Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Screen and Page: Superman Birthright

Superman: Birthright - The Origin of the Man of Steel

Writer-Mark Waid
Penciller-Leinil Francis Yu
Inking-Gerry Alanguilan
Colorist-Dave McCaig
Original Series Covers-Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan

Superman Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

My Thoughts
Just to get things out of the way, let me say this: I never liked Superman. I have attempted time and time again to formulate a pathos-free argument against the Man of Steel, but it never seems to come. I've tried to find some ultimately redeeming quality to him so I can stop admitting to people that I really do like Lex Luthor more than Superman. As Toyman said in the brilliant Action Comics #865, "There are two types of people in the world -- Superman people and Batman people." I, myself, am a Batman person. I admire the Dark Knight for his dedication and discipline, both physical and mental. He made himself into the man he needed to be. He trained for years and sacrificed a normal life and normal happiness for his goals. Superman didn't ask for his powers. Superman never worked for it.

What Superman struggles with is the ability to be human.

With so many other character with this situation like Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager, Red Tornado from the DCU, etc. that I do enjoy, I end up wondering again why I don't like Superman. It's not because he is an alien because I love J'onn J'onzz, the Martain Manhunter and all the Kirby space stuff. And it can't because he has so many freakin' powers because I'm pretty sure J'onn has him beat. He just always seemed to embody one of the things I do not like about America: it's arrogance. Unlike some superheroes, it isn't something obvious about the character because it comes from his, appropriately, steel-like morality. Granted, I'm no comic expert. I haven't read every comic there is, heck, I've barely read all the "ground-breaking" ones. But I do have a sneaking suspicion that if he saw something beyond his comprehension (ex: an alien ritual or magic) and it wasn't making bunnies and flowers rain from the sky, he'd punch first and ask questions later. So perhaps, I have misspoken. It is not his arrogance I disdain, it is his ignorance, if only because his knowledge is so much lessor than it can be.

The man has super-speed. That requires a brain to match. Superman could easily be one of the greatest intellectual minds on the planet. Maybe he can't beat Lex or King Faraday in a game of chess, but he could best them in sheer encyclopedic knowledge. Superman should be a genius and that's a bit why I like Superman: Red Son.

But that review is for another time. Birthright far exceeded my expectations for a Superman comic. Perhaps that is the point of the comic: to be beyond expectations, to take your breath away. It has to since it's forced to stand up against every Superman Origin story ever told. It has all your typical locales: Krypton, the farm, and Metropolis with an appropriate side/parallel story to help anchor the main theme. What is very nice that he mixes up the order of the settings that your typical Superman story would follow. The pacing is spot on and Lu did a great job with the art with McCaig doing stupendous colors. (By the way, there's a great little story waiting for you if you read the Biographies page about McCaig and Birthright; it's worth it just for that.) All in all, Birthright is wonderfully written and artistically well executed. Coming from me, this is high praise since I was very ready to be bored with it being a Superman comic and the one theme I hate most: coming of age. I really have no words for how tired I am of "coming of age" or "discovering of self" stories. School ruined them for me forever, but...

When I do find a good story, a story following a character coming into their own, I do appreciate it all the more. It usually becomes one of my favorites (which is why Dick Grayson will always be my favorite Robin despite his unfortunate first name).

Superman: Birthright is definitely a story to read. It made a Batman person give the big blue boy scout a second glance.

1 comment:

anonymous person said...

Interesting, I'll have to pick it up next time I head to Border's.