Saturday, 20 December 2014

Secret Origins, Volume 1 Review (Jeff Lemire, Lee Bermejo)

When the New 52 launched in September 2011, I expected the line-wide reboot to begin with the character’s origin stories as DC were aiming to familiarise new readers who perhaps didn’t know much about them; it didn’t. Justice League started five years in the past for some reason, and DC’s big cheeses, Batman and Superman, carried on, business as usual with their numbering back to #1 being the only change. In fact hardly any characters got origin stories! 

In September 2012 DC half-heartedly attempted each character’s origins with a series of #0 issues which pretty much did the job. Now - well over three years after the New 52 launched! - we have Secret Origins, a series dedicated to the origin stories of DC’s characters. Perfect timing, guys! Now we can finally discover what Batman’s deal is and where Superman came from...

The origin stories in this book are: Superman, Dick Grayson/Robin #1, Supergirl, Batman, Aquaman, Starfire, Green Lantern, Batwoman, Tim Drake/Red Robin, Harley Quinn, Green Arrow, Damian Wayne/Robin #5. 

The only demographic I can imagine this series appealing to would be readers completely new to DC Comics. Because who doesn’t know Batman or Superman’s origins? Even people who don’t read comics know these guys’ origin stories! It’s not like the New 52 altered them in any way, it’s still the same “gunned down outside theatre showing Zorro/Yes Father, I shall become a bat”, and “sent from doomed planet/raised by kindly farm couple in Smallville, Kansas”. 

As if retelling Batman’s origins weren’t redundant enough, Scott Snyder just got done telling Batman’s New 52 origin story in Zero Year!! Even Damian Wayne’s origin is a summary of Grant Morrison’s early Batman run after Bruce was sent hurtling back in time post-Final Crisis/Batman RIP, and Damian and Dick Grayson became the new Batman and Robin. So… are those books part of the New 52 or something? 

For more experienced comics readers, getting through each origin is going to be dull at best especially with the way they’re written in quick summary form. There is no differentiation between most of these origins and the pre-New 52 origins - I really don’t know why they bothered! 

Scott Lobdell though… man, I hate this guy’s work! He writes the two worst origins in this book: Starfire and Red Robin. 

I don’t mind that Lobdell changed the origin for the New 52 Tim Drake where his parents weren’t killed/crippled but sent away for witness protection, because rebooting a character allows for that change. But it doesn’t make sense to me that when Bruce adopts Tim that Tim skips the mantle of Robin and instantly becomes Red Robin - that’s so stupid! 

We’re also never told the full story of Jason Todd which “frees up the position of Robin” that Tim’s so eager to fill even though he doesn’t take up the position anyway! Anyway, it’s hinted that Jason’s fate is essentially the same as the pre-New 52 version told in Batman: Death in the Family, once again making the whole reboot idea redundant. 

Worse is Starfire’s origin, the only character in this book whose origin I know nothing about (nor really want to - and what is she doing in this A-list lineup anyway!?). I’ve read most of the New 52 titles but I purposely avoided Red Hood and the Outlaws partly because it’s written by Lobdell but also because I heard terrible things about the way he wrote Starfire as some kind of sex doll that gets passed around indiscriminately. Well, I got to experience Lobdell’s hideous rendering of the character in Starfire’s origin! These two details sum it up: she’s sold into sex slavery and is forcefully injected with drugs to become dependent and compliant for her captors. 


Tony Bedard’s Supergirl origin is pretty stupid too, though it’s Tony Bedard and I didn’t have high hopes when I saw his name credited. In his bizarre reality, the North Koreans have a space program! North Korea - one of the world’s poorest nations that relies upon UN food schemes to feed their population - has a space program! Did Bedard have any involvement in writing the Red Dawn remake where North Korea inexplicably invades the US?! 

But hey, if you wondered where Harley Quinn got that stuffed beaver she’s always talking to in her solo New 52 title, you find out in her origin here! Yeesh…

Lee Bermejo’s covers are the only positive I can think of for this book - they are outstanding like all of his work. 

Secret Origins really is a pointless, tedious series because so many of its origins have already been explained elsewhere in the New 52. Maybe newer readers will find this more useful because it acts as a sort of comic wiki for DC’s characters but I can’t say that makes me like it any better. 

There are some great retellings of these character’s origin stories in other books that are worth checking out instead of this AND you’ll find the origins are the same anyway. They are:

Superman: Birthright
Batman: Year One
Batman: Zero Year
Green Arrow: Year One
Green Lantern: Rebirth
Batman and Son (Damian Wayne)
Batwoman: Elegy
Batman: Mad Love (Harley Quinn)

Secret Origins Volume 1

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