Superman: Earth One – Volume 2 seemed like a speed bump in what was initially a promising series. That being said, the epilogue of the book seemed to set up an enticing volume 3 with iconic villain Lex Luthor being the main villain – or, rather, one of the main villains, considering Luthor’s wife, Alexandra.
Superman: Earth One – Volume 3 centers on Clark finally reconciling with his past as he tries to accept his future. In many ways, the book is a tale of two very different kinds of desperation. On the one hand, Superman is desperate to try to discover the secrets of his past thanks to a meeting with a certain villain. It is heartbreaking to see him cling to this hope rather than focus on the people who love him. Meanwhile, the government is enacting a plan to take him down that is, to a degree, reminiscent of some scenes in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice; this once again drives home the point that this trilogy served as the template for the first two Zack Snyder DCEU movies. However, they differ in a variety of ways, as the graphic novel drills down on the fear that the people of Earth are experiencing, desperate to protect themselves from the threat that they perceive in Superman. That fear is something that it’s fair to say Superman instigated, given certain some of his from the previous novel.
That being said, desperation breeds ill-advised decisions, yet the reader can completely understand why the government is fearful and turns to the Luthors for help. The Luthors are particularly interesting, as their only focus appears to be proving themselves the true heroes, with Mrs. Luthor being the brand behind the brain. Throughout the book, Mr. Luthor is in a moral quagmire over whether to truly go through with stopping Superman, particularly as Zod is a looming threat. The book culminates in a battle between Superman and Zod, as Lex must decide once and for all where he stands, much to Alexandria’s chagrin, creating a whole new dynamic to the Superman and Lex relationship.
New dynamics seems to be a major theme that colors Superman: Earth One – Volume 3, something that is never more clear than in the way Lois and Clark interact with one another(aside from a scene that appears to be a shot at Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and, in an odd sort of way, mirrors the change that Captain America went through in Avengers: Endgame). After what happened in the previous story, it was good to see them not only reach an understanding, but give the reader a new path forward that, had the series continued, would’ve set it apart in a significant way – especially in the wake of the Rebirth initiative, which began not even a year after the debut of this graphic novel.
Superman: Earth One – Volume 3 is a story of coming to terms with the future and not allowing your past to define you. It also serves as a cautionary tale about what happens when people in power give in to fear and trust in something they don’t fully understand. In many ways, Straczynski plays with our expectations and makes us realize that, while Superman may be a paragon of morality, the power that he possesses can inspire in both good and bad ways, depending on the person. It may be an old adage, but it rings true: absolute power corrupts absolutely. While some fear it, others will try to control it, even if it isn’t something that ultimately belongs to them. That being said, there is one element of Superman: Earth One – Volume 3 that doesn’t work: delineating the origin of Tyrell from Volume 1. It seems like it was just shoehorned in, which is surprising considering the character was such a big part of the first volume. In addition, I felt like Jimmy Olsen is underutilized, serving as little more than an extra. Yes, there are many characters to service, but after the last two volumes, I was hoping he would have a moment to shine.
With Superman: Earth One – Volume 3, Straczynski brings his story full circle, imbuing his characters with pathos and fulfilling the promise that had been hinted at in the previous lackluster installment. Straczynski got back to the core of the story he was trying to tell with Superman and made us yearn for more comics content from him. Thankfully, that’s something that will be coming to fruition thanks to Axel Alonso and Bill Jemas’ new superhero endeavor, The Resistance, for which he will be working with Mike Deodato. Although I really wanted to see Straczynski take on The Flash for this line, I’m glad he got to finish this trilogy for a 21st century Man of Steel. That being said, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that he was finishing his Superman story with an artist other than Shane Davis. Usually, I don’t like it when someone on the art team leaves prior to the end of a run (Mark Bagley on Ultimate Spider-Man comes to mind). Thankfully, the new artist on Superman: Earth One – Volume 3 was Ardian Syaf, whom I had first discovered on the Dresden Files graphic novel Welcome to the Jungle, so I knew what he could do. I’m pleased to say that the talent Syaf displayed while drawing Chicago’s only practicing wizard is on display again here for the Man of Steel. The faces are far more expressive, and Syaf gives a clearer definition to the city of Metropolis. He’s a fine successor and took to the series well.
Superman: Earth One – Volume 3 is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy, with great arcs for Superman and Lex Luthor, as well as a cool twist on this well-loved mythology. While Straczynski may no longer be at DC anymore, it’s good to know he will have a trilogy of Superman stories that fans can go to with no need to worry about decades of continuity. After all, that is the mission statement of the Earth One line.