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Bookends: A Very Different Man of Steel September 9, 2011

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.

Bookends: A Very Different Man of Steel

By Dan Davidson

September 6, 2011

Whitehorse Star, Sept. 9/11

– 816 words –

Superman: Earth One

Story by J. Michael Straczynski

Art by Shane Davis

DC Comics, 136 pages, $23.99

Since DC Comics is about to reboot almost its entire universe, pretty much wiping out all the continuity that it has been building up (with some adjustments) since 1985, I’m not quite sure where this particular version of the Man of Steel’s origin will fit when it all shakes out.

In current DC continuity there are 52 different universes that we are aware of (and probably more) in which slightly different versions of the key characters exist. Just where J. Michael Straczynski’s Earth One concept fits into this multiverse, I could not say, but it’s not the first time that Kal-el’s origins have been tinkered with, and according to the promotional material coming from DC lately, it won’t be the last.

Joe Straczynski’s version begins with a recently graduated Clark Kent arriving in Metropolis, trying to find himself. Like the character during most of the recent decade worth of Smallville stories, he is conflicted about his origins and would mostly like to fit it. No tights, no cape, no public actions to draw attention to himself.

In Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel’s original version, the Kents found Clark’s rocket when they were quite old and had died by the time he reached adulthood. In the John Byrne reboot of 1986, Jonathan and Martha were much younger and both were still around until a year or so ago, when Jonathan followed his TV counterpart to the grave.

In Earth One, there’s just Martha left, and she’s always had the notion that Clark could be something special; she made the costume years earlier. He won’t wear it; it’s a notion he resists.

In the city Clark tries on a number of careers in sports, science, construction and business, and shows he could rise to the top of any of them, but finds something lacking in all cases. He even tries the Daily Planet, but gets turned down for a job interview.

What it takes to unleash the Superman in him is an extraterrestrial invasion by the remnants of a race that once shared the same red sun as Krypton, the race from the planet Dheron, which was responsible for the destruction of Superman’s home planet in Straczynski’s rewrite. They made a deal with some sort of super race for the weapons they used to destroy their neighbours, and part of the deal was that there would be no survivors. They’ve spent the last two decades trying to find out where that single rocket went.

This is a major shift in back-story. In the past Krypton has been the solitary planet in its system and has been destroyed by natural ecological forces, and more recently, by leftover terrorist weaponry as a result of a civil war some generations earlier.

Clark has to show himself in order to save his adopted world from destruction and has to find a way a defeat Tyrell, the sole Dheronian in the story, and his army of mechanoid warriors, and prevent him from planting the planet busting drills that will do to Earth what was done to Krypton.

This is not a cakewalk. Tyrell has nearly the same powers, lots of nasty toys, and twenty years worth of planning in his favour. During the fight, Clark is assisted by Planet staffers Lois Lane and Jim Olsen, and their dedication to getting the true story inspires him to try again at the Planet, even though it is about the lowest paying job he could take. As in most versions of the origin, he gets the first Superman story and that is his job application in a nutshell.

This book spent over 20 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and its reception may have had something to do with the big 52 first issue relaunch that DC is beginning this month. I’m not sure how good an idea that is, or whether I will want to follow any of these new books to the same degree that I have followed the old ones.

It concerns me that some of the same guiding hands now at DC were also instrumental in Marvel Comics’ one-year experiment called Heroes Reborn back in the 1996-97. It’s quite clear that comics companies love to launch #1 issues, since they tend to sell more than the regular run, and it is also clear that a company with 52 universes to play with can call off the new experiment and go back to the status quo any time they want, which is what happened over at Marvel.

Be that as it may, this particular volume was a good read and did not disappoint me. I hear there’s a sequel in the works, and I’d definitely want to see that.



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