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Mild Mannered Reviews - Special Comics

Secret Origins #1

Secret Origins #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 23, 2014

Cover date: June 2014


Writer: Greg Pak
Penciller: Lee Weeks
Inker: Sandra Hope and Lee Weeks

"The Long Year"

Writer: Kyle Higgins
Penciller: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Keith Champagne & Christian Alamy

"Daughter of the House of El"

Writer: Tony Bedard
Penciller: Paulo Siquiera
Inker: Hi-Fi

Cover: Lee Bermejo

Reviewed by: T.A. Ewart (aka liheibao)

Click to enlarge

(Superman): Seriously, if you don't know Superman's origin by now, you need help.

(Nightwing): Same thing here, only it's the origin of Robin, not Nightwing.

(Supergirl): On Krypton, Kara Zor-El saves two truants from a roving Fireclaw. She receives a deduction for her efforts and later, Alura Zor-El explains that life is more complicated as one gets older. Kara narrates a familiar story of brothers and in-laws preparing for Krypton's destruction, and that of her father's creation of the Worldkiller's, along with his experiments with Kryptonian battle armor. Kara is drugged and placed aboard an escape pod, but not before Alura shoots Zor-El. Kara makes it to Earth, and a few months later saves a stranded Korean spacecraft, only to be rewarded with bullets for her efforts. She later meets Superman, who tells her that she needs to learn the rules of how things work on Earth, but Supergirl flies off, doubting that she ever truly will.

3Story - 3: Secret Origins was once a great place to catch up or tune in to aspects of DC characters that were missed because of time. You couldn't be around in 1938, so Secret Origins caught you up and clued you in to what was important about the character in question. It's sad to say that the format seems superfluous in 2014. It's not that the idea is a poor one, but DC has just rebooted these characters and their respective origins are very much the same... with the exception of Supergirl. Secret Origins works best for lesser known or obscure characters, say Swamp Thing or Constantine. It's a way to draw readers into the DC Universe, and stoke bankable curiosity about it. The New 52 has doused any flame the opening issue might have had, and New 52 is still very much a work in progress and there is little, in any, canonical material that needs to be referenced for this issue. That's problematic when you're dealing with two characters that are fundamental to DC's canon, Superman and Nightwing, and even more troubling to see that the direction with Supergirl is not limited to the conflagration that is her own title and Red Lanterns. Simply put, you don't learn anything new here, or anything you want to be clued in to either.

Superman's origin is offender number one. It seems no writer can resist it. To have a go at the best origin in comics is just too much of a temptation for any writer to resist, and Pak falls prey to the lure like so many others have. It's not just the desire to retell the origin, it's the added mess that goes with it. Extra narration, maternal scenes with Lara and Martha (which peculiarly sideline Jon Kent and Jor-El), and the inevitable addition of Pak's own contribution to the story from his Action Comics run. It's all very underwhelming, and it would make the nth time Superman's story has been retold in a three year period. Superman's backstory is still being told in his own titles, with Pak being the worst offender, and we still don't have answers to certain questions or a consensus on who he is as a character. It seems that DC and Pak would rather that remain a secret.

Nightwing's origin is somewhat misleading, as it's the origin of Robin that is being told. It's a very unattractive one at that. Mahnke's art matures Robin to a Late-Teen Wonder, and robs the youth and appeal of the traditional origin, which this still very much is. Richard Grayson sees his parents die, and is later taken under the wing of the Batman, who trains him to become his partner. However, as the Batman has become a darker and darker figure over time, the idea of a boy wonder or even a teen wonder has become less and less viable. The only image of Dick in his Robin outfit makes him look like... one of Batman's rogues gallery. No one expects to see Robin in trunks, but he looks darker and older than he should, which is an effect of Batman being made more of an antihero overall. The scene with Dick on the rollercoaster looks out of sorts: he looks old enough that he should be out looking for a job. If we're to take this story into canon, Dick was Robin for about a year, then became Nightwing, which is a real shame there's little ingress for kids, which is what Robin was about. It could work with Nightwing, but he's an adult in his title, not a teen, and there's little difference between what you see here and there, except that he's alive.

Supergirl's origin is definitely the freshest of the lot, but also the most disturbing. Kara's narration reveals many things about her and her family. Alura shot Zor-El? Zor-El created the Worldkillers? Zor-El drugged Kara to get her into the space pod? Dysfunctional to say the least. It's no wonder that Supergirl has such issues on Earth, and they've little to do with Krypton's destruction and everything to do with her parenting. What's more, Kara seems to harbor a death-wish of sorts, feeling regret that Alura didn't stop Zor-El from sending her off. Not that she was sedated or kept in the dark, but that she was sent off to live at all. The last scene with Superman has become boilerplate and totally uninteresting, but at least it's more understandable. Why should Kara interact with Kal with any less dysfunction than her parents interacted with her and themselves? Trouble is, dysfunctional Kryptonians tend to do things like become evil and take over the world.

If there was genuine interest in uncovering the DC Universe, this could have been a really good start. However, it's another box checked in the laundry list that is the New 52:

  • Origins
  • Zero issues
  • Villains' Month
  • Crossovers
  • Razzle-Dazzle covers
  • JSA/JLA crossover
  • One yearFive-Years Later
  • Crisis

    3Art - 3: Supergirl's pages are the best of the lot, as Siquiera proves that he should be on a monthly. The rest is just sequential art, serviceable but that's about it.

    5Cover Art - 5: Best thing about the book, and it can't be judged by it.

    Mild Mannered Reviews


    Note: Except for digital first releases, the month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

    January 2014

    February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014

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