Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank
Here we go with the start of yet another story about Clark Kent becoming Superman. The question many may have is “why are we going through this again?” We’ve been through a couple of crises since we last revisited the pre-tights days, and if history has taught us anything, with each new crisis comes a new origin. Geoff Johns is doing what John Bryne did with ‘80s The Man of Steel after Crisis on Infinite Earths. The whole miniseries is going to show the steps Clark takes to become the hero we all know, and this first issue starts with Smallville.
There’s no time spent on Krypton. No seeing Jor-El launch his son to Earth just as his planet explodes. This is all for the better because we know all of that. There are few people who don’t know the “last son of Krypton” aspect of Superman, but a holo-projection does a good enough job recapping it for them. Instead of focusing on the actual physical or biological origin of the man, the issue sets up the exploration of how young Clark Kent becomes the hero that is Superman. This issue in particular deals with Clark discovering what he can do with his abilities, causing him to make a choice that sets him down the legendary path.
Is this update worth it? Is there enough here to justify this retelling? From just this first issue, it seems like it. Old staples are reintroduced, like the blankets baby Kal-El was wrapped in inside the spaceship. Some character relationships are altered, primarily those Clark has with Lana and with young Lex. Speaking of which, the series also shows the start of the young Luthor’s rise to corruption, starting with the brilliant child with a troubled home life and a discovery of a life time.
Johns concentrates on showing these characters with the depth they should have. Clark isn’t the all-American good son who simply discovers his origin and decides to use his powers for good. He’s a troubled boy desperately wanting to be normal. Lex isn’t some naturally-born evil genius. He’s a young prodigy with an abusive father, driving him to run away and seek solace within his superior intellect. These characters aren’t perfect. They aren’t black and white. They’re people, and just like people, they’re shaped by the events in their lives and the choices they make in those events.
There’s really not much wrong with this issue. It has good characterization and focuses on all the right parts of Superman’s origin that need focusing on. Everything may happen a bit quickly, but that’s mostly just the minor stuff the audience probably knows like power introductions. There are moments of pain and of humor. It’s a generally good story. It’ll just turn some people off because it’s another Superman origin retelling, but at least it’s moving faster than Smallville.
It works for the most part. Everything is well drawn. The detail shows up well from coloring and shading to clothing, hair and wrinkle lines. Clark is humorously scrawny with huge glasses. The colorist knows to keep Clark in the mandatory blue and red colors. It all looks pretty good. Some issues do pop up though.
Clark’s in high school. I can only guess freshman year though because Frank draws him to look pretty young. Much of the time, he looks around 12-13 years old. Maybe it’s a choice to make Clark a late bloomer on his teenage growth spurts, but it’s not the scrawniness as much as it is the shortness. It’s not just Clark though. Some of his high school buddies suffer the same. The occasional panel has them looking close to high school age, but generally it just feels kind of off. I can only assume the youthful appearance is to give the characters that young and innocent look to start their development from. Maybe putting the setting in junior high would have worked.
The eyes are particularly interesting. The irises and pupils really pop out, the irises in particular with vivid blues and greens. However, sometimes the pupils will look slightly off, not quite matching up. Eye lids may be only partially open as well. Still, when done right in this book, the eyes give off a very deep and emotional feeling. That or creepiness or heat rays.
Superman: Secret Origin is off to a good start establishing the development of the man behind the S-shield. Everyone knows the basics well enough, and the book knows it, so sticks to a solid story about a boy discovering his path in life. Check this out if you’re a fan of Clark Kent the character and of the humanity of Superman. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have Michael Rosenbaum, but at least there’s no Kristin Kreuk.
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10