Review: DC Universe: Origins trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, March 22, 2010

[This guest review comes from Derek Roper]

Since I’m not a novice to the DC Universe, the DC Universe: Origins trade doesn’t do much for me; I only bought it because I’m a Secret Six collector and liked that they streamlined the origin of some of the characters. I do recommend it, however, as a gift to someone who is thinking about crossing over from Marvel to DC or getting back into comics after a long hiatus.


The trade features the origins of practically everybody, from Adam Strange to Zatanna; every reader should find a favorite inside. These origins were backup features in 52 and Countdown and were omitted from the trades that actually collected the series, so this is a nice companion to those trades.
But it doesn’t cover every last character in the DCU [Maybe that's for the coming Who's Who -- ed.] and I think the origins of characters like Beast Boy could have been left out for other stars more prominent in 52 and Countdown like Mary Marvel and maybe the Deep Six (as a memorial).


In many ways, however, Origins only serves to show how fractured the DC Universe continues to be. Mark Waid and Howard Chaykin write and draw respectively the origin of Black Canary; it begins, incongruously, with “Not many super-hero careers are motivated by a need to annoy your mom.” Longtime fans know Black Canary did not take up the mantle to annoy her mother; she took it up because she heard her mother and uncles telling stories of their Justice Society of America experiences. And later, in the book's take on the first meeting between the Justice League and Justice Society, Black Canary Senior isn't even shown. It's possible that these are reboots, but not ones addressed elsewhere and not ones that uplifts the characters.


Similarly, I found it both interesting and confusing that Nightwing Dick Grayson apparently has an encounter with a Monitor from Crisis on Infinite Earths, who revealed he was supposed to die in Infinite Crisis. The Monitors come off too much like editor’s brackets, and all the business about Superboy Prime punching through walls and changing history, and Mr. Mind morphing into a “Hyper-Fly” and eating its way through worlds, leaves one wondering why any of it was necessary in the first place.


The Countdown heavily featured the New Gods, but Origins doesn’t reflect that. Darkseid and Desaad have their time to shine in the book, but Mr. Miracle, Orion and the rest of the gang don’t get a mention; although the late Big Barda is shown in the origins of the Birds of Prey. In multiple interviews, Grant Morrison said the events of Countdown diverged from Final Crisis -- so while these origins are entertaining, the material collected in this volume doesn’t necessarily reflect what happens in Final Crisis, or really lead up to the current status quo of the DC Universe.

On the other hand, one of the more entertaining origins is the Joker. Here, the book presents the reader with three possible origins, leaving the mystique to the Joker intact. It adds to Joker’s character because it could be one of those origins or it could be none and just a manifestation of his insanity. I also appreciated that Harley Quinn's bio is written by Bruce Timm, one of her creators, and that Poison Ivy appears in Harley's bio and vice versa; it's all a nice introduction to Gotham City Sirens before that book's first trade hits the stands in April.

The cover is nicely painted by Alex Ross and features DC's Big Seven Justice Leaguers running into battle -- though, unfortunately, it's a recycled cover to the giant sized JLA: Liberty and Justice book that was released in 2003. DC Universe: Origins might be a good introductory book for a new fan, but if you have some experience in the DC Universe, you might feel like you've seen a lot of this before, right from the cover and through to the last page.
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2 comments:

  1. Regarding Black Canary: On the contrary. Looong time readers will know that Black Canary IS the same character as was in the JSA. In the late sixties she moved from Earth-2 to Earth-1. The daughter-of origin was a ret-con to adjust for the growing age difference between her and Green Arrow. But by now even being BC's daughter creates a huge age difference. She couldn't have been both later than 1960 if her mother was 20 in 1940. So BC jr would be 50 years old! Granddaughter anyone?

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  2. Well, it's a weird situation on many fronts. I think Derek is talking about an image of the first JLA/JSA meeting, which is indeed out of continuity, but at the time featured Black Canary the Original/Senior. So there ought have been some Black Canary in that picture, even though *who* that person is is up for debate. At least, I think that's the situation.

    Maybe Mark Waid established in JLA: Year One that Black Canary (junior) took up the mantle to annoy her mother, but I don't think that's the popular logic any more.

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