Secret Origins #8

So I’m filling in for Elena on Secret Origins this month, and I couldn’t be more excited, because it gives me the opportunity to write about Dick Grayson AND Katana! Katana was no longer part of the Birds of Prey by the time I had taken over that book, and her re-imagining for the New 52 was so kick ass that it disappointed me a little. I know Nocenti is writing her origin, so that’s a downer, but it is nice to see her with some more exposure again.

The interesting situation I find myself in with this review, is that I’m essentially review three separate issues, all of which are written at three separate levels. So how do you grade a book overall when there are drastic differences? Well, I still haven’t completely decided, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out before I finish this review.  Let’s get this trio of origins started as they appear in the book!

Dick Grayson: “The Candidate”
Written by Tim Seeley
Story by Tim Seeley & Tom King
Art by Stephen Mooney

Let’s just get right to it, this book is worth picking up because of this story alone. Yes, this is Dick Grayson’s origin story showcasing how he joined Spiral, but every bit of it is told from Helena Bertinelli’s perspective. If you read my Catwoman Annual #2 review, then you probably knew this was coming, but this is a great technique for story telling! Despite the fact that over half of the story is spent summarizing Dick’s past, Seeley still manages to make the story feel fresh and new. How? Because he introduces new information and ideas.

I’m not going to give anything away in terms of plot, but there is quite a bit that can be left up to interpretation regarding Helena and her motivations. After reading one of the previous issues of Grayson, I found myself wondering if Helena was building trust with Dick to prove he’s the spy within their ranks. After reading this, part of me wonders if Helena is actually a spy as well, and is just building the trust of Minos.

The art was decent, but not great. There were some wonderful spreads that had another artist drawn them, they would’ve been spectacular! They definitely would have been worthy of wall hanging… Again, the art wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t as great as I would’ve liked it to have been.

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In total, this story serves as a great addition to the main title! I hope it gets included in the Grayson trade because it deserves to be there. The tone, the pacing, the ability to rehash a story we all know and make it interesting and fresh… these aren’t easy tasks to complete, but Seeley and King did so with flying colors.

Animal Man: “Animal Man”
Written by Jeff Lemire and Duffy Boudreau
Art by Travel Foreman

This is going to be brief. I’m sorry to say that I’m not familiar with Animal Man, and I’ve never read any Animal Man books, so I feel a little unqualified to provide any type of critique. I’ve heard wonderful things about the title – especially back when DC cancelled it – and I was hoping that reading his origin would spark an interest for me to pick up some trades… But unfortunately, it didn’t.

This origin story felt more like a recap of the title before it was cancelled, and then was presented in a way to try and promote Justice League United. It almost felt like an excuse to explain why Animal Man is relevant for that team… I really wanted this to grab my attention, and while I didn’t think it was bad by any means, I didn’t walk away desiring to read Animal Man. If anything, it made me slightly hesitant.

But before you potentially murder me, I want to repeat that I don’t know anything about this character. So sound off in the comments if you’re a fan. Let me know what you thought, and let me know if this was or wasn’t a good interpretation of the character and the book.

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Katana: “Full Deck”
Written by Ann NOcenti
Art by Roger Robinson

It pains me that Ann Nocenti covered writing duties for this. It pains me even more that Nocenti helmed the Katana mini-series. I know people weren’t too impressed with his run on Birds of Prey, but I wish Duane Swierczynski would’ve covered all of Katana’s solo titles. He made Katana more relevant and cool than anyone had managed to do previously, and I can only imagine that his attempts at writing her solo appearances would’ve been kick ass! But alas, it was Nocenti instead – the writer all DC characters should fear…

To be fair to Nocenti, her Katana mini-series was much better than anything she ever produced for Catwoman. I felt like a large reason for this is that Ann Nocenti appears to be a pretty intelligent woman. She seems to have a good grasp of history, and carries a decently broad understanding of various cultures. All of these aspects play well into her writing for Katana, but then you run into that pesky little problem… She’s not a good writer…

This glimpse into Katana’s origin feels like it was intended to be the ending of Nocenti’s Katana mini-series that was cut by the editor, and now Nocenti is just throwing in two to three pages about Katana as a young girl to consider it an origin story. It literally picks up following the events of Katana, as Katana leads Mona Shard, the evil spirit that served as one of the antagonists from the mini-series, through an old, abandoned, western town called Gallowstown. The two verbally go back and forth as Mona Shard challenges what Katana is capable of since Shard is currently inhabiting a young girl.

Katana recants a story of a ghost train that she witnessed as a child while trying to collect weapon cards (think Pokemon cards, but with weapons instead of creatures). It was on that train that she received the Soul Taker card, and it essentially set her life in motion for her to become who she is now, with the guidance of a sensei. Nocenti ties both stories together, but it still feels like random ideas that were thrown up on a wall, and selected randomly.

Considering this was written by Nocenti, I feel like saying it wasn’t that bad. But comparing to other standards, it was pretty bad. If you haven’t read Katana then you’re going to feel like you’re missing something… mainly because you are. If you’re considering picking up this issue because you’re mainly interested in Katana, I wouldn’t recommend it.

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Recommended if:

  • You’re currently reading Grayson
  • You’re curious about Animal Man or Justice League United
  • You want to see the mess Nocenti made of Katana after Birds of Prey and Justice League of America

If this book just featured the Grayson story, I would give it an 8/10. But since there are two other stories that didn’t really catch my attention, I have to give this a

SCORE: 6.5/ 10