"Superman: Year One, Book Two" is a big, wet mess

Story and Art: Frank Miller and John Romita, Jr., Inks: Danny Miki, Colors: Alex Sinclair, Letters: John Workman.

"Superman: Year One #2" cover art by John Romita, Jr. and Danny Miki

DC’s Black Label = Adult/non-continuity/alternate universe tales. This means Miller and Romita, Jr. don’t have to worry about limiting their story to established Superman canon, or his power set. So far, they have revealed new powers each issue that have never been seen before.

Superman: Year One, Book Two continues to be a bloated, meandering mess of a story. Miller spends half of the issue (34 pages!) covering Clark’s Navy basic training and efforts to become a Navy SEAL.

A big difference in this Clark is that he doesn’t hold back his superhuman abilities to avoid standing out from the normal soldiers. He excels at everything in an obviously more-than-human manner, something his commanding officer (CO) confronts him with at the end of the issue. Another difference is that this Clark seems to like violence; another indication that Miller may have Clark “go rogue” before the end of this story arc. I hope not, but it IS an alt-uni tale, so no harm to actual continuity would happen.

One bit of canon I was glad Miller didn’t stray from in the name of some Black Label Mature Shock Value is that he doesn’t have soldier Clark kill anyone. He finds ways to disable enemy combatants, to the fury of his CO. His refusal to obey orders has serious consequences for his military future.

SEAL training conveniently puts Clark on the southern California coast, where he discovers and covertly interacts with Atlantean mermaids…and falls in love with Lori Lemaris. The underwater storyline occupies the second half of this issue, and introduces us to Lori’s father Poseidon, a royal prick onto whom Miller has laid some incestuous Black Label yucky-ness. It seemed like shock for the sake of being shocking.

We finally get to see Clark in his alt-uni Uni, and it’s got a very retro quality I liked, a combination of very early Shuster and Kingdom Come. However, the S-symbol seems pretty plain and un-stylized. If the intent was to make it extremely different and less like a Kryptonian family crest, then that was successful.

Finally, the Alt-Uni Uni makes an appearance!

The Atlantis half of the story has a lot of super-action, even if the “Poseidon sics giant sea creatures on Clark” gets repetitive. Romita, Jr.’s Atlantis designs are the most uninspired I have ever seen; they are dull and colorless and monotonous. Perhaps this architectural choice is a reflection on Poseidon?

Danny Miki and Alex Sinclair continue to be the artists that are the highlights of this book. Miki saves Romita, Jr. from himself and corrects his artistic weaknesses (as a great inker should), and Sinclair brings beauty, depth, and much-needed texture to the spare linework.

Superman: Year One is on sale August 21, 2019.

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