REVIEW: Superman: Year One

Superman: Year One is here and you have no idea how long I have been waiting for the release of this book. If anything the fact that it is over-sized makes me want to read it even more! I honestly couldn’t get to my local comic book shop quick enough to get my hands on this. Created by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr, Superman: Year One is seriously one of my most highly anticipated books of 2019. I have to say, straight off the bat that this did not disappoint. Both writer and artist have brought their absolute best to the table. But first, lets checkout the covers.

Interior artist John Romita Jr has created a very awe-inspiring cover featuring a visibly younger Superman. This really is a fantastic cover as it conveys a sense that this maybe Superman’s first time stepping out onto the world stage. I love the artwork, and the line-work is incredible. Not to mention the (always) awesome colouring by Alex Sinclair.

superman year one cover

The variant cover is by Frank Miller himself and features an older looking Superman. The artwork seems a little clunky and jagged, but that is simply Miller showcasing his style of artwork – as we have seen before. For me personally, seeing a Frank Miller cover still conveys a sense of prestige and majesty. The colours of the background really does just make the image POP! It is EPIC.

superman year one cover

Frank Miller is arguably one of the greatest and most influential comic book creators of all time. Not to mention one of my personal favourites As for John Romita Jr, well he is an industry legend who has worked on some of the most iconic characters. These two icons working on Superman is a dream come true for me. I adore this creative teams’ previous collaborations specifically Daredevil – The Man Without fear. Frank Miller of course created one of the most iconic and acclaimed versions of Superman way back in 1986 as part of the critically acclaimed ‘Batman – The Dark Knight Returns’ four issue mini-series.

If these two creators working on Superman wasn’t enough, finding out that Superman Year One would be published under DC Comics ‘Black Label’ imprint heralded nothing but excitement and intrigue for me. This is due to the fact that Superman’s origin is perhaps one of the most well known in all of popular culture and certainly the most retold throughout the ages. However with the ‘Black Label’ imprint boasting unique and remarkable storytelling set to challenge the reader, this genre-redefining creative team will most certainly add new facets and layers to the origin and formative years of Superman.

To be honest, Superman: Year One really took me by surprise. I’ve read some really wonderful Superman origin stories in the last few years like ‘Superman Secret Origin’ by Geoff Johns and ‘Superman Birthright’ by Mark Waid. Both titles feature all that you could ever possibly desire from a quintessential Superman Origin story. With these two wonderful collected editions in my personal library there whenever I want to read them, I was ready and waiting for this title to really tread new ground and give me something I wasn’t expecting for better or worse. Knowing how unpredictable the ‘Black Label’ imprint has been up to this point and knowing how innovative Frank Miller can be I was ready for anything. For the majority of the book we see a very faithful take on the character and origin as ‘Book One’ chronicles Clark’s early years in Kansas. However as the story progresses, Frank Miller delivers the unexpected in the form of a fascinating new path for Clark in the next installment.

The opening pages of Superman: Year One showcases the last remaining seconds of Krypton’s existence as Lara and Jor-El send their only son into the expanse of Space. These scenes are absolutely breathtaking as artist John Romita Jr produces some of – if not his finest work to date. We see Krypton’s destruction on an epic and striking scale. Jor-El’s words to his only son are so powerful and so poignant. I experienced a real rush of emotions reading these pages. The hairs were honestly standing on the back of my neck. Frank Miller’s dialogue very much conveyed the same emotions I feel when I hear Russell Crowe’s passage during the ‘Man of Steel’ teaser trailer. The emotions don’t end there as Baby Kal-El then comes face to face with Jonathan and Martha Kent. Its the facial expressions of the pair during this sequence that just got me right in the heart. Martha’s wide-eyed facial expressions really convey a sense of hope and wonder that really is a corner stone of the Superman mythos.

As Superman: Year One moves on, Clark progresses in age as more of his abilities begin to develop. These abilities are depicted with such beauty, awe and magnificence with just the right amount of whimsy. There is an image in this book of Clark in a cornfield looking to the sky, which is accompanied by the most beautiful dialogue. It brought a lump to my throat and tear to my eye every time I read it. Jonathan’s words of wisdom and advice are delivered lovingly and with that real sense of wonderment and awe in the face of what he believes his son is destined for. That theme seems to run throughout this whole book.

As Clark starts school this really is where the book examines Clark’a character and tests what he has learnt from Ma and Pa Kent. We are introduced to Pete Ross, Lana Lang and a gang of school bullies who really are treated as the antagonists of the story which I felt was a great idea. This helped the story stay grounded and realistic, presenting a set of circumstances that are actually achievable for Clark to overcome with what he has learnt up to this point. This book isn’t asking a young Clark to utilize all his powers with the proficiency of an older version of himself. Clark’s relationship with Lana is an absolute thing of beauty in this book. The way it blossomed just felt so natural and never felt shoehorned or forced. It feels like an integral part of the story and a thread I cannot wait to see develop in the next book. It’s rare we see Superman with love interests other than Lois Lane – whom I adore – so it’s actually quite refreshing to see that relationship with someone else.

John Romita Jr really has delivered (in my opinion) the very best artwork of his career. Romita Jr’s facial expressions really do a lot of the heavy lifting in this book. You can tell instantly how a character is feeling. A perfect example of this is when Clark is deep in thought as he rests on an agricultural silo. This page is just so beautiful. You can really feel the turmoil in Clark’s mind. Colourist Alex Sinclair has provided some truly beautiful colour to this book. His work has just made the book vibrant with rich colours, I am a huge fan of his work, and this is why. My mind just keeps taking me back to that glorious looking cornfield scene. You can almost feel the warmth radiating off of the sun in the deep blue sky.

Writer Frank Miller has faithfully captured the tone of Superman’s formative years perfectly. Of course there is angst and doubt but the majority of this time period is made up of light, love, respect, wonder and awe. You really do feel that Miller gets this and truly understands the character. Frank Miller’s dialogue in this book is at times breathtaking. Its so powerful and captures the real sense that Clark is bound for greatness, and truly has the ability to change the world. This is most prominent during conversations the young man has with his adoptive father. I adore this book and cannot wait to see what happens next.

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