This book was exactly what I needed! I loved it! I feel like I have been slogging through books for the last few months, some for my YA literature grad class, some for a quick read and others I have chosen for their messages. While I have read good solid books for those reasons, I have not read much that was just purely for my enjoyment.
Although the book has Superman in the title, it is really Clark Kent stories. The seven stories are chronological and fill in the gaps in the Superman canon. We start with Clark as a boy learning how to fly, move through his adolescence, and finally settle in his early years in Metropolis. Every story is strong, and fits in seamlessly with what we already know about Superman.
Max Landis wrote every story, and he chose perfect pivotal moments in Clark’s life to explain how a relatable Kansas farm boy became the iconic Superman. The various artists and colorists elevate the stories, with the different styles adding dimension and heart to the narration.
Dove ( art by Nick Dragotta, color by Alex Guimaraes) A sweet story about Clark as a boy learning to fly. The relationship between Clark and his parents is so heartwarming, as they look to help him under extraordinary circumstances. The artwork is appealing, with a slight Manga feel to some panels. The first red cape is shown, and I love the concluding panels of Clark’s vacation ideas for his family.
Hawk ( art & color by Tommy Lee Edwards) Clark is now a teen, with a budding relationship with Lana. His best friend Pete and the sheriff are aware of his powers, and implore him to help with a robbery/murder than happened nearby. Clark demurs but secretly slips out to confront the gang. He doesn’t have a thought out strategy, but luckily Pete comes to his aid during a tense moment. He has a poignant moment with his mom, and you see him wanting to use his power for good, but he is still getting a handle on all it represents. The art is sketchy and dark hued to represent the confusion of adolescence.
Parrot ( art by Joelle Jones, color by Rico Renzi) Now college aged, Clark won a free trip to the Caribbean, but plans go awry when he and pilot crash land in the ocean. Luckily a yacht is nearby, and when he and the pilot climb aboard he is mistaken for Bruce Wayne. Deciding it’s easier to go along with the ruse, he parties with the revelers, and Oliver Queen makes a brief cameo. He has a one night stand with a beautiful woman, as his relationship to Lana has ended. That this appealing red headed partner ends up being a future villain ( I won’t spoil who she is) is awesome. The coloring is bright and fun, and shows that Clark is a typical young man who wants to have fun.
Owl ( art by Jae Lee, color by June Chung) Clark has now moved to Metropolis and met Lois Lane. He has a moment when he re-meets Oliver Queen (who is now secretly Green Arrow) and because of their last meeting, Oliver gives him a reporting scoop over Lois and introduces him to Lex Luthor. Lex is full of himself and brags on to Clark about how superior he is, and plays mind games with Clark. While in Lex’s building, he meets young Dick Grayson, and the two converse. Later back at his apartment Batman appears, not fully understanding who Clark is. I love how the Bat gets smacked down by Clark, who discovers his secret identity. This was my least favorite of the art styles, for Clark and everyone else had similar small eyes and thin lips, and no one really looked right to me.
Eagle ( art & color by Francis Manapul) Clark is refining his look, knowing he has to hide his identity, and he has started to make a name for himself in the city by fighting criminals. He has another run in with Lex who inadvertently names him Superman, and gives him the ideas and morals that will symbolize who he is.
Angel ( art & color by Jonathan Case) Smallville friends Pete and Kenny visit Clark in the city, and help shape him into what we recognize as Superman. They keep it real, and remind him of his roots, while pushing him to be more responsible for what he does and what he symbolizes. His friendship and family relationships are what fundamentally shaped him into the man he is, which gives him his moral compass. The artwork pays homage to old school depictions of Superman with a 1940/50’s vibe.
Valkyrie ( art by Jock, color by Lee Loughridge) An alien is attacking the city, and Superman and he engage and have a conversation about his home planet. He begins to realize while he is obliviously an alien, his true home is Earth. Best line: “I’m not from Krypton…I’m from Kansas”. He and Lois have a sweet reunion, and she shows him that she loves him as Clark, which fills in the last gap of him now being ready to be the adult Superman. The artwork is gritty and shows the carnage that fighting villains causes.
There also were some fascinating and wonderfully illustrated interstitial shorts between the stories that added background or was a villain shout out. The Castaways (Matthew Clark & Rob Schwager) gave a backstory to Jon and Martha Kent’s past, while Revelations (Evan ‘Doc’ Shaner & John Workman),The Real Question (Mark Buckingham, Jose Villarrubia & John Workman), Vampire ( Steve Dillon, Rod Ries & John Workman) and The New Jimmy (Matthew Clark, Rob Schwager & John Workman) were all vignettes about villains in the Superman universe.
Although I am still firmly in the Marvel camp, I have been disappointed with some recent reads (next Friday’s book will get a scathing review), and I have read some old and new DC titles that are superior in story and artwork. This book and other DC titles such as Red Son and Kingdom Come, and many great titles from Image Comics are chipping away at my Marvel base.
In conclusion, I highly recommend this book, for it humanizes Superman. The seven stories are all excellent, and they flow and connect into one another, to form the larger picture of who Clark Kent is and who he will be. A must buy for Superman aficionados!