Dave Galanter
December 1st 1969 - December 12th 2020
He was loved.

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Location: Lancashire
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 40,337
Subj: Death Metal:The Secret Origin #1 [Superboy-Prime]
Posted: Sat Dec 26, 2020 at 08:43:37 am CST (Viewed 113 times)

"I've Seen Everyone Die And Come Back So Many Times Now. Some, I Know I Killed Myself... But They Got Rebooted, So... What Does It Matter?
What Does Anything Matter Anymore?"."
- Superboy-Prime

Lord knows how 'Death Metal' got itself through the commissioning process, indeed lord knows how many of todays grandiose huge never-ending event storylines make it past the editorial and publisher steps to end up filling the shelves and solicits, but here we are with Scott Snyder's entry into the field, still rumbling onwards, still an inpenetrable mess to anyone looking in on it, and still not even remotely impressing me with anything other than its own self-irrelevance.

But. I came across a brief article on Death Metal:The Secret Origin #1, promising to be some sort of closure to the ongoing parody of the extreme end of online comicbook fans that was created and presented by Geoff Johns back in 2006, and has been a one-note joke of a character ever since.
I have some small interest in this character as I am old enough to have been there for that 'DC Comics Presents' issue he debuted in, a strange story that was too. DC Comics Presents by that time was a title long past its best, a cobbled together team-up series that had little in the way of an ordered house-style to it, and was attracting increasingly random and uninterested creators to work on it.

DC Comics Presents #86 was an odd entry, a 'Crisis' crossover introducing us to an everyday american teenager who just happened to share the same name with the legendary comicbook character - Superman. Young Clark Kent is (so he believes) not an alien from another planet, he has no powers, Superman is just a fictional character whom his parents name him after for reasons that will become perhaps a little more clear as he learns more of his adopted origins... but it was all rather empty and unnecessary as a tale. The previous entry in the series had been Alan Moore and Rick Veitch's unforgettable entry with Swamp Thing. The subsequent issue with Supergirl would be another memorable and action-packed event with Paul Kupperberg and Rik Hoberg impressing us (as Moore and Veitch did) with just what wonders could be achieved with just 22 pages to tell a self-contained story in. But Superboy, sandwiched in-between the two here? Completely forgettable. I can never even remember who wrote and drew it...

But I do remember it. To some extent.

Brought by Scott Snyder, Geoff Johns, Francis Manapul, Paul Pelletier, and Jerry Ordway Death Metal:The Secret Origin #1 appears to offer a final farewell to the painful (for both he and his readers) journey of this alternate version of Clark Kent. It isn't the first time Geoff Johns attempted closure on him, but whatever happened to negate that particular 'Happily-Ever-After...' I don't remember either. This month both Scott Snyder and Geoff Johns take another stab at looking at the character, and trying to inject something into him by way of allowing for a partial redemption once again. As the tale opens we have the chaos of the war against 'The Batman Who Laughs', I don't read this event-series so have no idea what is going on. Fittingly though Superboy-Prime has only a slightly better grasp than I do, and as we follow his inner-monologue there is some satisfaction to be had here as the story makes use of his origins on Earth-Prime to allow for a good deal of 4th-wall commentary on the state of comics at the moment and the utter unfriendliness of their presentation at the moment. As we switch back to 1985 and a younf Clark kent at a comicbook store reading the months DC Comics, a copy of Superman #398 in hand dating it beutifully, we can perhaps see something of ourselves in him at that time. Awkward, Shy, lacking in self-confidence, and being exposed to a world in his comicbooks of impossible ideals and courage from fictional characters that we struggle to emulate and rise to.

Jerry Ordways work here is as you expect from this hugely talented and overlooked professional, Clark Kent's world is rendered in detail and has a reality to it, while Francis Manapul's rendering of Clark's present, in the midst of this chaos with 'The Batman Who Laughs', is unreal cartoon villainy. The contrast and use of these two artists shows some thought has been put into this book by the editors, as as we follow the story of Clark Kent here what we will see is a story of what could happen to a youngster if his fantasies came true. And the reality of those fantasies was in fact an horrific sequence of events that not only literally destroy everything you ever knew, but left you inhabiting unreality. Clark kent here goes from a normal life, as an awkward teen struggling to find his place in the world around him, to being the ultimate Alien. Not just a last survivor of a Krypton he never knew, but last survivor of reality as he understood it. It is a powerful idea when laid out as it is here.

Through it all there is his pain. And his lost reality that is his love for Laurie. And as he receives unexpected comfort from the non-judgemental Krypto even the bitter twisted heart of Superboy-Prime can be touched finally as he reflects on his journey and the unreality he has arrived in as he looks around him and sees faces he had once brutally killed in his thoughtlessness are now up and running about once again thanks to 'reboots' - nothing means anything. He is a man from another world and he recognises that none of this means anything. It is a comicbook he is trapped in.

And this is the meta-physical world in which Geoff Johns has long ground the character in, a young man who came from a world where all of this was fiction. In a tale that examines both the very personal torment of feeling complete alienation from all around you, and moving to the nature of DC Comics and the unreality that it peddles as a company. Superboy-Prime is proved an interesting character in a way as he perhaps mirrors the frustrations of the longtime DC Comics readers, enduring the regular rebooting of the thing he increasingly struggles to comprehend or enjoy, and living though reams of increasingly shallow and dark material that is simply no entertainment whatsoever.
And so as the tale reaches its final pages and Clark Kent returns to reality Geoff Johns and Jerry Ordway take the opportunity to be 'God' and deliver a 'Happily Ever After...' to this once innocent, but incredibly abused metaphor for both DC Comics and its longtime readers, and they give Clark not just some peace once more, but the chance to demonstrate that selflessness and heroism are both things which he himself is well capable of demonstrating and perhaps even embodying, as on those final three pages we follow a simple scene that might have come from any Earth-1 Clark kent/Superboy adventure... \(coffee\)

None of this is me offering this read as a recommendation. Whether you would gain any enjoyment out of it might depend on your personal feelings to the one-note character that is Superboy-Prime, it might depend on your apathy to Scott Snyders' Dark Metal indulgence, or it might just not appeal to you full stop.
But in its defence it does boast some top talent working on it, and they all complement the other and serve the story being told extremely well. Paul Pelletier and Francis Manapul's styles contrast the measured discipline of Jerry Ordways typically strong, beautiful work, while Geoff Johns delivers a surprisingly human take on just what forces have shaped the extreme behaviour of this Clark Kent, and what seperates 'Clark Kent' from the monstrous Superboy-Prime he became. By playing with DC'S comicbook conventions he does end the tale with a philosophical message to both readers and Clark Kent here, and it is in that that the book does succeed in delivering something of worth and also a meaningful end to the long and painful journey of Clark Kent - the Superboy of Earth-Prime.

In as much as anything this is a story about the twisted and dark path of DC Comics as it is about Superboy-Prime...

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