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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman: Secret Origin #5 Superman: Secret Origin #5

Superman: Secret Origin #5

Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 7, 2010

Cover date: May 2010

"Secret Origin" - Book Five: "Strange Visitor"

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

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey, Adam Dechanel and James Lantz

Click to enlarge

Superman responds to a fire and saves some civilians. He poses for Jimmy, who arrives late, and speaks with Lois about who might be responsible.

Lex Luthor fumes over Superman with General Sam Lane. Lane offers to help Luthor with the Daily Planet if Luthor will give him weapons technology.

John Corben checks in on Lois. Lois quickly makes it clear she wants nothing to do with his continued advances, and that he's overestimated her interest in him for the last time. Corben grabs her arm, and Clark steps in at the right moment, staring Corben down and sending him on his way. Lois sees this, and despite Clark's mild manner, agrees to go to lunch with Clark.

Lex Luthor suggests that Kryptonite might hurt Superman, and shows General Lane the Metallo robot, which they aim to use against Superman. John Corben volunteers to pilot it, and Lane agrees.

Clark and Lois share a lunch. Lois points out that Clark is at times extraordinarily timid, at others bold and brave. She probes him about this, but a plume of smoke goes off in the distance. Clark makes an excuse and leaves.

The smoke turns out to be an illusion caused by Sam Lane, who asks Superman to talk, and welcomes him on behalf of the United States. Lane demands Superman tell him all of the details of his powers and weaknesses. Superman bristles at the interrogation and leaves. Lane tells him if he goes, he'll be considered an enemy of the US Government. Superman walks out.

Soldiers attack him, and when bullets fail, Corben attacks. Kryptonite makes the bullets hurt Superman, causing him to bleed. A bullet ricochets and hits Corben in the Kryptonite heart of the machine, sending him back. Superman defends Corben, and tries to get him medical attention before fleeing.

Sam Lane goes to the Daily Planet with troops and attempts to shut it down. As he does, Superman flees in the sewers.

Neal's Review:

5Story - 5: Again, Secret Origin continues to provide a great story and a great base for the continuing Johns run. There are a few hitches in this story, but they're so minor as to be forgivable. The indulgence of showing Perry, the coffee machine, and Cat are less than a page, and can arguably explain away as setting the stage for Cat as a younger character (given the Adam ambiguity). There's also the dubious connection Luthor makes about Kryptonite, which I didn't buy. The idea that because the Parasite weakened Superman, thereby the chemicals that created him would also weaken Superman, is relatively weak as a concept. It's still a minor quibble, because Kryptonite is such a narrative given at this point that it doesn't really matter how it's introduced. The tension and conflict of that scene is centered around Lane and Luthor, and that plays.

All in all, the focus of this story is on the characters involved, and that aspect rocks. Clark and Lois are in high form. Luthor is very much the brilliant businessman and the scientist, which is a hard balance to strike. Sam Lane emerges from a bit player into something of a long-term, ongoing threat in a way I dig. Metallo gets a new origin that puts him closer to the mains, which I also appreciate. The nod to the Silver Age stuff isn't a pander, it just shoehorns the characters lightly nearer to the origin of Lois and Clark, which makes for good drama.

5Art - 5: Gary Frank continues to knock this out, giving me a Superman I can relate to, a gorgeous Lois, and some of the most realistic, human character work I've seen on these characters in some time.

The action is realistic to the point that it's almost like watching a movie, and the little moments, the emotion, is also handled well.

4Cover Art - 4: I subtract a point for the fact that it kind of gives away the Metallo thing (not that we didn't know), and also for the fact that it doesn't necessarily cover so much what the issue is about so much as just throw three characters into the mix. But they're great depictions of said characters, and it's a strong composition, so it's easily forgiven.

5Cover Art (Alternate) - 5: This cover is superior to the other, given that it shows what happened in the issue in question, has a great action pose, and the color scheme is really rad. I understand the connecting cover thing, but I would have preferred this as the cover.

Adam's Review:

3Story - 3: With the release of this chapter we see it as merely a prologue for the tiresome New Krypton saga currently trundling along in the Superbooks. I was under the impression it was SUPERMAN: Secret Origin not NEW KRYPTON: Secret Files - perhaps all this time DC made a typo on the cover? Kidding aside it's nice that we are given John Corben's new backstory and the full story behind the lame 'radioactive donut.' I'm not a fan of Sam Lane and as a villain he's getting more irritating by the day - especially as the set up for his character reveals NOTHING in way of motivation, as it's clear he already has beef with Superman even before their (nicely written) interview. Worse still - Lex IS and always will be Superman's greatest foe - yet he's placed firmly as a 'walk on part' in favor of Sam in this the self proclaimed definitive origin. Nobody wants more Sam Lane - they want more Lex as pure evil genius. Well at least I do...

I'm not sure I like John Corben as a military man - obviously it's to explain his love for being Lane's puppet in New Krypton but it completely eliminates any story Metallo was in prior to New Krypton. Where as Parasite's past is relatively intact (aside from the radioactive donut origin.) The scene with the face off was pretty cool but didn't really serve any real purpose. I like that we saw much of the Daily Planet and Perry White, but aside from pushing New Krypton this story did little else. I noticed a lot of "Lois & Clark" elements (L&C The Movie, Strange Visitor, Bureau 39, Requiem for a Superhero, Metallo, Green Green Glow of Home, Vat Man, Barbarians at the Planet, House of Luthor) were cookie cuttered in; though names and identities have been changed and has been a very clear thread throughout the Secret Origin series. I thought it was nice to see all the nods to Superman: The Movie, Ruby Spears' Superman, The Adventures of Superboy, STAS, L&C, Supergirl: The Movie & Smallville - it showed a great deal of research into Superman's movie and television history but as more and more of the scenes appear, and at times identical dialogue, I'm wondering where the line is drawn between plagiarism and homage...

3Art - 3: I do like the art, it's nicely stylized but I noticed here, more than any issue, that the CG coloring washed out and dampened the art work. Jon Sibal's inks were just too heavily washed out by excessive layer effects. I applaud Gary Frank's effort to encapsulate the look of Christopher Reeve, however forcing it too heavily in some scenes has made Clark one of the ugliest men in Metropolis - the "What do you mean, Lois?" panel looks positively goofy...

I guess what I'm trying to say is stop trying too hard to give us Chris. Some of the scenes look positively amazing but the crowbarring detracts from some of the more stunning pages. (P.S why does every man in Metropolis look like they need collagen upper lip implants?)

3Cover Art - 3: This is the weakest and most annoying of the covers for Secret Origin... Lex looks cool, Parasite and Metallo however... wow... ugly.

Parasite looks like he should be renamed Sadsack (I think I prefer the STAS personality and physique) and Metallo as a leather and metal Gimp is very unsettling. These are the three villains that define Superman's New Earth career? Really?

The other thing is if you're a new reader and didn't pick up any New Krypton or Supergirl titles Metallo's new S&M look will have been spoiled an issue BEFORE it's revealed to you.

James' Review:

5Story - 5: Geoff Johns once again has given us an amazing story. I admit I haven't read all of his work, but he hasn't disappointed me yet. The entire issue isn't just a great big slug fest like, say, Jeph Loeb's run on Hulk. Not to say that that doesn't work for that title, but I like character depth more. Johns provides this with his take on the relationships between Clark Kent, Superman, Lois Lane, General Sam Lane, John Corben and Lex Luthor. Corben especially comes off as more than a thug. While I like Metallo as a villain, I always felt something was missing in the way he was portrayed in the past. Now, we're given a different Corben, one that has ties to Lois. Could this make him a deadlier enemy for Superman? If pages nine through fourteen and twenty-four through twenty-nine are any indication, I would have to say yes.

Like in issue number three, Lois is noticing that there's more to Clark than meets the eye. This was another part of this that was greatly entertaining for me. As much I love Roger Stern's writing, I wish he had made it so Lois had found out on her own that Clark is Superman in Action Comics #661. His merely revealing his secret identity to her left an otherwise great comic with a flat ending. Perhaps Johns wants to show us a Lois that isn't completely oblivious to certain facts that stare her in the face. Whatever he's doing with the her, I really like this aspect of Lois Lane, star reporter.

Again, Geoff Johns has written one of the best Superman stories in recent years. This is one I'd highly recommend to anyone. If DC is smart, they'll keep Johns with the Last Son of Krypton for at least another few years.

5Art - 5: The visuals really helped to give the audience the feelings that Geoff Johns' story conveys. Like Thomas Carr with Jackson Gillis, Gary Frank works perfectly together with Johns. Let's hope this creative team stays with the Man of Steel for a long, long time.

5Cover Art - 5: It fits fairly well into the series of regular covers. Frank and Sibal did a terrific job.

5Cover Art (Alternate) - 5: One thing I've always felt a comic book cover should do is make a person want to buy the issue and be curious about what's inside it. This variant does that a million times over. It's stupendous.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

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