Comic Reviews: Superman: Year One and Psi-Lords!
Superman: Year One #1 (DC Comics)
It seems like every few years we get another take on the Man of Steel’s origin. Sometimes it’s a part of an ongoing story line, other times it’s a passion project. But I can’t think of a Superman origin story this high a pedigree on the creative side: Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. A new spin on the early days of Superman, Superman: Year One is a brand new installment of DC’s Black Label line of titles. For a tale that’s been told hundreds of thousands of times, every time a new Superman origin is told it has to have a new twist on the story of Kal-El’s arrival on Earth. It’s just too bad that Miller and Romita’s isn’t that interesting.
Retelling Clark Kent’s life from his birth up until high school graduation, Year One covers a lot of the same ground that many previous origins of the Man of Steel have. In fact, it covers so much of that same ground that I found myself skimming the pages of this book unintentionally, which is not a great sign for a prestige title like this. Miller spends too many pages meandering on strange aspects of Superman’s upbringing, and while he probably thinks it’s a good piece of character work, it ends up just feeling like a lot of wheel-spinning on Miller’s part.
Not only does the plot meander, but Miller’s characterizations of major Superman characters tend to fall flat as well. Jonathan Kent basically exists to dispense wisdom to Clark, and Martha is pretty much nonexistent, played more as a dutiful housewife who has no scenes with Clark. She’s not even with Jonathan when Clark is discovered in the space craft, a narrative choice that stands as the oddest one in a book filled with weird decisions (like Clark enlisting in the Navy after high school).
On the art side of things, John Romita Jr’s pages are what you’d expect, so whether you’ll enjoy his art or hate it is entirely up to whether or not you appreciate his work in the first place. There’s nothing here to really make your jaw drop, because again, there’s not a lot of action in the book to begin with. As the book progresses and the plot picks up that will probably change, but right now this isn’t the bombastic story that DC is hyping it up as.
A lot of Miller’s work at DC ends up being revealed as being a part of his “Dark Knight Returns” universe, and if that becomes the case with Year One it might explain some of the narrative choices here. But as of right now it doesn’t make a lot of sense to tell Superman’s origin again. It honestly feels more like DC’s just letting Frank Miller do whatever he wants to ride out his exclusive contract with him. If you’re going to bother telling this story another time, you better have a good reason for it, and unfortunately it doesn’t seem like Miller and Romita, Jr do.
Psi-Lords #1 (Valiant Comics)
Valiant Comics is back with yet another new ongoing, this time focusing on a new team of heroes called the Psi-Lords. As four different astronauts wake up in a strange space prison with no memories of who they or how they got there, writer Fred Van Lente and artist Renato Guedes kick off a new ongoing series with an interesting mystery that should make for a pretty intriguing new series.
Van Lente’s script does a great job of putting us into the character’s heads, and really making us feel just as confused as they are. Starting a team book is no easy task, but Van Lente establishes the major players pretty well early on, and allows for some pretty intriguing character moments to shine through each member’s confusion. Van Lente has a pretty strong resume as a writer, so it’ll be interesting to see where he goes as this series progresses.
If there’s one thing Valiant is known for with their comics, it’s their art, and Renato Guedes is no exception. Guedes’ painterly style is well suited for the script, and his expressive faces really sell the emotional beats of the series. Guedes is a fantastic addition to the Valiant stable, and I can’t wait to see what else he’s got to show us with Psi-Lords.
Valiant is always making waves in their own way within the comic industry, and while they’re still pulling weird gimmicks like glass covers and weird promotional items, it’s nice to see that the comics they are promoting are actually pretty solid. As a publisher they may not have as many “name” characters as the big two, but their consistent output has made them last far longer than I ever thought they would.
Posted on June 19, 2019, in Comic reviews and tagged DC Black Label, DC Comics, Frank Miller, Fred Van Lente, John Romita Jr, Psi-Lords, Renato Guedes, Superman, Superman Year One, Valiant Comics. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.