JLA: Secret Origins
by Paul Dini, Alex Ross
(DC Comics, 2002)

The award-winning team of Paul Dini and Alex Ross unite once more to bring their unique talents to this excellent 48-page one-shot history of the JLA.

Labeling the glossy, oversized book a "history" is actually stretching the term a bit. Only part of the history of DC's most popular heroes is told. In the fifth book of their "oversize" series, Dini focuses on the Golden Age of comics, when personal histories and events in the DC universe were less convoluted than they have become in recent years.

While the previous four books by Dini and Ross were original stories about the DCU's foremost heroes, JLA: Secret Origins is basically a retelling of the origins of the major members of the JLA. It's a smart move on Dini's part. For those who love their heroes and their stories as they were in a simpler time, the book is a trip down memory lane, and a happy one at that.

Ross' art has never been better. You want him to have been the premiere artist of that golden time, so closely does he capture the spirit and flavor of the originals. Dini's narration-style format is pitch-perfect here, neatly summarizing in eight pages the origins of Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Black Canary, the Atom and Plastic Man, plus a five-page nod to Zatanna, Zatarra, Adam Strange, Metamorpho, the Elongated Man, the Phantom Stranger and Red Tornado. Also included are double-page origins reprinted from Batman: War on Crime, Superman: Peace on Earth, Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth and Shazam: Power of Hope.

Secret Origins is a very loving look at the best era that comics enjoyed. The simplicity of the origins and the eye-catching artwork might do wonders for those who cannot quite "get" the true nature of comics from the movies, yet want to understand more about who these heroes truly are. While narration-style storytelling may bore some readers, Secret Origins is a perfect entrance for the uninitiated who need to know more and a shot in the arm for veterans who long for the good old days, not to mention an absolutely fantastic visual treat for fans of great graphic art.

Books like this remind me of why I continue to buy comics. They're heroes, pure and simple, and purely and simply is how their story should be told. This is truly a labor of love, and it shows in every page.

Included is a behind-the-scenes look at the heroes of the JLA, a five-page sequence focusing on the team's commitment to protecting humankind, and interviews with the creators and reprints of Ross's previous works. Don't pass it up.

- Rambles
written by Mary Harvey
published 19 April 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.