Friday, April 25, 2014

Review: Secret Origins #1

I have a love of the DC Universe and have always enjoyed the Secret Origins books when they have been part of the publisher's line. I not only like rereading the origins of my favorite characters ... amazed that creators can add a new wrinkle ... but the ones I don't know very well also. So when DC announced a new Secret Origins, I was very happy. And when Supergirl was announced as part of the first issue, I was thrilled. Sure she isn't on the cover. But she is there. And this issue was very very good.

I will briefly cover the Superman and Robin stories but this review will be mostly about the Supergirl story.

We are at the beginning of Tony Bedard's soft reboot of Supergirl. He has said he wants her to be more heroic, more likable, less angry and isolated. And while we don't see a whole heck of a lot of movement here, we definitely learn a few key things about Kara's past. And those things make her have a better foundation than the 'I don't care' Supergirl that has dominated the early years of this incarnation.

The issue starts with a flashback to Krypton where Supergirl saves the lives of a couple of other young Kryptonians who have violated some camp rules as they prepare for the trials of citizenship.

It is a brief scene but it shows that this Kara cares about people and is already heroic enough to risk herself to defend them. She bashes this wild animal despite knowing her weapon isn't powerful enough to incapacitate it.

She will defend people! She cares ... even if she doesn't know someone.

Interfering actually gets Kara in trouble. She lies to try to defend the mistake the others had wandering off and that is frowned upon. Luckily, Alura is able to give some words of wisdom. Doing the right thing can have unwanted consequences. But honor the house of El by always doing the right thing.

I love that Bedard is going to make Alura a role model and inspiration for Kara. And I like that she says Els always do what is right. That is great. It seems like a nice foundation for a fierceness in the pursuit of justice that the original Supergirl had. But it doesn't have to come with a horrible edge. She can be bright and fierce.

Of course, you might think that Kara might see Kal 'always doing the right thing' and warm up to him.

We get even more Alura information. It turns out she is a 'peace praetor' of Argo City. That is either police officer, judge, or politician. But regardless, she is in a position of power and a defender of the people. It makes her an even better role model for Supergirl.

And now onto a nice little side view of the origin. We see Zor-El in his lab. He definitively says that his World Killer experiments could not unlock any powers in Kryptonians.

There we have it.

Kara is not the first World Killer.

Hurrah! And thank you Mr. Bedard.

Back on Earth, Kara rescues North Korean astronauts who are in a falling satellite. When she brings them to North Korea, the army fires on her.

She doesn't care. Saving the astronauts is the right thing. Superman arrives unfortunately to confront her about the messiness of this save. This was an international incident. Rather than ask him how she could have done better, she gets angry. Shoving a finger in his chest, she says doing the right thing sometimes has consequences. And she will learn her own way.

It is a shame. If a wise Kryptonian like Alura can teach her, why can't Kal. Sure saving the guys was right but maybe he could tell her how to do it with less consequences.

Her being on Earth, in her costume, and willing to save people, seeing that as the right thing, seems to be a step in the right direction. But this felt like she is a .... sigh ... bull-headed loner. She will do what she wants no matter what someone else says. And she will do it her way.

 I hope Bedard can keep moving her towards likable hero and not just a hero.

Still this was a good origin. The Krypton scenes and Alura/Zor-El info add a nice foundation to the character.

The Superman origin is nicely revisited by Greg Pak and artist Lee Weeks. In it we hear voice overs from both Ma Kent and Lara as they talk about how they hope their love will make Kal/Clark become the man they want him to be.

Pak does a good job of weaving in scenes from both his Action run and Morrison's as key points were Clark is shown love and then uses that love to be Superman. Nice stuff.

And the Robin (Dick Grayson) origin is also excellent. Writer Kyle Higgins and artist Doug Mahnke retell the Grayson tragedy at the circus followed by the introduction of Robin. This was my favorite scene. Here Dick sees Robins and decides they will be the basis of his costume. It is a nice reflection of Bruce's own decision to become a bat. But instead of brooding inside when a bat flies in, Dick is outside, in the sun, hearing birds sing. Very nice. (I also liked that his flying Grayson's costume looks similar to his Nightwing one).

Anyways, great issue overall. Kara's transformation looks like a marathon, not a sprint. But still, progress is progress.

Overall grade: B+


Jay said...

All good except Bedard insisting on the same dysfunctional relationship with Kal and Kara. Kara getting angry, Kal lecturing her on needing to learn but making no effort to teach. Irritating. Outside of Lobdell finally giving the two a moment after Krypton Returns (after enough screw-ups in his own right), not surprisingly the only writer to have tackled this relationship with even the slightest attempt at positive emotions is Greg Pak.

Whoever's responsible, whether its the individual writer's whimsy or a higher up instruction: please stop with the constant antagonism between these two. I'm all for some personality clash, but can some more love be shown at the same time?

Count Drunkula said...

I think NIGHTWING #0 first showed the Flying Grayson's uniform to look like the disco-era Nightwing. I wish that had been Nightwing's costume from the start of the New 52 or that he would re-adopt that look... Alas, the costume is the least of Grayson's problems now.

Iopy said...

So, this is the third time we've seen Kara in a class-like situation, learning something she needs to know to achieve her right to wear the family shield. Once was combat training with robots, another was on a field trip with Lara, and now this one. Each time it's been related to dangerous situations, fighting, and survival skills. Was there no science, math, history? What sort of future were they planning for her? Is the reason she approaches everything fists first because she was trained to?

And why doesn't Kara get both criticism and encouragement from Superman? A "nice job Kara, you saved their lives, can I offer a word if advice?" She gets that from Skallox, Zilius Zox, and even Guy Gardner. It's Zox who has to remind Superman what family actually is. Are Red Lanterns, of all people, actually better role models and mentors than the Man of Steel?

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I will agree that the relationship with Kal is going to need the most rehabilitation and this doesn't get anywhere near that.

Hopefully, Bedard will get us there.

I also assume that there is teaching going on for this trial to wear the crest. But seeing Kara in math class might not be riveting reading. But I agree a panel or two to show the breadth of this might make sense at some point.

Martin Gray said...

Great review, Anj. I loved this issue. While the Superman story was an instant classic - from the tenderness of Lara and Martha, through the scene paralleling Batman's iconic origin moment in which Clark embraces the path of light and the final image updating the cover of Superman #1 - the Kara story wasn't bad.

The best thing about it was the new spin Bedard put on what a Worldkiller was - not something Zor created to lay waste to worlds, but part of a hoped-for defence against what was killing his world.

I also liked having a more loveable Alura ... and I want a zap staff! Plus, we had Kara using her powers super-smartly, I've never seen Kal do that radio waves trick. The ending was a bit of a downer - it fits with current day Kara, but these origins should be for all time, and in a few years, when we hopefully have a happy, classic Kara, it may confuse.

Still, a million points to Bedard for avoiding the Cyborg Superman business.

And while I'm here, a quick word on the Robin origin - the robins business was a bit tacked-on, but I liked the tale overall. The ending was great, Alfred is so wise. What's even more tragic than the deaths of John and Mary was the costume Dick designed - my eyes! And it's not like he needed long pants, look, Bruce taught him to run in the cold in skimpy shorts!