Review by David Ferguson

Written by Darrin O’Toole
Art by Shawn Langley
Variant cover by Stephen Mooney

Note: I backed this as a Kickstarter project at a level where I would be drawn in the book. Just in case people might question my review, I think it means I have more investment in it being a good book.

I’ll start with the covers. There are three regular covers for the three issues by Shawn Langley with a variant cover for the collection by Stephen Mooney. I am going to pick my favourite of the Shawn Langley ones and describe that. It is issue two where the cover depicts Eathruler sitting on a throne made of famous earth monuments holding the earth in the palm of his right hand. It is a grave science fiction image which suits the overall story and the theme of the second chapter. Stephen Mooney’s cover shows a giant figure of Earthruler looking down on earth. I think his cover has a John Romita Jr. vibe. When I mentioned this to Stephen Mooney, he stated he was going for an old school Marvel file. I think he succeeded.

The premise of this story is the basic Superman origin story but with a couple of twists: 1) Rykaal (the Earthruler) is an adult and 2) he has been exiled as a war criminal. By going back to the origin, Darrin O’Toole brings the story back to it’s science fiction roots which often gets lost in the super-heroics of Superman. The simple change of aging the character changes the dynamic as the character comes to earth with an alien upbringing and alien morality and no knowledge of Earth culture or empathy with humans. In essence, we are seeing an adult growing up instead of a child. This helps us learn more about humanity as we see it through the eyes of an outsider and compare it to the planet he has been exiled from. As with all great sci-fi, the story is not without its twists and turns. This volume contains issues one to three and, as there is more to come, we are left with the cliffhanger ending… well I don’t think I’ll say anymore about that but I am wondering where this is going.

Darrin O’Toole has found yet another newcomer for this story with this being Shawn Langley’s first book. His style really suits the story as he seems suited to drawing both superheroes and sci-fi. As this is his first work, you are seeing him developing as an artist from issue one to issue three. Even though this story has the feel of a big action epic in places, there are a lot quiet moments and Langley is adapt at both. His facial expressions capture the emotions of the characters and the drama of the moment. I think it is one of the marks of a good colourist is that they don’t get in the way of the story and Lancelot Catan does his job and actually helps the book in many ways. His colours help create the alien feel of the Earthruler’s homeworld of Ayva and its inhabitants. I think the aliens are believable in a way that keeps you in the story.

I enjoyed the science fiction feel of the book. Once you get past the basic connection to Superman’s origin, you get to a very different story where you learn as much about humanity as you do the alien Earthruler and his homeworld. The ending has me wondering where the story will go so I am interested in the next chapter. I think Shawn Langley draws a pretty good me by the way.

Earthruler Book One is available to buy here.