I’m closing out CONTROVERSY WEEK with something that may not be particularly controversial in and of itself, but I’m counting it and I write these things, so there.
This one’s for the second volume of DC’s Superman Earth One.
The Controversy: So, there isn’t a lot of controversy around the Superman Earth One graphic novel series. They come out sporadically, go directly to book stores and not necessarily comic shops, with the intended audience of a more mature but not necessarily adult readership in order to attract readers who wouldn’t be caught dead in a comic book store. Some of them have actually been good. Superman’s book came first, and the most controversial thing in it was it started with what looked like Superman trying to use his powers for profit, but even that was eventually revealed to be about Clark trying to earn money for Ma Kent, and that seems more in-line with Superman’s character.
No, the controversy here comes from who the writer is. That would be J. Michael Straczynzski. What else did he do? He wrote the story where we learned Gwen Stacy slept with Norman Osborn and had his children. And you know what? I FREAKIN’ LOVE THAT STORY! Why? Because someone finally wrote a story where Gwen Stacy wasn’t just some dead saint of a woman who was just sweet and innocent and Peter missed her so damn much while he was married to a wonderful, patient, loving, and drop-dead gorgeous woman like Mary Jane. That was never right, and every Spider-Man writer who spent a decent amount of time on that book eventually wrote a “poor Gwen” story, and her in-comics death is older than I am, so why the hell should I care about Gwen Stacy? You might as well ask me to care about Jean DeWolfe or something.
Of course, Straczynski also wrote the rightly reviled One More Day that made Spider-Man single again for the dumbest possible reasons (the editor wanted it so), plus an aborted Wonder Woman run that showed Diana in an alternate history that would probably eventually get reversed and a Superman arc that involved him walking across America in a way that made longtime fans unhappy. Now, I suppose I could pull out some of the other thins JMS has done, including Rising Stars, a creator-owned superhero series that he delayed finishing for a while possibly due to wanting a bit more control over eventual motion picture or TV rights, but the biggest one is obviously One More Day, but there’s no way in hell I am reading that trash again, especially if it means buying new issues and paying Marvel for them right to read something I despise on every level conceivable.
But I did have a second volume of Superman Earth One in my unread trades stack, so here we are.
The work: I remember being a bit underwhelmed by the first volume of Superman Earth One when I read it. That much hasn’t changed.
The story picks up not long after Superman made his debut and Clark Kent got himself a job on The Daily Planet. And something happens that turns his life completely upside down. He meets a woman.
And it isn’t Lois Lane.
Now, Lois is hanging around in the background, she has a subplot of her own, and she’s very interested in the mystery of Clark Kent for a lot of reasons, but no, the woman in Clark’s life is his new neighbor in his cheap apartment, one Lisa Lasalle. She’s an attractive redhead who takes a distinct liking to Clark in ways that make him very uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, a serial killer wanders into the wrong science lab, gets hit by some kind of experiment, and becomes the Parasite.
Much of this story has to do with Superman’s general loneliness. He’s an alien, he knows he’s an alien, and he keeps his distance out of a general fear of hurting other people. As for the Parasite, he has no such compunctions, and his touch does nothing but hurt people.
So, we can see this is a Superman still trying to find his way in the world. He wants to help, but there are plenty of people who don’t quite trust him yet, and this volume does introduce Superman’s greatest enemy in another interesting twist that would be more impressive if it didn’t remind me of Batman Earth One‘s take on Two-Face. Still, I found this particular book only so-so. I probably won’t be getting more of this series. 7.5 out of 10 cat stories.