A new Black Label take on Kal-El’s early time on Earth from Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.

Superman: Year One 1
Written by Frank Miller
Pencils by John Romita Jr.
Inks by Danny Miki
Colors by Alex Sinclair, Peter Steigerwald and Dean V. White

Comics called “Year One” usually focus on the first year that a hero dons their uniform or costume as they learn what the job entails. I’m not sure Frank Miller or DC Comics actually understand what “Year One” means, as the first issue of their new BLACK LABEL Superman comic spans Clark Kent’s life on Earth all the way up through graduating high school, when he decides to enlist in the Navy, against his mother’s wishes for him to go on to college.

There is no Superman in this book, only a young Clark Kent, whose biggest challenge is a clique of bullies at his school beating up his friends at school, who are affectionately referred to as weirdoes. Clark has to balance his frustration that no authority figures are doing anything about these bullies with his parents’ (both earthly and biological) lessons on showing restraint. Already quite good at controlling his powers at a young age, Clark frequently leaves the bullies bruised but not-quite-broken after they attack, which just leads to more retaliations against Clark’s friends because these bullies may be the stupidest people alive.

The Year One series from DC’s Black Label imprint was supposed to be released last year, but I’m guessing it had to go through some revisions after BATMAN: DAMNED‘s print run showed off the Bat-wang and threw everyone in the world into a tizzy (I still haven’t seen the Bat-wang, because it wasn’t in the digital version I read). If Superman: Year One’s first issue had to be toned down at all, I’m guessing it was from this scene.

The bullies go after Lana Lang, who’s working with Clark to go to the police and have the bullies taken down. But one of the kids who was targeted by the bullies tip them off and trick Lana into coming outside to meet them. Maybe I’m reading too much into the scene, but it really felt like it was about to lead into someplace very dark – not really a surprise for a Frank Miller book – before Clark comes out of nowhere and saves his lady friend.

I’m honestly glad the scene didn’t go where I thought it would. I don’t think I could have handled such an unnecessary scene.

John Romita Jr.’s art was well-matched for the story, and I thought his pencils were beautifully expressive. I didn’t really care for the art on the Superman story he did with Geoff Johns at the tail end of the New 52, but it seems like Miller was able to write more to JRJr’s sensibilities than Johns was.

The early scenes with a young Clark’s abilities flummoxing his parents were fun, especially the scene where Clark set the Kent kitchen on fire because his oatmeal was too hot and he wanted to show his displeasure. It’s amazing Superbaby didn’t bankrupt the young farmers.

We’ll have to see how Miller’s vision for an early Superman story – which he’s said is in continuity with his Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One stories – will differ from what we know of the Man of Steel. Getting him into the Navy in the next issue because, as Clark says, the water is calling to him sounds like it would set up a meeting with Aquaman, though the more I think about this, the more it sounds like he’s trying to improve upon Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel movie.

Is the world really ready for that?