A spectacular must-have one-shot by Geoff Johns, Jerry Ordway, Francis Manapul and more that sees Superboy Prime get the happy ever after he rightfully deserves after years of Johns casting hime s a villain. An apt send off for both Superboy Prime and Johns, and one Hell of an emotional rollercoaster of a ride.
Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Secret Origin #1 could very well be the most essential tie-in book to DC Comics universe-altering super saga and it’s certainly a wonderful swan song for the departing Geoff Johns who goes out with a bang with this sensational issue. And, yes, I am aware that this is down as a co-written by Scott Snyder, but this is most certainly Johns’ issue. Sorry, Scott, for leaving you out of this one, but I’m sure you’ll understand.
We are given an origin story that many long-term DC Comics’ fans will be all too familiar with. And, to be honest, I imagine it’s mainly long-term fans reading Dark Nights: Death Metal given how steeped in DCU lore it is that any hope of new readers picking this series up is slim.
As a side-note and the one critical point I would make about this series is that it doesn’t allow new readers in too easily. Something comic book companies continue to do time and again with such events, even though they claim to want to reel in new readers. Well, I suppose these days DC Comics does have their Middle-Grade and YA publishing program for that. So, have they accepted that floppies are for a very specific demographic and finally thrown in the towel?
But back to this home-run of a comic.
I have long been a Geoff Johns fan, but really struggled with both Doomsday Clock and Batman: The Three Jokers. But here, John one again shows this reader why I enjoyed his long run at DC Comics that sadly is up. So, it’s great to see him be allowed to play with the toys one more time, and in particular Superboy Prime, who he made so much his own over the years.
Essentially this one-shot is a drawn out battle between The Batman Who Laughs and Superboy Prime, but with a wholly appropriate sentimental payoff at the end. Unloved and untrusted by his fellow multiverses Supermen, one imagines Superboy Prime to once again lose it in dramatic and damaging fashion, only for man’s best friend to be the calming influence. That’s right, Krypto comes comes to the rescue! Who would have seen that one coming, right?
On one level this is the story of Superboy Prime’s return to the DCU. A character whom in Geoff Johns’ hands became a walking, talking metacommentary on a particularly toxic kidult sector of the comic book buying public. And here again, Johns is making use of Superboy Prime in a very similar metatextual way. One feels that this is a far more personal story for Johns than any others he has scripted in recent years. His way of putting the toys back in the box and resolving the headache Superboy Prime has felt ever since his return from his post-Crisis on Infinite Earths exile courtesy of Johns.
In giving this Clark Kent a well deserved happy ever after – after all, in this new DCU where every story counts – Johns seems to be making peace with DC Comics at the same time through Superboy Prime’s presentation here.
He is wonderfully depicted throughout this one-shot as a sympathetic character who you really do want to root for, despite yourself. That’s the power of Johns when he’s on top form. And a reminded in just one issue of what DC Comics is losing. Well, for now anyway, There is always that Batman: The Three Jokers sequel, right?
In including veteran artist Jerry Ordway to illustrated the opening and closing chapters in this “secret origin” Johns brilliantly harkens back to the mid-80s when Ordway was in his ascendence on All-Star Squadron, Infinity Inc. and, of course, as one of the inkers on Crisis on Infinite Earths too. A great bit of casting on Johns part, which is then expertly contrasting with the more contemporary art of Francis Manapul. The other stand-out artists star of this artists’ assortment. Unfortunately, after witnessing two stellar talents, the other artists involved do pale in comparison. Great in their own right – don’t get me wrong – but when placed next to theses two, anyone would struggle to shine.
Oh, and above all else, the battle between Superboy and The Batman Who Laughs will have huge consequences for the series’ finale too. So, it may well be worth picking up juts for that. But, I imagine, many readers will be buying it as a reminder of the motive power of comics. This may be too late to make out ‘Best Single Issue of the Year’ list, but it’s certainly makes my own personal list. And, John certainly delivers an ending that is both a homage to the past, a moment of optimistic hope and a chance for other writes to make use of Superboy Prime in the future, should there were want to. But, for me, I hope he stays exactly as he is presented on the last page of this outstanding one-off special.
A heart-warming, emotional letter from Johns to the fans, and a must for all DC fans!
Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Secret Origin #1 is out now rom DC Comics