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.
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.