Superman: Year One by Frank Miller

details
Title: Superman.
Story-arc: Year One.
Writer(s): Frank Miller.
Artist(s): John Romita Jr.
Inker(s): Danny Miki.
Colourist(s): Alex Sinclair.
Letterer(s): John Workman.
Publisher: DC Black Label.
Format: Hardcover.
Release Date: November 12th 2019.
Pages: 216.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
ISBN13: 9781401291372.
My Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆.

thoughts

How many times have we heard about the story of a space ship holding a special baby that crash-landed in the middle of Smallville, Kansas? The one where that very baby grows up to don a symbol of hope for the city of Metropolis? The one where he learns to fit in with humans although he possesses powers worthy of a God? In the same vein as Batman: Year One, legendary writer Frank Miller returns with the help of artist John Romita Jr. to write a reimagined origin story for Superman in honor of his 80th anniversary. As part of the DC Black Label imprint, this tale focuses on some of the most crucial turning points throughout the hero’s formative days, including his teenage, young adult, and his career-defining early-adult days.

What is Superman: Year One about? This three-issue story invites readers to revisit Superman’s origins from the destruction of Krypton and exile of Kal-El to his introduction in Metropolis as the Man of Steel. As a stranger to Earth, he learns to stand up to those who are in need and to control his powers before inviting any form of alienation from those who do not see eye to eye with him. It’s through personal experiences of love and danger, that he understands what he is capable of doing, what he believes in and what he wants to give the world, but he will never forget his roots and what his adoptive parents have allowed him to become.

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There he goes again. While writer Frank Miller might have had a hand in revolutionizing the comic book industry with some of the most impressive stories out there, he has failed to prove the world that he is still relevant as he continues to repeatedly write some of the most painful and cringy stories in the market. This time around, he wished to tackle one of DC’s most iconic heroes while having complete control of the Big Blue Boy Scout’s lore and an oversized format to explore it all on. Oddly enough, the graphic novel starts off intriguing and resolutely promising as the dialogue doesn’t scream pretentious or absurd for once. He ties together various iconic characters that have often been associated with Clark Kent’s growth, from his parents to his love interest, and allows us to see the innocent yet virtuous hero acknowledge his place on Earth while restraining himself to avoid breaking everything he touches, objects and people alike.

It is as you progress through the story and Clark Kent grows old that you start getting the idea that Frank Miller plans on adding some unnecessary lore elements to the hero’s journey, as the transition seems off more often than not. In fact, when Clark Kent reaches his young adult days, he is put in a world that is not common of him to be in, especially when he is often reluctant to be a pawn to a higher authority. It can maybe be argued that he has always been a man who will do anything for his nation but to insert it so early in his life almost makes it seem like he was always inclined to join forces with the government in the long run. The story also ventures in an underwater tale where Superman showcases unprecedented signs of cockiness, as he discovers more of his powers while proving his love for an unusual love interest. This chapter simply appeared out of the blue and quickly made me think that Frank Miller simply wanted to fuse Aquaman’s playground to Superman’s adventures.

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The final chapter is where it completely derailed in my books as the story lost its focus and expanded its cast to include other heroes and villains that shouldn’t have been in this story in the first place—amongst them all, he unsurprisingly decided to ruin the Dark Knight with some of the worse dialogues of all time. This whole chapter almost felt like it that was designed to prove the people at Warner Bros and DC Comics that he had a “better” idea—the premise of it could’ve been good but the execution here was horrible—than director Zach Snyder as to what Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) should’ve been.

And the artwork? Thankfully, Frank Miller didn’t do that too. He does do the inside cover art of this edition and I’m glad that the dusk jacket is there to hide it. However, John Romita Jr. does a decent job illustrating this story from start to finish but since I’m not much of a fan of his visual style, especially his character designs, I can’t say that I loved it too much. It’s mostly the inking by Danny Miki and colouring by Alex Sinclair that allowed this volume to keep me hooked. Vibrant, clearly-defined, and with a touch of mysticism, the artwork was decent enough to not contribute to Frank Miller’s yet-again unnecessary and mediocre project.

Superman: Year One is a superfluous origin story that skips through his evolution and delivers a hectic, unfocused and precipitous finale that completely lost sight of its intended direction.


EXHIBITA

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!

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19 comments

  • I am now at the point where I don’t even WANT to read any new comics because of how various characters get “the treatment”. Is imagination so lacking in these writers that they can’t come up with their own new story instead of simply re-telling an Origin story that has been done to death already? I mean, Elseworlds explored so many varied Supes origins that any new “twist” today feels like the writer making a point or something instead of telling a good story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is quite unfortunate that many classics are just rehashed and the result is just the same or just subpar. I don’t mind it that much since two same stories can’t possibly look the same and that’s where it makes it fun to see how the writer/artists will do it this time. I also see these stories as an opportunity to revisit classic stories or allow newcomers to discover them for the first time (although I do hope the quality won’t be questionable, making it a bad entry point for some). But man… I can assure you that Frank Miller and Superman don’t really go hand in hand… And since a pretty good while, Frank Miller and Batman don’t get along at all too.

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  • I think the general consensus is that Frank Miller could never nail Superman the same way he could Batman. If the reviews of his work are anything to go by, he just doesn’t get the character and you giving two stars to this book isn’t surprising as a result. Then again, as of the 21st century, he couldn’t really do Batman justice either (or any character, really).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am absolutely with you. I don’t think he could ever do him right, even if he forced himself to (which was the case here). He just ends up giving the character the wrong persona/background/story. So far, Frank Miller’s more modern work have been horrible in my books and I have almost no hope that he can do anything good anymore. I’ll still check out whatever trash he decides to shoot out way though… It’ll be my own little cathartic exercise to write a negative review…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, some creators are like that – incredibly influential and brilliant for a very brief moment in time and not a nanosecond longer. I’m not sure what caused Frank Miller to go nuts, but when he fell, he fell hard.

        Liked by 1 person

  • Your love for Miller is well known by now, Lashaan! 😉 But another Superman origin story? Please, how many times can we go through this?
    Frankly, though, I think I’ve had enough of Miller for the time being. The style of Romita Jr. is peculiar, and doesn’t fit well everywhere, but some of his comics are just a perfect meld of the story and the art – some of the Spider-man stories, for example, or the Eternals, or even Snyder’s All Star Batman 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • At this point, I’ve given up in Miller’s ability to write anything good anymore. His artwork has degraded over the years too. I’m totally with you and Romita Jr., I liked it a lot with Snyder’s All-Star Batman and thought it fit pretty well together (Snyder’s writer and Romita Jr’s art). But when it doesn’t fit or Romita Jr. decides to do those odd facial designs for Batman (a cubic face of sorts), it’s just hard to enjoy…

      Liked by 1 person

  • Hm, yeah…can’t say I’m surprised really – everything I’ve heard about Superman: Year One has been pretty negative and as we’ve both mentioned previously, the quality of Frank Miller’s modern output just continues to disappoint. I can’t say that I’m interested in ever checking this out to be honest as there seems to be very little that redeems it…and John Romita Jr is always a hard sell for me (unless it’s some of his earlier work which is actually quite good).

    Great review Lashaan, think you’ve said all I need to hear about this title and enough reason to avoid it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep. I mean, you also warned me that it might not be worth picking up with excitement but I just had to see for myself if he could do something à la Batman: Year One… Unfortunately, it didn’t have the same magic at all. Thanks for reading, Chris! I appreciate it as always.

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