2011 DC Comics
$16 online-but buy it at your LCS if you can.
I was looking forward to this one. There were a lot of mixed feelings in the industry as this was coming out monthly. From the hit and miss nature of the story to the controversy surrounding J. Michael Straczynski’s departure from the series, this book had lots of light on it. JMS pulled out after the huge success of Superman: Earth One, and left the basic plotline in the hands of G. Willow Wilson, who also wrote some interlude issues. Who wrote what does not really interest me at this point. What matters is how good the book is, and I have to be honest, this is a decent book. First, the weak point: the interludes. These were put in as filler and to cover delays in the book. They were likely going to be there in one form or another from the start, but as they are now, the really kill the flow of the book. Which is not to say they are bad, as stand alone issues, they are fairly good reads. But as a part of this book, they are literary speed bumps.
The main story here is Superman’s trek across the nation he calls home. Prompted by average human beings calling him out for the betrayal they feel from the events of earlier stories, and expressing their new level of distrust they feel for the alien, Supes decides to walk, like an ordinary man, across the country. While not completely void of superheroics, this is a quiet book. There is very little action here and it works like that. From dealing with a suicidal girl on a high ledge, to pushing drug dealers out of a run down area, this books works as a character piece and a study of what people see as “hero” and what Joe Punchclock wants and expects from the world. The issues brought up are as real as any I have ever seen in a comic, and they show Superman for the hero he is and the struggle he has in meeting the impossible standard he sets for himself. The ordinary people that he encounters are not fair to him, in fact they are often mean and rude. In that, they still manage to not be wrong. The issues in the story are the kind of real world concerns that should be a part of any super hero story. Like the fear that a mother in the park with her children would feel upon seeing Superman casually walk through. Are her children in danger? This man brings destruction in his wake. His motivations are as positive as they can be, yet his presence is the very definition of danger. These are not new to comics, but they are handled very strongly. The people walk up to Superman with no fear or concern, talking to him like they would someone they have known all their lives. In that honesty of storytelling is where this story has its heart. This is the kind of Superman story that works in every way, succeeding at most everything it tries.
This and All-Star Superman make great bookends for the character. They both do what they do better than almost any other attempt out there. They try to define Superman. One by setting that definition in his origins and deeper mythos, the other by showing Superman’s inner concerns, mirrored in the eyes of the people here has always tried to protect.
This is a great first volume (of 2) for someone trying to re discover Superman, but not wanting mindless comic drivel. A fine read, and I will be picking up the second volume and will be sure to review it here.