After some delays, Superman Secret Origin #6 finally hit the stands last week.Written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank, the mini-series solidifies the Superman origin by really looking back at his classic roots while merging it with some ideas we have seen in some of the other forms of media where Superman has appeared.
All along I have said that this read as a nostalgic love letter to the fans of the man of steel. It has been pitch perfect in it's portrayal of Superman. He has been a man of integrity, compassion, and strength. He always comes back to the fact that he is here to help and with that simple tenet he immediately becomes a role model for the weary people of Metropolis.
But more importantly, I think this issue resonated a bit more for me this simply because of what is happening with Superman elsewhere. This month I can read Superman talking to his supporting characters and fighting Metallo in the streets of Metropolis ... or I can read him walking through Detroit and playing pick-up basketball. For me it is sort of a no-brainer.
With Superman on the run from Luthor and the army, General Lane attempts to overrun the Daily Planet.
One theme that I liked here was the fear of Superman being an alien. Look at the fear ... the shock ... on Lois' and Perry's faces; as if Superman being a mutant-human is so much easier to accept. But here it is a jarring revelation, like a kick to the gut ... so wonderfully rendered by Gary Frank. Wide-eyed, the Planet's staff needs to wrap their collective heads around this revelation. Superman is still a relative unknown. Do his actions speak louder than his ancestry? Does this shake their trust in him?
This is a different sort of fear than the one seen in the New Krypton storyline; this one is more subtle.
Now one thing I don't necessarily like how Superman is fighting the US military in these last chapters. Even if these are Lane's men, trained to follow orders, and fearful of Superman, it is still hard for me to think of them as the 'villains' in this book.
That said, this splash page is lovely.
Luthor successfully resuscitates John Corben, creating Metallo. Fueled by Kryptonite, Metallo joins the fray. Trust me, he isn't happy and he begins thrashing Superman. Enraged and out of control, he lashes out against friend and foe alike.
So much of this story is Johns defining Superman's character and the reaction of the people of Metropolis. Despite facing one of the few people who can hurt him, despite Lois' pleas to leave and save himself, Superman stays ... fighting on ... never giving up. Metallo is threatening the people in the area and Superman can't leave them. In a nice visual cue, the real monster of this scene is literally unmasked. Who is more alien here? Who is the bigger threat? Superman or Metallo?
At least Superman has an understanding of what a soldier should be ... a protector. I think Superman realizes now that maybe he is, in a sense, a soldier. He is a protector of the people. And if he needs to put his life on the line to protect them, he will. Flown into the thin air of the upper atmosphere, Metallo falls unconscious.
Undeterred by the good Superman has done, General Lane continues to hound Superman. He orders his men to arrest both Superman and Lois.
Another recurring theme in this book has been Superman's ability to inspire, to raise the hopes of an entire city. As much as I don't necessarily like Superman fighting the army, I don't know if I like some ordinary folks rising up either. In particular, I don't think the soldier defending Superman in panel one deserves getting hit with a bottle in panel two.
But just when it looks like mob violence is going to erupt, here comes Superman again reinforcing his belief that we all need to help each other; we need to improve each others' lives.
It is a simple premise but it defuses the moment. Superman just seems to transcend all the politics, all the fear, all the anger in the people there.
And so we get to see the aftermath of this encounter.
In a spectacular homage to the Superman animated series as well as Superman:Man of Steel, Superman confronts Luthor outside his penthouse office. Luthor even tosses a statue through the window like in the Animated series premiere movie.
It is clear. Superman will be watching Luthor from now on.
And we see the beginnings of a romance, the fire of love just beginning to smolder.
I love Frank's Lois.
And we see that the fickle finger of Luthor isn't the supreme power it once was. People are starting to look to each other rather than looking to Lex. Gone is the bleating crowd begging for his love. That view from the balcony looks more like a view from a prison. Maybe some foreshadowing?
Instead, we see a new Metropolis, people are looking up. Even the angry elderly woman from earlier in the series is forgiving now. Everything has changed. Superman has inspired a city to reach higher.
I haven't hidden how much I love this mini-series. It is clear that Geoff Johns has a love of this character, an understanding of what Superman should be ... a bright light to guide people, to lead by example.
But for me the thing that impresses me the most about this mini-series is that despite re-telling a 70 year old story, it felt fresh. This isn't a radical new take on the Superman origin. This isn't John Byrne's new look and feel of Krypton, his more confident Clark. This isn't Mark Waid's Birthright Superman where Clark goes off to Africa to get in touch with life and Superman has a 'life detecting aura power'. There wasn't anything new here ... but it was all new too. Does that make sense? It felt almost like when an oil painting is restored, when a layer of wear is removed and the colors are bright once more; suddenly it looks like a new masterpiece.
I have talked about Johns' ability to update Silver Age concepts of the Superman mythos. But, as I have said before, I also like how Johns' seems to be able to take concepts from the Superman of film and television and fold those into the mix. Let's face it, there are some people out there whose only understanding of Superman is from the animated series or the Donner film. So why not add some of the best of that stuff here. What you get is the most inclusive origin story, but silky smooth.
In many ways I am sad that this series, despite all its delays, is over. As of now, there is no comic where Superman is in Metropolis, acting as Clark Kent, working for the Daily Planet, and fighting super-villains.
Overall grade (issue): B/B+
Overall grade (series): A