Sunday, May 9, 2010

In Which Trai Reviews 'Supernatural: Origins'

The Book: Supernatural: Origins

The Author: Peter Johnson / The Illustrator: Matthew Don Smith

How I Found It: I'm a Supernatural fan, which should be obvious by the fact that I read this. :)

The Review: Okay, so I don't know why anyone would have any interest in this comic if you're not a Supernatural fan, unless you're just in it for the art or something. But I'll try to recap briefly the background information that leads up to what happens in this comic.

Okay. So initially, in the first season, Supernatural was about two brothers, Dean and Sam Winchester (Dean's the older brother; Sam the younger) driving across America, searching for their missing father, John. John raised the boys to hunt and kill evil supernatural beings, with the goal of finding the creature that killed his wife, the boys' mother, Mary. Not much was known about the creature, other than the fact that it left Mary bleeding on the ceiling of Sam's nursery when he was just a few months old, and that it caused a fire that killed Mary.

The problem is, John's obsessive hunt led to Dean and Sam's childhoods being less than idyllic. Part of the tension between Sam and Dean in the early days came from the fact that Dean blindly obeyed John in everything, fiercely defending him, while Sam resented that John's quest led to his inability to have a normal life. He leaves John and Dean before the series to go to law school at Stanford, but when Dean comes to him to tell him John's gone missing and Sam's girlfriend is killed in the same way Mary was, Sam agrees to join in the search for John.

Since 2007 or so, the CW has licensed products to go along with Supernatural, either to fill in little gaps in the show or explain the things that went on prior to the series. I recently started collecting these novelizations and comics as a little project for this summer. It's recently been speculated that Supernatural will come back as a midseason replacement next year for its final season, and with that in mind, all this stuff will have to hold me over. This comic, Origins, was the first released and charts John's transformation into a hunter and his first steps towards finding out what killed Mary. (The other two comics are Rising Son, when John starts to speculate about what could be wrong with Sam, and Beginning's End, currently being issued, which explains how Sam left John and Dean to go to Stanford.)

I'm pretty sure this one had a lot of issues--mainly with the years and other such continuity problems. I looked it up and I saw that Johnson had to make a whole lot of revisions. I'm not a super-obsessed fan that would immediately notice if a date was off, so I'm not sure if anything's really glaringly wrong, but from glancing over the Supernatural wiki, it looks like all the dates were fixed for the trade paperback, the edition I was reading.

It didn't always have that sort of Supernatural feel to it, but that's probably because I'm used to the boys and not John solo. I think it did a pretty decent job. Right away, we get a sense of John's obsession and how desperately he wants to know what happened to Mary. We get a glimpse or two of John as a widower attempting to find his way. The fact that Dean and baby Sam are on the cover is a teensy bit misleading; we don't see all that much of them, but they are, very obviously, a presence in the story. It was actually what made the comic a little poignant: seeing the very beginning of John putting the hunt before his kids, and how that affected them (mostly Dean, since he was the only one old enough to understand).

John is helped along the way by Missouri, the female psychic we met in one of the very early episodes, and a mysterious hunter friend who teaches him the basics. A familiar location, the Roadhouse, crops up, and Ellen appears for a few pages (Jo is mentioned). It is what the title says: an origins story. So for that, it did a pretty decent job showing John becoming the person we meet in the show. We see how hesitant he is to kill someone the first time, and then at the other end of the spectrum, how he becomes ruthlessly efficient when it comes to dealing with supernatural threats. We see his doubts about the boys as he has to leave them with relatives, friends, and even strangers. We see how this affects his relationship with Dean, who questions his father at some points and sees something he wasn't meant to see. The one thing that gave me pause were two very brief scenes taking place in 1991, where we see young Dean contemplating leaving and then reading John's journal, which makes him decide against it. I couldn't quite figure out why those scenes were there, honestly.

Origins itself was pretty good, but I think what made it worth it was the inclusion of a mini-story at the end, "Speak No Evil". It's what would be, on the show, a flashback to young Sam and Dean. We get to see how clueless Dean and Sam were raised to be in the early days, as Dean believes Mary died in a car crash and Sam is just scared and upset by the glimpses he and Dean get of John's darker side. I was really touched at this little scene of the brothers bonding and Dean starting to take care of Sam, and it was a sweet little bookend to the comic. Overall, the story was decent and the characters were pretty faithful to what has been shown on the show. But like I said before, I'd only really recommend it to fans of the show, not a casual reader.

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