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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman: Secret Origin #3 Superman: Secret Origin #3

Superman: Secret Origin #3

Scheduled to arrive in stores: November 25, 2009

Cover date: January 2010

"Mild-Mannered Reporter"

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Gary Frank
Inker: Jon Sibal

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey, Adam Dechanel and James Lantz

Click to enlarge

As Clark walks around Metropolis, awestruck, he encounters a citizenry that lives fast, cheap, and out of control. He comes up to the Daily Planet, a dilapidated building laced with graffiti.

Inside he makes a point of catching his briefcase and spilling it in a subtle way. In the elevator he meets Rudy Jones, a janitor who has forgotten his lunch. Clark offers him his own.

At the main floor he encounters Ron Troupe, Steve Lombard, Cat Grant, and Jimmy Olsen, the whipping boy. He is mistaken for a bill collector and eventually makes his way to the Planet office, where Lois and Perry debate the merits of a story. Perry cites the fact that going after Luthor has nearly killed the Planet, and Lois fights back with the nobility of idealism.

Perry introduces Lois and Clark, and Lois offers to take Clark on a tour, which surprises Perry. She takes Clark to the Lexcorp building for the unveiling of a piece of technology, and sneaks in wearing a blonde wig by duping Clark to distract the guards.

At the top Luthor unveils his Metallo body suit, which Lois observes with interest as a potential machine of war. Security catches her, she flees, and then she trips and falls off the building.

Clark, hearing the ruckus, sneaks into an alley, changes into Superman, and saves her. People grab at him and he flees, fearing he's done the wrong thing unveiling himself to the world.

Neal's Review:

5Story - 5: I used to enjoy All-Star Superman not necessarily for the story, but because it captured a certain feel, the feel of the way the Superman universe is supposed to be. Few people catch that feel, but some do, and they tell good stories in that vibe.

Secret Origin, thusfar, has not only caught that vibe, but done what Geoff Johns does best. Take all of the things that make a story what it is, disseminate it down, and find the best possible compromise given a world where no one ever ages, people die and return from the dead regularly, and you're (as a writer) damned if you do, damned if you don't, because every fan is dead-set convinced their origin and set of enjoyment in what they read is PERFECT.

I'm guilty of this as much as anyone else. You probably are, too.

Geoff, in this story, doesn't seem to be taking any punches at anyone or anything. Unlike Birthright, which appeared to be trying to make its own mark (and certainly Byrne, with its sweeping changes that were, at very least, adhered to), this seems to attempt to reconcile EVERY possible origin and make it sensible. There are some choices made, like the suit being made of the cloth in the ship, but it's organically woven in, as opposed to thrust out like a chin.

In the case of this story, we have Superman's debut. Space-plane Constitution is lost, but we have the things that make up what most current fans recognize as the debut. The giant robot from the Superman cartoon series, the helicopter from the movie, and the fact that Lois is the one rescued (which is, in its own way, the point of the Constitution rescue).

There's a lot of subtlety here that might have escaped you, and it's very careful, and I would postulate deliberate. Luthor's not shown on the roof so that people who want him to have hair until Superman comes to town can be happy. Rudy Jones has been shifted to a guy whose natural inclination is to be parasitic, a vast improvement over "HEY, I'M A BAD GUY AND I GOT POWERS, SO I'M COMIN' FOR YA!"

Metallo is now more intrinsically linked to Luthor now, and in a way that pays homage to some of the older cartoons (remember the worker robots?).

The Daily Planet now has a reason to hire a yokel reporter, and a point in being adverse toward Luthor. Smallville could take a cue here.

But better than anything else, I admire two things this issue did, and will take them to my grave. The first being portraying, in a way that I haven't felt since watching Unbreakable, how it feels to be an optimistic nice guy walking around among people who only need a light to show the way (I can't do what Superman does, that isn't about deifying me, it's more just I understand his URGE so powerfully).

The second is, of course, giving me a Lois I can fall in love with, which I haven't really seen much of in the last ten years. Oh, I've seen hints here and there, but this woman is one I would chase across the Earth. #%$# flowers! Idealism by any means. Stick it to people who are trying to gain wealth by hurting people. Writing wrongs right. In one issue, very well done.

Geoff has also encapsulated well what makes Lois and Clark tick.

Utterly impressive in every respect, and this comes from one of the most niggling fans on planet Earth.

5Art - 5: Some people knock Frank for his take, which comes on strong like Reeve in almost every way. There's also a certain woodenness to it, in a respect. But my way of regarding art usually involves, like writing, whether I can get caught up in the vibe and not find an objective reason why I'm being snowed. If talent and hard work are leading the way, I can usually jump onboard.

Here I was watching the page and hearing the Superman: The Movie theme while watching a story that evolves beyond it, and that's fine by me. Hell of a hard balance to capture, and yet he manages.

5Cover Art - 5: Continuing the theme of following the story being told, and a heck of a pose for all. Iconic in every respect.

4Cover Art (Alternate) - 4: The main image, Superman catching Lois, is beautiful. I'm not sure why they put it in a context foreign to what happened in the issue, at night, and took it out of context. That takes from the image a little, but not much.

Adam's Review:

5Story - 5: After reading it through I'm a little disappointed this issue wasn't #1, I don't think the past two reintegrating Superboy & The Legion was needed as most of that was already done during the Legion & Brainiac arcs in Action Comics. That is not to say this issue was a disappointment - not in the slightest - it took hefty helpings of Superman: The Movie, Superboy: The Series, Lois & Clark and Superman TAS and the Man Of Steel mini successfully molding them all into a cohesive enjoyable read that throws in a few twists... The Daily Planet is a failing paper, Metropolis isn't quite the big friendly Apricot and notably Clark Kent isn't a clumsy oaf - at least not in the same way he was in the Golden or Silver Age books. This New Earth Clark is far more human (I know many may disagree) but I found his naivete of Lex Luthor's reputation, Clark's awe of a big city, his culture shock of metropolitan life and his realization 'coming out of the closet' to save Lois was a mistake he cannot rectify was a brilliant new interpretation that in infancy we can see grow to the confident award winning journalist he is/was today.

Clark was clearly a mix of Christopher Reeve and Dean Cain, it's the whole 'pure of heart/pure of mind' thing that makes him seem so likable. Lois was less Margot Kidder, but more a mix of Teri Hatcher & Dana Delaney (I bet if they read this they'd get a kick out of it). I loved how she used Clark as a decoy and the whole you're disguise and goofy glasses shtick was thrown in to make it more feasible. I hope Jimmy kicks in with a little 'coolness' as reintroducing him as the 'office dweeb' is not so good. Thank you Ilya Salkind, Mario Puzo and Deborah Joy Levine for giving Johns some great templates to work from.

Throwing in Rudy Jones is nice, I don't think we've really delved into Rudy as a character since the 90s when he became a super leech conjoined with Torval Freeman and of the whole origin story so far he's been the only original part of it. We'll hopefully see the relevance to the current Mon-El story now that Parasite has been ret-conned. The only thing I'm sad about is making the Daily Planet a dying paper, I know Superman is going to save it with his debut but seeing such a beacon of hope, splattered with graffiti and falling apart was very emotional.

How this will all lead into the current books is still an uneasy thing but if it flows like this through to issue six (though I feel THIS not "World of New Krypton" should be the 12 issue maxi) I'll be a very happy Super-fan. This is the first time in two years we're getting some Daily Planet/Planeteers/Lois & Clark interaction - and I mean the stuff that makes Superman, SUPER, so as I'm starved of it it can't be anything lass than 5!

4Art - 4: There is a little struggle going on in the book. Jon Sibal's inks are very powerful and sometimes I'm sad to say - overpowering. Over inking on some pages made some of the intricate facial expressions awkward yet on some pages it seems so rushed the colorist seems to nurse the image to life for them. That's not laying the blame solely at Sibal's door. Franks aggressiveness to make sure Christopher Reeve is very visible in Clark's face becomes a tad irritating in places. I sound very down on the art and that's not the case, Its STILL beautifully crafted.

Clark ripping his shirt open SHOULD be a 'HELL YES!' moment and it absolutely is here - if DC Direct don't make a poster out of this page they need a hearty slap - images like this are iconic. The character moments and body language throughout are expertly composed. Even Clark's superpowers are shown with a duty of care that you see the sound waves approach Clark's ear CSI style and are genuinely taken aback. That's something I think the comics take for granted sometimes; Superman has AMAZING powers and sometimes they are so poorly 'energized' that they don't stand out.

It would have been nice to SEE the city that has Clark so utterly in awe that it makes him flail all over the place... but other than that a nicely crafted issue. If a little more care is taken with the inking to make it stay at a constant level I think this would be close to perfection.

4Cover Art - 4: The Spike TV stamp rips a point right off the book. Meaning we'll not see it ad-free till the collected edition... sigh such a great cover too!

James' Review:

5Story - 5: For the most part, Geoff Johns' stories end too quickly, and I find myself wanting more. The third chapter of Secret Origin seems to be more about getting to know those in both Clark Kent and Superman's world. However, it works well into Johns' version of the Man of Steel's debut in Metropolis. Too many action scenes with the Caped Wonder may have lessened the impact of his rescuing Lois.

Lois doesn't seem to be antagonistic toward Clark as she was in Man of Steel. She sees something in him that he clearly wants to hide. This, as opposed to the "I hate you for stealing my scoop on Superman" version that John Byrne did, seems to work better for me. Byrne's Lois wasn't stupid, but she was possibly blinded by her ego. Here we have a woman who can see beyond the surface, and this will surely make for good moments in the lives of Lois, Clark and Superman.

Metropolis seems to be dark and dirty when Clark arrives. It isn't to the extent of Gotham City, but one can see that it's different from the bright City of Tomorrow that the Last Son of Krypton normally protects. This, plus people's reactions to him make the reader know that Superman has his work cut out for him. I really enjoyed this aspect of this issue.

I mentioned in my review of the first issue that there will be obvious comparisons to Man of Steel. There will certainly be some after this book. Still, I feel both mini-series work for their versions of the Metropolis Marvel. Overall, with new introductions to characters we know and love and some great moments with Lois, Clark and Superman, Geoff Johns has given us yet another superb entry in the story of the origin of Superman.

4Art - 4: I'm a huge fan of Gary Frank and Jon Sibal's visuals, and I love dramatic splash pages. This issue has all of that in spades. However, panels two and three on the last page seem like there is too much black in them for my eyes. I'm not sure if that's because of the inks or the colors, but they don't look well to me. The rest of the art captures everything stunningly.

5Cover Art - 5: It's pretty much the same as previous non-variant entries in the series, but it works perfectly to give a buyer a rough idea of what's in store for them. That's what every good cover should do.

5Cover Art (Alternate) - 5: I'm a sucker for images of Superman carrying Lois, so this is probably my favorite of the variants. Even if you normally don't buy incentive covers, pick this one up.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2010

February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010

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