In 2018, DC comics launched what they called DC Black Label. This is a series of books that allows artist and writers to expand on known characters outside of continuity similar to DC’s Elseworlds. This is a series of DC Comics that are aimed more at adults, thus containing darker and more intense themes. These stories are being written in the tradition of Batman: The Killing Joke and Watchmen. If you’re familiar with these titles, you know that these are not “kid friendly” and contain fascinating yet adult-centered stories.
They announced several stories to launch this label, but one that caught our attention was Superman Year One by Frank Miller. Frank is no stranger to controversial, dark stories, that draw readers in and challenge the way they see a character. He did a great job with Batman year one which essentially redefined how people see the origins of the Dark Knight. However, the question becomes, does he do justice to the Man of Steel?
The cover art on these features a younger, slimmer Superman, which makes sense considering this is to represent his first years. We see him stepping out of what appears to his childhood spaceship dressed in his traditional suit but bearing a black background “S.” The image is very much a representation off what this story does taking you from his early childhood to his becoming Superman.
The art was done masterfully by John Romita Jr. who previously worked with Miller on “The Last Crusade” as well many other DC and Marvel titles. There are wonderful moments in this book, where he captures the emotional state of some of the characters. He also does a great job of creating a flow among the panels. His art is undoubtedly new, yet it carries a sense of nostalgia. You can honestly see some of the influence of Jack Kirby and John Buscema. It gives the book this “classic” feel while grounding current readers in a modern day. In an interview with DC All Access, he said that he felt challenged by Frank Miller to create a great product that matched the hard work of the plot given to him. I honestly think he did a great job doing just that.
This is where the rubber meets the road. As I said earlier, this is a series that is meant to take us from the early days of Kal El’s (Clark Kent) landing on earth to him becoming Superman. However, how many times can you tell the story of him landing and being raised by the Kents? Much like how some are growing bored with the constant retelling of the origins of Batman, many are becoming blind to the origins of Superman. So how do you freshly tell this story?
I think Miller did a great job in doing something I’m not sure I’ve seen before. For much of the first half the book, you follow young Clark from baby through Jr High where he is learning about his abilities and how to control them. He puts the reader in the mindset of a five-year-old trying to figure out how to sleep when your super hearing is on overdrive. Alternatively, how a three-year-old with the ability to create heat rays responds when he’s suddenly fed oatmeal that’s entirely too hot. However, where the story drew me in was when he hit his High School years.
In the cinema, you see some of the bullyings that go on for Clark. However, even with that, you can say, “He’s Superman, he’ll brush it off.” You feel bad for the guy, but you know he can take it. However, what Miller does is take the fact that he is bullied a step further. Who does a “freak” hang out within their free time? Other freaks! So how does a man raised to stand up for the little guys while still maintaining his secret? This first issue does a great job of showing the escalation of bullying and the effect it has on others, especially those without superpowers. I’m not going to lie, there were moments where I felt like some of my own life story was happening amid these panels, and it was hard to read.
This first issue ends with him making a huge decision that honestly has caused many fans to question what Frank is doing. He decides to join the United States Navy.
So is Superman Year One worth getting? I’m going to say yes. I was hooked from the beginning of this series. The story, the art, everything is hitting for me. There is some mild language in the book, and the bullying scenes are pretty realistic, to be honest. While I wouldn’t recommend this for younger readers, it’s undoubtedly one you should pick up if you’re more mature. Frank has a history of escalating as a story progresses, but his Batman Year One did not get out of hand, and I don’t foresee him getting to out of hand in Superman Year One. I’m going to follow this series and update you as it comes out. Partially because I want to keep you Devoted Geeks informed, partly because I’m honestly very interested in this story.
Final Rating of Superman Year One issue 1… 5 out of 5