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Infinite Crisis: Secret Files & Origins 2006

Infinite Crisis: Secret Files & Origins 2006

Scheduled to arrive in stores: March 15, 2006

Cover date: April 2006

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciller: Dan Jurgens
Inker: Jerry Ordway (Chapter One), Cam Smith and Art Thibert (Chapter Two), and Nelson (Chapter Three)

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey and Nick Newman

Click to enlarge

"Alex Luthor, Born Earth-3"

Alex Luthor meditates in elsewhere, elsewhen, meditating on his life and the fact that he didn't have a real set of memories to speak of.

Superman of Earth-2 (henceforth "Superman" in this summary for simplicity's sake, likewise with Superboy of Earth-Prime) shows Superman a Daily Star he's crafted for her in this Heaven. Superboy shows up, asking to talk with Superman, who says he will as soon as he's done with Lois. Superboy, upset, stalks off, but Lois provokes Superman to go talk with the boy.

Superman explains to Superboy that the current Earth is not their home. Superboy is still upset.

Alex meets up with Superboy as he gazes upon his past memories. Alex turns the memories from happy times to the end, when the Crisis hit and Superboy's reality was destroyed. Alex explains that they can do something to fix things. He explains that he made a mistake with his Heaven. He had the choice between a place that was timeless that seemed like Heaven, and a fiery Hell. He reveals that he made the wrong choice. The Hell he saw was merely Apokolips, and Darkseid was looking through his eyes.

Lois makes a heart with Superman and herself in it, working it out of her purple surroundings. She grows faint. Superman goes to find Alex.

Alex prods Superboy, showing him the way that the heroes of the current Earth have failed to have an idealistic universe. Superboy tells Alex that it's too late, showing that Wonder Woman has already snapped Max Lord's neck. Alex tells him that he can have his world back. Superboy punches the wall. As he does, reality fragments and changes. We see the varying Superman origins up to and including Birthright (note, the only mention of Birthright in the issue, and at that, in a montage that includes the Silver Age Superman origin).

Lois collapses, in pain. It seems Superboy's alterations are what's hurting her.

"Kal-L, Born Krypton-2"

Superman despairs at Lois' pain, and consciously forces himself to change the weather that reflects his mood from rain into sun before replicating Metropolis around them. Lois wakes, feeling better.

Alex arrives, and tells them that the Heaven feeds off their souls, and that they need to escape. Lois tells him that this is their home now, for better or for worse, and that they don't belong on the new Earth.

Lois reassures Superman after Alex leaves, telling him that she's okay with her situation. She's eighty, and she's lived a long, fulfilling life.

Superboy overhears them talking about how he'll never be able to be Superman in this reality. Upset, he goes back to the wall to look at his good memories. Alex again changes them to the moment of the Crisis. Alex steps out, telling Superboy that he's being stupid by not allowing them to re-make the perfect Earth. Superboy chokes him in anger, then throws him, then stops to see all of the ways our heroes have been more tested on the wall again (The JSA killing, Max Lord, and Superman executing the Phantom Zone criminals).

Superboy hits the wall again, and we see Donna troy, Hawkman, and the Metal Men in their varying iterations of continuity "mistakes".

Lois collapses again.

Superboy looks at the smashed pieces of wall and pledges to support Alex in his quest.

Superman takes Lois into the air, praying for her health. She stirs.

"Superboy, Born Earth-Prime"

Superboy wonders how he ended up in Hell when he's a good guy.

Alex watches the rifts change, including the Challengers of the Unknown, Jonah Hex, and Gog. He marvels that Superboy is creating irrational rifts in time.

Superboy arrives, frustrated that they're not being released as he attacks the wall. Alex explains that he's running scenarios, and that it takes time. Alex shows him the death of Superman (our Superman) at the hands of Doomsday, and explains that after that, heroes began changing and morphing from life to death, their very powers changing, and other things that altered their universe. Alex further explains that the current Earth was doomed to fracture, because it was malformed.

Alex shows Superboy how imperfect the Earth is, by showing that his parents were born on this (our) Earth, along with his girl Laurie, only to die together in a horrible accident.

Superman holds Lois, watching the events of the Crisis, and laments that they haven't been rewarded for being good people.

Superboy slams the wall, trying to change the death of his parents. He tells Alex that he's not powerful enough without a yellow sun. Alex gives him some of his anti-matter, and Superboy is finally able to free himself.

He sees Blue Beetle, but ignores him.

Alex recalls the events leading to the Infinite Crisis, his plot, all leading to issue one. He swears that the perfect universe will be his.

5Neal: Story - 5 (and 0): As far as Marv Wolfman is concerned, he gets the five. This story, top to bottom, is an incredible, in-depth, dense character study of three characters that on first glance seem very surface and with no heart to them at all (based on what little we know of them). From the top to the bottom you empathize with these characters and their plight. As I've said before, this is one of those rare times where you actually feed sympathy for the villains and cheer the heroes, which is the best kind of story.

I could point out the irony of how these guys who hate grim and gritty storytelling are now turning to a grim and gritty villainy to solve the problem, but then, that would make me grim and gritty. But wait! I AM grim and gritty! I love this universe! I like heroes going through trials.

I get a very large vibe off the whole crisis that indicates that the nineties and most of what we have for this decade was too violent and graphic and tense to be good. I disagree. But just because I disagree with a character's motivation doesn't mean I'll hate a story. NOW, if that whole vibe turns the DC universe into a fifties style moratorium on any kind of hardcore storytelling just because the editors want a more bygone age, I'll have more commentary. But for now, I see those critiquing this universe as the villains.

Now, the zero.

As some of you know, as most of you know, there has been a nagging question in continuity for YEARS now. That being "Superman: Birthright".

Yeah, Birthright. The story that was a decent re-telling of Superman's origin but simply can't reconcile with the current history for a number of reasons that I've already detailed in a rather long article.

A long while ago, December 15th to be precise, I wrote in a letter to "Ask Eddie". Steve, interested in the answer himself, shot it straight on to Eddie, because it was the kind of question that it would be good for the staff to know.

"When will you reconcile Birthright with the continuity? Or will you?"

His response, which I then shared in an article or review (I forget which, but I know I did, because it was a big deal), was this:

All will be explained, definitively, in continuity, in "Infinite Crisis: Secret Files".

That's paraphrased, as it has to be, as I don't reprint direct correspondence without permission. But that's the basic gist.

I read this issue. Birthright appears once. I believe what is intended is that we're supposed to just accept things that are irrational because it's what happens when Superboy punches the miracle wall.

Steve will probably add little symbols like an ampersand and a number sign to the following, but I'm typing exactly what I mean in exactly the way I want to say it when I give you my response to that particular explanation right here:


Et-hem. How's that? Fair? You think that's fair?

Birthright started in 2003. It ended in 2004. Early 2004.

It is now early 2006. It's been more than three years since Waid said this would be the definitive origin. And it's treated as the definitive origin in the comics...SOMETIMES. Sometimes it's just ignored. A lot of things have never showed up again, or if they have, rarely, like being a vegetarian, like soul vision.

If you're a fan of the comics, you know all of the blatant and annoying contradictions. I never said it was a bad story, but as continuity, it utterly fails.

And you know why I say the above expletive that's not been deleted, likely? Because while Superboy hitting the wall is a way to explain it, it just doesn't fly.

Two and two are four, and it doesn't matter who's hitting the wall of reality, that doesn't change. That's one of the universally accepted (by all but freakish existentialists who smell like pepper anyway) philosophical tenets. God cannot move the unmovable pillar. Two and two cannot be five, except in 1984.

So while it's a nice idea to explain things that are ODD (like Power Girl surviving the wave), it makes absolutely no sense with regards to things that are flatly impossible. Like Birthright, where Lex has his post-Brainiac Lexcorp Tower being BUILT in 2003 despite it happening because of the Y2K bug, among many other impossibilities.

Or on a basic level, the fact that without Krypton having extra-stellar communications, Doomsday would never have made it off Krypton and thusly never killed Superman.

What I see here, and I hope I'm wrong, is that they're trying to ret-con. They're trying to make things more simple and more heroic. That's admirable, but you have to understand, if you're going to do it, don't go half-assed.

Marvel decided they wanted a simpler version of their heroes. So they created the Ultimate universe. Spidey got to experience all of his life again in a more decompressed fashion, with good writing, good art, and that eventually morphed into its own universe. An Earth-2, if you will. They started continuity all over, and got their own kind of Birthright out of the way, but now, they have two distinct universes, and all is well. The fans didn't vomit regret and stop buying their comics because it was too complex. They handled the context and actually thrived.

Here in the DCU we have this great story, but the consequences and the execution of said consequences stink. I'll elaborate.

We have Birthright. Good story. We have Identity Crisis and Countdown. Great! We have this story. Great! And One Year Later. AWESOME concept, equally interesting execution.

As a cohesive universe, however, what the heck are they doing? Birthright can't be the origin. It doesn't fit. One Year Later, and Superman's last action is fighting Doomsday a year ago before losing his powers?

So let me get this straight. Superman came to Metropolis in 2003, died at Doomsday's hands "a year ago", and everything that happened from 1992 to 2006 didn't happen?

That can't be the case, though, because Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka (personally) have assured me that they love the continuity, they're not changing it, and, it's hard to see how it could be anything BUT a ret-con and a sacrifice of everything that we've plunked at first a buck fifty and now three dollars on for the last 14 years.

I feel, not without irony, like I'm one of the guys who read the Silver Age Superman, just picking up the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Suddenly my character is gone and his past is completely different, there's a completely new direction, and no explanations, really, for why we couldn't handle infinite Earths, or in this case, a bunch of GOOD, damned good continuity.

The difference, and the reason I feel justified in being hacked (while I feel less sympathy for the people who hated Byrne, is that at least with Byrne, you KNEW what the heck was going on. They said, "Yeah, we're retconning. All of the Earths are gone, now there's one Superman, one Batman, and here's the new origin."

Now, Mark Waid says we're completely changing the origin of Superman, Eddie Berganza affirms this, but says it will fit into continuity when it doesn't. The masterminds of the new continuity (to my mind Rucka, Johns, and Winnick) say that they're not changing continuity (at least Rucka and Johns). Meanwhile, the comics they put out indicate otherwise, and comics in the middle present situations that are contradictory to them all.

So yeah. Great story. Good character. Interesting premise. People have told me that they thought it was a bit redundant, or something that you could assume, but then again, that's not the point of the story, really, it's more to show the humanity of those involved. I loved it.

As a response to continuity criticisms of Birthright? It didn't even address the problems directly, only indirectly, and it stunk. I repeat again:

BULLSH!T. We deserve better than that.

It is not without a sigh that I read Newsarama today, after writing this review, and read the following, with regards to an interview conducted about the Infinite Crisis and the consequences of One Year Later.

"Asked if DC would publish an "awesome" story set out of continuity, Didio responded first saying "No", but Waid added that it would depend on who was telling the story."

Any fool can tell you what I think of that, and how it relates to the above. Waid is a good writer and deserves projects. DC and Superman are a great character and a good company, and thusly deserve editorial direction that stops projects that simply don't make sense. Like Birthright as continuity (not even Birthright as a great side story).

5Nick: Story - 5: I tend to really dislike the Secret Files format. In the past it has been an excuse for DC to put out a substandard story coupled with an overabundance of profile pages and charge people five bucks for it. And of course, I buy them every time anyway because it's Superman. This issue, on the other hand, was actually worthwhile.

First, I was extremely happy to see only four profile pages, and every one of them an important one. They could have easily filled this book up with profiles of the Society, OMACs, Donna Troy, and any number of other players in the Crisis. Instead though, we got a nice long story instead. Well done on that front DC.

Beyond my happiness at the lack of abusing the Secret Files format, this was just an excellent story. Not only was it entertaining (more on that later) but it legitimately added to the story of Infinite Crisis. A lot of stories are drawn out to be too long (decompression if you will) but if anything DC is doing the exact opposite with Infinite Crisis. The amount of material they are trying to cram into seven issues is ridiculous, and I definitely approve of them shifting some of the background story into this book.

The quality of the actual story was great too. Jokes about Alex Luthor taking his clothes off aside, I really liked this entire book. The look at Alex Luthor's history was interesting, and I loved the addition of the fact that he could have sent them into the post-crisis universe had he known what he was doing. It's easy to see his frustration at begin trapped in his 'heaven'. He was never allowed to have any life at all, and now he is forced to watch as the world he helped save falls apart.

I thought Kal-L's section was the slowest, probably because him doting over Lois, while in character, has gotten a bit repetitive. I like seeing more of Lois' refusal to participate in the plan though. She's willing to accept her fate, but Superboy-Prime and Luthor aren't.

Finally, Superboy-Prime's section just continued to build on the parts of Infinite Crisis #4 that I really loved. This boy really doesn't know what he's doing, and Luthor is manipulating him to serve his own ends. The Superman fan in me really likes the fact that Luthor is behind it all again. Prime, at his core, wants to make things better. He's selfish too, but he wants to fix the world that he's watching. And just to tie everything together, he ignores Blue Beetle when he breaks free.

With maybe one or two exceptions, this book is the best use of the Secret Files format that I've seen since DC started them up back in the late 90s. Not only do we get a story actually worth the six dollar price tag, but its also a story that legitimately belongs in a book called 'Secret Files'.

5Neal: Art - 5: I've said it once, I'll say it again. Jurgens is the man, and should be on eight Superman books a month. Period. The man's definitive, and incredible. Every page is emotional, powerful, and just all around comic gold.

I don't have much to say there, because really, that's all there is to it. Jurgens is Superman to many people. To me, he's always going to be when I first came to love the Man of Steel. He put the archetype of comic book Supes in my head along with Grummett.

5Nick: Art - 5: Dan Jurgens is, and will probably always be, my favorite Superman artist. Anything that gets him drawing Superman makes me happy. Of course, he just did layouts for this issue, with three others working over him, but all of them were great too, and I still feel that you can still see Jurgens' style. Ordway's chapter was my favorite, and Nelson's chapter also had a great look to it. The only chapter I had any problem with was Smith and Thibert's. It was still solid art, but much of it seemed to lack the detail that made the other two really pop. Overall though, every section had some excellent panels. It's great to see DC putting its good artists on the big projects like they should.

5Neal: Cover Art - 5: The words as ever are distracting, but the lone image of Superman cradling a dying Lois on an all-black background is one of the first times in a long time that I've been cool with a cover that has little to no background. It's so powerful, it just really, really works.

4Nick: Cover Art - 4: I'm torn on this cover. I absolutely love the art itself. Reis continues to impress me with the work that he's done recently, and I'm anticipating his future work on other DC books. Superman looks great, and I was particularly impressed with dead Lois. On the other hand, I'm not crazy about the black background. It fits the feel of the cover well enough, but I would have liked to have something else on the cover. Some type of shadowed background, the multiverse, something to add to this cover. I also will never like the Secret Files banner down the side. It detracts from the cover for no good reason. All things considered, I don't think it's fair to give this cover less than a four, as I think the art we do get on it is spectacular, but it's disappointing that this was all we got.

"Secret Files" Text by Marv Wolfman
Superman of Earth-2 Art: Dave Bullock
Lois Lane of Earth-2 Art: Howard Chaykin
Alex Luthor of Earth-3 Art: Kalman Andrasofszky
Superboy of Earth-Prime Art: Stephane Roux

3Neal: Files Text - 3: Per typical, these are your average summations of the character's life and existence. Sometimes they give extra information or hints, sometimes they are woefully late and frustrating (as with Ruin, wondering who it would be after it had been revealed to be Emil).

These are, by and large, usually the most boring parts of these Secret Files, ironically enough. I wish they would simply make specials and add three more pages of story.

3Neal: Files Art - 3: Superman: Iconic image in a very dramatic pose.

Lois: Again, very iconic, good pose, and a large amount of great detail.

Alex: A bit cartoony, but otherwise decent. Nothing amazing, but a dramatic pose.

Superboy: The picture looks menacing but the coloring and the drawing also reek of cartoonishness. Is that a word? Anyway, I'd bet you know what I mean.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2006

February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006

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