If we do a retcon, will it make that lawsuit go away?
Superman, Krypton, Smallville, Lex Luthor, Superboy, Lana Lang, rocket ship, super suit, heat vision, Ma and Pa Kent, glasses, and a spit curl; everything you already know about Supermanâ€™s history.Â The origin story has been told so many times I would bet you could walk up to some hot girl on the street and ask her about any of these, and she would know what you were talking about.Â So why, oh why, did DC give the light to Geoff Johns to retcon the well known origin story?
While the changed universe following the most recent Crisis is probably a good enough reason, that nagging lawsuit concerning the title character and his younger self seem more likely a reason to retell some of the events in a way that is similar but uniquely original.Â So is this new telling really a derivative work?
Thatâ€™s a question that is best left to the lawyers and the judges who are much more knowledgeable regarding these issues, but from what I see, there are plenty of attempts to do something original, but it just doesnâ€™t come off quite right.Â On the plus side, Johns avoided all mentions of Clark Kent being rocketed to Earth to escape an exploding Krypton – no really, read the Jor-El segment again, and youâ€™ll see no mention of an exploding planet was made.Â Likewise, the young Christopher Reeve doesnâ€™t have superpowers from the moment he reaches the planetâ€™s surface, but instead starts to gain powers near puberty.
While heâ€™s shown to exhibit a tough exterior, and cold breath early – a secret shared between Lana Lange, Ma Kent, young Christopher Reeve, and John Schneider – itâ€™s not until his first kiss with Lana that young Christopher Reeve gets his heat vision.Â And he uses it to nearly burn the school to the ground.Â Itâ€™s the same, but different, see?Â Also changed to make it more believable is the origin story of young Christopher Reeveâ€™s glasses.Â During his exchange with the hologram of his father, a pair of perfectly round pieces of glass break off the rocket, that Ma fashions into a pair of glasses to keep young Christopher Reeveâ€™s heat vision for burning anyone or anything else.Â Also revealed is the vision Ma Kent has of Krypton, which gives her the idea to create the Superboyâ€™s costume.Â Since we really havenâ€™t seen this take on the origins of these two items, it fits perfectly into a Secret Origin story.
While I do like Geoff Johns writing, a lot of the other story elements seem straight out of Smallville.Â This is especially true during the concluding pages, when a tornado rips through town, causing Lana to get in a pickle, and giving readers the hint that Clark uses his power of flight to save her.Â Even Jor-Elâ€™s monologue introducing himself to his son, while different, seems eerily similar to Marlon Brandoâ€™s delivery in the 1979 flick.Â Of course a lot of this could be the result of Supermanâ€™s mythos being so engrained into our history that the line between the new and the old has blurred to the point it is difficult to tell one, without thinking of the other.
While that may be a convenient out for the writing, my biggest problem with the issue is Gary Frankâ€™s art.Â Frank is a great artist and does a bang up job in the layout, composition, staging, and so on, but I wish the muckety-mucks who run the company would send out a memo demanding artists to stop using likenesses for their character design.Â Itâ€™s simply creepy seeing Frank trying to take the visage of Christopher Reeve that we are familiar with and de-age the face to make it fit the story.Â In some panels it plays off as a nice homage, but other times it just seems so off and wrong.Â This also goes for the depiction of Pa Kent.Â With Smallville being a big deal, I can understand wanting to caricature John Scheider, but if one goes down that path, it needs to be followed and be consistent through the rest of the issue.Â Unfortunately, it doesnâ€™t work as the face falls apart to the point by the end of the issue Pa looks nothing like he did on the first page.Â And letâ€™s not get started on the Jeffrey Hunter rendition of Jor-El.
Overall, itâ€™s not a bad issue.Â Those who are under the age of 12, or who havenâ€™t seen Superman the Movie, watched the animated, series, seen Kristen Kruek strut her stuff on Smallville, or even been told the a phone-line version of the origin, will certainly get a lot of this issue.Â But for the rest of us, a big shrug of the shoulder is in store.Â I think the best reason to pick up this issue is to get the lead-in to the Legion of Super-Heroes appearance that is just around the corner.
The pacing works, the story elements click, and it does look pretty, but overall Superman: Secret Origin #1 only tops out at 3 out of 5 Stars for this reviewer.