Superman : Year One - Book One - Review
A very perplexing entry for the Superman mythos.
Let's cut to the hot takes right away: Frank Miller doesn't know what he is doing with Superman. DC doesn't know what it's doing calling this a “Year One” book. The team of John Romita Jr (JR Jr), Danny Mikki, and Alex Sinclair are putting out some great work that is getting bogged down by poor script execution. That out of the way, let's dive a little bit more into it.
Starting with the good stuff: JR Jr has a style you either like or do not. I don't tend to find many people who are ambivalent on his style. That said, you can feel that JR Jr really put in a lot of effort into this book. Nothing looks rushed at all. There are some really good panels where you can see the time taken to flesh out details. Danny Mikki really helps bring out the best of Romita's work. I remember being impressed when seeing their collaboration onAll-Star Batman. Add in master colorist Alex Sinclair, and you get some really solid work. The artwork alone is worth taking a glance at in this book.
DC Black Label - the catchall for more mature content and replacement for Elseworlds branding. That is totally ok and makes sense for what they have said they are trying to do with this imprint. What doesn't make sense at all is having this labeled as a "Year One" story. "Year One" branding within the context of DC has always indicated that the story is canonical. These stories are fleshing out details and adventures within the context of the established canon relative to when the story comes out. Thus, having a “Year One” branding co-exist with a Black Label imprint just doesn't make any sense. Just as we have seen countless times that the murder of the Waynes is why Bruce becomes Batman, the ground that Miller is treading here isn't anything new. We have a lot of stories that talk about Clark's early years. The biggest swerve of the book is ending on the cliffhanger of Clark joining the Navy. This was unexpected since nothing in the story hinted at Clark having a pull to join the military. It gives Miller a way out to tell an Elseworlds story and a “Year One” story at the same time—albeit a cheap way of doing so.
Frank Miller is trying to write a more grounded and realistic Superman. I can totally get on board with that notion. I might suggest he take a look at J. Michael Straczynski's work with Superman in trying to hit those beat points. Miller achieves some of these goals in the world building that is done in the first issue. In other ways, he fails. I don't know what the impetus was for this, but there was no need for a scene where Lana Lang is about to be gang raped by a bunch of high school fucktards. Granted, the scene did not fully go there; however, there was a lot of setup to show that was going to be eventual outcome if not for the intervention of Clark Kent to save her. By my judgement, this was the only thing in this issue that would warrant a Black Label imprint for mature reading. Besides this unnecessary scene, I feel some sympathy for John Workman doing the letters on this title. Miller's script is meandering. There is a lot of exposition with a lot of dialogue. It has to be one or the other. Having both is an overload on the page for the reader. Something is failing in the storytelling. In the area of exposition, there is an over use of omniscient narrator, which then switches to an inner monologue exposition of a character, only to switch back to omniscient narrator. This is an area where Workman could do a better job in helping to distinguish what precisely is happening. All this said, I hold out hope that the subsequent issues are better. Time will tell.