REVIEW: Superman Year One is a little too familiar

Superman: Year One Part One is out now.

By Jarred A. Luján — Back in 2016, I was sitting on the main theater floor of the Dallas Fan Expo. The chairs were awful, but I sat there, mouth agape, for about an hour staring at Frank Miller as he took questions from fans. Frank Miller is probably one of my favorite writers of all time, and I’d certainly consider him nothing less than a legend in the medium. He was with Brian Azzarello the time I saw him, which was right around the time DKIII was releasing. I remember most of that Q&A pretty well, but there is a distinct moment I have been telling comic friends about for three years: a fan asked Frank why he hated Superman, a question he’s probably gotten a thousand times since Dark Knight Returns came out all those years ago.  

“I don’t hate Superman,” Frank responded. “I’ve actually got an origin story for him where he lands in Nazi occupied France—” then he chuckled, and stopped himself. “I’ve probably said too much.”

That was it. He never said another word about it, but people in that crowd lost their minds anyway (myself included.) So, for years, I carried around the idea of that book. When DC announced that Miller and John Romita, Jr., (who also happens to be one of my favorite artists of all time!) were teaming up for a Superman: Year One book on the Black Label imprint, I absolutely freaked out.  

This is not that book.  

Anyway, Superman: Year One is by no means a bad comic. JRJR’s artwork is astounding. The pages of Krypton’s demise, and subsequently of a baby Kal-El traveling through space, are so gorgeous. Romita has such a wonderful way of capturing the small intricacies of emotions on faces. It’s truly a wonderful utilization of the visual aspect of comics. Alex Sinclair, the colorist, captures such perfect Kansas sunsets. Honestly, the book is a beauty to look at.

I’m also really in love with the character work Miller puts in. The Kent parents feel as they always have. Clark’s friends all show his real connections to the world that’s adopted him. Clark’s moral complexity with his powers shows strongly in his reactions to the bullies at his high school, and I actually loved the way that his first solution made things worse. Young Clark Kent is clearly being given far more than he’s prepared to deal with.  

With all of that said, I am a little frustrated with the book. Again, the book is gorgeous to read, the character work is great, and it feels like a wonderfully classic Superman origin story. Therein lies my frustration: it’s a classic Superman origin story. Not a lot changes from the multiple retellings of Superman’s origin, which is surprising considering this book is from DC’s Black Label imprint: a place specifically meant to be a playground outside of continuity. Despite all the positive aspects of the book, it feels very leashed in, very comfortable within DC’s main continuity. This title is only supposed to run three issues, so I’m a little concerned that with such an absolutely DYNAMITE writer/artist team up, we have missed an opportunity…especially when Miller himself has talked about such a wildly divergent origin story for the character. That (or something similar) is the comic that I want.

Overall: There’s promise on the horizon here, for something different, something big, something groundbreaking coming. Like I said from the start, JRJR and Miller are two of my favorite creators in all of comics—they have earned my trust in this book. 5.0/10

Superman: Year One, Part One
Frank Miller
John Romita Jr.
Inker: Danny Miki
Colorist: Alex Sinclair

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Jarred A. Luján makes comics, studies existential philosophy, and listens to hip-hop too loudly. For bad jokes and dog pictures, you can follow him on Twitter.