Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Superman: Secret Origin Review

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank

As of late I've been in a real Superman mood, and ever since watching Man of Steel I've been going through some of my favourite Superman stories, having already read, and reviewed Superman Earth One Volume One, and Volume Two (links to reviews).


Growing up in Smallville Clark Kent learns that he's not from this world, and after a while embraces this, vowing to help wherever he can. Once grown up Clark moves to Metropolis, where former Smallville acquaintance Lex Luthor rules, and when Clark reveals himself, Luthor makes it his goal to destroy Superman.


This was a brilliant story, and a very fun, and entertaining read, but there were a few points where it disappointed, and this overall lowered the overall quality of the story. None the less Geoff Johns continued to do what he does best with this story, and that's take the heroes that we love and make them shine in a modern market. During this story Johns showed how well he understands the Superman character, and why he's such a good writer in general, as it was spot on character wise. Johns also did a great job with the emotion in this story, as there's a brilliant sequence during the first issue where Clark is upset at learning of his alien origin, and saying, "I want to be your son," to Jonathan Kent with Jonathan replying, "Clark... you are my son." I found this very touching, and it really showed how much love Clark got growing up, which was brilliant. Johns also did a great job with the older Clark, showing him as the bumbling, and clumsy reporter that he pretends to be, which was also fabulous. Johns did however not do so well with the action, as although there were some brilliant action sequences, there were others that felt anticlimactic, and disappointing. Johns did however overall do a great job of re-telling Superman's origin, with some great additions of his own added on top, making for a very fun, and enjoyable story.

The art for this story was done by long time Geoff Johns collaborator, Gary Frank, and like always it didn't disappoint. I just loved how he made Clark look like Christopher Reeves, and although I'm not usually a fan of movies influencing changes in comics, this was a nice addition for this story, and it went perfectly with the tone of Johns' writing, as it looked, and felt like the clumsy Clark from the films. Before I continue with the positives, I will say the one thing that slightly annoyed me, and that was how Clark whilst smiling looked slightly like a chipmunk, which wasn't bad for the younger Clark, but looked silly on the older, and although that is the point of the Clark disguise it didn't appeal to me. The rest of Frank's art was however wonderful, and the layout, and detail was simply perfect, with very few, if any imperfections. What was probably the best thing about Frank's art in this story was probably the way he showed the character's emotion, as whether it was the upset young Clark, or the angry Lex, or even the happy Jimmy Olsen, it was easy to tell what the character was feeling, and it added much more depth, and tone to the story. The action sequences were also perfectly handled, being very exciting, and although they weren't the best fight sequences, Frank still made them look amazing.

The start of this story focused on the young Clark, and how he grew up in Smallville having to watch what he does, as well as deal with the truth behind his powers. Now I already talked about the emotional sequence where Clark gets upset, and is comforted by his father, but there was a lot more interesting things during this. The most noticeable being the relationships that Clark built in this small town, with him having his best friend Pete Ross, and his childhood sweetheart, Lana Lang. The development of these relationships was very well handled, and they were very dramatic, and interesting, livening up the first half of this story. It was however also interesting seeing Clark's reactions when he discovers new powers, as it felt like a child's reaction, making it more lighthearted.

Now during the early part of this story we see Luthor growing up in Smallville along with Clark, and the two interacting. It is also shown that Luthor is a troubled individual, who cares mainly for himself. This would follow into Metropolis with the older Clark, and Luthor meeting each other then. Anywya, the relationship between the two over this story was nothing short of amazing, and Johns really handled this well. You could tell that Clark wanted to see the good inside Luthor, trying to be his friend, whereas all Luthor wanted was to be rid of Superman, and be the attraction of Metropolis once more. I also loved how you could see the maliciousness in Luthor, which really added more tone to his character, showing him for the evil villain that he is.

This issue would also feature the Legion of Superheroes, who came back in time to meet the younger Clark during his Superboy days. Now I won't go into any more detail as to what happened, but I will say my thoughts on the events, and the Legions appearance as a whole. Now although I'm a relatively big Superman fan, I have never been too fond of the Legion, and haven't read much on their background, bar the fact that they're from the future, and are influenced by Superman. Well their appearance in this story, whether necessary or not was very interesting, and fun, and really added more excitement. The way they were written was also brilliant, and the dialogue between them and Clark was perfect. The only slight problem I have is that it does slightly retract from the main story, feeling like a interlude, and it made the story feel less whole, affecting the structure. None the less it was a nice addition, and didn't take much away from the story, whilst also giving to it as well.

The story eventually shifts to Metropolis, showing Clark join the Daily Planet, becoming acquainted with Lois Lane, Jimmy White, and Perry White. Now besides the emotional first issue, this was the part of the story that really appealed to me, and was when it started to become a proper story. As I said earlier I found the way that both Johns, and Frank handled this clumsy Clark to be amazing, as it really added humour, and reminded me why Clark has one of the best secret identities out of any superhero. Besides this the way he interacted with the other Daily Planet staff members, as well as the way he saw Metropolis as a whole was brilliant, and although this wasn't the most exciting part of the story, it was one of the more fun parts.

Besides Luthor there were another couple of villains to feature in this story, with the first being Parasite (Rudy Jones), and the other being Metallo. Now I'll start with Parasite, and although I found the art, and the way he was introduced to the story to be brilliant, the way he was handled as a whole wasn't good. Now I'll try not to give away spoilers, but if I do I'm sorry. See this as a warning if you don't like potential spoilers. Anyway this was the classic showing of Parasite as a B-List villain, which he shouldn't be, as like Superman: Earth One Volume Two showed he can be a force to be reckoned with, instead of the joke that he usually is. Metallo on the other hand was handled perfectly, and I loved the development of him going from Sgt. John Corben to this heartless monster in Metallo. The fight between Metallo and Superman was also much better, and very exciting, and entertaining.

Final Verdict

This was a very good story, and a fun re-telling of Superman's origins. It did however have a few problems that affected the overall quality, and rating, but it was still a very interesting read. It also had plenty of humour, and emotion, with brilliant dialogue, and amazing artwork. There was also some decent action, and although it wasn't the best action ever, it was entertaining, and amazing to look at. Due to all this I'd highly recommend this story, as even with it's flaws it's an outstanding story, and well worth the read, whether you're a Superman fan or not.

Rating: 4/5

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