Trade for today: Superman: Birthright

Guess who's back -- back again. chezkevin's back -- tell your friends!

That's right guys, with the new year, I am getting back into blogging. I haven't bought a comic book in a while, but hey, you know me, I just paid a visit to my local library. And guess what, just because I like you guys, I also brought Superman with me.

Superman: Birthright
by Mark Waid and Leinil Yu

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Three years after 9/11 and the premiere of Smallville, it was time to retell the origin of Superman. Birthright is that origin. Aside from the usual, Waid includes sentiments of the cultural legacy of Krypton, Lex and Clark as childhood friends, and a carefully woven allegory to post-9/11 fear.

WHAT I LIKED: This would be "just another Superman origin story" if not for Waid's direction. The way he weaves fear into Metropolis, as terrorism has in America, is masterful. In fact, Clark Kent's first lines as Superman are, "Don't be afraid," a call to the Metropolitans as well as the readers. Other small touches include the re-emphasis on the S-shield. There's a chilling scene in the first issue, where Jor-El, Superman's original father laments that no one will ever remember Krypton.

The S-shield doesn't just represent the heroics of Superman, a beacon of light for those around him. It also represents Clark's heritage, his birthright if you will, and the heights that his race achieved. By wearing that shield, Superman pays homage to his family and his culture.

Not only that, we get a treat of a pre-Secret Invasion Leinil Yu. His style is very consistent, and spanning the story into 12 issues really allows the guy to get in these majestic splash pages. It's absolutely beautiful.

EXTRAS?: Intro by Alice Gough and Miles Millar (producers of Smallville), cover gallery, story notes from Waid on his vision for Birthright and sketch art from Yu. The notes are the most interesting part, but even then, they're not much to write home about.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Birthright replaced John Byrne's Man of Steel as a canonical origin for Superman. I've never read Man of Steel before, so I can't say much about that, but Birthright is one heck of an story that fills in a lot of interesting blanks in Superman's story that I hadn't thought of before (ie, Lex Luthor's brief childhood residence in Smallville).

It's too bad that it too was replaced by Geoff Johns's Superman: Secret Origin in 2009. Which, eh, I also haven't read. So sue me. For this reason, I only recommend Birthright if you're invested in the many origin stories of Superman.
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