Superman: Birthright #1 (2003)
Superman: Birthright #1 (September, 2003)
Writer – Mark Waid
Pencils – Leinil Francis Yu
Inks – Gerry Alanguilan
Colors – Dave McCaig
Letters – Comicraft
Associate Editor – Tom Palmer, Jr.
Editors – Dan Raspler & Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.95
Superman’s origin… we really… really… really… really mean it this time.
What was that? Geoff Johns on line 1?
Oh well, publish it anyway!
We open on Krypton… go figure. Jor-El is having a bit of a test-flight with one of his “gotta get off the planet before it pops” rockets… and it bursts into flames. He continues tweaking the trajectory… but, finds the entire endeavor to be somewhat hopeless. He rants a bit to Lara about the Science Council being a bunch of boobs who refused to heed his warnings, and laments that the only rocket in their “fleet” is the prototype… which would be barely large enough to carry their infant son, Kal.
From here, we get a bit of the quick ‘n dirty on Krypton. They were a people who grew tired of war… and so, became enlightened. The unified Krypton focused on science, and would prosper for ten-thousand orbits. But… that’s all about to end.
After a bit of soul-searching, and coaxing from Lara… Jor loads baby Kal into the prototype rocket… and even gives him a Kryptonian iPad to keep him entertained for the trip! Okay, okay… it is a tablet, but it’s the entire history of Krypton.
From here, bada-bing, bada-boom… baby Kal is fired off just as Krypton goes to pieces. It’s worth noting… we’re already to the staples. Remember, decompression isn’t a thing that exists. It’s all in your mind, maaaaaan.
In a pretty neat, and cinematic dealie… the tip of the proto-rocket morphs into a bullet… which segues us into our next scene of, Clark Kent catching a bullet meant for a Mr. Kobe Asuru. It is 25 years later.
Ya see, Clark’s in West Africa… and tensions are pretty high. It appears that this Kobe fella spends most of his time dodging assassination attempts. Kobe’s Ghuri Tribe pals aren’t so sure they can even trust Clark… despite his just throwing himself in front of a bullet for the man.
He eventually wins them over, and they go out for drinks. It’s here we learn that even in a place without racial barriers and tension, there are still ways people can be divided and discriminated against. There are always going to be disparate “classes” and territories… and, it would seem, they will always let their differences inform their relations.
Clark learns that, not too long ago, another reporter had come through West Africa… one Lois Lane. Clark says he’s never had the pleasure of meeting her, but would really like to.
After some more chatting about tribal histories… there’s a drive-by shooting! Without thinking, Clark once again dives in front of a slew of bullets. Despite this, an old woman is still hit.
Clark shoos the likely target, Kobe, out of the bar… and uses his heat vision to close the wound on the older woman. He then realizes… duh, the rival tribe probably wanted Kobe outside!
And so, he finishes fixing the old woman’s artery… and dives in front of some more bullets meant for Kobe! This time, taking a back-full of ballistics. When he’s not injured… or even scratched, the rivals assume that he’s wearing a vest.
He hops into Kobe’s Volkswagen bus… and they take off into the night. They discuss the Turaaba, which is the rival tribe… and we learn that there is about to be a National Election in two days time.
Such an unnecessary story… and kind of a dull one, at that.
I can only assume… and it’s a big assumption, that since this was very, very early in the days of Didio, that Dan wanted to shove out the “official-official” “definitive” “we really mean it this time, you guys” origin of Superman to mark his arrival. We’ve talked about what his arrival meant for some other books and characters here and again… but, I gotta wonder if this to be “his” Superman (ya know, for the five or so minutes that it was in continuity).
Back when I was in the corporate world, I referred to this as the “Dinty Moore dilemma”. If you remember the old cans of Dinty Moore Stew… they had the giant thumbprint of Dinty Moore on the top of each one. If you don’t remember… well here, take a look:
Back then, it seemed that any time someone got a promotion to yet another level of middle-management, the first thing they’d want to do is “put their thumbprint” on anything they could… just to show that they were in their new (more powerful) position.
Changes could be sweeping… or embarrassingly tiny (usually the latter), but those changes would be made… because “dammit, there’s a new person in this seat”. That’s how I feel about so much of the early months of Didio. The Superman books of the Berganza era had all but established that much of the “S.O.S.” (Silver-Age Shhtuff) was being brought back into the mythos… that this series feels kind of redundant. Maybe Mark Waid just had a story about warring tribes that he wanted to tell… and this was as good a place as any to stick it.
This might sound silly, but despite how dull I found this… I can’t really blame the story. It’s really the format that kills it. If Birthright really needed to be “a thing”, it probably should have been an original graphic novel… or a prestige format gimmick. Doing this monthly does it zero favors. Indeed, I was so bored by this fifteen years ago, that I dropped it a few issues in. For a fella who loves “lore” and adding things to the mythos like I do… if I walk away… I mean, I don’t walk away from much.
In 2018… this still bores me. The scene where Jor-El and Lara send Clark Earthbound lasts… fourteen pages. Is that really necessary? I mean, again… if this were an original graphic novel, who’d even notice… but as a monthly periodical, this is almost an irresponsible waste of paginal “real estate”.
So no… I didn’t like it. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but I didn’t like it then… and I don’t like it now. Good thing it only stuck around for about five minutes. The art, it’s worth noting… is quite good! I first “met” Leinil Yu when he was working on Wolverine with Warren Ellis and Chris Claremont. I recall that he had the habit of signing every single page… and that kinda bugged me. He also added a lot of extra lines to the art… which bugged me as well. We don’t get any of that here… and that’s a good thing.
Overall… I mean, it’s a story that might read better in collected edition. I couldn’t recommend seeking out the singles though.