cover image JLA: Secret Origins

JLA: Secret Origins

Paul Dini, Alex Ross, . . DC Comics, $7.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-1-4012-0021-3

This tabloid-size title is at once unnecessary and lusciously tempting. On the one hand, it would be tough to find an American reader who doesn't already know the origins of Superman or Batman. Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash haven't kept their pasts very secret either, and anyone who doesn't feel like looking them up online can easily find DC's 1999 trade paperback anthology Secret Origins Featuring the JLA. In addition to being more expensive (at $14.95), however, that title was smaller in format and was line-drawn and then colored like a standard comic book. This new book features stunning paintings of the superheroes by Ross (Marvels; Kingdom Come), displaying his gift for making myths look solidly real. Plus the neat text by Emmy-winning animation writer and producer Dini condenses masses of trivia about each character into two-page spreads, while finding a distinctive voice for each one. The two have previously collaborated on stories in the same format about Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Shazam, and here they take on DC's greatest superhero team. Dramatic effectiveness makes up for the inevitable loss in detail, and the effect is that of a coffee-table art book. Besides giving a fresh view of the JLA members, the book contains interviews with Ross and Dini, giving insight into yet another kind of origin: the creative process behind the portfolio. Most mainstream comics readers will crave this book, and its size and the cover painting of dramatically lit superheroes staring sternly out at prospective buyers should help it stand out. (July)