Superman Trade Post: Secret Origin & Secret Identity

superman secret origin Superman: Secret Origin (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Gary Frank
Collects Superman: Secret Origin #1-6

When I started reading Superman comics, the character was about six years out from his post-Crisis reboot which de-powered him a bit and made a conscientious effort to make him the last Kryptonian (hence a clone Superboy and extra-dimensional shape-shifting Supergirl). Another major tenet of those days was that Superman because Superman as an adult. This was the Superman I knew, though I also understood that the Golden and Silver Age were jam packed with elements that didn’t fit into that rubric. I try my best to keep an open mind for Superman stories that don’t fit into that mold, but sometimes they throw me for a loop. Luckily, I didn’t have that problem with Geoff Johns’ retelling of the Man of Steel’s life in Secret Origin.

Johns worked with the amazing Gary Frank on this miniseries after they teamed up on Action Comics a few times. Essentially, this is the definitive origin story for the post-Infinite Crisis DCU which has since gone the way of those aforementioned older ages. Still, there’s plenty of Superman-fueled goodness in here for people to dig into.

The first issue is set in Clark’s earlier days when his parents reveal his alien origins to him. He’s mad about the whole thing, but still uses his abilities to help people when he can. We also find that Lex Luthor grew up in Smallville too and even encountered Clark. My favorite part? Young Clark doesn’t like the Superboy costume his mom made him, which makes perfect sense when you think of a modern teenager running around with his underwear on the outside. In the next issue, Clark heads to the future to hang out with the Legion. I wish Frank could draw a thousand issues of Legion comics, I really do, he’s perfect for them.

The last four issues follow Clark as he gets to Metropolis and working at the Daily Planet while also revealing himself to be a hero. One of the interesting things that Johns does in this book is take some of the classic elements and making them make sense in more modern times. The costume thing is part of that, but so is the fact that the Daily Planet is still a paper that exists (instead of all the ones that have closed down in the past decade). For my money, that’s one of Johns’ strongest talents, integrating old craziness and making it work even in a world where aliens come to Earth and save the day all the time. I even like what he did with Metallo and Parasite, though I’m not a fan of the former’s design this time around (you can’t like everything, right?).

So, no, this isn’t MY Superman (everyone has their own) but it still tells a great Superman story that’s not unrecognizable. One of the problems I’ve had trying to read the New 52 Superman books is that he just doesn’t seem like Superman to me. This is still on point and fits in with what I like about the character: he’s the ultimate orphan who still wants to fight for his larger family, humanity.

superman secret identitySuperman: Secret Identity (DC)
Written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Stuart Immonen
Collects Superman: Secret Identity #1-4

Superman: Secret Identity is one of those books that everyone loves and I just never got around to reading. I actually have the last three issues in a box out in the garage, but wasn’t going to fully skip the first issue. Luckily, the library had a copy, so I dove in right after Secret Origins.

This story by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen is actually about a person named Clark Kent who’s in a version of our world. His parents named him that as a joke because everyone knows about the comic book and pop culture icon. But, after a mysterious meteor hits nearby, Clark gets Superman-like powers and starts experiencing some of the fictional hero’s ups and downs.

In a way, this book reminds me of Paul Cornell’s Action Comics story “The Black Ring” in that you find yourself learning about Superman by comparing him to the character you find yourself reading. This version of Clark follows some of the fictional version’s path, but he also finds himself living in a simpler world than the one in the comics, but still one filled with a certain amount of danger for him and his eventual family. He also deals with concepts like secret identities in ways that feel more realistic than some of the ways they are dealt with in ongoing comic book series’ that not only try to keep things interesting year in and year out, but also come from a variety of different minds and voices.

As it is, Secret Identity is a wonderful take on Superman from two very distinct, but complimentary voices in Busiek and Immonen. I was familiar with the artist’s work on books like Adventures Of Superman, but here he keeps his figures smaller and more realistic, while playing more with darkness and shadows than I remember him doing in the the mainstream superhero work. Together he and Busiek nail that real-person-dealing-with-the-unreal idea that the writer has become famous for in his comic book career.

X-Posed: Astonishing, X-Men & All-New

astonishing x-men vol 9 exaltedI can’t seem to stop reading X-Men comics these days! I’m on quite a streak thanks to my library system having a huge selection. Not everything has been a hit, but I figured I’d run down my experience with these books outside of the usual Trade Post format.

My buddy Brett White is a huge X-fan, so he was the first person I went to when trying to figure out which of the many books to request. On the top of his list was Marjorie Liu’s run on Astonishing X-Men. I looked into it and saw that Greg Pak did the arc before hers, so I requested that one first. Astonishing X-Men – Volume 9: Exalted collects #44-47 of that book plus part of a Warren Ellis/Adi Granov story called Ghost Boxes that plays into this story of alternate dimensions drawn by the excellent mike McKone. Continue reading X-Posed: Astonishing, X-Men & All-New

Trade Post: Legion Of Super-Heroes The Beginning Of Tomorrow

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: THE BEGINNING OF TOMORROW (DC)
Written by Tom McCraw, Tom Peyer & Mark Waid, drawn by Lee Moder, Jeffrey Moy, Brian Arthorp, Scott Benefiel, Stuart Immonen & Yancy Labat
Collects Legion Of Super-Heroes #0, 62-65, Legionnaires #0, 19-22

Even though I had a few Legion comics in my collection coming up, it wasn’t a concept that captured my attention. Honestly, if I hadn’t gotten a few issues in a random DC 10- or 12-pack from Toys “R” Us in my youth, I probably wouldn’t have even heard of the book until they eventually crossed over into the regular books I was reading. At the time I wasn’t intimidated by the vast, X-Men like continuity of the franchise because I didn’t know about any of that. They’d just gotten a reboot during Zero Hour which made the Legion surprisingly accessible. Since then I’ve read some comics from the original Legion run, specifically An Eye For An Eye (I’ve got my eye on that new Great Darkness Saga hardcover), really liked Mark Waid’s reboot that lead into Supergirl And The Legion Of Super-Heroes and even kind of sort of enjoyed Geoff Johns bringing back the originals. That was mostly because he was writing them and the amazing Gary Frank was drawing them. Aside from that I didn’t see the point in jumping backwards and making things even more confusing, though I guess that won’t be a problem moving forward with DC’s line-wide relaunch.

What I’m saying is that I’m nowhere near a Legion expert, but I’ve read bits and pieces here and there. And the great thing about this collection is that you don’t have to be. Like I mentioned, this trade features a newly rebooted Legion. The collection shows Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Live Wire (formerly Lightning Lad) meeting for the first time and eventually becoming the first three Legionnaires and the team getting put together. From there, it’s adventure time and, with one exception, I thought they were actually pretty boring.

I’m left feeling very uneven about this book having just finished it. I like how the writers handled such a large cast. I don’t know everything about all of them, but that’s fine, those are things that should be revealed in time. I want to learn more. The problem is that missions they go on felt very familiar, in fact, two of them were basically Alien take-offs, one with an actual slime-spitting alien on an abandoned space ship and another with the kids trying to hunt down a killer on an artificial space station. I’m not much of an Alien fan because I’ve only seen the movie a time or two, but I absolutely despise Alien rip-offs that don’t change much up.

But then, the collection ends with a pretty great story showing the Legion trying to save a prison full of the galaxy’s worst that’s set in the center of a star. The systems are failing and when they do finish off, the whole prison will be destroyed. I haven’t seen this kind of story a million times and the solution wound up being pretty smart, so all that was fun. The problem is that the art in those last three issues gets far too loose for my tastes. I get that the artists involved were trying to replicate the look and feel of a place that’s completely surrounded by a sun, but it just didn’t work for me. The lines were too squiggly and loose for my tastes. It’s kind of like a director throwing in an effect in a movie that has good intentions but winds up distracting from the story.

While The Beginning Of Tomorrow has a lot of good and bad elements within it, the biggest disappointment for me is that DC did not follow this collection up with any more (until the recent Legion Lost book which I also want to read). I assume, like all things, this decision came down to money. Considering that this version of the Legion hasn’t been mentioned in a decade aside from their appearance in Legion Of Three Worlds (a comic I adored as it came out and really want to get back to in the near future) I would assume their run will not be collected in the near future unless that Legion Lost thing sells gangbusters and raises interest. It’s a run that my buddy Ben Morse considers underrated as well as overlooked, so I want more! Maybe I’ll just keep an eye out for them in the cheap boxes. This trade alone probably isn’t enough to earn a spot in my permanent collection, but if it was the first in a series of increasingly improving comics, I’d be keeping it.

Oh, also, one last thing I liked: the writers were really forward-thinking in their tech. Brainiac 5 and some other people in the books were essentially using tablet computers!