Thursday, December 9, 2010

Episode #148: A Superman Fan Review: Superman: Secret Origin & Last Family Of Krypton!

Superman: Secret Origin was a six issue mini-series that updated Superman's origin for current continuity. Matt Idelson was the editor, and Gary Frank drew the cover, and pencilled the interior art. Geoff Johns wrote the story, Jonathan Sibal was the inker, Steve Wands, the letterer and Brad Anderson was the colorist. While I did enjoy this series, one major drawback was its sporadic publication schedule. The first three issues were released monthly from September to November 2009. Issues three and four were published bi-monthly in January and March of 2010, while the final issue was not released until August, 2010.

I looked forward to this series because of Johns' and Frank's work on the Action Comics storylines Superman And The Legion Of Super-Heroes (issues 858 - 863) and Brainiac (issues 866 - 870). I was not disappointed in the story or the art. The series began with a young Clark, maybe in Junior High, or a high school freshman. He is beginning to experience the development of his super powers at the same time as he enters puberty. What fun. We are introduced to Lanan Lang and Pete Ross. Geoff Johns returns Lex Luthor to his silver age continuity as a cntemporary of Clark Kent, instead of a childhood friend of Perry White in Metropolis' Suicide Slum, as was established with John Byrne's Man Of Steel mini-series in 1986. And the young Luthor has a full head of red hair.

The Kents decide to tell Clark the truth about how  they found him and adopted him, and Clark begins to learn of his Kryptonian heritage. The Clark Kent Superboy is returned to continuity as well. My favorite issue was the second, which officially re-established superboy's status as the inspiration to the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 30th and 31st Centuries.

The third issue introduces us to a pre-Superman Metropolis. It's almost as depressing as Gotham City. Lex Luthor, now bald, runs Metropolis as he said he would do as a teen in Smallville. but he is sucking the life out of the city, which is not the City of Tomorrow we are familiar with.Clark Kent gets hired by the Daily Planet, which os on its last legs because it is the only newspaper in Metropolis that does not worship Luthor. Superman begins his career in Metropolis, with mixed results. He meets Lois in a similar way to the movie version, saving her as hse fall off a building, with a helicopter about to crash on top of her.

The final three issues reveal the current origins of both Metallo and the Parasite, both having ties to Lex Luthor. This Metallo is an Army soldier, working for Lois Lane's father, Gen. Sam Lane. The Parasite is Rudy Jones, a Daily Planet janitor who leeches off of everyone, who becomes the Parasite when he is exposed to a toxic substance that was a byproduct of a LexCorp experiment. The last half of the series chronicles Superman's first clash with Gen. Lane, tying in to the then current New Krypton storyline in the Superman family of titles. The end of the series would have had more impact if it would have been published before New Krypton concluded, not after, but I still enjoyed the series. I preferred the first three issues, which established the early Clark Kent and Superman characters. The final three issues were good stories, but tied in too close to New Krypton to have as much impact as I would have liked.

Superman: The Last Family Of Krypton was an Elseworlds story, the first published since the late 1990's. I have always loved the "imaginary stories" in DC Comics from the 1960's, and this mini-series carried on that tradition, and was as much of a joy to read as those earlier imaginary tales. There's something about Superman and his supporting cast being taken out of their regular continuity, and being placed in stories where the Superman creative staff could do with them what they would not normally do in regualr continuity. The series was edited by Mike Carlin, with Rachel Gluckstein serving as assistant editor. The Alex Ross-like cover was drawn by Filipe Massafera. The story was written by Cary Bates, one of the Superman writers from the 1970's and 1980's. He proved that he hasn't lost his touch. the are was drawn by Renato Arlem, colored by Allen Passalaqua and lettered by Pat Brosseau. This three issue series was published on a monthly schedule, from August to October 2010.

This series begins with the whole El family surviving the destruction of Krypton and traveling safely to Earth. The first issue chronicles how the Els settled in Metorpolis, and how the presence of Jor-El, Lara and son Kal-El change the course of not just Metropolis, but of the world, on both a technical and spiritual level. The familiar Superman supporting cast take different but interesting turns in their lives from the regular Superman continuity. The Els are also affected by their new homeworld, and go through their share of both triumphs and struggles in their new home. We even see the Kents come to play a familiar role for young Clark Kent, but how they come together is completely different. A young Lex Luthor even becomes almost like a second son to Jor-El, and Brainiac takes an interesting form in this story. Jor-El's work to protect the Earth has a profound effect on the development of superheroes on Earth.

Kal-El does not remain an only child in this story, but becomes the older brother to a set of twins, a boy and a girl. Each member of the El family develop different lives. Superman eventually makes his appearance to Metropolis, and Clark's job at the Daily Planet as well as his relationship with Lois Lane, take interesting twists and turns as well.

The final issue is not without its share of triumphs and tragedies for the El's, as well as other characters in the DC Universe. I found this to be a fantastic story, one of my favorites of the year, thus far. I enjoyed looking at Superman's supporting cast from a different angle. Cary Bates did a great job of creating distinct characters, and leading them to lives that make sense to each individual. The art was great, although I thought some of the backgrounds, especially of the cityscapes, looked like photos of cities that had been Photoshopped to reseemble drawings, but that's a minor quibble. It's a great story, both on a superhero and a science fiction level. Well worth the price to each oversized (in regards to page count) issue.

Next episode: Superboy's New Fun Adventures!

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