Mild Mannered Reviews – Superman: Year One #1

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Superman: Year One #1 [of 3]

Scheduled to arrive in stores: June 19, 2019
Cover date: August 2019

“Superman: Year One”

Writer: Frank Miller
Penciller: John Romita Jr.
Inker: Danny Miki
Cover: John Romita Jr.
Variant Cover: Frank Miller

Reviewed by: Keith Samra

Click to enlarge

We begin with Krypton on the verge of destruction, and witness as Jor-El and Lara place the infant Kal-El in a rocket ship, sending him to a distant world where he will have a chance at life.

We then witness as a young Jonathan Kent, discovers baby Kal-El, and takes him home to his wife, as they decide to keep and raise him as their own.

We see Clark grow up and come to terms with his great powers and abilities, as he attends school and looks out for the outcasts, who are easy targets for the bullies that terrorize not just the school, but the entire town.

We meet Lana Lang, a young seeker of truth, who is rescued from sexual abuse from the same bullies, by Clark, as he confides fully in her, and they become a couple, and enjoy their days at high school. Clark becomes a silent town hero, who is a loud and proud high school star football player.

We then bear witness to the moment that Clark decides to leave home and explore the world, as he enlists in the navy, In search of his true calling in life.

To be continued…

3Story – 3: I am not sure why this series exists, and where this series exists in the current landscape of the post Rebirth era of DC. Every few years we are treated to a new version of Superman’s most commonly retold origin. With the new Black Label imprint at DC, I feel this was something that was offered as a tribute to those die hard Frank Miller fans, who still think of him as a comic writing god. If that came off as snarky or sarcastic, that was not my intention at all, I was simply stating what I felt about the idea, when this series was first announced. And that was part of the reason I asked for this reviewing assignment. I wanted to try and present a more positive view on a project that was narcissistically groaned at when it was announced. Miller and Romita Jnr are responsible for one of my favorite stories of Daredevil, with their “Man Without Fear” graphic novel (yes I know it was a series before it was collected). I loved the way they both updated a character that is commonly forgotten about in the current Marvel climate. And I need not mention Miller’s other seminal work, both at DC and his own creator owned projects.

When I read this book, I was very surprised at how straight forward Miller managed to write this opening chapter. A part of me expected something similar to his latest Dark Knight project, or the All-Star Batman book before that. However Miller showed me that he can do something other than dark, gritty, evil infested suburban narrative, one that changed the landscape of the comics world over three decades ago. Here we saw the usual destruction of Krypton, with baby Kal-El sent to Earth and raised by a kindly couple. It’s the second part of that sentence, which this book mainly focuses on, the younger and teenage high school years of Clark Kent.

Like in many of the modern retellings of Superman’s origin in the past few years, we see a young Clark learn to use his powers, and sometimes not keep them a secret from the people around him. Unlike many of the modern retellings, we see a happier Clark, who actually enjoys life a little more, who doesn’t have trouble fitting in with his peers, and who is open and prone to making and learning from his mistakes. Miller borrows from some of the past origin stories, particularly Man of Steel (1986), letting Clark play football and revel in his strength and abilities.

It wouldn’t be a Frank Miller story, if there wasn’t a heinous crime committed, or about to be, and this came in the form of the attempted gang rape of Lana Lang. I was rather shocked at this scene, and that it being allowed to happen in a Superman comic. However, I remembered that this is under the DC Black Label imprint, and we should be happy that it was not something more. The only other perplexing aspect was the bullies that attempted to commit such a crime, are let off without consequence. They seemed like the type of characters you would see in Gotham City, and that they not only terrorized the kids at school, but the town as a whole. This just didn’t seem to fit the story, it’s as though Miller just didn’t quite finish fleshing them out.

I found that there was two major failings in the book, the first being Miller’s narration boxes, as they changed from direct narration from Clark himself to Miller’s own voice, which made it a confusing read at times, taking me out of the story. The other was Miller’s dialogue. This is something that has become a trademark of his in many of his books, but Miller’s dialogue really felt out of time. A prime example is how Martha is talking on the pages where she first meets baby Kal-El. It’s almost like hearing Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With The Wind.

All in all, this feels like an ambitious retelling of the origin by Miller, and he does bring some new takes to old ideas. I did enjoy that Clark has a desire to see the world, and decides to enlist in order to explore it. He decides on the navy to explore the ocean, but is drawn into the world of the air force by the end of the book. As I mentioned before, Miller takes from past origins, but this did feel like he heavily relied on John Byrne’s Man of Steel, which really shouldn’t be a surprise, seeing as the two were contemporaries back in 1986, as they both helped relaunch Superman and Batman, after the Crisis of Infinite Earths event.

I did find myself enjoying the book as I read it, it helped me escape reality, which is what I want when I read comics, a break from the daily norm. I am curious as to what the next issue will present, and how Miller plans to have Clark find his calling as Superman. I loved the format of 64 pages, and that this series is only three issues long, meaning we will get almost nine issues worth of storytelling in three books.

4Art – 4: Another one of the main reasons I wanted to cover this series was because of John Romita Jr’s art. Over the years, but specifically for his time at DC, I have read many comments stating that “JR Jr can’t draw”… “He sucks at drawing DC characters”… “His art hurts my eyes”… It’s comments like these that really irritate me. Firstly I’d like to see any one of these people render a better narrative in comic form. Secondly I’d like to point out that Romita Jr is an illustrator, or cartoonist if you will. Just because you don’t like the way he draws people/figures, does not make him a bad artist. He is a decades long industry veteran, and shouldn’t be labelled as if he were a hack. Also as stated above, he is responsible for the art on Daredevil: Man Without Fear. A collaboration done with Miller in the early 90s, which is still one of the best depictions of the character to date, and one in which he is not seen in costume until the very last page.

With that said, Romita’s work on this issue has been some of the best that we have seen out of him in many years. The line work is sharp and crisp, the blacks aren’t too heavy, and for the most of it, the art marries well with the writing. Romita’s style reminds me so much of Miller’s own work on The Dark Knight Returns. They both come from the same school of caricature designs.

Romita tries to bring a fresh take on Krypton in the opening pages, but with so many different interpretations of Superman’s origin over the last few years, they come off as second dimensional and very flat. His Smallville however comes off much differently, as we see an idealized Midwestern town, one that borders on cliché… But it works for the story being told.

Martha and Lana are the only two prominent females in the book, and both have a familial feel, yet are different in many ways to what we are used to. Martha, much like in Smallville (TV series) is younger, yet still wise behind what seem like tired eyes. While Lana looks like a young Mary-Jane Watson, whose seen some hard times. And not unlike others, the proportions for the characters are off in many pages let alone panels.

Which finally brings me to the hero of our story, and Romita’s second take on the Man of Steel since his run on the New 52 version of the character. Romita competently draws a young Clark, and as I said, there are many times the proportions are a little off (especially the head to the rest of the body), but I found that I actually enjoyed the way he portrayed Clark over the years of his younger life. I actually loved the way Romita designed the pages in which Clark is traveling to Earth in his ship, and we see through his eyes his reflection in the glass. Also it was a nice change to see a young Clark that isn’t moping around because he doesn’t feel he can fit in with his peers, and actually smile and enjoy life in high school. Romita manages to show a good range of emotion in Clark’s face, which I enjoyed very much.

With this first book serving as our introduction to Clark, we don’t see the familiar red, blue and yellow suit that is the iconic depiction of the character, but we do get a feel of the boy that will become the man. And along with his tight-knit supporting cast, we meet many different and some new citizens of his home town, and at the risk of repeating myself, they come in all shapes and sizes, which is something that I loved in this opening chapter of this three issue series.

Danny Miki’s inks needed a mention, as they may have been the saving grace for Romita at times, they are very slight and soft, and never over power the art at all. Sometimes a little too subtle, but they helped set the tone for the issue. Alex Sinclair’s colors are simply amazing. They are what brought to life the sunny warmth of Smallville, a town that may have been transported from the 50s right out of Superman: The Movie.

3Cover Art – 3: Though we have seen this cover many times as the promotional piece for the series, it was a little hard to try and look at it for the first time again. On the surface, we are drawn to Clark’s face, which is handsomely depicted. You would be hard pressed to realize that it’s a Romita Jr drawing and not Jim Lee, if you don’t look at the rest of the figure. The hands are awkward, but that’s not counting the oddly shaped leg stepping out. The concept is solid, which is a form of saving grace, otherwise the disproportions really take away from the overall feel.

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JasEl
Member
JasEl

Have to strongly disagree with that appraisal of JRJR’s art, it isn’t good, not by any measure and he only has work because of who his father is and comparing that image with Jim Lee is insulting. By your own admission his proportions art off and considering the bulk of comic art is the human form his inability to convey figures is unforgivable.

Randall
Member
Randall

This. So very much this.

Sorry, I don’t subscribe to the very naive notion that I have to produce art work that’s better or comparable to identify that the quality of art is good or bad. And like JasEl said, his proportions are off. Which, for a comic artist, that’s a cardinal sin. Or do you find Rob Liefled’s work just as defendable?

Position does not equal talent. Anyone in an office job can tell you that.

Kal L
Member
Kal L

Maybe read the review again! Keith clearly states what he thought were faults in the art, but still respects the artist at best.

JasEl
Member
JasEl

Respect an artist that can’t draw? No thanks. Nepotism doesn’t garner respect without the ability to back it up.

Kal L
Member
Kal L

Let us see your art then! Show me how you can do it better.

supermanofsteel
Member
supermanofsteel

Kal L, that type of question has never made any sense to me. People should still be able to critique something without having to do better. Otherwise none of us can ever criticize movies, politics or sports.
If a basketball player sucks at shooting, then he sucks at shooting regardless of whether I’m better or not.

Kal L
Member
Kal L

No, my response was aimed at JasEl’s comment that JR Jnr “can’t draw”. The man has been in the industry for decades. That wouldn’t have happened if he couldn’t draw.
Its ok to not like someones art, its a whole new thing to state that one cant draw.

RAS
Member
RAS

Rob Liefeld has also been in the industry for decades and…well, he is utterly horrible. JR Jnr’s style, while not as wretched as Liefeld’s, still leaves a LOT to be desired. It is inconsistent, sloppy, and generally aesthetically displeasing.

JasEl
Member
JasEl

My ability notwithstanding, he is supposed to be a professional, and has zero consistency, a complete inability to properly adhere to proportion and sloppy line work, in short, he cannot draw. He has a job because of his father, plain and simple. His claim to fame is nepotism, not talent.

ps I drew my profile pic

Superman2878
Member
Superman2878

That’s a cool profile picture that you drew JasEl.

JasEl
Member
JasEl

Thanks

Enigma2099
Member
Enigma2099

You have NO IDEA how much flak I’ve received over that very opinion. I even got into an argument with HIM because I didn’t care for his art.

sundevil82
Member
sundevil82

I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. I tried to go in with an open mind because I, like many, have had a problem with how Miller and Romita have handled Superman in the past. I have to say though that I had a good time with this book and I actually enjoyed romitas art! Full disclosure, I’m a sucker for a Superman origin story especially in comic form. All that being said, I’m going to try and say 3 things I disliked and 3 things I enjoyed. My biggest gripe came with how Ma… Read more »

supermanofsteel
Member
supermanofsteel

I have no way to confirm this, but from what I’ve been reading from other reviewers, this is supposed to take place in the same universe as Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. So this is the same Superman that Batman fights and beats at the end of that series.
So Clark joining the military isn’t that far fetched since in that book he does grow up to be a government puppet.

Superman2878
Member
Superman2878

So was it confirmed that this version of Superman takes place in the same world as the Dark Knight returns Superman? or is it just something that’s assumed? Is this new origin now the new cannon? Could this possibly be an Elseworlds story? I remember a few years ago they did another origin where Superman wore goggles near the end of that series. I don’t think that was considered cannon. Might just be another what if story. I’m just trying to figure out if this will be part of the current continuity or not.

supermanofsteel
Member
supermanofsteel

Like I said, I cannot confirm that this takes place in Miller’s DKR universe, that’s all just speculation.
But I’m 99 percent sure that this story is NOT cannon. It’s supposed to take place outside of the regular continuity, basically an Elseworlds books.

Superman2878
Member
Superman2878

I see.

afriend
Member
afriend

Unpopular opinion maybe, but I don’t even think a lot of Frank Miller’s “seminal work” is that great. I know some will accuse me of blasphemy, but even The Dark Knight Returns isn’t that great, and Miller has been (wrongly) claiming for years that he’s the one who turned Batman back to his roots. About the only work of his that I think is truly great is the 1980s Wolverine series, and as far as I know he only did the artwork. So hard pass…

sundevil82
Member
sundevil82

I totally understand where you’re coming from and I’ll agree about his later work for sure, but I do really love his Batman year one and his work on Daredevil. I’m a mixed bag on Dark knight returns… I appreciate what it did for the medium, bringing it back to o a more serious tone, but I felt it was a very unlikable Batman and Superman was even worse. As a stand alone story I can enjoy it, but so many people try and treat it as canon and it absolutely isn’t. I Recently have unfairly given that story a… Read more »

Kal L
Member
Kal L

This was better than I expected, Miller wrote a decent origin, and I like that he borrowed a lot from John Byrne. The military aspect was actually kind of an interesting notion. I curious to see where that leads.
The art was so much better than what I expected also. I think that JR Jnr can turn out good work, given a good lead in time.
And no, I don’t think he gets work because of his father.

LarGand
Member
LarGand

I still think having Superman join the military is a terrible idea. This is not Steve Rogers answering the call of duty during World War II to become Captain America and fight Nazis. Instead we’ve got Kal-El, who’s always defended the sanctity of all life, joining an organisation that kills, so that he can … what … travel and see the world? Instead of, you know, exploring it himself as a civilian the way millions of non-super young people do? It’s clear that Clark already has a good chunk of his powers when he enlists, so traveling independently would not… Read more »

sundevil82
Member
sundevil82

Where are you getting this notion that joining the military means he’s going to kill people? Plenty of people join the service without killing anyone, my father included. I’ve known plenty of people in several branches of armed forces who have never killed anyone. Unless there’s a war going on in the story, i don’t see any reason they’d show him killing people.

This is obviously not meant to be canon, so I think it’s fine to show a new aspect of his youth.

Superman2878
Member
Superman2878

You’re absolutely right sundevil82. I’ve been saying just because they’re in the armed forces, doesn’t necessarily Mean that they will kill anyone. They are also trained in search and rescue, cyber protection, and combating disease such as Ebola. To call them “ and organization that kills “ I find disrespectful. To call them that, sounds like they are like mercenaries or arms dealers. They are not. They deserve respect.
To your father for serving in the armed forces, I say thank you.

sundevil82
Member
sundevil82

And PS:

I’m certainly NOT a conservative in anyway shape or form and i certainly don’t feel owned by that aspect of the story. I’m familiar with Millers leanings and I didn’t get any vibe of a n agenda from that. At least not from this portion of the story. Liberals also can serve proudly… again without killing. Why don’t we finish the story before we start jumping to conclusions?

Superman2878
Member
Superman2878

Well said sundevil82. Liberals, and Conservatives, and every person of different political beliefs can serve proudly. Serving in the armed forces doesn’t always lead to killing.Well said.

LarGand
Member
LarGand

Killing is part of the job description if you join the military. There is no way you can disagree with that or deny it – it’s simply a fact. Whether you’re army, navy, air force or marines, you are trained to operate lethal weapons systems, or to support those who do – that’s what the military is all about. Whatever else they do is a sideline. And they kill whomever their commanders order them to kill. They have no choice in the matter, because they’ve basically surrendered their freedom of choice to the government they serve. Of course, there’s no… Read more »

Superman2878
Member
Superman2878

I’m not arguing that they aren’t trained to kill. I never said that they weren’t.Of course they are. That’s part of their responsibilities to the country. To know how to fight and kill if needed to. What I do have a problem with is your classification for the armed forces. “An organization that kills”. You make it sound like they are mercenaries or arms dealers. They are not. It’s a very disrespectful way to discribe them. And I can’t stress enough about the important things that they do as well. Search and rescue, cyber protection from cyber crimes, combating viruses… Read more »

Superman2878
Member
Superman2878

I got this information on Wikipedia.org I know that there’s probably better websites for information, but this is the only one that I could think of. I hope that this helps bring some resolution to this debate.From Wikipedia.org “Conscientious objector” “A conscientious objector is an “individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service”[1] on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, or religion.[2]” “United States Edit Main article: Conscientious objection in the United States” See also: New York Draft Riots and “Conscription in the United States There are currently legal provisions in the United States for… Read more »

JasEl
Member
JasEl

I’m not defending Miller, but you clearly know nothing about the military. 90% of military jobs are noncombatant, especially in the Navy, most Navy personnel will NEVER even SEE a weapon, much less use one. You’re over here talking like Clark is gonna kick in doors and gun down every person he meets while enlisted and that’s just BS

LarGand
Member
LarGand

JasEl, as I mentioned in my other reply: as a member of the military, you are either operating a lethal weapons system, supporting the operation of lethal weapons systems, or commanding the deployment of lethal weapons systems. Doesn’t matter whether you’re in the front line, or logistics and supplies, or catering, or recruitment, you are part of an organisation that exists for the purpose of being lethal. Whatever you do in the armed services, you’re part of a chain that has the Government at one end and dead bodies at the other. Everything non-lethal that the military does, whether peacekeeping… Read more »

Kal L
Member
Kal L

LarGand the same can be said about the Police Force. What I got from Miller’s writing was that Clark wanted to learn and explore through service. He’s not quite at the reporter stage in his life.

Super El
Member
Super El

Miller isn’t a conservative. He voted for Hillary Clinton and his seminal Dark Knight Returns has blatant potshots at both Ronald Regan and Donald Trump.

Superman2878
Member
Superman2878

Look….. Can we all just agree that Superman is the greatest Superhero? I mean we could go on and on and on about who is right and who is wrong. Frankly it’s just not something that I want to keep arguing about. I mean yeah, I could keep arguing my point of view on this topic. But do I want to? No I don’t. So how about we all just agree to disagree? And that Superman is the best right? It’s why I’m here every week. I’m here to celebrate Superman. He’s my favorite Superhero. He’s been my favorite superhero… Read more »

Superman2878
Member
Superman2878

I’ll start with the next topic. What did anyone think of the recent Krypton episode? I thought it was good. Did anyone else think that Seg was a bit like Neo from the Matrix? With his blocking and countering Lobo’s attacks? Brainiac infecting Seg is quite creepy though. With the blackened eyes. Quite eerie. And speaking of Lobo, I thought that they did quite well with him so far. Like he stepped right out of the comics. And what about Doomsday at the beginning of the episode? So far he looks like how he should look. Of course we only… Read more »

sundevil82
Member
sundevil82

Bless your heart Spidey haha

Superman2878
Member
Superman2878

Ah yes. Spidey2878. My original profile name. You know Spider-Man is one of my top five favorite Superheroes. Superman is number one of course, followed by Batman at number two. Spider-Man is at number three or four. I can’t really decide since there’s also Captain America and the Incredible Hulk. If there’s a Spider-Man fan site, then maybe I’ll use that profile name for that website. But Superman is definitely number one on my favorite Superheroes list. Can’t beat Superman. He’s my favorite superhero. That’s why I changed it to Superman2878. Thanks for remembering Sundevil82. Now I really want to… Read more »

sundevil82
Member
sundevil82

Haha no body is questioning your loyalty to Superman! Don’t worry! I like Spidey also and I’m super excited for the movie next week. Been hearing a lot of good things. I never thought I’d actually see Mysterio on the big screen so I’m pumped! My rankings are the same. Though I must admit my love of Batman has waned a bit over the years due to constantly making him Bat-God who can take down aliens and gods. I love him when he’s strictly working in Gotham against his rogues gallery. That’s where he belongs primarily. I also haven’t much… Read more »

Superman2878
Member
Superman2878

No worries sundevil82. I know that you weren’t questioning my loyalty to Superman. It’s all good. If anything, I was explaining on how I see superheroes. I like to talk every now and then. I think that it gives people a better understanding about myself when I talk about how I view and rate superheroes. Rate? I feel like there’s a better word than that. list? Maybe chart? I do have a tendency to talk a lot. I guess I’m what’s called a chatterbox. Ha ha ha. Anyway, it’s all good. No worries. So Henry Cavill will be the next… Read more »

sundevil82
Member
sundevil82

I’m always down to Talk any superhero…

It’s actually a movie about Sherlock’s holmes younger sister with the Stranger Things girl in the lead. Henry is more of a co Star I’m gathering.

Sounds like they’re just playing it slow with all the movies. They’re pretty much just going to focus on what’s right in front of them and go from there. I suspect there will be news in the next year or 2.

Enigma2099
Member
Enigma2099

You don’t know why this comic exists, I don’t know why DC keeps working with Frank Miller.

Superman2878
Member
Superman2878

Enigma2099,I’m not sure if you were talking to me when you said “You don’t know why this comic exists, I don’t know why DC keeps working with Frank Miller.” Could you please clarify what you meant? Because I’m not sure if it was me that you were talking to.