Review: Superman: Year One #1

Superman: Year One #

After much anticipation, Superman: Year One #1 has arrived. And what stands out is how conservative it is in a way. With a story and art by Frank Miller and John Romita, Jr., the debut issue both underwhelms and exceeds expectations.

Superman: Year One #1 isn’t as much a “year one” as it is a compacted look at formative moments in Clark Kent’s life. The first issue charts his escape from the doomed Krypton to his graduation from high school. The issue is a focus on the construction of his morals and belief system. It’s an attempt to make the case as to why he acts the way he does. What shaped his focus on “truth” and “justice?”

Miller and Romita, Jr. have created a very unexpected comic. While Miller’s comics in the past tend to have over the top action and a bit of grim, this first issue instead is one of doing what’s right and standing up to bullies. It’s a PSA in comic form. Debate is had between Clark and his parents as to what to do about school bullies. And that’s a lot of the focus in this issue, Clark and his friends dealing with high school bullies.

There’s a bit of Miller’s philosophy thrown in about unchecked dominance but for the most part, this could be an after-school special in a comic. The underwhelming part is, it’s not so much a “year one” as it is a “year zero” and while it sets up Clark’s moral system the story itself is rather slow and plodding. Miller also has a habit of being a bit cliche by throwing in some of the more famous catchphrases we know today. There’s also some narrative issues in the beginning with a rather muddled voice and perspective.

It’s a character study on what makes a god act human.

And that’s the underwhelming part. It’s not so much a disappointment as it is an unexpected story. For those who have read Miller’s work, especially his takes on Daredevil or his Batman, one would expect a more action focused comic with a bit more punch. Instead, this is Clark dealing with school. It’s his learning to keep his powers in check. It’s a character study on what makes a god act human.

The artwork by Romita, Jr. has never looked better. Joined by Alex Sinclair on color and John Workman with lettering, the comic has a subtlety about it. Much like the story itself, it’s muted and not over the top. Instead, a focus is on the mystery of Clark and his powers with some of his use taking place off the page and all we’re left with is the aftermath. It plays to the story and Clark attempting to hide his true nature. The character designs too are free of Romita, Jr.’s habit of having characters look a bit too similar. It’s leaps and bounds above his recent works.

The debut issue is a solid one. The negativity of Miller’s recent works is gone and instead we have a focus on the positive and justice focused nature of Superman. In it, the creators show they get their subject by delivering the building blocks that have shaped his focus on helping those in his later years. It’s an unexpected debut and one of the best in takes on Superman in recent memories.

Story: Frank Miller, John Romita, Jr. Art: John Romita, Jr.
Color: Alex Sinclair Lettering: John Workman
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review