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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Trade Tales! - Superman: Earth One Volume 2

Next up on Superman Month is something I have been meaning to get back to. Back in 2010, DC released Superman: Earth One Volume 1. It was basically another retelling of Superman’s origin but in a different universe. The idea of the Earth One series was to give the heroes more modern origins. If there’s something DC is good (or “meh”) at in the 21st century, it’s retelling Superman’s origins. It took me a couple of years to get around to reading it. I thought it was fine and even reviewed it here in 2012. The whole Earth One series is something I’m still behind on. DC decided to do a couple of more sequels in this new Superman and followed it up with Volume 2.

The second volume to Superman: Earth One was released in October 2012. It’s supposed to take place sometime after the events of the last volume. J. Michael Straczynski came back to continue the story he’s been writing on this new Superman. Shane Davis is also back handling the pencils. Sandra Hope also returns to do the inks. The coloring is a little different this time around. But it is still being handled by Barbara Ciardo.

Superman: Earth One Vol. 2 
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski 
Pencils: Shane Davis 
Inks: Sandra Hope 
Colors: Barbara Ciardo 
Letters: Rob Leigh 

SYNOPSIS 
The story starts off at the Daily Planet with Clark getting advice from Perry White on reporting. Meanwhile, Lois is starting to investigate Clark since she is wondering how some random guy got an interview with Superman. She ends up digging through his past to see who he really is. Later, Clark finds himself an apartment in Metropolis. He meets the landlord and neighbors like Eddie Monroe and Lisa LaSalle. Clark and Lisa actually start to hit it off well and they go see a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Afterwards, he hears about a situation on the island of Borada, so he goes off and gets into uniform. After he stops the island’s tsunami, he tries to help the people but the dictator (General Samsa) threatens to kill his own people if Superman doesn’t leave. Fearing what will happen, Superman leaves.
Ah... Rocky Horror. I've only seen it in bits.

We then catch up with Raymond Maxwell Jensen, a pretty crafty and sadistic criminal. He heads to STAR Labs in Chicago to erase some evidence an accomplice had on him. As he’s leaving, he almost gets caught and accidentally goes into a room that that exposes him to a high-energy neutrino. He comes out of the room as an energy-absorbing creature and starts a rampage. After he kills a few people and drains their energy, he heads to Metropolis to get more. Meanwhile, Major Sandra Lee is talking to higher-ups in the government about taking down Superman if he goes rogue. Even though a couple are wary of doing this to Superman, Lee says it needs to be done.

Jensen (now called the Parasite) makes it to Metropolis and starts a rampage. Clark ends up finding out about the rampage while he and Lisa are having dinner. Oh yeah, Lisa really likes Clark and she shows him a little more than usual. Before anything can happen, he heads out and to face Parasite. Immediately, Parasite starts to drain Superman’s energy. Superman retreats before Parasite drains it all and heads to the Arctic where his ship from Vol. 1 has basically created the Fortress of Solitude. The military come after Parasite and do make him tire out his new energy.
Nice teeth there, Parasite.

Parasite decides he be able to get Superman to return if he puts the Daily Planet staff in danger. He does that and Superman returns recharged. Unfortunately, Parasite is able to drain all of his energy off and gains Superman’s powers. The military try to do what they can against Parasite. This leaves Clark essentially human but weak and beaten. Clark makes it back to his apartment and Lisa finds him and nurses him back to health. Meanwhile, Jensen’s identity has been leaked on the media and his sister, Theresa, finds out. She ends up heading to Metropolis to see if it’s true.

Clark wakes up a few hours later and when he and Lisa get really close, he feels his powers come back. He leaves and heads back to the Fortress. The ship’s AI creates Superman a temporary armor for him to wear that’ll keep him safe from Parasite. He heads back to Metropolis and the fight begins once again. The fight starts to go Parasite’s way, but Theresa shows up and tries to talk to Parasite. Parasite touches his sister and accidentally drains her energy, killing her. He blames Superman for it but this gave Superman the moment to finally knock Parasite out. The military then end up taking Parasite and securing him.

Later, Clark is talking to Martha Kent about his power loss and about how he feels that he needs to do more with his abilities. Suddenly, he hears Lisa scream and she’s being attacked. He swoops in and drops off the attacker in Alaska or Siberia. Later, Clark finds out that Lisa is a part-time prostitute who sometimes has to do it in order to make ends meet. He’s hurt by the news but that does stop their friendship.

Later, Superman heads back to Borada and helps the island’s people stage a coup against their dictator. While Clark is happy about that news, he finds out that Eddie overdosed on heroin and died. In order to raise awareness about the issue, he writes an article about it. At the DP, Lois decides to shelve her investigation on Clark since he seems legit. Clark does find out about the investigation though when a teacher calls him about Lois’s questions. The story ends as Major Lee contacts Lex and Alexandra Luthor, a science couple, about countermeasures against Superman.
Two Lexes? Oh crap.


OPINION 
Well, I can say that this was better this time around. I saw what I wrote for the first volume years ago and I wasn’t shocked about what I said. My writing’s also gotten much better too. Anyway, even though I have problems with Volume 2, it was good. It was definitely better story-wise and it was paced pretty well when compared to Volume 1. It’s the typical Superman story with him going up against a pretty powerful foe. Also add in things from supporting characters and you get this decent story.

We got Clark facing more issues than just another super-powered bad guy. He’s wondering what he can do now that he’s on the scene. Does he try to have more of an impact or does he just deal with the big stuff? The story tries to touch on that stuff here. That stuff surrounding Borada was pretty cool and the scene where Clark finds out about Eddie was good. We even get more of Clark’s backstory. Through Lois’s investigation, we see that he did his best to live an unassuming, closed life. I also liked Lois investigating in general. It does make sense that she’d want to see if Clark was on the up and up.

I thought Parasite was a fine villain. JMS showed us that Jensen was already a monster in his flashbacks. His design looked pretty freaky. Parasite is one of Superman’s villains who always seemed like a major threat to me, so I’m glad that was played up here. I’m more of a fan of his 90’s design but it’s a least better than his All-Star Superman look. Yeesh, put some pants on, man. I also liked that we get a new love interest here. Lisa was… well, I’m a little mixed on her but I did like her in spots.

The artwork was another highlight here. Shane Davis and the rest do their best to keep up the work they started in Volume 1. The world still has that realistic, dirty look to it. The coloring is brighter than Volume 1 was though. Maybe Clark being around now lightened it up or something, I don’t know. Everyone looked well-realized. The fight scenes between Superman and Parasite were pretty cool. As I said before, Parasite himself looked pretty cool. Davis does still draw Superman's upper body a bit weird at times though.

While I liked it, I still had some problems here and there. I wasn’t a fan of some of the dialogue here. It felt forced especially when JMS was trying to be funny. Lisa’s singing was another example of the dialogue not hitting the mark for me. While I liked Lisa at points, there were times where I didn’t like her as much. It’s obvious that JMS wanted her to be pretty eye candy and not much else. She wasn’t bad to look at, but still. I know she’s around in the next volume, so I’m curious where he takes her next. It also felt pretty decompressed just like the last volume. I wish that that there was a little more story, but that’s the age we live in.
That'd probably be my reaction too, Clark.

Overall, this was a nice sequel to the first volume. It was even better than the first one in places. I might as well finish this trilogy off with Volume 3 soon. I don’t know when though. There’s just so much new and old stuff to read. Well, that’s all I got for this book. Next time, I’ll be looking at something really recent from someone who stirred up a little controversy some years ago. I’ll be looking at Superman: American Alien. Until then, Peace, God Bless, and be careful out there. Don’t get too stressed out with all that’s going on these days.

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