Legendary creators Frank Miller and John Romita Jr are back with Superman Year One #2. After reading the last issue, I knew we were going to witness Superman walk down an entirely different path unlike anything we had seen before, and I was not wrong.
The regular cover created by interior artist John Romita Jr depicts Superman in the maw of a beast. This was the last thing I was expecting to see on the cover after having read the last issue. I guess this really highlights the unpredictability of the series and indeed the Black Label imprint itself. Alex Sinclair’s colours really do the heavy lifting on this cover as the heat and glow from the beasts breath. Superman’s heat vision highlight the immense detail of Romita’s pencils that create the texture of the beasts skin along with Superman’s muscles that create his lean torso. This cover was perfect for me, it’s beautifully chaotic and this really pulled me in.
The variant cover created by Frank Miller is very much a prestige piece that works better as a pin up piece in my opinion. This is quintessential Frank Miller as Superman appears very deep set and sporting a trench coat – that is a very synonymous garment Miller has utilized time and time again. I would love this piece framed and on my wall at home. I love it, it’s just so bold and unlike a lot of artwork we have seen before.
When reading Superman Year One #1 there was always an air of familiarity to proceedings. Everything felt like it belonged. For all intents and purposes this was the quintessential origin of Superman. In fact, looking back perhaps to its detriment it followed what we know and love maybe too closely. There just wasn’t any real twists or turns, that is until the very end as Clark enrolls in the Navy and that is exactly where this issue picks up. If Superman Year One #1 upholds the core fundamentals of Clark’ formative years in Smallville, then issue #2 certainly takes Clark down a totally different path completely unfamiliar to anything we have seen before.
This issue feels highly compartmentalized with a fluid overlap connecting the two sections together. There is however a real lack of cohesion regarding tone as we jump from gritty realism and utter fantasy. Clark’s time in the Navy features just about every single trope affiliated with military training depicted in cinema or literature – from the brutal training regime to the hard as nails instructor barking insults at every possible chance. This issue even features a bar fight that sees Clark defending the honor of a female patron much to the chagrin of his superiors. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this sequence. Its a scenario that has been played out more times than I can remember within pop culture yet it always seems to do the trick for me.
Clark joining the military is of course a drastic change in his origin story, but to me it actually makes a lot of sense considering how highly regarded the armed forces are in the states. Being in the military and serving your county is an honour and marries up nicely to the ideals of truth, justice and the American way. Having said that it was rather disconcerting seeing a young Clark becoming so efficient in the ways of taking a life be it on the firing range or in hand to hand combat. This is a far cry from the more innocent interpretations of the character we are used to. The fact that Clark is in no way holding back, or even stopping others from killing goes against everything we are used to seeing. Clark acknowledges this yet seems to override it at every turn. This just felt very off to me as Pa Kent’s advice has always played a pivotal role in Clark’s decision making, and it just seems very out of character, but I suppose that’s what a re-telling of an origin is all about…
While Clark’s exploits within the navy are closely chronicled by the cultivation of a supporting cast feels very stunted to me with the exception of Captain Kurtzberg who has a very intriguing relationship with Clark. The pair certainly grow throughout this issue as their exploits, certainly that of Clark’s garner scrutiny. This relationship is also the gateway so to speak into the more fanciful side of the issue as Clark becomes aware of Atlantis and it’s inhabitants.
As I touched upon earlier, this issue is definitely segmented into two sections, with the second part highlighting Superman’s adventures in Atlantis. Atlantis look incredible thanks to John Romita Jr’s artwork, however Superman’s motivations seem totally out of character and are just too coincidental for me. It’s thanks to this that makes it difficult to take any of this too seriously, but as a lighthearted storyline, it sure is entertaining.
The action depicted during the scenes in Atlantis are by far the very best of the whole issue. Superman faces off with a plethora of sea creatures and beings unique to Atlantis, which just look epic. The destruction depicted looks big, devastating and panoramic. The action certainly benefits from the over-sized format of this series. In some places the artwork seems completely different, although it is by the same artist. The military section of this issue looks very realistic and highly grounded in reality, however the artwork and character designs become highly fanciful and somewhat fatuous as the tone shifts in this issue. I will admit that the Sentry guarding Atlanis looks incredible, but the character of Lori looks like she is straight out of a cartoon in places.
At times Frank Miller’s dialogue in this issue felt rather dated, this is reflected in the character of Lori who comes across like a damsel in distress for almost the entirety of the issue. At times I did find it rather difficult to follow the dialogue, as it switch up an awful lot between the voice of the narrator and the characters depicted. I did however enjoy the fact that everyone had a voice in this issue and expressed themselves if not always clearly.
Overall, this issue is a bizarre one to put it lightly. Although some actions are out of character, the origin slightly altered and the addition of straight up fantasy, I did enjoy the issue a great deal more than the first one. Because of it’s eccentric theme, it really did get me hooked and I was thoroughly entertained throughout. Even if I did sometimes think to myself “what on Earth?!”. The action was great, and I am keen to see where it leads net.