A review by Tanya Gouchenour
Supernatural: Origins by Peter Johnson and artist Matthew Dow Smith, is a prequel to season one of the television show, giving us a look at John Winchester’s journey to becoming a hunter. In this context, it means that he is a hunter of supernatural monsters, the kind most of the world do not believe exist. At the beginning of the book, as in the pilot episode, we witness the tragic death of his wife, Mary. Except instead of flashing forward to his grown sons in the present day, we see a grief-stricken John visiting the police, friends, and neighbors, asking over and over if they saw, heard, or noticed anything that night. He refuses to accept the cause of death offered by the authorities because it does not match what he saw.
He’s approached by a local psychic named Missouri who shows him something terrifying that sets him on what will become a long and dangerous road. This leads to his first hunt, which is awkward and doesn’t go well. I expected John Winchester to be better at hunting, to be honest. He has a background as a United States Marine, it’s not as if he’s never fired a gun before, which to some extent is how he’s portrayed. I suppose leeway could be given since his opponent was a hellhound and something he’d never seen before, but it still felt off. A veteran hunter finds John and takes him under his wing, introducing himself to Sam and Dean as “Uncle Hunter. After dropping off his young sons with a friend he and Hunter go on a road trip to find out more about what Missouri showed him. Along the way, there are more nods to the television series’s canon, and two rather strange flash-forwards involving the boys. These flash-forwards don’t add anything to the story, if anything they detract because they just don’t seem to fit the overall tone. At the end of the road trip, Hunter reveals some terrible things to John that cause him to realize that he needs to stay on this road and keep the boys with him.
The book has a mini story in the back, “See No Evil,” about Sam and Dean as kids that is short and bittersweet. They’re at a cheap motel and on the way back from discovering the pool is empty, Sam asks about their mother and Dean becomes angry. They have to make a getaway to a meeting place prearranged by their dad and while they hide there waiting, Dean implores his brother to never ask about her again, and they reconcile. It provides a glimpse of the terror that sometimes goes with living a life on the road as the children of a hunter, but also gives a good snapshot of their relationship as kids.
Peter Johnson, the author of Origins, is a producer on the TV show, so he should be intimately familiar with the source material. However, in many instances, the dates given in this book are inconsistent with already established dates in the show’s canon. For example, Sam was born in 1983 and at one point in the book, when John is dropping both boys off with a friend, the year in the corner of the panel reads 1982. Johnson’s other forays into the comic world include other Supernatural titles and one title related to the television show Chuck.
The artist is Matthew Dow Smith, who has a lot of titles under his belt. His art for this volume leaves me wanting. The style is very heavily lined, at times making it difficult to distinguish features, and is quite dark. It often looks as if characters don’t have eyes! The John Winchester in this volume looks nothing like the actor who played him in the television series, likewise the boys look nothing like their young actor counterparts. It’s possible that could be for legal reasons, but it would have been nice if the art bore at least a passing resemblance to the characters that I’ve come to know and love.
The short in the back is penned by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Phil Hester, two gentlemen who are well known in the comics world for their work on multiple superhero titles. The story is tight, has a lighter look, and the characters have more of a resemblance to the actors that have played young versions of the characters. I would have liked to see this style throughout the main story.
Both of these tales feel like they fit well in the Supernatural universe, and the main story has some nice nods to the established canon by establishing the relationship between Missouri and John that is seen on the screen. There is also a stop at Harvelle’s road house, a popular watering hole for hunters across the United States, with proprietors Ellen and Bill Harvelle.
Origins is an interesting addition to the Supernatural canon and is worth checking out if you’d like to read what led John Winchester down that long road to monster hunting. If you’re curious, check with your favorite comic shop to get a copy.
Lifelong nerd & reader of many fun things, Tanya is a cube-dweller by day & wannabe superhero on the weekends. She loves spending time with her husband & small menagerie. Cooking is of great interest, too. She is also a member of the Phoenix chapter of Very Awesome Girls Into Nerdy Activities, for which she is an Historian, chronicling the group’s charitable shenanigans at many events.