Sunday, January 31, 2010

Review: Superman Secret Origin #4

I have gushed about Superman Secret Origin with each issue.

I am about to gush a bit about Superman Secret Origin #4. And when I gush I can be long-winded. Bear with me.

Did this series need to happen? Did we need a revamping of Superman's beginnings? Or did all of the people reading the Superman titles have a decent enough handle of things that they could cruise along?

With most everything about Byrne's Man of Steel retconned away, with Superman Birthright not cemented as dogma, I think something was needed to smooth over the rough spots. With Superman being the centerpiece of next summer's event, the timing was right for a place for new readers to refer.

Still, with DC being 'all Blackest Night all the time' right now, it feels like this series is flying under the radar. I wish that DC was marketing this series more because it is absolutely delightful. Johns and Frank are really meshing here and spinning an origin story that can appeal to the newer readers and the more seasoned fans alike.

This series is also making me a bit anxious for the 'Year Without Superman' to come to an end. I miss seeing the big red S.

Last issue with Superman revealing himself by rescuing Lois Lane. How would the downtrodden of Metropolis react? How would current city leader Lex Luthor respond?

Well, he starts by continuing the practice we heard he does daily. He comes out to the throngs of needy in front of his tower and randomly picks someone to help. As I said before, this reinforces wrong thinking in the populace. One, it makes it appear that good will and success is random and that hard work has nothing to do with it. Second, it makes Luthor into the savior of the common man.

What better way to convey that then this opening shot. Here is Luthor high above the crowd, arms spread in a messianic fashion. With the point of view coming from the crowd, you get the sense of how small you would feel in comparison to Lex, how far away he is from your troubles.

It turns out that the person picked from the crowd may not necessarily be random. Luthor has men tucked away who are electronically picking out people and feeding their info to Luthor's ear piece. When his men see that Rudy Jones is in the crowd and a worker at the hated Daily Planet, the choice is obvious.

What's more, Luthor isn't unflappable. The arrival of Superman has trumped the unveiling of his Metallo alloy as the top story in the area. Luthor can't believe a man can fly and so has his men scouring his labs to see if someone borrowed a rocket pack.

The dichotomy of the scene - all this malevolence behind the trappings of 'saving someone' - really let's the reader see just who the real Luthor is.

And when it turns out that no one borrowed a rocket pack, when there needs to be another answer to explain Superman, Luthor sends his men to the Planet to question Lois and Clark.

Of course, Lois is thrilled. She has wanted to talk to Luthor for some time. Regardless of the circumstances, she is going. Clark seems less thrilled.

Again, the art here works so well. Doesn't the absence of a background in this panel bolster that appearance of meekness in Clark. Doesn't he seem smaller?

The two head to Luthor's office and get led into this spacious office.

I know I tend to ruminate over art sometimes; I probably make assumptions about a writer or artist's reasoning behind a panel. But when I am affected by art, I feel that I need to express myself.

First off, look at the size of that picture of Luthor, a palpable object of his pride. If we say Clark is at least 6ft, that picture has to be 30ft tall. 30ft!

That is above a 15ft door! And we don't even see the ceiling!

Contrast that clean space to the grimy crowded streets of Metropolis. This is another way of showing just how disconnected Luthor is from the common man. It reminded me of Tyrell's office in Blade Runner ... someone set up as a god above the throngs of people.

This panel might be passed over quickly but it deserves some inspection.

Lois comes in filled with bile and ready to lay into Luthor with both barrels.

I love how quickly Lex disarms Lois by telling her that her father says hi. You have to respect Luthor for knowing everyone's Achilles' heel. Look at Lois' face! She is shocked and confused. Almost stammering. All that confidence she brought in is gone. And look at Clark's response; this is the first time he has seen Lois like this. He is just as shocked.

Meanwhile, Rudy Jones is undergoing a mental and physical workout by LexCorp. Despite being given a potential new lease on life, Jones still thinks it might be too much work. He actually asks he can simply have a cash buyout for whatever LexCorp is planning to do. He really is a parasite

Unfortunately, he eats a doughnut which has fallen into some hazardous biochemical ooze, triggering his transformation from a parasite into The Parasite.

Okay, the doughnut origin was the one small piece of the book that didn't wow me. Seemed a bit silly.

The Parasite begins draining and killing Luthor's workers. Their cries for help are heard by Clark who is witnessing a back and forth interview between Lois and Lex.

I love how Clark exits so he can save people. He calls the exchange a waste of time, which is the truth. Both Lois and Lex are stunned and ask him if he is serious when he asks where the bathroom is. In some ways this will make Clark seem like a stronger person than the meek klutz he has been acting like. Walking out on an interview with Luthor? That would take backbone.

But he does leave, changing into Superman and taking on the Parasite. After initially being drained a bit, he is able to subdue Rudy with a mix of heat vision and then super breath.

But the people of Metropolis are still nervous, still afraid. They don't know what to make of Superman yet. And Luthor knows how to fan the fires of fear. He asks if Superman wants everyone to kneel before him ... an ironic question coming from Lex.

And then he asks the million dollar question ... is Superman human?

Luthor has been the city's savior in the past. The people are sure to believe him. Could Superman be an intergalactic conqueror?

As with last issue's rescue, Superman leaves before facing the tough questions.

He flies back to the Daily Planet and runs into Jimmy Olsen on the roof.

The early part of the issue shows how Luthor can't relate to the common man. Here we see how Superman can relate. Jimmy talks about how he thinks he is going to leave Metropolis because he is failing there. Superman says he thinking of leaving too. Jimmy wonders what chance he could have.

But rather than leave, Superman befriends Jimmy and let's him take a photo for the paper. I wish I could post the whole scene.

Some things that I loved but didn't show. One, Clark remembering his parents telling him they will always be proud of him. Also, the first picture Jimmy takes Superman has his hands over his groin, strikingly similar to a Christopher Reeve promo picture. Jimmy makes him strike the more classic pose of hands on hips.

Despite her usual negativism, Lois writes a glowingly positive piece about Superman. Her headline calling Superman the city's new savior is the only one that is upbeat. The other papers, all in Luthor's pockets, are playing up the fear angle. The Planet has declared war on Luthor.

In case you can't tell, I loved this issue. My only complaint outside of the doughnut was the cover. Lara will always have black hair in my book. And she shouldn't look 30 years younger than Jor-El.

But outside of 2 minor stumbles, this book was great. I am interested in seeing just how the city slowly recreates itself with Superman there.

Overall grade: A


Manu said...

Hello Anj ! (is it Andrew ? :)

Always a big pleasure to read your always well written articles ! You're perfectly right to comment the artists panel, because the major part of readers naturally looks at them fast and don't really understand some subtilities you can explain to them ! Their understanding is unconscious, and to tell the facts valorizes the artists work, and makes the things come to the surface. So your readers learn things and you teach them how to look at a comic ! So don't hesitate to go on !

I'd add a thing about the panel in which Clark is represented without a background. He seems very alone and meek as you said, but the fact the panel is open, without any frame on the right, makes me think Mr Frank has wanted to give him a kind of way out. I think Clark would surely like to get out of here, and he can get out this way out on the right (on his left for him). But we know he must not and he has to face the problem.

Anyway, maybe you already know it, one of the rule of comic art is to make a kind of way out at the end of the page, or to make a character go out, usually in the sense of the reading, so from left to right, or from up to down, or to prepare a disclosure, a revelation. So we can bet there is a kind of something revealed on the next page, and I would say more (I can be wrong), I would bet the page we talk about is on the right side of a book, so we can't see the content of the first next page's panel, and we must turn the page to find the cake ! Check it out and tell me if I'm a winner ! :) )

The rectangular panel with the massive portrait of Lex is beautiful ! On his portrait, Lex seems to be the good scientist, full of compassion for mankind. Kind of Dr Doom's stuff ^^

And on the roof scene, as you said, Supes really looks like Christopher Reeve !!!! I really like this kind of realistic drawings, I think it can make the story more believable, that's nice for superheroes stories !

Two questions to end :

- I read in the second crossover between Spider Man and Supes that the Parasite has fallen in love with Wonder Woman, can you confirm this element has been developped or not ? In the story, Diana had come into Dr Doom secret headquarters and be blasted or something like that. Doom's men take her away and Parasite intervents, killing one of them. Doom ask him what's wrong and he says he loves her. Doom laugh at him and promises he can go away with her after they've done their vilain stuff ^^ Does this element is linked to some you could have read somewhere ?

- You say Lara will always have black hair in your book, are you writing a Superman story ? :)

Big article indeed, and keep on commenting the artist work, it will always be appreciated, at least by them ! ;)

TalOs said...

Man this issue simply has to be one of the best yet! :D

Yota said...

So I finally went and bought the issue and I wanted to ask:

Did anyone else notice that on of the Pot-It notes by Lois's computer at the Daily Planet read "Call Chloe?"

Oh, Smallville fans..........

Anj said...

Did anyone else notice that on of the Pot-It notes by Lois's computer at the Daily Planet read "Call Chloe?"

Oh, Smallville fans..........

I did notice it and should have commented.

Nice touch for the Smallville group.

Manu said...

Hello again Anj :)

You haven't answered my previous question concerning this Parasite's crush for Wonder Woman, so I suppose you have no information about it ^^

If someone has something, please write to me :)

Always a pleasure to read your articles, see you :)