Comic characters tend to have long life spans … in terms of publishing that is. Even the teen aged superheroes in the DC universe have been around for decades. When characters stick around for that long, it is inevitable that they are going to be reinvented or at least reimaged. The Earth One series of books from DC Comics is outside of any previous continuity and separate from the New 52. The Earth One series reminds me a bit of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe – taking the most iconic characters in the publishing line and telling their origins as young characters in the modern world. Instead of individual issues, the stories come out as entire graphic novels (the first volume was 136 pages).
The line started with Superman Earth One in 2010 with subsequent volumes published in 2012 and 2015. The infrequency of the volumes makes it a bit tough to totally get into collecting them like one would a monthly title. You almost have to look at them like movies in that you get a couple of hours of entertainment every couple of years. So far we have had stories involving Superman, Batman and the Teen Titans. Wonder Woman is set to make her Earth One debut in April of this year as told by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette with volumes involving The Flash and Aquaman to follow in 2016. I’m guessing that a Justice League Volume will follow in 2017.
The biggest advantage in these volumes is that no advanced reading is necessary. You don’t need to come in knowing anything about the overall DC universe. Just pick up the first volume and go.
Superman: Earth One – I’m a bit mixed on the Superman stories so far. The threats have been there but I’m not totally feeling Superman here. He feels a bit more like the Man of Steel version than the version that I know. In fact the threats in volumes 1 and 3 felt quite a bit like a combination of the threats in Man of Steel. Aliens that are going to destroy the Earth and the threat of Zod. In volume 1 we also find Clark trying to find himself as a young man in Metropolis. He wants to figure out what his role should be. Should he be a scientist, an athlete, a hero? What is his proper destiny? We also meet a potential love interest in his apartment neighbor. She is a model and escort and likes to show up to his apartment sorta clothed. And she learns his identity (modern comics and TV shows sure like to reveal the identities all the time).
I’m not in love with Shane Davis’ artwork here. I normally like Ardian Syaf but I felt like he was trying to imitate Davis in volume 3 so I wasn’t totally sold there either. Reviews have been a bit mixed but if you’re in JOCO you can judge for free by hitting the library. I’ve included links to the JOCO library books if you want to go check them out right now.
Superman: Earth One Volume 1 (2010) by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis
Superman: Earth One Volume 2 (2012) by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis
Superman: Earth One Volume 3 (2015) by J. Michael Straczynski and Ardian Syaf
Batman: Earth One – Another retelling of the origin of Batman and one in which Bruce looks to rush into the field before he is ready. In this series, Batman isn’t quite the bada$$ we are used to even before he goes out in the suit. His earliest activities look to undermine his goals more than achieve them. Only with the help of Alfred (who comes off as amazing by the way – much like he does in Gotham). The pacing of the story is quick as Johns’ work tends to be. You’ll be tempted to turn pages quickly but be sure to pause and really appreciate Gary Frank’s artwork. I love his stuff and I feel like he pulls as much emotion from the facial expressions as anyone in the field. I loved the work he has done so far on Superman stories and Shazam and so I’m on board for just about anything he draws. I really liked how the first two volumes of this story function together. If you read volume 1, be sure to read volume 2 as well.
Batman: Earth One Volume 1 (2012) by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank
Batman: Earth One Volume 2 (2015) by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank
Teen Titans: Earth One – The TT story here is the one that is the most different from the traditional New Teen Titans DC universe. This volume includes Titan characters Starfire, Raven, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Terra and Joseph Wilson (Jerico from the comics) but no Robin, Wonder Girl or Kid Flash. The included characters and those that don’t have major connections to characters from outside the Titanverse. Not only are the characters different but their origins are significantly different as well. Instead of separate origins, the characters in this storyline gain their powers from the same source with the exception of Starfire (still and alien) and Raven (now a Native American). In many ways, this storyline is more reminiscent to me of the Runaways book from Marvel although I don’t want to spoil it and tell you exactly how. This story was both familiar but new which I think is rather the point of the Earth One line.
Teen Titans: Earth One Volume 1 (2014) by Jeff Lemire and Terry (and Rachel) Dodson
I’m very much looking forward to the Wonder Woman volume out later this year as the early pages from Yanick Paquette look gorgeous. With Grant Morrison at the helm though the whole thing promises to be more than a bit of craziness. Looking forward to it!
Good reading everyone!