Superman Brithright
Written by Mark Waid
Drawn by Lenil Francis Yu
Published by DC Comics
supermanbirthright
The retelling of a superhero’s origin story really only works if the writer and artist truly ‘get’ the character.  Extraneous details can weigh the character down, and updated elements can seem forced.  Fortunately, that isn’t the case with “Superman Birthright,” Mark Waid and Lenil Francis Yu’s take on the origin of the Man of Steel.
Originally published in 2003, this graphic novel served as an inspiration for 2013’s “Man of Steel” film, but don’t hold that against it.  This comic soars where the movie feels heavy and grim.
The comic starts out much like the film, with Clark Kent traveling around the world looking for a sense of identity.  Clark feels that his powers separate him from humanity, and he looks for a way to both live among humans and use his powers to do good.  With the help of his parents, he prepares his alter-ego and takes a job at the Daily Planet in Metropolis.  As he struggles to establish himself both as a journalist and a superhero, he quickly comes into conflict with the brilliant but twisted Lex Luthor.  This is the heart of the story, and it is handled masterfully.  This version of Lex is an astro-biologist exhaustedly hunting for intelligent alien life.  Clark briefly knew Lex when they were teenagers.  Clark was his only friend when Lex’s prodigious intellect, and accompanying ego, separated him from his classmates.
The two meet again, and their meeting as adults goes just as poorly.  Lex is an exceptional man looking for an equal among the stars, but Superman is disgusted by his actions.  This is a great modernization of the basic plot of a Superman comic, and is typical of Waid’s treatment of the characters and their motivations.
Motivation is the key to “Birthright.”  The reader knows what Superman does.  This retelling cements why he does it, and how the people of Metropolis react to it.  Fear of the unknown, both ‘out there’ and inside ourselves is a central theme.  How the characters each react to it is what makes them special.
Yu’s designs are also great, and the comic does a great job of making these seventy year old icons breathe in a modern context.
“Superman Birthright” is available as a graphic novel from Amazon, Comixology, or your local comics shop.
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