Graphic Novel Review

Superman: Birthright

(2004) Mark Waid, Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan, Titan Books, 24.99, hrdbk, 304pp, ISBN 1-840-23963-8


This is a beautiful hardback collection of 2003's 12-issue maxi-series (if they still call them that) retelling and slightly updating Superman's origin - for the umpteenth time. Luckily, this time around, it is written by the wonderful Mark Waid responsible, with the superb Alex Ross, for Kingdom Come and, more recently, for several issues of The Flash and Justice League of America. The story should be as familiar as apple pie (or whatever they eat round your way): last son of Krypton, rocketed to Earth, adopted by Kents, superpowers, big hero. What is slightly different is the depth of exploration as to why Superman should choose to be 'good' rather than, say, making himself ruler of Earth, along with a similar amount of detail as to Lex Luthor's origins and motivations. Any changes are either minor and untroubling, such as the big red 'S' turning out to be Krypton's flag, or a reasonable updating, such as The Daily Planet having/being an on-line news service. The art is great with a slightly European feel, and is also reminiscent of Ken Steacy's work on The Sacred and the Profane and Night and the Enemy or, for younger readers' reference, like Yu's work on Wolverine and the X-Men. There's a fascinating insight into the creative process as we are treated to a feature on Mark Waid's original proposal (and some of Yu's early images), showing his determination to stay true to the core concepts of Siegel and Shuster while accomodating the input of previous Superman writers. Highly recommended.

Tony Chester


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