Admittedly, while I liked J. Michael Straczynski’s “Superman: Earth One”, because it came the guy with the big red ‘S’ a different kind of tempo; a meaner, darker, and grittier attitude than what had been established before, I wasn’t so sure where and to how far he would take the character into what can be considered a ‘darker side’. Well, the writing by Straczynski with illustrator Shane Davis is indeed determined to take the man of steel to new heights. “Superman: Earth One-Volume Two” is both surprising, fresh and is the right direction that may be needed to revive DC’s own Boy Scout.
Clark Kent is now a reporter. But it seems like even when he tries to fit in and stay away from the spotlight, his exploits as Superman have brought him into the light for much debate. Is Superman a threat or a blessing? Major Sandra Lee has been tasked to find a solution and an answer. Clark tries to stay true to his parents’ teachings and upbringing, as his powers have caused him to be alienated and alone, now as Superman, some people have come to fear him, and now a new threat wants everything that Clark Kent has. However, Clark also has a weakness, not in the form of a radioactive piece of his home planet, but rather a woman. A very attractive woman named Lisa, who is about to turn his life upside down.
It is to be argued that the direction that Straczynski is taking the Superman character is something that had been done before by Marvel. The writer dares to abandon what the DC universe had come to call as ‘hero worship’ and instead brings the last son of Krypton into a shadow where the real world may actually exist and how the people of the real world may actually react. True, DC have slowly steered away from this definition with the recent stories it had published the past few years. Straczynski now defines the Superman character a little different. The man feels a little more human, he has fears, dreams and even fantasizes about sex. The Clark Kent persona is someone you can see as a young man who is trying to do the right thing, and yet, somehow, he ends up coming a little short in what he sees as trying to save and inspire a world. The world Clark moves around in is not with eyes that can see in black and white, there are several shades of grey around this world. Good people can be around the corner, and yet in some ways, given their situation, they tend to fall into the other side. It was also nice that the writing had also addressed the "uniform issue"; considering he could fly at unbelievable speeds, it was smart not to have Clark wear a suit and a coat all the time to hide the uniform underneath. (Honestly, I still have major issues with 'glasses' being able to hide his identity but I guess even Straczynski cannot change this very established groundwork).
The introduction of several new characters such as Clark’s neighbor Lisa (eerily similar to Lana Lang in looks) and a Major Sandra Lee defines the world that Clark moves in. They are the people who can be seen as survivors, and they deal with this world the best they could. Lois Lane is shown to be a lot more intelligent than what we’ve seen in the past. She is a woman unafraid to ask the hard questions, and contrary to previous comic books, she sees Clark as someone who has something to hide. This Superman/Clark Kent is also very different. He is not the do-gooder alien that we are all used to, he is a man able to be overcome by anger and he is not afraid to take on those issues. We see the government and the media as entities that may be paranoid and yet, they try to expect the worst and hope for the best in the Superman situation. The “Daily Planet” remains as the paper that becomes more involved with Big Blue, and yet, they are not the paper that praises his deeds all the time.
Straczynski was able to bring the iconic character in a very mean, real and sometimes painful world. Of course, this brings us to the villain of the story and it was a great move to portray the Parasite as something much more. This time, the Parasite is not your run-of-the-mill ‘hungry for power’ villain. He is a killer. The writing presents the classic villain as someone with a very shadowy past. He is a man who has murdered many people in his past, and the writing even leaves a question as to who or what he was working for. This was the classic villain with a really mean streak, and he reacts to the acquisition of Supes’ powers with such violence and lust for power. Imagine a serial killer who gains the power of Superman and you would have a good idea as to what I am referring to.
The art by Shane Davis is detailed and very nice to look at. He was able to bring the drama and the emotions in each panel to make the writing come alive. The battle between Supes and the Parasite were oftentimes quick, and yet they were brutal in their own way. The features of the Parasite quite frankly is a departure from his previous appearances. I liked the way the character details were able to define his powers, and how they worked. It was so cool to see him grow bigger (almost Hulk-like) the more powerful he gets. Straczynski and Davis paced the story well with a good blend of suspense, action and intrigue (hey, even Clark gets a chance for sex), the way I liked it. The stakes were well- defined and allows for a further development in the story. The introduction of Supes’ arch-nemesis, but a different kind of “Lex Luthor” that we are familiar with, brings a certain feeling of excitement as to where the writing will be taking this graphic novel series.
“Superman: Earth Two- Volume 2” is a very good read. It is fresh and epitomizes the journey of a young man becoming a MAN. Clark Kent takes his step into becoming a Man of Steel. It captures the essence of the character and succeeds in re-defining the world that he lives in. In this mean, cruel world where darkness and power seems to be the ultimate prize, just what can one man from Krypton do?
Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
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