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I lifted the title for this review from the back of the book, choosing it because it is a very accurate way to describe this book. Every generation has it's Superman. The man of steel first appeared in Action comics way back in 1938, published by a company known as Detective Comics, which most of us today know simply as DC. I personally think the launch of this comic began the golden age of comics, and of superheroes. This was way back before psychologists told us superheroes and all those violent battles between good and evil would warp our children. This was back when boys were boys, heroes were heroes and comics were fun!
Since then Superman has appeared in countless comics, radio programmes, television shows and the movies. Before reading this book, when someone mentioned the name Superman, the image in my head would be George Reeves, star of the old black and white television programme. Younger readers are likely to think of a much younger and healthier Christopher Reeves from the Superman movies. Others will think of the original Superman illustrations drawn by Joe Shuster. But Shane Davis, has drawn a hauntingly new Superman for a new generation. A Superman for a world truly without a Superman, for the youngsters growing up today without the comic books we took for granted. Comics are no longer available at the corner shop, and I think a great many boys will reach adulthood without ever having read one. That is something I find sad. Comics not only helped boys learn to read - by making them want to read, but heroes are now finding more and support among "the experts". These are of course the very same people who felt comics created violence, but now experts are beginning to realise that comic books provided boys with a moral standard, as well as an excuse for rough and tumble play, which is actually a very healthy way for boys to get on.
I chose Superman One for two reasons. Superman had been suggested as an ideal series to start a boy off with comics, but I wanted one that showed the origins of Superman, and as much as they say not to judge a book by it's cover, the cover art on this is brilliant. The story line is very good. It begins with a young Clark Kent or Kal El as an infant sent to earth to escape the destruction of his planet. Only the briefest of coverage is given to Clark growing up. The main part of this story begins with Clark traveling to Metropolis, as a young and confused man, uncertain where his future lies. He can have the world at his feet with his power and intelligence, but he settles on applying for a job as a reporter, something he really wants to do. But Clark has more than coming of age angst to deal with. He has an enemy who is willing to destroy all of earth to get to him. Will Clark avenge the death of his parents and his home planet ? Or will earth suffer the same fate?
There are a couple of slow pages as the story begins, but not many, and this book quickly builds up to the type of non stop action and adventure that young boys thrive on. My son has just turned 7 , and this book is already a prized possession. Like most wee boys he can be a bit of a --- well to be honest a bit of a piggy at times, just throwing everything down wherever he has finished with it. But not this book. This is always carefully returned to it's shelf, and he has only begrudgingly lent it to me to review here. His favourite section is the battle between Superman and his nemesis, and this really is spectacular. He has been asking for more Superman ever since. As much as he liked the story in this book though, and in all honesty so did I, I did not choose another book from the same author. I was all set to order, when I noticed that the illustrator is not the same for the next books in this series, and as good as the story is - the illustrations make this book.
I am sure most of you are familiar with common comic book style graphics, at least all of the older readers here. This is not the type of art one expects in comic books though. This truly is art in my opinion, and artwork with an incredible talent. Superman gazes out from the pages of this book with an intensity that is almost life like. It is as if the artist were able to capture all the anguish and suffering of a tormented soul and bind it in pen and ink. His nemesis, Tyrell is also drawn well, embodying evil, and my son think he is perfect as the bad guy, but I say he is not quite so intense as Superman. The colours are muted, mostly greys and brown, but when light is used it almost seems to leap off the pages. The battle scenes are absolutely stunning. I don't think any artist will ever capture Superman so perfectly. So when it came time to choose another book, I sat down with my son and we attempted to choose one with the same artist rather than the same writer, but that is in a way a shame as Michael Straczynski has really done a remarkable job here at creating a Superman for a new generation. The story line was very good, and I really enjoyed it myself.
This book is a bit expensive. I paid £8.00 as new, but you can expect to pay around £13 for a new copy. A sequel to this is the works, and I honestly would pay twice that amount if I had to. This is a very high quality hardback book with 136 pages, of beautiful artwork on a thick glossy paper, and I do expect this book to be treasured for many years. In a way I am glad this is in book form rather than a comic which tends to wear out with frequent reading. even though it cost me much ore than comics used to cost. It is worth in the long run to have a book that can withstand being carried about and read over and over. In the short time we have owned this, I have read to my son twice and he has read it himself several times, he must know it word for word by now. Both my son and I have enjoyed this book, and even the youngest, age 3 has shown some interest. I will note that I believe this book is intended for adults, but it is completely suitable for young children.
I am happy to recommend this to adults, but even more so to children. I think we need comic books again. We need books that children really want to read. This book is very easy to read, my seven year old had no problems, but it is also a book that older children will enjoy as well. This makes it ideal to help out those who are learning to read a bit later, and you could get a pretty good grasp on the story from illustrations alone. This means if a young reader is stuck on a word, he can often guess from the illustrations, and can at least still enjoy the story. I also think boys need superheroes - of course they know they are not real, but they still provide a framework for a young child's ideals of right and wrong, and a healthy source of fantasy.