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07/05/2003: comic rec: Superman: Birthright #1

Superman: Birthright is a maxi-series (written by Mark Waid, pencils by Leinil Francis Yu, inks by Gerry Alanguilan) that retells the origin story of Superman; I've seen its concept compared to the "Ultimates" version of Marvel characters. I picked it up not at least because I'm relatively unfamiliar with the previous incarnations of the origin story (like the Silver Age version or the post-Crisis revamp), so I'm not invested in (or even really aware of) any current continuity details, and thus not likely annoyed by Birthright just because it might do things differently. Also I liked Leinil Yu's art in the previews (and the art didn't disappoint, I like it very much in the comic as well).

And I enjoyed the first part. It starts with a look at Krypton's last moments and Kal-El's parents sending him to Earth, showing us how Jor and Lara struggle with the decision. There's some techno-babble explanation for why Krypton was destroyed too.

Then there is a splash double page showing some scenes of Clark in Smallville, that is the Kents finding him, Clark lifting a tractor as a little kid and jumping over the Barn, as well as images of Lex and (I assume) Lana. That made me wonder, whether this version is sticking with some of the choices Smallville made. It's not just the visual presence of Lex in the Smallville splash page (over than the splash the childhood and teenage years are skipped over), also like in Smallville, in Birthright the Kents are relatively young, not more the age of grandparents like in previous versions.

Then I checked out the DC page for Birthright and an interview with Mark Waid, and it seems that in this version Clark and Lex met in Smallville and were friends before they become enemies, too. In that interview Mark Waid also says that there are reasons why we never knew this before, as well as there might be elements of Birthright incorporated into the regular Superman books. Heh, maybe soon it will be regular continuity that Lex and Clark were friends during a time in Smallville...

Anyway, the second half of the comic shows Clark as a young reporter, not yet at the Daily Planet, but currently working for the "Ghana Dispatch." In this version Clark left Smallville at 18 after high school to study abroad at various universities and has traveled a lot -- there's the following conversation: "[...] I'm adopted. Not sure where I came from other than it's... pretty far from Kansas." "So you're searching for that place?" "No. More trying to find...a place for me, maybe? And running out of places to look."

I like the Clark here, he's young, obviously already tries to save and protect people, but isn't sure yet of his path, and it's also unclear how much he knows about his origins. His mother put a "hologlyphic chronicling Krytonian history" in the ship, and he carries that with him, but Jor-El (at the beginning) said "Why? The language will be dead, Lara. He'll never be able to read it." I think at this point Clark still tries to decipher the Kryptonian, though he picks up languages quickly (at least Earth ones).

I can really recommend this issue, at least to anyone who isn't fundamentally opposed to having Superman's origin story revamped in the first place (as many seem to be from the comments I've seen on some boards). It is an intriguing opening to the series, I like the characterization and the the art is great.

I'll certainly pick up the next issue.

Posted by RatC @ 12:48 AM CET
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