Overview

Superman: Secret Origin #1

Review

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Superman: Secret Origin #1

Credits

  • Words: Geoff Johns
  • Art: Gary Frank
  • Inks: Jon Sibal
  • Colors: Brad Anderson
  • Story Title: Secret Origin Book One: The Boy of Steel
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Sep 23, 2009

I don't think there will ever be a final settlement over continuity issues in the DC Universe, so I am content to leave those questions to others better suited and better armed with the knowledge of such things. No doubt Superman: Secret Origin will be the start of such debates, as many elements of the origin defy the John Byrne reboot. I prefer to see these origin stories in the same way as the Greek myths of old, where many interpretations have appeared, but certain elements recur which capture the essence of the hero.

Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's version of the story is a very human one, sometimes excessively so. The first issue covers the first manifestations of Clark's powers as a teenager in Smallville. The usual suspects are here, Lana Lang, the Kents, Pete Ross, and a young Lex Luthor. Johns captures the small town feel very well and resists the impulses of interjecting modern teenage “hip.” While I appreciated the innocence of it, a couple of characterizations were bothersome. When Clark reacts to the revelation of being an alien with the whiny, “I don't want to be different,” all I could hear in my head was Jerry Seinfeld in a puffy shirt saying, “but I don't want to be a pirate!” The identity crisis motif for Superman has never been all that convincing for me, the interactions a little too obvious but ultimately not very interesting. Lex Luthor being saddled with an abusive father and a rotten home life is also derivative of the pop psychology explanation of destiny.

The storytelling is up to Geoff Johns usual standards, and Gary Frank shows up in top form. It is a dynamic story, even though Superman doesn't appear in costume until the end. Frank's clean, expressive figures and magnificently detailed backgrounds bring the tale alive in wonderful four-color glory. As good as the art was on this issue, I can't wait for his rendering of the next issue, where Superboy ends up in the future with the Legion of Super-Heroes.

The overall package for this series seems sufficiently bold and grand for the story it is retelling. I am not sure if DC intends this to be the new definitive origin for the Superman titles or not, and for me it doesn't really matter. Nobody reading Bulfinch, or Edith Hamilton, or Plutarch's version of the myths of ancient Gods and heroes dwells on the differences. Johns and Frank do a nice job with the subject matter, and the six-issue miniseries should be a fine product for introducing new readers to the mythology of the Man of Steel.

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