Featuring Origin Stories for Batgirl, Firestorm, and Poison Ivy

Sandwiched between the Batgirl and Poison Ivy stories in this 10th issue of Secret Origins is an origin for Firestorm from the team of writer Dan Jurgens and artist Sean Chen. I know very little about this character (basically what I could run a search through DC’s wiki), but I don’t find the duo that makes up the character particularly interesting (he’s definitely not my sort of thing). The story is rendered beautifully, though (and done in that collage-style that many of these origins have featured), so if you like Firestorm you might enjoy revisiting his beginnings in this piece. Otherwise, you will be like me: having bought the issue for the Bat-related content while paying extra for a story in which you weren’t interested. It’s good to try new things, though, so, okay, I read it, but it didn’t really do anything to spark an investment in reading more.

And maybe that’s the ultimate marketing goal of these origin comics: to get people interested in DCU characters and stories they might not otherwise pick up, but in general I think other formats are better for that (like The Brave and the Bold was back in the day or Weird Western Tales). These were books with a variety of stand-alone stories with varying characters (any one of which might pique your interest and get you invested in a regular series). Origin stories don’t really leave readers begging for more. Either you see the character and how they came to be and you like the design or the personality and want to see where they’re going, or you dismiss them. This series in particular has consistently focused on top-selling characters already for the most part, so that seems to defeat that part of the purpose anyway.

What we’re left with is a series largely for comic-book completists and the casual reader, which keeps the content pretty low key (and therefore robs it of any real impact for the most part). The Batgirl story challenges that a bit in this book (or tries to), however, so let’s take a closer look at the Bat-related content:

“The Algorithm”

Featuring Batgirl

Readers who are not following Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher’s current run on the “new” Batgirl (starting with issue no. 35) may find this origin story a puzzling frustration. It’s not so much an origin of Batgirl as it is an origin of Batgirl’s sentient mind-scanned algorithm, with whom we were finally formally introduced in Batgirl no. 39. The question this story raises, of course, is which is the real Batgirl? The tween-wannabe child many have been complaining about since the “reboot”? Or this machine whose memories are not linked with the physical Barbara Gordon beyond the moment of installation for the experimental implant which healed her spinal injury.

I found this story very compelling because of the questions it raises, but it’s definitely not the origin most people would have expected and it really does leave you with more riddles than solutions.

Irene Koh’s art feels a little flat in the telling as well. It serviceably renders the necessary scenes, but characters feel off-model and even though the action scenes are generally nice, most of the talking heads are composed in the same two-point perspective throughout: a style that doesn’t always work for a comic book character who usually is shown with more emphasis on dynamism. There are some very nice moments, however, and Stewart and Fletcher allow the pictures to carry the story in a way that feels much less constricted than the writing in the regular Batgirl series.

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What a great visual sequence: no ham-fists here!

“Green Savior”

Featuring Poison Ivy

I’m a fan of Stjepan Seijic’s art and Pamela Isley as a subject is a great one to show off his talents. His sometimes wishy-washy environments are not for everybody, but he renders his women with pin-up precision and beauty. Rather than a straight origin, Christy Marx writes a tale of Dr. Isley going up against Descanto, a herbicide-toting big corporation ruining the lives of independent organic farmers. There’s a page of Ivy recounting her childhood (which was explored in depth during that “woe is me” villain children’s month last year), but the action otherwise is generally focused on this single predictable confrontation. Nothing really surprising, but it’s nice to look at and better than just a straightforward A-to-B origin, so points for that.

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Nice touch keeping her hair up until the big transformation

The Good

Storywise, Batgirl is the high point of this book even though I wish a different artist had been chosen for that particular piece. Stylistically it’s definitely in keeping with what appears to be an attempt at drawing in that younger crowd, so I can see what the editors were going for. The lovely full-page pin-up of Ivy coiling among her plants is the high point of the Poison Ivy story, which is less of a story and more of a vignette, really. I don’t mind that, though. I enjoyed it for what it was.

The Bad

Nothing stands out as remarkably bad here; this is a serviceable book for people interested in these specific characters or are new to the DCU. The Firestorm story feels like the most straight-up origin story out of the three and it also has the nicest “house-style” comic art in the whole book.

The Ugly

Nothing really ugly here. If you’re not into origins, this is totally skippable. Otherwise, it’s a mildly interesting distraction.

Recommended If…

  • You’re reading the current run on Batgirl and want to see things from a different perspective
  • You’re a big fan of Poison Ivy and want to see her slink around like a horny vine.
  • You like Firestorm or are a fan of Sean Chen’s art (which, again, is the best of the art in this book).

Overall

These Secret Origins stories are coming to an end and it’s probably just as well. Sometimes the writers have managed fresh new ways of telling old stories, or, in the case of this month’s Batgirl origin, tell a whole new story that actually ties-in or supports the current action of the regular series. Overall it’s felt a little more miss than hit to me over the course of the series, but this issue was pretty solid even though I wish a different artist had been chosen for the Batgirl tale.

SCORE: 6.5/10