I guess it’s kinda odd for me to write about Volume 2 when I never got around to writing about Volume 1, huh? Oh well, that’s just how I roll. Earth One was an interesting concept: Let’s tell stories about our marquee heroes that start from the beginning. No baggage, no continuity. In many ways, it was DC’s version of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe – a no frills modernization of classic heroes. In fact, a lot of the character designs (especially Batman) were based on early art for a DC “ultimization” that was shown in an old issue of Wizard Magazine. I’ll probably get around to writing about Earth One: Batman at some point, but we’re here for Superman today. The Earth One concept was somewhat unique until DC rebooted their universe with The New 52. Suddenly, a Superman wearing a hoodie wasn’t as revolutionary as a Superman wearing jeans and a t-shirt. No, Earth One Superman never went through a Superboy phase, but now neither had New 52 Supes. So, the real question is this: can Earth One Superman still carve out a niche when the regular product has stolen his mojo?
As the first volume dealt with Clark’s arrival in Metropolis, this installment finds him still getting settled into his new digs. There are subtle changes to set this apart from the Superman canon we all know and love. For example, it’s Clark, and not Lois, who gets this first interview with Superman. Not only is this something of an unethical conflict of interest (um, they’re the same guy!), but it also stokes the fires of the Lois & Clark rivalry. As such, this also means that “Superman” is a name that he gave to himself, rather than a moniker given to him in that first Lois interview.
The biggest aspect of this volume, however, is the origin/introduction of Parasite. I’m not an expert on Parasite, so I can’t tell you if this was an original origin or just an homage to something done in the past. Basically, it seems that he was a psychopath turned serial killer who ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. This led to his transformation into Parasite, which left him with an insatiable hunger for power. Superman fights him, of course, and eventually beats him with the help of containment armor.
While Superman may have met his physical match, the most compelling aspects of the story are those that deal with Clark’s inability to fit in. We’ve experienced the tales where Clark is advised to keep his head down and not attract unwanted attention, but this story goes a long way to explain the cost of that behavior. It led Clark to be a withdrawn, straight C student with no friends. In this Smallville, there didn’t seem to be a Lana Lang or a Pete Ross to bring him out of his shell. So, instead we got a Clark Kent who took great pains to lead the most average life so as not to stick out as being different. In the most emotional part of the story, Clark tells a new friend about his favorite childhood pet, and it becomes obvious that the pet was the best friend he had ever had.
An interesting part of the story is that it features a flashback where Jonathan Kent tries to have The Talk with Clark. Though movies like to poke fun at it, I think this is the first time that a Superman comic has addressed the fact that his ejaculate could potentially injure a partner. This comes into play later, as Clark’s new neighbor is totally DTF. He clearly wants her, but his father’s words come back to haunt him, so he shies away from her. It’s probably for the best, as he later learns she hooks on the side.
Anyway, this leads back to my original question: is there room for Earth One Superman in a New 52 world? I think the answer is a resounding yes. I like the original graphic novel format, as it ensures there’s only one book you have to read for the full story, which is being told by one creative team. I like that there’s no real continuity outside of the two volumes. Anyway, if you’re looking for a fresh, modern take on Superman (no, Smallville doesn’t count), then you should definitely pick up this book.