Chances are high that “Secret Origins” #1 is not the comic for those familiar with superhero books. That’s not the fault of the writers (Greg Pak, Kyle Higgins, Tony Bedard) or the artists (Lee Weeks, Doug Mahnke, Paulo Siqueira, Sandra Hope, Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy, Hi-Fi), all of whom do their job exactly as they should. Rather, this is a book that’s squarely aimed at those who aren’t familiar with superheroes.
Ultimately, there’s almost nothing new brought to “Secret Origins” #1. Superman’s origin re-establishes that he was already super-strong as a baby (confirming the discarding of the idea that his powers didn’t develop until he’d absorbed enough sunlight). Robin’s origin includes that he bought thoughtful gifts for his family. And Supergirl’s origin at least gives us a little glimpse of her life on Krypton. But on the whole, these are stories by the numbers, hitting all of the points that we’ve heard over and over again.
That’s not a bad thing, though. “Secret Origins” appears to be reaching beyond the regular superhero audience (or even the serialized, single-issue comic audience). Where this will work is once it’s generated enough issues to have a collection or two on bookstore shelves. There, it can serve as outreach for parents buying a good introduction for their kids, or perhaps just a curious reader who wants to jump in but needs a decent starting point. That’s who “Secret Origins” is for, at least based on this first issue. And you know what? That’s fine. Marvel used to have a series of collections with the origins of their various heroes back in the day, and I personally knew quite a few people who got introduced to comic books through them.
To achieve that end, DC’s assembled a perfectly fine group of creators. None of the art is particularly crazy or stylish, but it shouldn’t be, here. We’re talking about artists who have good anatomy for their characters, strong and easy to follow storytelling, and a method that invites rather than scares off potential readers. Weeks, Mahnke and Siqueira are all smart choices for a comic like “Secret Origins.” They’re good artists and they understand the job that’s ahead of them.
Chances are if you’re reading this review, you’re not for whom “Secret Origins” is targeting. You already know all of this. But if you know someone else who’s interested in superheroes? Well, they might be just who this book is for. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was DC’s Free Comic Book Day issue for 2014. That’s not a bad thing at all.