Sep 25 2009 11:48am

Will the Boy of Steel finally fly?


Written by Geoff Johns

Penciled by Gary Frank
Inked by Jon Sibal

Colors by Brad Anderson
Published by DC Comics

What happens when you take one of my favorite characters and one of my favorite writers and slam them together? You got an all-around classic comic book that you don’t need to know years of continuity to enjoy. From the title you can guess what the story is about. It’s Superman’s origin written by one of the best comic writers going today, Geoff Johns.

So we’ve all seen the movies, and I’m sure most of us have read something about Superman in our lives. He’s a pop-culture icon. What makes this so different?

While I don’t like answering a question with a question...why does it have to be different? I can tell you that it's unlike most of the comics gracing the shelves today. It’s not dark or angry or trying to prove a point. What we get is Superman’s origin from his days in Smallville with Gary Frank illustrating. If Norman Rockwell sat down to draw a comic book I think this is as close as we can get without the Rockwell signature. It’s that slice-of-life midwest America and how a young boy deals with finding out he has powers. Forget puberty.

Clark plays football with his friends and because he pushes that much harder he breaks his best friend's arm. We’ve seen this before in the television show Smallville and I’m sure it’s done on purpose. Geoff after all is writing a few of the episodes this season. But unlike Smallville, what I liked about this particular story is that Lana already knows Clark has powers. Both may not know why and certainly not that he’s from another planet. But they know he’s indestructible.

One day as children they were playing hide and seek in a cornfield. But Lana never saw the thresher coming. If it wasn’t for Clark she would have died, and likewise without even knowing he had powers he sacrificed himself for his best friend. The fact they lived through it all was probably considered miraculous. However Geoff doesn’t take the biblical slant. All Clark can say is “I'm stronger than steel! Cool!”

Clark says he’s afraid to touch anyone. He doesn’t want them to get hurt. Lana tells him not to be afraid and leans in for a kiss. They both find out Clark has heat vision. You can only guess how and why.

Through it all Jonathan Kent, Pa, picks him up from practice, and then from school, always with some kind of ambulance or fire truck at the scene. So he thinks it’s about time that Ma and Pa Kent tell their boy where he comes from. Ma thinks it’s a bad idea but Clark right there with them keeps asking what they’re talking about. Martha give in.

We all know this. Clark’s ship is hidden in the basement of the house. All they intended to do was show Clark. What happened when he touched it was something that none of them expected.

Jor-El and Lara manifest themselves through the ship in a holographic image. It’s what we’ve seen before in the movies, except this doesn't happen in the Fortress of Solitude. It doesn’t exist at this point. Geoff takes it from a more human level while still giving us some nice visuals to play off of.

But what you wouldn’t expect is the reaction from Clark. He uses his fists to beat the ship until the hologram turns off. He wants to be normal. He wants to be Clark Kent. Pa’s son.

Jor-El and Lara have all the expressions of loving parents but the cold images they show themselves as say otherwise. Clark goes on to tell them to stop enrages, the exact opposite of how he is around his Earth parents, and all they can do is stare back through the recording. No humanity, if any, can be found in the Kryptonians.

We get other little nods to the Superman lore such as where Clark gets his glasses. His mother fashioned them from the crystal shards that Clark “punched” off the ship.

We see Luthor’s beginnings, coming from a broken home and literally tripping over a Kryptonite artifact.

Clark begins to make excuses of why he can’t play football with his friends and see the beginning of the bumbling reporter we all know and love. But Lana knows better and puts him in his place. This is the first time in years I actually like Lana Lang. Smallville has made me jaded.

But you have to ask yourself, if he’s manifesting all of these powers, what about flight? While it wasn’t there in the beginning, it’s become integral to the legend of Superman. Well let’s just say Lana asks Clark to help him set up her aunt’s floral booth for the county fair and a twister rolls in.

They’ll find out that this time the glasses hold in the heat vision.

In between it all we get more Lex that seems like a brainy kid that hates the world. Maybe it’s just the town. Maybe it’s just his family. But he sees something in Clark. Perhaps a friendship or at the very least a somewhat equal.

And at the end of it all Clark wants to help people. But Martha says he'll have to wear something more durable. She's seen enough of her share of torn and tattered clothing.

The ending is priceless and if you’re a fan of A Christmas Story you'll know where this is going.

Geoff writes dialogue between characters that is natural. His script is pure silver age and everything about it shows you why comic books are fun. We get a portrait of The Boy of Steel in a small town without going too far or too bogged down in continuity we don’t need to know (although the future is eluded to by the crystals...) to enjoy the origin of Superman.

It’s beginning anyway.

Anthony Schiavino can be found talking comics, movies, television and all things pulp at his website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Lenny Bailes
1. lennyb
I generally like Geoff Johns' writing more when he's assigned to projects with a "juvenile" or YA flavor. I enjoyed his Stargirl JSA arc and "Legion of Three Worlds."

(I'm fairly anesthetized to Johns in his other role as the great DiDio-commissioned resurrector of Dead Superheroes. Given the task of reviving Hal Jordan, Arisia, et al., I guess he did as well as anyone might expect - following a path set by Darwyn Cooke in New Frontier. But we're now seeing the reductio ad absurdum results of all that market-driven "Resurrection Soup." Nice variant cover on the Aquaman-Zombie issue, anyway.)
Daniel Cole
2. zaldar
As one who appreciates the jaded and angry turn comics have taken recently as that fits more with my world view. Not sure if I will like this. Will check it out but will probably go back to rewatching the new batman movies and rereading some gamian.
Anthony Schiavino
3. PulpTone
You probably won't like this one Zaldar although Luthor is pretty dark in this. Much darker then I expected.

Wait until I review Criminal. If you like any kind of crime noir like the newest Batman movie you're going to want to read that if you're not already.

There's just a time and a place for it. You might actually like Spider-Woman, the other comic I reviewed here. That's much darker. Not as dark as Criminal or anything Brubaker puts out (you'll find I'm a huge fan soon enough) but it's pretty dark.

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