Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Back from a recent hiatus...

Hello Authentic Geeks,

Well it's certainly been a while since I last posted...sorry. Life's been happening at 1000 kph lately, a new job, a new music interface, a new lady; but I'm finally used to the rapid acceleration and my life has settled somewhat giving me time for the creativity and the creation of blog-posts to add to the already mountainous pile of opinions and fan-leakage.

Speaking of which, I decided to make my return after a long hiatus about a similar return after long hiatus with D.C.'s new straight to graphic novel, "Superman: Earth One" written by J. Michael Straczynski and penciled by Shane Davis. I wanted my return to posting to be all happy and "This S#%T is AWESOME!!!" but sadly this S#%T was just mediocre and ultimatly...kinda S#!^^Y and I'd never lie to you Authentic Geeks...

"Superman: Earth One" is the first in D.C.'s new line of straight to market graphic novels set in a re-imagined D.C. Universe where all of our favourite super heros are about to make their first impact upon an unsuspecting world in the year 2010. It's an attempt to reinvigorate our favourite characters that are lagging under years and years of continuity. It gives them new life and new freedom. Sometimes our heros get new powers, sometimes the powers are the same, but the way the hero gets them or how the hero uses them are different. However the re-imagining goes, it is almost always a great idea for comic books, it not only gives new life to old heros, but it brings the characters new relevance to a younger fan-base, that may have otherwise overlooked them as old or outdated characters.

This is not a new tactic for comic books at all, in fact resetting the continuity of a comic univers is so common place, I wonder why it's taken D.C. this long to do it at all. I mean Marvel's been doing it for the last 10 years with their Ultimate comics, all the recent money-making comic book movies have involved a rebooted continuity; hell, D.C. were the one's that pioneered continuity re-sets in the first place with the Crisis on Infinite Earths! What gives D.C.?!? Why so long, huh?

Well at least they got the project done, and for a first outing, "Superman: Earth One" is a lot of fun; the art is very pretty and the story is engaging. However, I still feel like I enjoyed Marvel's re-imagined Ultimate universe more than D.C.'s recent outing.

For starters, I must say that I love J. Michael Straczynski, but there are parts of this book that it feels like he just phoned in. While Straczynski does a good job of presenting Superman in a modern, somewhat grittier context; he's making some rookie mistakes here. Mistakes that he even spends time bitching about himself through the voice of Daily Planet editor Perry White.

The first time we ever meet Perry he has a run-in with Lois over a paragraph that got edited out of Lois's article because the paragraph was redundant. Later in the story we hear Perry congratulating Lois and Jimmy Olsen on their coverage of Superman's first appearance, Perry compliments their courage and how they stayed and got the truth while everyone else ran. Perry then celebrates the fact that the Planet is the only paper to get the exclusive images and interviews with Superman because they are poor, and could use the circulation.

One page later, I kid you not, ONE page later we see Clark apply for a job is cornered by Lois and Jimmy as to why he came to the Planet. Clark replies that he did so because he was there at Superman's first battle and he saw how Lois and Jimmy didn't run, how they stood their ground and got the truth and...wait, haven't I heard this before? Oh, and then there was this great joke where the Daily Planet is all poor and losing money but suddenly all the other news corporations start calling because they want the rights to show the exclusive Daily Planet images and Perry's all telling them no and it's all vindicating and...wait...didn't I just get that emotion like two pages ago..?

But that's not all. Straczynski goes to all of the trouble of setting up some really interesting plot-threads, and then he unravels them all in the same page that he sets them up!
Like first Straczynski hints that maybe Krypton didn't just explode, but that maybe it had been destroyed on purpose!!! OOHHH, Awesome, cool idea I like it. Then he not only tells us that, yes in fact, it was destroyed on purpose; but he also shows us an alien from the race that did it, AND the Alien spends a few pages nicely detailing out exactly who he is, why and even how his race destroyed Krypton. Gee...thanks for that J. Michael...I was just hoping that you'd spoon feed me the plot like that...It always sucks when a main character has to find things out through stuff like hard-work and junk.

But he's still not done; we actually have to suffer through a description of how Supermans' powers work and how they are different now. Okay, I'll admit that the powers are pretty cool. Basically, the difference is that all Kryptonians are solar batteries and they get different powers from different kinds of solar radiation. White Stars, Dwarf Stars, Pulsars all have different effects; that's pretty cool!

But who tells us this fact and how do we learn it, is is something that makes sense like the computer aboard the spaceship that Superman crashed in? Nope, nothing like that...Superman learns about his powers from none other than the alien that is on Earth to kill Superman and finish the work he started with Krypton; cause it makes total sense that an Alien bent on Killing Superman would want to tell him exactly how all of his powers work... I mean this must be the most helpful Alien Warlord ever.

But it get's worse, later the alien tells Superman that his ship is made of metal that is almost as indestructible as the metal that Superman's ship is made of. He basically tells Superman that his ship will blow up if he rams it. It's like telling the other guy in a fight "Pardon Sir, but you might like to try kicking me in the Nards, it's this place right between my legs where I keep my reproductive organs" or "Do keep in mind that my indestructible bullet proof armour is slightly less hard than your bullets".

Then, just as the alien is being defeated, with his final breath he whispers "but you still don't know about...". MAN, this guy is helpful, Superman just killed him and he's still trying to tell him secrets. I mean, what's next?!? Are we going to see Lex Luthor voluntarily give up after Superman tells him that it's mean to hurt people?

But that's not the only let down's either. The art often looks really pretty and all gritty and shaded to look as real as possible, but the poses the characters take are just...mundane.

Like the first time we ever see Superman in full costume, he's just standing there. Well, he's flying, but he's just kinda standing there in mid-air. I mean, his arms are hanging straight down, his legs are hip distance appart; he just looks like he's going for a stroll. His fists should be on his hips spreading his arms in giant triangles and making his chest look impossibly huge and powerful. He should have a heroic stance with his feet at least shoulder width appart looking dynamic and god-like. In this shot, he looks like he's going to cry and have an emo-fart.

All in all "Superman: Earth One" is an interesting project, but I'd get it from the library and not shell out the $20 for it. While it is nice to get a hard-cover graphic novel for $20, the story and art are sadly ordinary, they are professional and they work, but it's nothing that I haven't seen before, and isn't that what this project is supposed to be about?



  1. These are some pretty astute comments. Overall I enjoyed the story, but shared some of the problems you had with it.

    I wasn't as much of a fan of the art as you are, though. I found he relied too heavily on what I assume is photo-reference for the characters, which often made his art look stiff (something you touched on when describing his first appearance in the suit). The first reveal of Superman in his Clark Kent/glasses and suit garb was flat-out embarrassing, I thought.

    The characterization also bothered me a bit, how long it took Superman to actually step into action, being so willing to stand idly by, or jog over to the laboratory while the aliens destroyed buildings and cities (certainly harming people, no?) to draw him out. Even if he felt alone, different, or superior to humans, or whatever they were going for--this boy was raised by the Kents. Surely he'd be less selfish than this.

    Also the new villain's design was very trapped in the 90s (he looked far too much like Lobo for my liking) and the cosmetic changes to Superman's suit were so small, it made them feel all the more unnecessary. We really needed his boots to point up instead of down? Yellow around his crest? Dirty hair? 70 years without changing his costume, and that's as far as they go? Why change it at all, then?

    The very worst part in the whole book, though, came at the end when the Daily Planet printed Clark's cringe-worthy interview with...himself. The descriptions he uses, knowing we know he's talking about himself--it's pretty awful writing. Unless that was the point (that Clark, who is so good at math and sports kinda sucks at journalism) they should have left that whole part out.

    Overall I think new Superman readers will like this. The story was pretty good, and we still have a lot of characters to meet (I have a hunch it was Brainiac who sold Tyrell's people the ability to destroy Krypton--which brings me to another point--the name of the villain. Tyrell? He sounds more like a point guard than an alien conqueror)

    As a Superman lifer, it felt pretty unnecessary, especially given how awesome both Man of Steel and the recent Secret Origin was, but it's neat to have people talking about Superman again.

  2. I agree completely, it's really nice to finally have another reason to pay attention to Superman (All Star was great, but way too slow...); but I was quite let down by the art.

    I don't know why exactly, but in a media that highlights the talents of hand-drawn illustration, it just feels like cheating when they trace over people. I mean, what about all the hundreds of thousands of successful comic artists who didn't need to rely on photographs of people to get their work done. And the photos they chose were flat and superman looked like a 20 something emo grouch instead of the epic farm-strong adonis 30 something that he's portrayed as in the comics.

    Plus the whole, Clark gets the first interview with Superman thing, what was J. Michael thinking? I mean, it makes sense for Superman to get an interview with Lois because it distances him from his identity of Clark.

    With Clark getting the interview, a stranger walks into the planet, who is a male with dark hair around the same height as superman, who just happened to appear a little before Superman did, who claims to have been at ground zero of the Superman battle (without any corroborating witnesses) and he gets the only face-to-face time with Superman? Come on, that's so suspicious even Maxwell Smart would be on to him!