So we’re two and half years into DC Comics’ “New 52″ reboot, and it’s fair to say now it’s pretty clear they didn’t have an overall plan for what this new continuity would entail when they started this whole thing. We know the characters have been around roughly six years (comic book time that is) with certain characters having their history truncated to a kind of “greatest hits” version (specifically, Batman). Many, many characters still don’t have proper origins in this new universe, and for fanboys and fangirls obsessed with continuity and how this fits with that, it’s been something of a large problem.
This isn’t the first time DC has been in this predicament. In 1986, after DC’s massive universe-changing mini-series Crisis on Infinite Earths, they were pretty much in the same place. No one knew which character’s backstories were the same anymore, and some characters (like Power Girl and Donna Troy, for example) needed entirely new origin stories to fit in to this newly rebooted universe. So DC launched a new ongoing series that would explain just who was who and how they came to be, called Secret Origins. Cut to twenty-eight years later, and DC has done it again, with the launch of the all-new Secret Origins series, the first issue which hits this week. This new ongoing series features three origins per issue, each twelve pages long, and each by a different creative team.
The first character to have his origin retold is the character that has maybe had his origin retold the most of any superhero known to man, Superman. Grant Morrison, in fact, already revealed Kal-El’s new origin story around the start of the New 52, so this one has more or less been done already. But it’s always a good luck charm to start with Superman (the previous Secret Origins series began with Supes, too, and it ran for fifty issues). Greg Pak handles the writing chores on this one, with Lee Weeks doing the art, and while they don’t really bring anything new to the table here, it’s written and drawn well enough so going through this often-told story isn’t a chore (plus, it’s only twelve pages long; how much of a chore can it be?). I like that Pak emphasized both of Superman’s mothers over his father figures for a change, which is a nice change, although a small one. Considering that the last decade has brought no less than four different versions of Superman’s origin (Mark Waid’s Birthright, Geoff John’s Secret Origin, JMS’ Earth One version, and Morrison’s New 52 take) this could be the last version of this story I really need to see again for a long, long time.
The second story is one that I’d been confused about, and maybe the only significant thing about the Batman mythos to really change: the origin of the original Robin, Dick Grayson. Written by now former Nightwing writer Kyle Higgins, with art by Doug Mahnke, this story stick to the basics of Robin’s origin story – his folks were trapeze artists, the Flying Graysons, killed as part of an extortion attempt towards Haley’s Circus. The only big difference here is that instead of being around twelve years old when all this went down, as he’d been shown to be in the past, Dick Grayson is now about fifteen or sixteen when he becomes Robin, as well as Bruce Wayne’s ward. Considering that in the New 52 continuity, Dick was Robin for maybe a little over a year before being replaced by Jason Todd (and then Tim Drake, and then Damian Wayne…so much happened for Batman in five years), it just changes the dynamic between Dick and Bruce ever so slightly, as Dick was no longer raised by Bruce in the same way, and wasn’t even his partner for very long. Kyle Higgins adds some nice new touches to the origin story, though, like a cool new explanation for why Dick chose the name Robin as his code name, a reason that properly illustrates the way that both Dick and Bruce Wayne are so very different from each other. All things considered, the story is well told enough that I can overlook the changes to Dick’s age.
The final origin story belongs to Supergirl. Interestingly enough, this version of Supergirl was new to the DCU when the New 52 began, so we’ve already seen her origin story play out, but for newbies this is a new recap of the events of the Supergirl series, and showcase the slight differences between this version and the previous one (her mother Allura seems less insane than Kara’s previous iteration’s was). Tony Bedard took on the writing chores for this one, and illustrates the main difference between this version of the character and the last one: This version of Kara is much more alien, and far less comfortable on Earth. The best thing I can say about this story is that artist Paulo Siquira draws Supergirl in a way that I don’t totally hate.
Secret Origins may not be the most hyped new series from DC, but with their continuity being kind of a hot mess after the reboot, it’s a totally necessary one, I’m afraid. There are worse ways to execute it than what was done here, so I’ll definitely be back for more, if only to see how they manage to tell Batman’s origin story for the millionth time and not bore everyone to tears.