I haven’t been paying much attention to the Secret Origins comic. For the most part, it’s been just retelling origins we already know for characters we’re very familiar with (like Batman and Superman).
I was hoping to hear origins stories about lesser known heroes or villains; characters like say, Zatanna or Cheetah for example. Now, I’m checking out this issue in particular because it’s focusing on characters that I do like a lot (even though I know their tales already) and because I like the writers. This issue is the most promising the comic has been since it was released, so let’s give it a shot. Is it good?
Secret Origins #4 (DC Comics)
There are three separate stories in this comic, so let’s take a look at each of them one at a time here:
In this tale, Harley Quinn is conveying her backstory to a live audience of what appears to be super villains. She talks about her teenage years and her passion for criminology, what led her to working at Arkham, and more. Basically, all of that fun jazz, minus blowing up tons of children like she did in her Villain’s Month issue (which was sorely unneeded).
We don’t really learn anything new or get any new takes on Harley’s origin story except for two points: seeing her first crush and how that has affected her on some level to this day (which is interesting) and the conclusion she reaches at the end of the story about how she’s her own person now.
Stephane Roux returns for art duties and brings the usual level of quality with his work, from his characters to his sense of goofiness with the character.
The narration, pacing, and other writing elements by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti are good here too. My only real problem here is that the story is missing something that the Harley Quinn series normally has: humor. It’s a straightforward, serious story that doesn’t have any real laughs or jokes to it like you might expect, especially since Conner and Palmoitti wrote it. It feels like a missed opportunity to me to give the tale some extra flavor.
Yeah! How else do you explain all this blood on my machete you silly girl?
This story is told by an unknown and all-seeing narrator, who relates the life of Oliver Queen from his days as a kid to the present day. It basically recaps his past, lots of the points that are brought up during Lemire’s run, and not much else. All in all, this origin story offers up nothing new in terms of surprises, backstory, or even a new take on things. It’s basically everything you know about Oliver’s past if you have been reading Lemire’s run told in about ten pages.
Writing-wise, there’s nothing particularly wrong with it. Lemire paces the story perfectly fine, the narration is alright (very overdramatic though), the story structure is decent, and all of that jazz.
The artwork by Denys Cowan, who did the backup story in the Green Arrow Zero Year special, is alright as well. I’m not too big into his very scratchy sort of style, but it’s fine overall and I do like colorist Marcelo Maiolo, who incorporates a lot of his style into the artwork. Overall though? This is a pretty underwhelming tale.
Didn’t we see this back in December or something?
Robin AKA Damian Wayne
This one takes place somewhere between Batman: RIP and Batman and Robin (I’m pretty sure anyways). It’s a little bit of Damian’s origin mixed with the origin of Dick and Damian becoming Batman and Robin respectively as well. Unfortunately, it feels incredibly rushed in its execution, the continuity feels very messy, and the origin of Damian is pretty poorly told here. It’s a rushed recap with little depth or emotion and it feels really dull after getting his origin only a week ago in Robin Rises: Omega. There’s nothing new learned here, so it feels like a waste of time.
The writing here is pretty poor as well. Characters don’t feel very accurately portrayed, especially Alfred; it feels like a mess in terms of pacing and structure since when it begins; you really don’t have any idea of when this story is supposed to take place; and again, everything is so rushed. Dialogue is clunky at points and lackluster. I do sort of like the ending with how it directly leads into the opening of Batman and Robin, but that’s about it.
Then there is the artwork, which really sucks the life out of the story even more. It’s by Ian Bertram (he did that Batman Eternal issue a while ago that also looked lackluster) and he doesn’t help the comic remotely. Every character looks incredibly creepy with their gigantic eyes, oddly shaped heads, weird body structures and musculature; blood looks more like ink or goo; moments where its trying to be serious come off being incredibly goofy looking; backgrounds are often blank voids, and the action and perspectives are just wonky looking. This guy’s artwork is so not suited for anything Batman related.
Man, he just kicked the ink out of them, didn’t he?
Is It Good?
Secret Origins #4 is a mediocre, boring, and most importantly, disappointing comic. There’s a lot of potential with these writers getting to do origin tales or having the opportunity to expand further on the characters they love. However, just about every origin tale has been done already with nothing new to offer, the writing was often boring, and artwork ranged from good to downright hideous. I was so excited about this issue but it offered nothing of value to justify the $5 price tag. Skip it.