In 2010, we saw a new graphic novel released for Superman set in a universe very much different from the regular DC Universe. This new world was set for DC writers to make the heroes they based the heroes they wrote about seemingly more relatable than the other DC books out there. J. Micheal Straczynki was the writer on the project then, and he returns for the sequel, Superman: Earth One vol. 2. Does this story surpass the original?
Some people will find it odd that this is a darker story than what they are use to when it comes to Superman stories, but what JMS does very well is take the concept of Superman and applies it to current reality. How do people respond to the sudden appearance of Superman? How does the government feel about him? How about the world? This is something most Superman stories seem to gloss over in a very big way, while JMS seems like he is willing to explore the idea of a superpowered being from another world living in on ours. The Government wants to create a way of stopping him because they aren't sure what his intentions are. It works and its a pleasure to see this explored in this novel.
Another aspect that works also has to be the 'normal' life of Clark Kent. JMS also dives into the world of sexual exploration for Clark. Its a pleasure to see him struggle with the idea of desire and restraint. We also get more back story on Clark's life that gives him more of a sympathetic feel as a hero. Clark has always struggled with being beyond people and JMS pulls at the heartstrings with one particular story on Clark's background that moves you in the best way.
Also, Shane Davis continues with the early 20's look of Clark Kent and other characters in this world making it a joy to look at each page, trying to see if there's anything you've missed while also reading each panel.
What doesn't work
The major problem I had with this tale is the idea behind the villain, Parasite. The story barely finds a way to humanize him. The minute he becomes the monster, he's instantly out to feed on people, and not once does he struggle with being what he is. Its great to see Superman have a physical threat, but there were chances that I felt JMS could have explored the idea of Parasite being an outsider the same as he had Clark with him struggling to be the monster that he is.
Also the Superman aspects of the tale are a little underdeveloped as well. Superman constantly ran in battle, then out of battle, to run back into it and then out of it again throughout the book. it would have been great for Clark to keep the battle going while also winning with that intellect JMS wrote about in the first volume instead of relying on his ship to help him out with this new menace.
Last but not least, Lois Lane is a bother in this issue as well. Lois investigates Clark as someone who is trying too hard to be average, but it would seem that her suspcioins come from practically no where. And when she gets the answers shes looking for, she drops the story for the sake of dropping it. But while all this is happening, she barely pays any attention to the things thats happening like the Parasite menace that destroying the city and France! Furthermore, if she's curious about the life Clark Kent lives, why doesn't she try to investigate him also outside of work and what he does on his downtime? Her curiosity of him came practically from no where but if she's curious about him, she should explore every aspect of the person, and not just his background from when he was a kid.
Superman Earth One: Vol. 2 is a nice departure from regular DC that's giving us different ideas and aspects that the New 52 hasn't and more than likely aren't going to explore when it comes to Superman. However, J. Micheal Straczynki still struggles with the villains the same as he has in Vol. 1 while also leaving out logical aspects of the story at large. Though vol. 3 is being set up by the way things end in this graphic novel, one can only hope the problems we see are fixed the third time around.