Top critical review
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Unoriginal but ok
on 11 November 2012
This is the not-so secret origin story of the most famous superhero of them all, Superman. Geoff Johns runs through Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman's life story from his humble beginnings in Smallville, Kansas, growing up on the farm of Jonathan and Martha Kent, slowly realising his powers and alien ancestry as he becomes older, and meeting Lex Luthor for the first time, to his tentative first steps in Metropolis as he gets a job at The Daily Planet newspaper and meets the love of his life, Lois Lane.
If you're a Superman fan this is all familiar territory. In fact, this is the big problem with the book: it doesn't need to exist. The origin story has been told so many times before, doing it again feels pointless. I feel that if you're going to rehash the same story one more time, the writer ought to bring something new to the table, provide a different slant on the tale, but Geoff Johns doesn't do this. This is the definitive Superman story as it's been told in many books before. It's so familiar, even those people who've never read a Superman book could probably tell it to you.
And all of the characters behave as you would expect: Clark is clumsy, Superman is noble and heroic, Lois is independent and beautiful, Jonathan and Martha are the perfect parents, Perry White is gregarious, Jimmy Olson is the eager to please kid who's Superman's buddy, Lex is evil. They're all so one dimensional and unsurprising it's boring to read. Like from the first panel, Lex is instantly evil and muttering darkly about his plans for world domination like a Bond villain. The character treatments just feel rote.
Which isn't to say the book is a total dud. Johns is a talented writer who completely understands the iconic character and writes his voice perfectly, as he does Lois', and artist Gary Frank provides outstanding artwork throughout (even if he does make the questionable choice of making Christopher Reeve his model in this book - the visual is just too distracting).
If you're new to Superman books or looking for a book to introduce the character to someone unfamiliar with him, this is the perfect book to begin with. If however you've read a few Superman books, chances are you'll find little here you've not read before in one volume or another. Personally, I found "Secret Origin" to be decently written and well illustrated but was a disappointingly flat and uninspired read.