Wendy's Reviews > Superman: Birthright

Superman by Mark Waid
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it was ok
bookshelves: school-books, comics-manga

I'm trying really hard to raise this review to three stars, but I can't. I just don't like Superman and for all of Birthright's efforts to make the kryptonian more human, I still don't like him. So be prepared for a fully biased character unappreciation post, thinly disguised as a review!

This is a retelling of Superman's origin story, updated to suit our modern times. It opens with the destruction of Krypton and baby Kal'El's parents' difficult decision to risk shipping him off to who knows where. Move on to Clark Kent in Africa reporting on the violent conflict between two neighbouring tribes. Clark frequently but secretly uses his powers to protect Kobe Asuru, the Ghuri tribe's leader. He ultimately fails to protect the man, but succeeds in saving his legacy when he reveals himself to fight the opressers. He comes to understand that his purpose, to do good and be a good man by giving his all, as taught by his parents, is limited by the need to keep his heritage a secret. When he returns to the Kent farm in Smallville, he decides that its time to take up his birthright - the "S" symbol and whatever it means. With the help of internet savvy Martha Kent, he puts together his costume as well as his disguise as the mild-mannered reporter - much to Jonathan Kent's disappointment.

Clark's motivations are somewhat questionable. Is he saving the world because he cares about it and wants to be the good man his parents raised him to be? Or because he gets a thrill from it? Either or both is fine, but I'd rather the book have allowed him to figure that out and let him be more than just the proverbial boy scout. A friend and I had a discussion comparing Superman to Captain America and we concluded that Cap was a better "boy scout" because he did good because that was who he was and he empowered and encouraged people to do the same. Superman has always seemed to do the right thing basically because he was taught to and has the power to do so. However, Clark did show a lot of anger and even hatred in the scenes when he was confronting bad guys. It implied that there was an edge that Clark could step over.

Otherwise, there just wasn't enough of a personality defined, beyond the one he and Martha formulate for his mild-mannered reporter role. This is one of the two places where Superman fails for me: he really has no personality beyond the boy scout. Reason number two is the fact that he is pretty much a god in human form and he does not relate to me in any way. I have similar issues with Wonder Woman. Sure she's a female and has to deal with sexism, but she's also invulnerable and hangs out with gods and is made from clay. Does she even menstruate? How do I truly relate to her? Maybe it's because I started with Marvel first, but I just have never been able to get into these two iconic DC characters because I could not relate to them in any way. They are above humanity, no matter how much they try to blend into it with their concocted alter egos. (Batman is similar, but perhaps his humanity makes me give him a pass.) Meanwhile, in spite of the out of this world powers the X-Men have, Marvel has always maintained their humanity as something readers can completely relate to.

But I digress.

I read this for the Gender through Comic Books course, so I will touch briefly on some issues related to that. As Superman, Clark Kent is supposedly the epitome of manly manliness. In physical form, Leinel Francis Yu's art certainly maintains that image, often making him larger than life, but we did get a few moments of Superman showing non-kryptonite induced weakness, such his sappy resignation letter where he felt he'd failed to do the good he intended. Waid even allows Superman to cry, which, I understand, has been a cause for contention among fans. Real men don't cry! I did appreciate this attempt to allow Superman to have and openly express sadness, loneliness and loss.

In the female corner, we have Lois Lane, the feisty, stubborn reporter. I'm not sure if she's changed much in her personification. I've always known her to be this way and appreciated her depiction here, even if it seemed to be the standard for her. She remains a strong, independent female character, but I like that her dominant traits aren't associated with being a "bitch." She is, first and foremost, a reporter intent on getting her story and a person who is unwilling to let bullies get away with anything.

Plot-wise, I really did not enjoy the forced connections between Clark and Lex. I understand that in Smallville , Clark and Lex had a relationship. That is brought up here, but then I'm forced to believe that, on top of everyone's inability to see the similarities between Clark and Superman, Lex, his friend, has some how completely excised everything about Smallville from his memory, including his friendship with Clark. Lex has, however, been working diligently with the kryptonian information and materials he found and uses it to bring down Superman, for whom he has a deep, deep hatred. Why? Well, because. He sets about to discredit Superman and his motives, culminating in an elaborate hoax involving a kryptonian "invasion," but the people see through it and fight at Superman's side.

Frankly, I could have done without this completely. I understand that Lex is supposed to be a big part of Clark's life, but I really did not enjoy this depiction. It demeaned Lex's intelligence and just made him come off as crazy with undefined jealousy. Oh and somewhere in there, Clark got a brief insight into who his birth family was and why they sent him away. This was also extremely disappointing because, with this supposedly being about Clark wanting to embrace his birthright, he is the only person who didn't put any effort into researching his origins, even when Lex started broadcasting images from Krypton. Excellent investigating reporting there, Clark.
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Reading Progress

April 8, 2013 – Started Reading
April 8, 2013 – Shelved
April 9, 2013 –
75.0% "Still don't care about you, Clark."
April 11, 2013 – Shelved as: school-books
April 11, 2013 – Shelved as: comics-manga
April 11, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)

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message 1: by Simon (new)

Simon This is kinda why I decided not to do that comics course thing, I figured it would oblige me to read a bunch of things that I wouldn't terribly enjoy.

Wendy Simon wrote: "This is kinda why I decided not to do that comics course thing, I figured it would oblige me to read a bunch of things that I wouldn't terribly enjoy."

I don't mind. I had been meaning to read this to try to appreciate Superman. I'm not upset that I did read it and don't mind that the course motivated me to do so. I'm not going to spend too much money on things I don't think I'll enjoy though.

Nabby Chatrath You shall kneel before ZOD

Wendy Nabby wrote: "You shall kneel before ZOD"


message 5: by Ashwin (new) - added it

Ashwin If you don't like Superman, why waste time reading comics about him?

Wendy Rorshach wrote: "If you don't like Superman, why waste time reading comics about him?"

Because I'm sure, based on all the people who do like him, that someone, somewhere has written his story well. I'll keep hunting till I find that.

message 7: by Jeff (new) - added it

Jeff Wendy wrote: "Rorshach wrote: "If you don't like Superman, why waste time reading comics about him?"

Because I'm sure, based on all the people who do like him, that someone, somewhere has written his story well..."

Not a big Superman fan either, Wendy, but Morrison's All-Star Superman is a fun read. Especially, the issue where Clark interviews Luthor in prison.

message 8: by Simon (new)

Simon Ah yes, All-Star Superman was pretty awesome. I remember really liking that.

I just ordered like, all 16 of the Superman titles my library service possesses. The quest for good Superman is on.

message 9: by Jeff (new) - added it

Jeff Good luck!! The New 52 Action Comics Volume 1 is also terrific. Volume 2 not so much; Morrison started drinking heavily or something. It's a train wreck.

message 10: by Simon (new)

Simon ... you mean Grant ever stopped drinking heavily?! :)

message 11: by Jeff (new) - added it

Jeff Maybe he's mixing his booze in some ungodly way.

message 12: by Simon (new)

Simon I met him once, a million years ago in a pub in Edinburgh when he was my weird druggy friends even weirder druggier bald mate 'Grant'.

This was back before he was famous. Shortly before Zenith appeared in 2000AD, which I think was his first really big break? And he talked a lot about comics, very passionately. In fact he spoke about everything very passionately. It was kind of exhausting. :)

message 13: by Jeff (new) - added it

Jeff That's a cool story! Edinburgh is one fantastic city!

One thing I've liked about Morrison is that he does know his comics and he has a healthy respect for the character's past and with DC's convoluted history that's saying something.

message 14: by Simon (new)

Simon True, true. He's certainly a huge fan.

I may never forgive him for 'Big Dave' though. :)

message 15: by Ashwin (new) - added it

Ashwin Wendy wrote: "Simon wrote: "This is kinda why I decided not to do that comics course thing, I figured it would oblige me to read a bunch of things that I wouldn't terribly enjoy."

There's All-Star Superman, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, For the Man Who Has Everything, Peace on Earth, and For All Seasons.

Wendy All-Star is definitely on my list. I am not a fan of Grant Morrison, but Frank Quitely seems to bring out the best in him.

message 17: by Ashwin (new) - added it

Ashwin Yeah, Morrison sucks now, but he was great back then. All-Star Superman really captures what's so awesome about Big Blue.

Whatever Happened To... and For The Man... are both by Alan Moore, who is just an amazing writer. They explore some of the sadder, internal elements of Superman's character.

Peace on Earth explores his role as the protector of the planet and why he can't solve all the world's problems. And For All Seasons is a great "Year Zero" type story.

Wendy Thanks for the recommendations!

I don't think I'll ever necessarily like the character because I don't find him believable (check my review of Superman: Earth One for more reasons). But I believe that there are well-written stories that will help me appreciate him more.

message 19: by Ashwin (new) - added it

Ashwin No superhero but The Question is believable my dear.

Wendy Rorshach wrote: "No superhero but The Question is believable my dear."

LOL good point ;) Perhaps what I mean to to say is I would like to connect more with his humanity and motivations. I would like those to be a bit more believable for me to appreciate the character.

message 21: by Ashwin (new) - added it

Ashwin That's true, and Superman is a hard character to write. But when done well, he is awesome.

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