“Superman: Earth One” verifies exactly what I’d feared. Superman is emo. Superman is selfish. Superman is “edgy,” and worst of all by the time the tedious graphic novel is over, we’re told by Jonathan Kent that Superman should serve a being higher than himself alluding to religious ideals. What a waste of time. Not since “Smallville” have I seen a less sympathetic portrayal of Superman and Clark Kent before my very eyes. Clark Kent, even with modern fashion, and a jacket and hoodie that’s meant to be his signature look indicating a nerdy but sexy persona, is so absolutely boring and one dimensional in “Earth One” that had I been introduced to Superman for the first time here, I would have never read another piece of fiction with this character ever again.
The graphic novel is filled with so much gaping plot holes and tedious situations that I had an impossible time reading it for longer than five minutes. I wanted to be compelled. I wanted to be riveted. And instead we’re introduced to a modern Clark Kent who is one part Hot Topic, one part Abercrombie and Fitch, and one part whiny lunk head who does nothing but wander around aimlessly for over a hundred pages doing nothing. He does nothing in over a hundred pages.
There’s no insight in to his youth, there’s nothing really new added to this new re-invention, there’s only a sad sack with an insane amount of superhuman powers who would rather use them for self-satisfaction rather than helping others. Throughout the book we’re shown flashbacks of the late Jonathan Kent explaining to Clark that he could use his abilities to help others. He is seen showing Clark that he can implement his above average gifts to benefit mankind. Instead he uses them as a way of dropping in to new jobs to earn obscene amounts of money. He tries out for football and manages to display such incredible skills the coaches jump at the chance to sign him but never wonder why he’s lifting a huge player with both hands. He wanders in to a laboratory that’s struggling to find out how to convert salt water in to electricity and in mere minutes he creates a formula to complete their conundrum. The head technician advises him not to leave and begs him to join the team and possibly make more money than he’d ever dreamed of.
Why does no one question his genius? Why does no one confront him about his horrifying ability to solve equations and adapt to any area? Why didn’t anyone confront Clark and ask him to solve other equations? Why use this ability to solve age old problems for profit and not do something like cure Cancer or help a third world country? What is Clark searching for? The first reaction from anyone will be: He’s searching for a purpose! But this Clark Kent is so self-centered he can barely realize that his purpose is around him! But no, he wants to make money to keep his mom in caviar. We ramble on for pages on end with Clark looking for the right profession that he insists he wants to help his mom out. But in spite of her insistence that he shouldn’t waste time finding a job to support her, he ventures out anyway using his powers irresponsibly. In one moment he zaps away from a crowd of onlookers after his apartment his blown to bits. He emerges in to the fire to find his searing Super suit and a chunk of his ship that oddly enough blew up when activated, and he still spends the entirety of the graphic novel wandering around engaging in monologues about his life, and swearing to his father he’ll help mankind.
When the threat of alien invaders introduces itself in the final half, Clark is still nothing but a wandering nincompoop who watches on as the alien invaders threaten mankind and is conflicted if he should reveal himself to help the planet. You’re Superman. Priority one should be helping others. Priority two should be caring about your own personal well-being. But it takes a speech from Jimmy Olsen–I’m sorry–JIM Olsen, to inspire Superman to get up off his sad sack ass, put on his costume, and fight the alien terrors that are threatening to “kill the planet.” Even if Superman is purely motivated by the need of self-preservation, wouldn’t the threat of murdering his mother be something of a catalyst to don the costume and take them down? Furthermore beyond the bland supervillain we come to know as “Tyrell” we learn some other things about Superman’s legacy. Krypton didn’t self-destruct, it was an assassination. I’m still waiting for a great new re-invention of Superman and “Superman: Earth One” is not the modern Superman I want. It’s not even a Superman I think can be altered to fit the modern sensibility. He’s a moody, sad sack who does nothing but gazed blankly and wait for the final moment to respond to a crisis. That’s not a superhero, that’s barely a hero.