How many times can we see Superman’s origin?
The answer–Not enough.
When DC Comics first announced Superman: Year One, there was some skepticism on my part. This is a story that most people already know and one that’s been told many times over the years. What made this project intriguing was the fact it would be told by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. through DC’s Black Label format. DC also stated this would be the “definitive origin,” and I thought, “I’ll be the judge of that.”
As you would expect, this is a comic worth checking out. You can’t help but get sucked into the story the way it’s told here with new and familiar elements.
Reading Superman’s origin is like listening to a cover song (and I’m a big fan of really good ones). You already know the song, but a creative band will add their own sound to it without completely stripping away the original essence. That’s precisely what Miller and Romita have done. This is a high quality production that will easily stand on its own.
Even with the opening pages depicting the destruction of Krypton and baby Kal-El being sent to Earth in a rocket, you’ll find yourself slowly reading each page and taking in every detail. Romita’s art is accompanied by Danny Miki’s inks and Alex Sinclair’s colors. Sinclair makes the journey through the endless blackness of space a gorgeous masterpiece. There are layers to the visuals that adds a great vibe. Even though Romita has drawn Superman comics before, with Miki and Sinclair, it feels fresh and unique.
While Miller’s take on Clark Kent’s early years doesn’t stray too far from what you might expect, there is still a feeling of the unknown. There are tiny elements to Clark’s personality that keeps you wondering what might happen next. Miller is taking a lot of the great parts to Clark’s character and molding them into an almost new version. Yet, there is no doubt this is the person who will become Superman someday.
While Clark is being guided through his upbringing by the kind nature of the Kents, he still makes his own decisions. Realistically, it’s not like anyone could necessarily tell Clark how or how not to use his abilities. The way he forms relationships with friends and how he deals with some of the unfortunate and brutal obstacles of high school is key to showing who exactly Clark Kent is. It’s a dangerous time for him, and using his abilities for personal gain would be hard to resist. What we see is an interesting balance compared to past versions of his origin.
This book may have “Superman” in the title, but it could be debated as to whether or not Clark has actually become the Man of Steel just yet. He may not put on the full costume, but we do get to see the formation of Superman’s ethics and desire to help others. In other words, with or without the suit, this is Superman. It was a fantastic decision to spend time seeing Clark in school with familiar characters such as Lana Lang and Pete Ross along with some new ones. Too often this chapter in Clark’s life is skimmed over.
As for this being on DC’s Black Label, it wasn’t fully clear what would make this a “mature” telling. There could be some reading between the lines, or perhaps that content will occur later.
This time in Superman’s life is absolutely crucial in telling who Superman is and how he became such a great and caring hero. The decision and direction Clark heads into by the end of the issue shows that Miller is adding his own stamp to the story. I am fascinated to see where the next part of Clark’s journey will take him. Miller, Romita, Miki, and Sinclair have me hooked. For the first time after countless Superman origin stories, I have no idea what’s going to happen next. That is indeed a super feeling. You might think you already know Superman’s origin, but it turns out you haven’t fully read it just yet.