Superman: Dawnbreaker: An inconsequential look at pre-caped Superman

Superman: Dawnbreaker by Matt de la Peña science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsSuperman: Dawnbreaker by Matt de la PeñaSuperman: Dawnbreaker by Matt de la Peña

In comparison with the other three books in the DC ICONS COLLECTION, I’m afraid I have to say that Superman’s entry is not the best. As with the others, it explores the adolescence of a famous superhero before he or she donned a mask and cloak, and in this case, focuses on farm-boy Clark Kent realizing that strange things are happening in his rural hometown of Smallville.

Along with his best friend Lana Lang (reimagined for the first time as a would-be reporter) Clark gradually becomes aware of a sudden corporate interest in the farms of Smallville, and a spate of missing Mexican workers. The arrival of Lex Luthor and the two squabbling sons of philanthropist Montgomery Mankins doesn’t feel like a coincidence, and for the first time Clark begins to utilize his abilities in the attempt to figure out what’s going on.

The DC Icons Series Books Set (4 Books) - Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Batman, Superman Paperback – 2020 by Marie Lu (Author), Leigh Bardugo (Author), Sarah J. Maas (Author)Divorced from any comic or television show canon, the four authors involved in this series are given free rein to write their own origin stories, which means we get the umpteenth take on how Clark discovers his powers, meets Lex Luthor and discovers who he really is — the problem is that we’ve seen these events SO many times in various films and shows that they’ve lost all their luster, and there’s no unique spin given by Matt de la Peña to these oft-repeated beats of Clark’s story.

There are some nice parts in Superman: Dawnbreaker (2019), as Clark’s guilt and frustration at having to drop out of the football team because his incredible strength puts the other players in danger, or his empathy towards minorities being based in his awareness that he’s also an alien immigrant (literally!). I also liked the characterization of Lana as an intrepid reporter and Lex as a quasi-ally that Clark doesn’t quite trust.

But for the most part this is a fairly standard mystery/crime story that just happens to involve Clark Kent. I didn’t glean any particular insight or deeper understanding of the character through reading Dawnbreaker, and the introduction of a love interest called Gloria feels a bit pointless considering what we know of his later romantic life. Overall, it felt like a pretty standard episode of Smallville from back in the day.

Published in 2019. THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING SERIES! DC Icons continues with the coming-of-age story of the world’s first super hero, SUPERMAN, from Newbery award-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling author MATT DE LA PEÑA. When the dawn breaks, a hero rises. Clark Kent has always been faster, stronger–better–than everyone around him. But it’s not like he’s earned his powers . . . yet. Lately it’s difficult to hold back and keep his heroics in the shadows. When Clark follows the sound of a girl crying, he comes across Gloria Alvarez and learns that people are disappearing from the Mexican-American and undocumented worker community in Smallville. Teaming up with his best friend, Lana Lang, Clark discovers that before he can save the world, he must save Smallville.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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