflection showing tears in his eyes as his parents vanish behind him. Stars, the void, and finally, that beautiful blue marble that is to be his home. All of these moments are handled with a deft hand that brings a fresh and touching feeling to this well trodden story.
Sadly, his discovery by Jonathan Kent however, contains one of the few stumbles this book contains. For the most part Clark’s first meeting with his soon to be adopted parent is filled with all the warmth I would want it to be. It is, however, tarnished by a narrator comment implying that Johnathan is somehow mentally manipulated by Clark into accepting him into his home.
I don’t like this version of the event. This implication of manipulation changes Clark’s adoption from an act of kindness to a subjugation of Johnathan’s freewill. While this makes a bit more sense logically, as pretty much anyone would call some authority to inform them they found a baby in a spaceship out in a wheat field – instead he just adopts him. I prefer being asked to suspend my disbelief for the classic version of the Kent’s just taking Clark in to care for him as their own.
From here we are shown the many phases of growing up in small town America. From youth to teen years, Clark grows up, always aware of what he is, and how he always needs to keep himself in check. We eventually arrive in his high school days where the story spends the rest of its time to let us see the moments that will put Clark on his first true steps to becoming Superman.
As this is where the story truly evolves from the various versions of the origins of Superman that I’m familiar with I won’t say much in detail. However, I do want to commend the creative team for telling a story that is the most authentic and grounded I’ve ever seen for this particular origin. The story holds back little in showing just how rough life can be as a teenager.
While Clark is always without threat, as one would assume, he is quickly taught the hardest lesson he will ever be faced with in his long super hero career: that his invulnerability is never extended to those around him. This lesson is handled in a way that lends it the appropriate weight and seriousness, but never feels heavy handed or belittling of the people who must endure some of these situations in their real lives. Of course, without the presence of Superman.
And that leads us to what I feel is this book’s greatest strength. It is a Superman story that feels real. Superman Year One #1 is difficult to read at times, especially for those who have seen some of what Clark sees. It acknowledges that, no matter what our age is, life can be hard, and, as so many great super heroes stories do, it gives us a chance to cheer as the heroes, with their wills, perseverance and singular gifts, set the world to right, as we all wish we could.
The art in Superman Year One #1 complements and elevates the themes and emotions present in every panel helping to invest the reader in the moments contained within. Romita Jr. does an excellent job of capturing Clark in such a way that he does not yet feel like the Superman we know he will become, but still gives the reader the undeniable knowledge that he’s just under the surface. This had the effect of instilling in me a sense of anticipation to see Clark become Superman I did not expect to feel.
I am always leery of rewritings of such iconic stories as Superman’s origins no matter how well accredited the creative team is. And while it isn’t without a small stumble or two, I think Superman Year One #1 sticks the landings in all the most important ways. Reminding us Superman’s story has always been one of compassion, equality, and above all, hope.
Superman Year One #1
And while it isn’t without a small stumble or two, I think Superman Year One #1 sticks the landings in all the most important ways.