Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Superman Secret Origin #1 – A Review

Superman Secret Origin #1 (of 6)

Publisher DC

Writer Geoff Johns

Pencils Gary Frank

Inks Jon Sibal

Colors Brad Anderson

Price $4

This was an excellent book. The story was well done, the art was excellent and we got 40 pages for $4, which is quite a bargain in today’s marketplace.

I was wondering how they would go about doing the origin of Superman again, would it be the soft reset of his origin or more of a hard reset the way Bryne did it or have those retro-cons that Johns has almost become famous for, what we got was almost a classic retelling of Superman’s origin. I loved it.

Johns allowed us to see this almost from a young Clark Kent’s eyes as the origin and elements of what makes up Clark’s past were introduced as a natural part of the story. It appears we are catching up with Clark as he is entering into his teen-age years and starting high school. An awkward time for any person and add to that you have new powers that are starting to develop and you life becomes even more complicated then any other kid. What is so wonderful about the way the story is being presented is that it almost has an independent comic feel to it as it is being presented as a “slice of life story” as we learn along with Clark just how different he is from the rest of the world. It never feels like an origin story, it never feels like we are hitting certain points to hit certain points it has elegance to the flow of the story that is almost sublime.

Taking the story in the order it is presented we see Clark have a bad experience playing football after school with Pete Ross and friends. By literally not knowing his own strength he causes Pete Ross to break his arm. Afterwards as his father picks him up Clark is obviously feeling very low for hurting his friend and having lied to his father about going to the library. In that sequence we learn that Clark is not quite sure what his power level is and that he can’t control it 100%.

The next sequence is at school where Clark is still feeling bad about what happened to Pete, even though Pete is happy to be getting tons of attention from the girls for his injury. Lana tries to console Clark and her manner lets you know immediately she knows about Clark’s invulnerability and extreme strength. It is while Clark is talking to Lana that he first uses his x-ray vision and it freaks him out, almost as much as his heat vision does a little while later.

These events lead us back to the Kent household and Pa Kent revealing to Clark that he is not from Earth. Which after some more revelations brings us to a truly touching scene of Jonathan Kent hugging Clark in a cornfield as Clark is crying that he wants to be Jonathan’s son, not an alien from another planet. The full panel aerial shot of a father hugging his son at edge of the cornfield with Jonathan assuring Clark that he is his son was a wonderful moment. It was a moment that resonated with me and felt like something that was a “real” moment. Johns and Morrison (In All Star Superman) have done a great job of showing Clark as a son to his parents and how much they mean to him. Also it continues to show that Clark’s parents are the Kents, not the Els.

So much more is introduced and revealed in this issue with Lex Luthor, Kryptonite, first time flying, the glasses and the costume. The costume moment is the best as Clark comes down the steps dressed in this costume and he tells his parents to have a good look as it is the last time they will ever see him wearing it. This is what any self respecting 14/15 year old boy would say wearing that outfit.

I can’t say enough about how well this story was done. I think the best I can say is this is the most natural telling of Superman’s origin that I can remember. It is both revealing in watching Clark become Superman and humanizing in showing just how truly human Clark is regardless of his powers. I have always thought the idea that Clark Kent is the real person and Superman is the persona was a great truism and Johns seems to be showing us exactly how that came to be. This is a great human interest story about the most powerful hero in the DCU.

The art by Gary Franks and Jon Sibal is a joy to behold with colors by Brad Anderson that are subtle but spot on in every different scene. Gary does a tremendous job of getting Clark and his friends to be age appropriate. Here and there I thought Clark looked a little too old or young, but Gary portrayed the characters at the hardest age for most comic book artists to ever portray someone. In the first couple of years of high school most people are moving from being children to young adults and capturing that correct look is very difficult, especially for an artist who tends hard to the realism style of art. I can’t begin to express how incredible his work is in capturing the size and stature of people at that age. Everything about the art is great, the layouts, the camera angles, the backgrounds, the characters expressions. Johns is a true master at the top of his game and Sibal is capturing it all and his inks do Frank’s work justice. At times I feel Frank can have some garish faces for female characters as he strives to obtain age on faces, but here it is perfection. Brad Anderson matches the quality with colors that are subdued and when needed provide that certain super hero feel, without being that type of coloring. Specifically I’m talking about the last panel with Clark in his costume for the first time. The colors are the classic super hero stuff, but muted just a tad to get the exact right tone. Ever page is great and if I had the money I would want to own one of these pages. (My birthday is in December if you all want to chip in).

To top it all off I was wondering how many pages I would get for my $4 entry fee. As a comic is a collaborative enterprise, my review of a comic includes what I paid for the package. What I got in that respect was a welcome surprise of 40 pages of story and art for $4, maybe the publisher mixed up and forget that we only get 30 pages for $4 (if we are lucky, often less and with filler), but $4 for 40 pages with high quality paper, what a bargain, because this book would have been worth $5 easily, if not more.

Overall Grade A + - It could have been called the Story of Clark Kent and how I grew up as well as Superman Secret Origin. This was a true first class effort by all the creators giving us a classic retelling of Superman’s beginnings.


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  2. Think that this has the potential to rank up there with Bryne's iconic reboot. This and BLACKEST NIGHT are (hopefully) going to cement Johns rep as the best storyteller of this generation.

    Better than Bendis at least. In my opinion.

  3. I was struck by how much the depiction of Clark looked like a young Christopher Reeve. That and the great story, of course. It's almost like The Mighty or Irredeemable in that Johns is taking the iconic characteristics of a superman and showing how a person becomes Superman, rather than a damaged good like the Plutonian in Irredeemable.