My steady look at Secret Origins continues–though I have to admit here that I’m not picking one up the minute I put another one down and take breaks or read something else between them–and here we have newer, updated origins for characters that I, at best, was only ever marginally interested in: The Spectre, Deadman, The Creeper, and The Golden Age Green Lantern.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like those characters, it’s just that with the exception of maybe the four-issue Deadman miniseriers that I covered earlier this year, I really have never gone out of my way to read stories about them.
The writers on these two comics are Roy Thomas (who tackles The Spectre and Green Lantern) and Andrew Helfer (who writes The Creeper and Deadman). Thomas does what he has been doing since this title started, which is taking the classic origins and literally expanding on them, meaning that he is adapting their source material. In some places it’s tedious, but for the most part, I find this to be a really good companion to works like The History of the DC Universe, especially since Thomas has such a love for the source material and curates it the way he does.
The Green Lantern story is the better of the two Golden Age origins. There are times when George Freeman’s art reminds me of some of the better Golden Age art that I’ve seen, and there are times when it’s really wonky, especially his characters’ faces. Still, Freeman adds the necessary detail to a very tightly packed story. Thomas ties the Green Flame of Alan Scott’s lamp to the Green Lantern Corps by having it be the side effects of the Guardians of the Universe’s attempts to banish magic from the universe. It’s a skillfully done retcon that works because of its simplicity. And the story has a fair amount of action in it with a climax at the 1939-1940 World’s Fair, a place I recognized from old issues of All-Star Squadron.
Thomas’ retelling of the Jerry Seigel and Bernard Bailey origin of The Spectre was one that I skimmed rather than read. Michael T. Gilbert (who has only a few DC credits and mostly independent credits) handled the art and while it’s not terrible, it’s an overdone, caricaturist style that is distracting.
Thankfully, the Deadman story in the same issue is the better story; Helfer has a familiarity with the character, having written the four-issue miniseries from 1986 and the art is by Kevin Maguire and Dick Giordano. Maguire was two issues into his run on the Bwah-ha-ha era Justice League and I really like how Giordano adds a darkness to Maguire’s pencils. The story has the same feel as the miniseries and Maguire and Giordano do an oustanding job following up on Jose Luis Garcia Lopez (praised be his name). On the Creeper story, Keith Giffen is on art and that makes the origin of a character I never really got (Is he a hero? Is he a villain? Is he both?) and while we get a clear origin, I can understand why he never really took off aside from being a weird guest star from time to time.
I know that Roy Thomas’ run as writer/editor ends at some point in the next or two of issues and Mark Waid takes over as editor. I’ve read a few of those and those are good as well, so I am really looking forward to working my way through the rest of what I have.
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