SYNOPSIS: Clark Kent’s journey of self-discovery continues in the second installment of Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.’s remarkable reimagining of Superman’s origin story. This chapter takes young Clark to the Pacific coast and beyond, as he discovers a place as sensational as he is…Atlantis! There he meets new people, finds love, clashes with gargantuan beasts and discovers the man he’s meant to be.
For anyone who reads Superman as he’s most often depicted in the DC Universe-proper, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see exactly how he likely sees what humanity is capable of at both its best and its worst. He’s a being who can see and hear everything, after all, but most stories don’t choose to depict how he reacts when confronted with the evil acts of some people that are more recognizable to us in the real world.
Superman: Year One changes that with issue #2, while also showing us that something as unusual as a military life might actually be suited to someone like Clark Kent…except for the fact that being trained to be a killing machine doesn’t interest him on any level whatsoever.
Issue #2 shows us Clark Kent go through Navy SEAL training, some of the most rigorous physical exertions that a human body can ever be put through. Of course, this doesn’t mean much for a Kryptonian under a yellow sun, but it’s both interesting and appropriate to see instances where Clark recognizes the fragility of his fellow trainees and admires their perseverance.
It’s not long before Clark as a SEAL is put into a situation that requires him to make a decision about whether or not to add to a death toll he sees, and an interesting juxtaposition is illustrated in the story concerning what can actually make Superman feel anything close to nauseous: not the rigorous training his peers have to go through, but the idea of taking life.
Once again, I find myself breathing easier.
The story of Clark’s time in the military is only part of this story, though, as writer Frank Miller and artist John Romita, Jr. bring back a part of Superman’s history that’s been generally little-seen in the modern age of comics: Lori Lemaris, Superman’s mermaid girlfriend.
It’s a fascinating experience reading this second issue because it’s such a different book at the beginning when compared with the end. As a fundamentally different take on how Clark develops his worldview and cultivates some needed life experience before becoming the hero we know he is destined to be, Miller offers up yet another surprising story that seems to be true to the constitution of the Superman character while ultimately going in a very different direction with the look, feel and environs of the character.
This Clark Kent has a folksy demeanor that was certainly hinted at in the last issue, but it’s dialed up to 11 in a way that likely wouldn’t work with any other character, nor really with any other conception of modern Superman. Most fans of the Man of Steel know that there is, what some have called, a bit of an “aw shucks” quality to Superman. Miller seems to take it a lot further, though, with lines like this:
“These guys are starting to honk me off. It’s high time I gave them what for.”
In any other story, that kind of dialogue wouldn’t work, but Miller has done a good job in making it feel like this is what this version of Clark would naturally say when confronted with a powerful foe.
While the story is split between two different halves, each one serves a purpose to take us to a familiar destination in terms of Superman’s character, but through a very different route. The introduction of Lori Lemaris brings a focus on the Kingdom of Atlantis that will undoubtedly be a major focus as we head into the third issue, and it should help to provide a refreshing alternate take on the classic hero.
As I related in the review of issue #1, Frank Miller’s previous track record with Superman didn’t do a lot to inspire much confidence in what he would be doing in a dedicated Superman mini-series, but Year One #2 continues to illustrate that this is both an interesting new story and a valid new take on the Superman legend.
Now, it seems like it’s easy to see where the story will ultimately go in establishing Superman as the hero we all know and love, but it’s like taking an unexpected scenic route to a familiar old hangout spot. That’s a philosophy and a journey that is a lot of fun to take in.
John Romita, Jr.’s pencils are well in-line with what can be expected from his high pedigree, though his style is starting to fit the story of this Superman a bit more than it did in the first issue. Danny Miki’s inks provide a strong line and Alex Sinclair helps provide a vibrant color palette, with every factor combining into a more outwardly extravagant visual treat.
Overall, while the second issue isn’t quite as enjoyable as the first one, Superman: Year One continues to be a weirdly paradoxical truthful deviation from the norms of the character’s stories. It’s a circuitous route to a familiar destination, and even if a longtime Superman fan might think they know how this is all going to shake out…man, it’s going to be quite a ride. – Chris Clow