Secret Origins #5 (Comics Review)

A couple weeks back I read my first issue of Secret Origins, an anthology series where each issue is full of the 3 origin tales of various DC superheroes and supervillains. Focusing on Wonder Woman, Deadman and Sinestro, Secret Origins #6 was a really good issue and it made me want to read more of the series. Since there’s no continuity between these various issues, I can pretty much cherry-pick which one I want to read and when, which really helps in that I don’t have to catch up to the backlog of five issues already out in order of chronology or publication.

For this week I went back to August’s issue, Secret Origins #5, which tells the origins of Victor Stone aka Cyborg, Jason Todd aka Red Hood and Mera, the Queen of Atlantis and Aquaman’s wife. While the first story is pretty much a rehash of what happened in Geoff Johns’ first arc of Justice League, it tells of some new details and is decent enough. The second story is rather bland and boring, being little more than a long recap of Jason Todd’s time as Robin and now Red Hood. The third story however, with Mera in her time as the Princess of Xebel, is pretty solid, in both art and writing, and I really enjoyed that one.

Marve Wolfman is tasked with retelling the New 52 origins of Cyborg and like I said, much of this short story is a rehash of events we’ve already seen happen, so the impact isn’t quite while I’d hoped it would be. I had wondered, when picking this title, how the story would be told, and so the expectations are met in a way. Thankfully, Marv Wolfman still keeps things rather interesting on the whole and he also shows some different sides to both Victor and his father Dr. Stone, and he plays with both the past and the present of both characters, to show how they’ve evolved their relationship since Victor’s… rebirth. In essence, I think this is also a stronger story than Geoff told, though his isn’t without merit either, and was limited by the demands of the larger story he had to tell. Both have their place and they work well with each other, so no complaints here. Besides, Marv created the character with George Perez in the first place, so kind of makes sense that his portrayal would be so spot-on.

Edgar Salazar is the penciller here with Jay Leisten on inks, Thomas Mason on colours and Dave Sharpe on the letters. On the whole, I really liked the artwork here. Victor and Dr. Stone often look as if they are screaming and what not, which makes sense given the script, but it locked the characters in a portrayal that I didn’t like so much. The rest of the artwork is pretty cool, pretty chill-out you could say, and I liked the scenes where Edgar, Jay and Thomas redid Victor’s origin as Cyborg in Dr. Stone’s labs, so its not all scream-and-gloom.

The second story retells Jason Todd’s time as Robin and then Red Hood, written by Scott Lobdell. As with most of Scott Lobdell’s work I’ve read to date, this story is an absolute let down. In Secret Origins #6, Cullen Bunn told the story of Thaal Sinestro from when he was just a regular Korugarian to when he joined the Green Lantern Corps and then later went on to become one of the greatest cosmic villains in the DCU. It was a story paced well and with a focus on the inner workings of the character. Lobdell’s story is very similar and is just a poor man’s version of it. It is hard to sympathize with a character when you really don’t get a sense of his motivations and his driving forces. Lobdell’s story hits the character’s main beats over the years but doesn’t layer it in an emotional context that the reader can connect with.

The story is drawn by Jack Herbert, with inks by Vicente Cifuentes, colours by Pete Pantazis and letters by Taylor Esposito. The artwork here is interesting, but too much of it just flows under the radar as lackluster. Some heavy inking in a lot of the pages means that details get hidden every now and then. Alfred’s overly broad face. Jason’s almost-Asian looking face which was confusing as hell. Jason fainting backwards when he crawls out of his crypt. Jason staring at Talia’s chest in a later scene. Really weird stuff.

The final story, and the best of the three, is the origin of Mera. Or rather, it is the story of how she exited Xebel and met Arthur for the first time. Ever since Aquaman #1 I’ve wondered how the two of them met, how they became romantically-entangled, and how Mera’s life was before she was with Arthur. Jeff Parker’s excellent story pulls out all the stops on these questions to deliver the story of a strong-willed and capable hero who is defined by her past and her present. I really enjoyed Jeff Parker’s take on Mera’s origins, and the brief look we get at her life before she met Arthur, of seeing her father King Ryus and the eternal jerk Nereus who came to rule Xebel after her father’s death. Really great stuff that will undoubtedly answer some of the questions raised during Geoff’s run on Aquaman and now under Jeff’s run on the title.

The artist on this one is Daniel Hdr, with colours by Guy Major and letters by Taylor Esposito. One of the great things about this issue is the underwater visuals, which are done really, really well. Mera’s various water constructs are definitely among the highlights, as are the scenes involving Arthur saving a bunch of dolphins. Just seeing a younger Aquaman in general was a great moment. Great colours, focusing on how the story is light-hearted and easy-going despite Mera’s mission to kill Arthur. Loved it all.

Not a bad anthology this time around, but the first two could have definitely used some more work, especially the middle one, which was almost lazy. Still, Jeff Parker came out trumps, and it was nice to see such a different side to Mera.

Rating: 8/10

More Secret Origins: #6.

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