I must start by saying that I do love Frank Miller’s work. Seriously. If you don’t believe me, check this article I wrote some months ago. He produced some of the best and most influential comics I ever read. But when I read Superman: Year One, only one thought crossed my mind: why did they do it?
I was so pissed off at this material that it even motivated me to start this new section: why did they do it? (check this post on why I started this section). I didn’t want to write to trash any comics, because I believe it’s much easier to destroy than to create. But when I’m faced with this kind of product… something blows up within me!
Why did THEY do it?
I have a big doubt: how many pairs of eyes read a comic and how many hands touch it before sending it to print? There’s the writer and the artist, for sure. Then there’s an editor, an associate editor, maybe a VP, a publisher? Doesn’t anybody raise their hands and say: ´hey, guys, seriously, are we going to publish this? ´
The names behind this book are well known and experienced people: Frank Miller & John Romita Jr. Don´t they have any friends or family they can talk about this that can convince them to avoid this train wreck?
You might not have read it and might be saying ¨C´mon, it can´t be that bad…´. It is.
Read it at your own risk
It’s 3 volumes 64 pages long each that make you feel like crawling through broken glasses in order to get you nowhere. And expensive ones, let me tell you. I wouldn´t be so pissed off if I wasn´t believing they’re ripping readers off with this kind of thing…
Let’s start by telling you why I hated this book so much… there will be spoilers galore, so if you’re still a non believer that wants to try things by him or herself, you can go, buy this book, and come here after the week or so it will take you to read it (really, it’s difficult to digest…). If you’re going to read it, pick a barf bag or try to be close to your bathroom, just in case. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Okay, you’re back? Or even better, I saved from reading it and you don’t even care? Great, Let’s go to the fun part. Let’s talk about the…story?
Have you ever seen that old movie, Jerry Maguire? The one Renee what´s-her-surname says the phrase ´ýou had me at hello´? Well, this book lost me at page 10. First nine pages set the unreasonable tone for the rest of the book, and the main things I hated about it.
The narrator of the story is ALWAYS unclear. One line seems to be narrated by Kal, the other by an external narrator, with no indicator that shows who tells the story. It´s not that you cannot follow it, but… it builds to the idea that this book is a mess.
By page 9 baby Kal arrives to Earth, and Jonathan Kent finds him. At that precise moment, somebody thought that maybe Superman didn´t have enough powers. They decided it would be great if they gave him some kind of mental powers, so he could put some suggestion on his adoptive father’s mind. Great, that’s what Superman needed, additional powers…
A couple pages after that, Jonathan comes back home and simply tells his wife (Textually): ´Hi, I found me something. He came out of a rocket what dropped straight outta the sky´. Martha, (who maybe was used to Johnatan bringing babies home), just says ¨Heaven Sent. A gift from on high¨. This lady is not an easy woman to surprise!
The rest of book 1, if you try to forget my previous comments, is the most bearable of the three. It shows young Clark in the high school environment, facing real heavy bullies. But what’s wrong here is that the other great change versus other origin stories is in how Miller depicts Clark’s way of seeing things.
Contrary to what happened in Man of Steel by John Byrne (yeah, read that one if you want to check the REAL Superman story), where Superman is a very human guy that happens to be an alien, in Superman: Year One we find a very alien Superman. He’s always detached from humanity, talking about ´how fragile they are´ and so on. Really, this kind of depicting him makes you root for Lex Luthor…
Book one end when Clark leaves Smallville to go to… yeah, I know you thought Metropolis. No. In this silly book, he enlists in the Navy. Yeah… that´s the best place to remain inconspicuous in an environment where nobody could try to use you as their weapon. Really nice move, Clark, you got your brains from your kryptonian daddy or your puny earthling one?
Second book is… unbelievable. Clark tries to hide his powers by being the perfect soldier and an incredibly good marksman. Well, maybe he didn’t learn so well that little thing about hiding his powers… but then, before him making anything silly as a soldier, Miller gets hold of his nosense bag and finds another silly thing for him to do. He makes young Clark go into the sea to follow mermaids. Yeah, yeah… mermaids. And since he still didn’t have enough powers, he makes him breathe underwater. Go suck that one, champ!
Later on the book, Clark shows so good murdering techniques that he’s chosen to go on a combat mission, where he, lucky us, decides not to kill a couple guys and catching a grenade in front of a group of soldiers and letting it blow in his hand. No, that’s not suspicious. Not at all. Should it be? You should have told that to the DC guys before printing this contraception… Clarkie ends up being dismissed from the Army due not being good at following orders. Is it me or that recruitment guy is not that good at keeping talents in the company?
But that´s only the better half of the book. Second half is where the book literally sinks. It’s one senseless underwater battle after another while Superman tries to show Poseidon that he’s worthy of his girlfriend, Lori Lamearis (no, I didn’t make a misspell there). Pages and pages of battle to prove his endless love to Lori. At least until book 2 ends. Because when book 3 starts, Lori doesn’t appear anymore. Not even mentioned. Maybe she didn’t smell that well at the end…
Book 3 starts being true to the first of the new Superman movies. At least when it comes to Lois Lane being like Droopy. The book starts by showing Lois driving a submarine by herself and being attacked by who knows who. Of course, she’s a reporter, she can drive a submarine. Comes with the reporter license. Now seriously… why do you have to make Lois appears everywhere, do anything, drive anything…? Is it that necessary?
And just right after this sssstupid scene, it’s followed by another moronic scene where Superman is attacked by marines that have some kind of weapons that seem to be designed to trap him… but the whole story hasn’t shown us Superman facing the world before. Frank, can’t you see this makes no sense?? Why make weapons to catch something that doesn’t exist?? I could feel my brain melting at that moment.
Superman checked Lois papers, saw she was a reporter, and thought it could be nice to have a license like that to drive a submarine. So there he goes, to study journalism and find that freaking sub.
Now in Metropolis, frustrated because he couldn’t find any submarines, he starts his vandalism career. How other way can we understand that to stop two guys that rob a bank he blocks their escape route with four (yeah, four!) cars. He totally destroys them. Why did he have to destroy four cars to catch those guys? And whose cars were those? Surely not these guys’, since two guys couldn’t have arrived there in four cars…Can you picture why I say this book makes absolutely no sense at all?
A good thing about this book is that Miller wanted to make the Superman & Batman movie look good, and made the most senseless and stupid battle against the two characters we ever saw. After this, we can see the movie again and give it two thumbs up. The battle ends when the uninvited and unnecessary Wonder Woman appears, to show only that Miller wanted to put her there, or that DC suggested that the three characters should appear. Unnecessary.
As unnecessary as the scene where Wonder Woman, who just met Superman, whispers to him… ´Kiss me. Give me something to remember´. Ohhhh boy, this will be giving eleven years boys wet dreams for years! Come on, Frank, you think so low of us readers? This is garbage any way you read it.
Then comes the real good part of the book. It ends. Let’s face it, it could go on forever, which would be close to my own version of hell. If I have to give a qualification to this book, from 0 to 10 I give it a -3.
Please DC Comics editors, this is my message to you: stop publishing this kind of garbage, being it written by Miller, Shakespeare or Woody Allen. Garbage is garbage, and Superman: Year One is really bad material.
Even Romita seems to know he’s doing sub par material, and his work during most of the book is quite dull, with the exception of a pin up or two where no words were attached to the art. He must have been relieved on those pages…
Seriously, DC, if you’re starting your Black Label imprint like this… better start thinking of a new color! Black is the future for this kind of books.
Hope I saved you from spending your hard earned money buying this book. If I didn`t, please share with me some of your comments from this Deep Space 9 of comic books!
As always, keep reading good comics (somewhere else!). If you want to read a good Superman origin story, go check John Byrne’s Man of Steel. If you already read it, we have an entire post on good Superman stories here. You won’t be dissapointed!