Best Shots review - Dark Nights: Death Metal - The Secret Origin #1 gives fans "the final rehabilitation of Superboy-Prime"

Dark Nights: Death Metal - The Secret Origin #1
(Image credit: DC)

"What does anything matter anymore?" Scott Snyder and Geoff Johns enlist an all-star team of artists to answer that very question through this personal exploration of the misguided Clark Kent of Earth-Prime. From its expanded retelling of DC Presents #47 to its final homage to the cover of Action Comics #1, Dark Nights: Death Metal - The Secret Origin #1 immerses itself in history.

Dark Nights: Death Metal - The Secret Origin #1 credits

Written by Scott Snyder and Geoff Johns
Art by Jerry Ordway, Francis Manapul, Ryan Benjamin and Richard Friend, Paul Pelletier and Norm Rapmund. HI-FI, Ian Herring, Rain Beredo, and Adriano Lucas
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Snyder and Johns immediately focus on the early life of Superboy-Prime, painting him as a bullied comic book nerd living the good life with his childhood sweetheart. Jerry Ordway redraws Curt Swan and Al Williamson's panels from DC Presents #46 with a slavish devotion in these first six pages, making for a loving and enhanced retelling of the original material.

(Image credit: DC)

It seems somewhat strange to be getting a sensitive character study under the Death Metal label, but it makes for a refreshing change of pace. Snyder and Johns have set out here to write THE Superboy-Prime story, and in doing so they've written a Comic Book Guy story that should seem familiar to a certain type of enthusiast. He's petty and childish, nostalgic for a world that no longer exists. When Snyder and Johns endeavor to give him a happy ending, does he truly deserve it? His pivotal moment of realization is enabled by some heart-melting art from Francis Manapul. Manapul's Krypto the Superdog is a very good boy indeed, and the artist perfectly hits that disgruntled teenager tone that Snyder and Johns aim for when Superboys collide.

And yes, as expected, there is a killer collision here between Superboy-Prime and the One Who Laughs. Ryan Benjamin and Richard Friend take up art duties when things go boom, rendering a series of huge images that properly reflect the world-ending powers of the two dastardly foes. Script-wise, Snyder and Johns keep a tight focus on Superboy-Prime's angsty thoughts, letting us into his mind to probe through his hopes and regrets.

Paul Pelletier and Norm Rapmund are the next penciller and inker on the artistic carousel, tasked with another of Superboy-Prime's trademark reality-defining punches. It was always going to end this way, Johns and Snyder both well-equipped for this broad, crowd-pleasing storytelling.

Finally, Jerry Ordway returns to bring Superboy back home, and we end full circle with a callback to Superman's first appearance. It's not original, but it's a neat and tidy resolution that just works. Sometimes it's better to not mess with the classics, and that is definitely the case here.  

The coloring team of HI-FI, Ian Herring, Rain Beredo, and Adriano Lucas work together here to keep tones consistent across the various art teams. For obvious reasons, baby blue, crimson, and banana yellow dominate to create a vibrant book. Rob Leigh letters the whole shebang, his yellow sound effects crackling across the page with real energy.

The Secret Origin is an oasis of calm at the apex of the roaring whirlwind that is Dark Nights: Death Metal. Although the art credits here almost make up their own short story, each penciller and inker is a complement to the next, and consistent lettering and coloring mean that the issue flows well. Fans of Krypto the Superdog are well catered for here, and the old guard will surely get a kick out of Ordway's new take on classic material. Ultimately, Snyder and Johns have attempted the final rehabilitation of Superboy-Prime with this issue. They have succeeded resoundingly. Of all the Dark Nights Death Metal one-shot that have been released these past few months, The Secret Origin might just be the very best.

Read our interview with Scott Snyder talking about Dark Nights: Death Metal as a commentary on modern superhero storytelling.

Oscar Maltby

Oscar Maltby has been writing about comics since 2015. He has also written comic book scripts for the British small press and short fiction for Ahoy Comics. He resides on the South Coast of England but lives in the longbox.