Perhaps never intending to produce a sequel, J. Michael Straczynski backed himself into a corner with the first volume of Superman: Earth One. That was an interesting revisioning of Superman’s arrival in Metropolis and first outing as a superhero, set on an alternate Earth. By the conclusion, though, he was pretty well in same place he ended up in the more familiar mythos, disguising himself as Clark Kent and working at the Daily Planet. Doesn’t any sequel then become just another Superman story?

Well, yes and no. We’re still dealing with an inexperienced Superman at the beginning of his career, easily seen off by a dictator, and a naive Clark Kent, while enough ur elements were left unexplored in the first volume to pick up here as well. Then Straczynski throws in a very good scene indicating that perhaps we don’t know this Superman. Is it wish fulfilment or did it actually occur?

Shane Davis’ art has the same strengths and weaknesses as the first volume. He’s technically very good, and strong on emotional characterisation, but there’s not a single image that’ll stick in the mind when you finish reading.

Straczynski utlises many pages building up the villain of the piece, who’s possibly not the expected selection, but not designed very impressively by Davis. He’s depicted in depth as a psychopathic child, and his transformation renders what’s always been there visible, but his use is overly melodramatic and his downfall predictable. The reason he’s there, though is because his particular power set feeds into an experience Straczynski needs for his greater story. The villain you might expect turns up at the end, but remember, this is an alternate Earth.

Where this is at it’s best is in establishing that Superman can’t solve everything, via his neighbours and the ongoing political situation, and having him experience in a new fashion what it’s like to be human. A significant new character added here is Lisa Lasalle, who has an apartment in the same block as Clark Kent. Her initials will be an indication of significance to long-time Superman readers, but while attempting to update the cast, Straczynski completely redefines the definition of a woman who’s somewhat forward.

As in the previous book, Straczynski adds to Superman’s character by featuring a faux Daily Planet newspaper feature by Clark Kent, and an investigation by Lois Lane. She has her own suspicions, and her reporter’s instincts prompt her to look into Clark. It’s one of several plots more obviously featured for investigation in volume three.