The first Superman: Earth One graphic novel ended with Clark Kent embracing his destiny as Superman. Volume Two deals with what comes next.
Writer J. Michael Straczynski is known for multilayered plot-building; one twist is often the backdrop into a deeper web of revelation. In this he delivers in spades.
A poignant moment is Clark’s fluff piece with a random junkie. While addiction is a serious tragedy, the Daily Planet operates on a global campaign. Stories about the junkie’s life are not given high priority. Clark’s intentions are noble, but his focus on the fluff piece leads many to believe he’s simply riding the coattails of his big Superman interview.
Hence the cool transition into Clark’s past. Lois Lane, wary of a rookie “getting” the interview other journalists would kill for, begins digging into Clark’s life. Here we discover more of Clark’s constant subterfuge. The fact he’s a straight-C student (despite his complex mathematics demonstration in Volume One) is proof that Clark’s taken great pains to build an instantly forgettable persona.
Straczynski offers a look into an overlooked aspect of Superman’s relationships with the fairer sex. Sure, the Parasite’s a dangerous adversary thanks to his absorbing powers. It’s what comes after the absorption that’s intriguing. In a few scenes, the readers get a look into Clark’s sexual history. A being who can topple mountains with his bare hands could deal catastrophic harm on a sexual partner due to the act’s primal, overwhelming passion. The bottom line: Clark’s a virgin because he’s Superman. Just another example of Straczynski’s famous plot-building.
There’s the penultimate moment of temptation. Not surprisingly, world leaders are wary of a person who could destroy them by sneezing too loud. The classic Superman has a moral compass so strong that such abuse of power doesn’t occur to him. But this isn’t the classic Superman. This Superman is young and naive. So Clark breaks a rule and deposes a foreign ruler infamous for his citizens’ mistreatment. This gives the US military the proof they need to neutralize the “threat” Superman embodies. Enter genius Alexander “Lex” Luthor and his wife Alexandra. Their job: kill Superman.
The purpose of the Earth One graphic novels are to “modernize” Superman so as to build a connection to the new generation of fans without slogging through decades of past plots. Straczynski not only creates a younger Superman, but uses the villain Parasite to comment on Superman’s sexual relationships and the resulting loneliness from the isolation he imposes on himself. And while the Superman of the 1940s would never think to become judge, jury and executioner, Straczynski’s Superman suffers the same frustration of any common man with the means to stop an overwhelming, global injustice. The fact that Clark does something about it might be cheered, but it adds fuel to the tinderbox of the world’s view of him. With the introduction of not one but two Luthors, the readers will be drooling over Volume Three.
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