WARNING: This article contains spoilers. Read at your own risk!
When it comes superhero origin stories, they’re always updating the mythos surrounding them; Superman is no different. His origin has been updated numerous times; John Byrne’s “Man of Steel” (not the 2013 Zack Snyder film) and Mark Waid’s “Birthright” have managed to do this successfully.
This rendition was written by Geoff Johns and was published as six-issue series from August 2009 until September 2010. Johns was also known for his run on Green Lantern, The Flash and Aquaman. Choosing him was logical he managed to rewrite Green Lantern’s origin in 2008’s “Green Lantern: Secret Origin” as well as being the main writer for Superman’s “Action Comics.”
Johns made it clear in an interview that he wanted this story to be mostly told from Clark Kent’s point of view. No issues on Krypton, just focusing on Kent’s early years and onwards. At the start of the first issue, you immediately see his personal alienation due to his inability to control his powers and the fact most of his peers look at him weirdly.
It gives readers sympathy for the young Kent. All of his life he was raised and lived like any other human being but not understanding and controlling his extraordinary powers hinders his self-esteem. He often contemplates and shares his feelings towards his parents and close friend Lana Lang. Of course, we get to see how Kent finds a way to use his power and finds his place.
Unfortunately, it’s a bit too straight-forward as to why Kent becomes Superman. He saves a few people around Smallville and decides to don the costume. It’s a bit too simplistic for the times and I would like to the comic to add more to give more meaning.
An interesting aspect I’ve found reading this comic was how you’re introduced to Lex Luthor early on. Johns adds to Luthor’s character to further emphasize how much of a foil he is to Superman. Growing up poor with an abusive father, Luthor is shown traits of megalomania at a young age. It’s really emphasized with the limited interactions he has with Kent.
A big point that can be taken from “Secret Origins” is not only how Kent becomes Superman, but seeing how the environment surrounding him is effected when he becomes the Man of Steel. You see the birth of villains such as Metallo and Parasite, you see how the Daily Planet rebuilds itself and you see how Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White begin to work together. The set up of what will happen in the future is great and it gives readers an idea of what will happen.
The artwork by Gary Frank is fantastic. It provides an almost human-like quality towards the characters and the action scenes bring a cinematic atmosphere. You almost wish you can see this take form into an animated film. I really love how Superman looks in this comic, it really emphasizes his boyish looks that somehow remained with him as he grew up.
“Superman: Secret Origins” is a rather straightforward reading into the start of Superman. I would recommend this to those who aren’t too familiar with Superman’s background but I would also recommend reading “Birthright” and “Man of Steel” so you can compare and contrast.
For longtime fans and those who have read the past renditions, this doesn’t add anything new towards what is known about the Man of Steel. Some have described it as a “greatest hits,” calling back to older accounts. Granted, Superman fans would have already read this. It is a fun read that reminds us where Superman comes from.