SECRET ORIGINS: You Mean … "Superman Begins" Again?
Mar 12, 2012
I gotta say: I’ve never understood why comic book companies feel the fairly consistent urge every few years (or so) to revisit a character’s origins. Sure, it’ll always sell a few more issues than the next regular monthly installment, but doesn’t it get confusing for the audience at some point? Granted, there are probably never any major revisions to an established character’s humble beginnings (like changing the planet of origin OR turning a male into a female or vice versa), but when will enough be truly enough in today’s competitive marketplace?
Geoff Johns is an immensely talented writer, and I can understand his desire to kinda/sorta want to put his own creative stamp on the Man of Steel in SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN, but there’s a part of me who firmly believes this isn’t all he wanted to do with Clark Kent and his alter-ego, Kalel. In fact, I’m seriously wondering if this wasn’t a corporate decision to iron out any unnecessary or distracting wrinkles in Superman’s cape. Certainly, SUPERMAN RETURNS wasn’t quite the cinematic success that DC or Warner Bros. hoped it would be; and think what you will of SMALLVILLE, but the show lasted ten seasons, and elements of it have bounced back-and-forth in the various Superman monthlies. With another Super-flick headed to the box office, methinks the suits probably saw the need for housekeeping, so why not hand the reins to a proven innovator like Johns?
Well, you’ll still believe a man can fly, but there wasn’t much all that fresh with this new twist on Supes’ ORIGIN in my opinion. In fact, there’s quite a bit here that, frankly, veers a little too closely for my tastes to what’s already been amply covered in SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE and SMALLVILLE to elevate this ORIGIN to the level of a must-read. Knowing how the industry tends to re-visit already established characters once more after a major relaunch, perhaps the book is required reading in order to not feel inundated or lost with the monthlies that have followed since this six-issue miniseries came to be.
Lana’s here, looking and acting more and more like Lana Lang did in SMALLVILLE. Now, Lex Luther is here, another resident of Smallville just like the TV show postulated. The Kents look less like the older, wiser couple who raised the Boy of Steel into the Man of Steel in the movies; instead … well, you can probably figure out that they’re like Jonathon and Martha Kent from SMALLVILLE. Other tweaks from the TV show pop in and out fairly routinely. Clark playing football. Clark hanging out in the barn. Clark meeting the Legion of Superheroes. Clark saving Lana from tornadoes.
Chivalry may not be dead, but is creativity?
I’ve no bone to pick with revisiting character origins so long as there’s a need to do so, and I think it’s fair to say that need can be commercial as well as literary. Still, what Johns accomplishes here isn’t so much adding any fresh perspective as it feels like cashing in. I didn’t walk away from those same sentiments when John Byrne did it, and I certainly didn’t walk away with that sense of disappointment when Jeph Loeb did it with the still stellar SUPERMAN FOR ALL SEASONS. I guess that I just expected so much more, especially with Johns track record with the Green Lantern titles. His work on BLACKEST NIGHT was exemplary if not career-defining. But in this bout of redefining Superman ORIGIN feels less and less like a ‘secret’ and more like an exercise in mediocrity.
Heck, even the introduction by David Goyer feels like an afterthought – something thrown in to help sell trade paperback collections instead of actually saying anything about the property that IS the last son of Krypton. Goyer spends more space talking about himself than he does Superman, and, while I can appreciate how overwhelming I might feel if I were ever asked to contribute to a Superman event, I reserve hope that I’d spend more time telling you what I thought was relevant about the character more than about the time I met Person A, who knows Person B, and how that led to me working with Person C.
It just all felt so … I don’t know … vain?
It ain’t a failure. As I said, it functionally serves the purpose of tidying up the franchise a bit, sweeping away some of the clutter, putting the corporate seal on those elements the company wants you – the reader – to take to heart. These things – like ‘em or not – ain’t going away, so consider them part and parcel of the ‘never-ending struggle’ from this point forward. All well and good.
But couldn’t we have brought something ‘fresh’ to the perspective of Superman instead of trampling out another corporate rehash of what everyone already knew?
Recommended only for newbies to the Superman universe, as any serious long-term fan has already tackled this stuff elsewhere.
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About the reviewer
What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops". … more