I realize the expression ‘Secret Origins’ has a long and proud history with DC Comics, but here it’s a complete misnomer. Considering that the New 52 for the most part kicked off “five years later”, the idea of revisiting some character’s beginnings might help differentiate them from prior interpretations, but in this first issue, we get the origins of Superman, Robin (Dick Grayson) and Supergirl. Among these, only Supergirl’s differs distinctly from her pre-New 52 version, but even so THIS origin has already been depicted in her own comic.
Superman’s origin has been retold so many times, there’s almost no such thing as a definitive origin anymore. But there is nothing new added here. Same rocket from Krypton, found by Kansas farm couple tale we’ve read/seen countless times. The only fresh spin is that the story is narrated by Lara Jor-El and Martha Kent, which is cute but doesn’t add much. The pencils on this chapter are rendered by Lee Weeks and it’s perfectly serviceable but not particularly exciting. It’s actually a little crude at times.
Likewise, Dick Grayson’s origin is pretty much the exact same as the one we’ve been presented with numerous times in the past. The real variation here is the source of the name “Robin.” Many don’t realize this, but Robin was named after Robin Hood and his original costume, with the chainmail trunks and loose-fitting tunic were modeled after that character’s medieval appearance. In other words, NOT the bird as many have taken it to reference. Here, the inspiration is firmly established as having come from the bird. It’s a bit of a stretch, but whatever. The old costume with bare legs is now out of continuity as he’s shown wearing a suit that more closely resembles Tim Drake’s costume with a slightly haphazard homage to the original rectangular buttons on the classic tunic. I see where they were going, it just doesn’t come across as very appealing. That red and green color scheme is hard to make work well. It doesn’t quite do that here. I’m normally a big fan of Doug Mahnke’s art, but it doesn’t quite appeal to me here either. I’m guessing that’s due to the inks. It’s not awful, but it’s slightly a miss.
The nicest art in this issue comes via Paulo Siqueira, in the Supergirl story. The twist with New 52 Supergirl is that she is actually older than Superman and babysat her baby cousin as a teen. But while Superman landed on Earth years earlier and grew up here, Kara orbited the sun in suspended animation for decades before landing on Earth as an alien teen and having to adjust to living here. In a reference to the classic origin, Kara reveals that her father Zor-El did manage to save Argo City for a short time, but it was eventually destroyed. The other slight twist is that the men of the House of El are scientists, but the women are more “aggressive.” Lara is a soldier and Alura is the “Peace Praetor” of Argo City.
Since we’re less than three years into the New 52, there’s definitely a place for a book like this to help explain and clarify these heroes and how they differ from previous depictions. Except… for the most part they don’t. Superman’s origin is exactly the same. Robin’s is essentially the same. Supergirl’s is different, but those differences have already been examined in her own book. So this issue, while delivering bigger names, didn’t reveal a lot of new info. And the art was basically fill-in material.
Honestly, if you’re already familiar with these characters, you can easily skip this entirely.
SECRET ORIGINS #1
Written by Greg Pak
Pencils by Lee Weeks
Written by Kyle Higgins
Art by Doug Mahnke
Written by Tony Bedard
Pencils by Paulo Sequeira
Cover by Lee Bermejo