Kryptonman87's Smallville Season 11 Review: What We've Seen So Far
After Smallville aired it's season 10/series finale back on May 13, 2011, DC Comics decided to continue the story after Clark donned the "S" and the cape as Superman. It's now been 5 months after the digital issues have started being released. Here's my review of the comic series so far!
On May 13, 2011, Smallville aired it's series finale 2-Part episode titled "Finale". To put it mildly, a lot of fans were relatively disappointed. I, myself, watched EVERY episode of the series as it aired from the day it premiered on October 16, 2001 all the way up to the series finale. I have to admit that only seeing Clark fly in the last 10 minutes of the episode and never seeing him entirely in the suit was by and far one of the biggest let downs of my life. Having watched the show for 10 years, every week religiously, I wanted more than what we were given.
When DC Comics announced that comic book scribe and Smallville veteran, Bryan Q. Miller, would be helming at Smallville Season 11 comic book title, my interest was piqued. Bryan Q. Miller was frequent writer on the television series in the later seasons and also became the Executive Story Editor for the show. Knowing that the comic would maintain the look and feel of the television series was important to me because the show never really felt like it took too much from the comics. It was it's own universe, so if a comic book writer came on to write the Smallville Season 11 comic book, where Clark is Superman, it wouldn't have sounded like the Clark fans remember from the tv show. He would sound like the Superman in the main-stream comics, and that wouldn't be fair to the long time fans of the show. Having Miller writing this title creates air-tight continuity and the dialogue sounds like we're watching the show again.
So, the first "episode" of Smallville Season 11 was titled "Guardian". It consisted of 12 mini-chapters that were released online first, and were then published into 4 printed issues. The story picks up 6 months after the events in "Finale", where Clark has donned the Superman suit and pushed Apocalypse out of Earth's orbit. In "Guardian", Superman is now a world-known hero. People know he exists, he flies, he saves people, and stops to be seen. He IS Superman. Lex Luthor is the primary antagonist again, which long time fans of the show will be/are very happy with. After having no Lex in the show for 3 years, fans (myself included) were really craving to have Lex return to the series, so seeing him be the thorn in Superman's side is very satisfying. He still has no memory after Tess dosed him with the neuro-toxin from Summerhault. Lois Lane is present as well, constantly referring to Clark as her "forever fiance". She is also a big advocate of Clark's still, saying that he is inspiring hope and achieving what he's set out to do in creating the Superman persona. Chloe Sullivan and Oliver Queen are also back in the saddle again, but are trying to leave Metropolis behind to forge their own lives in Star City, but of course run into trouble before they can. We also have return appearances by Dr. Emil Hamilton, who now works at STAR Labs and helps Superman in any way he can, and a return appearance of Sam Lane, Lois's father.
"Guardian" is very much about perception: How Superman is percieved by different people around the city. For the most part, the citizens of Metropolis and the world as a whole find Superman to be a very welcomed symbol of hope. He is their hero. While others, namely Lex Luthor and the U.S. Military, see Superman as a threat. When seeing a being who looks like a man with the power to move an entire planet out of orbit, it makes them very uncomfortable. To quote Lex, "What happens when a being like that abuses that power?" The military's perception of Superman as a threat results in an inner-city battle royale involving armed helicopters and missiles.
So, even without the funding of the U.S. Military, Lex launches a shuttle to put his newest line of defense into orbit called the Guardian Platforms. These are orbital satalites that are meant for deep space detection, so that Earth can have early warnings to alien threats. The captain of the shuttle is a known character from the Superman comics: Hank Henshaw. However, after an accident on the launching platform, the shuttle experiences catastrophic failure and Superman intervenes, trying to save the crew. Clark is successful in saving all the crew members, but Hank Henshaw is brutally wounded. Appearing as a benevolent gift giver, Lex Luthor appears to give his money and aid to help rememdy Henshaw's comatose state. Lex uses advanced technology to remove Henshaw's mind and essence from his body and transplants it into a robotic body. This results in Henshaw losing his sanity and attacking Superman out of revenge.
It is not until after his fight with Hank Henshaw that Superman/Clark finds out the truth about the shuttle explosion: It wasn't an accident. Staying true to form, Lex engineered the explosion, knowing that Superman would fly to the rescue. By saving the crew, Clark is exposed to a unique radioactive isotope. While it is not harmful to humans, it gives off a unique signature so that Lex can now track Superman's every movement from his satalites. This, to me, was absolutely brilliant. It brings out the true genius of Lex Luthor and shows just how smart and strategic he is. Having Clark know that Lex can now track him puts Clark on constant alert and also prevents him from living the life that he's been wanting for so long. It also creates yet another hiccup in the happiness that Clark and Lois have been sharing. I always find it fun when everything is right there for them, but just when they think they've got it, they realize that they have to keep fighting in order to keep it.
The next "episode" is titled "Detective". The first mini-chapter of this storyline was released on the DC Comics website and app last Friday. This is a landmark issue because it marks the appearance of a character that fans of the show cried out begging to see for 10 years on the show: Batman. The episode opens where "Guardian" left off. Clark and Lois are in the Fortress of Solitude, having finally spent their first night together in a week since Lex started tracking Clark with his satalites. Fortunately for them, the Fortress creates a blanket effect and prevents Lex's satalites from spotting the unique radioactive signature while he's in the Fortress. While Clark remains hard at work, trying to use the knowledge of the 28 known galaxies to find a way to expel the radioactive isotopes from his skin, Lois is more fixated on spending time with the man that she loves.
While the gooey romance stuff is nice for the "Clois" fans, the real meat of the story picks up quickly. We see a weapons deal going down in the streets of Gotham City. A member of Intergang is selling unique weapons to the criminal element of Gotham City to help "rid them of the hero presence" in their city. The mobsters are complaining that they haven't been able to have any decent crime in the city since The Batman showed up. Enter Nightwing, a.k.a. Barbara Gordon. Now, before you get all bent out of shape that it's not Dick Grayson, let me put your mind at ease. While she's not Dick Grayson, she does have his witty retorts and demeanor, so it's not as bad as you might think it is. Also, you have remember that Smallville is its own Universe. It never remained 100% true to the comic books or any other source material, so you have to take it as a unique universe. As I mentioned, Nightwing appears and starts to take out the thugs one by one, until the truck carrying the weapons gets away. Nightwing immediately radios her partner that they've got a runner. Her partner makes quick work of him and the truck. When Nightwing finds the crashed van, she hears a scream from on top of the building in front of her. We find the Intergang thug who was selling the guns strung upside down from a crane hanging over the streets below. The man who caught him and is now interrogating him is none other than Batman. They quickly learn that the man dealing the guns is in Metropolis and that his name is Joe Chill. Any Batman fan worth his salt knows that Joe Chill was the man who killed Batman/Bruce Wayne's parents when he was a child. Batman quickly tells Nightwing to prep a travel kit... They're heading to Metropolis.
Now, today, DC Comics released chapter 14 of Smallville Season 11, which is the second chapter in the "Detective" episode. It primarily features Superman and Lex Luthor. Lex discusses how, although he doesn't remember anything, he feels as though he knows Superman from before his mind wipe, or that maybe Superman knows him. But Lex does know that he doesn't trust Superman or what he says he is. Clark is still being tracked by Lex, so he's been on extended leave from the Daily Planet since he knows he can't go back there or to his home with Lois without Lex figuring out his civilian identity. However, forcing Clark to stay as Superman has only vamped up his super-saves across the city, only irritating Lex further. While there is no appearance of Batman in this particular chapter, Miller does further the story: Clark found a crew of guys using the same weapons we saw in Gotham to hold up a school bus, and now knows that Lex Corp is responsible for manufacturing them. So, we can see that Batman and Superman will soon be on to the same case and are inevitably going to run into each other.
Overall, I am pretty happy with what we're seeing in Smallville Season 11. After 10 years of finding ways to stall Clark getting into the suit (season 10 being the most frustrating), it's nice to see Clark finally where he's supposed to be. Even though it's not a live action tv show, we as readers can clearly see that Clark is genuinely happy being Superman. He's in the light, shaking hands, and letting people see his face. He's much more confident and at peace with himself.
Like I said, I love how Bryan Q. Miller is writing Lex. He's a devilishly genius stratagist, which is a perfect opponent for a man who can get over-confident with his powers. Lex knows he can't physically hurt Superman, but he can keep him on the tips of his toes and he can make life EXTREMELY difficult for him.
I also like how they have been able to include Tess Mercer into the story, by making her personality/essence trapped within Lex's mind. By making Lex the only person who can hear or see her, it makes for some great dialogue and fascinating character explorations for Lex. He knows he's a genuinely evil person, but he doesn't really know why, so for him to have the ghost of his sister who knows everything about him kind of toying with him creates a great bout of conflict for Lex.
As an added bonus, Smallville Season 11 keeps up the "tv season" structure by creating an over arching, season-long ployt. In "Guardian", Oliver and Chloe are looking into a crashed space craft which landed in Smallville (I know, aren't there OTHER towns in the world?). When they looked into it, they ended up finding the Chloe Sullivan from Earth-2, the same Earth that Clark Luthor was from in Season 10. She warned Oliver about the coming Crisis and that Earth-2 was gone. For those of you guys who read the comics out there, you guys will know that a Crisis in the DC Universe means a huge crossover story where the beings from parallel worlds will clash and ultimately team up to defeat a Multi-verse ending cataclysm. So, if they're planning to bring a Crisis to Smallville, I'm psyched to see what they do with it.
After writing this review, I must admit that I am very happy with Season 11 so far. It's Superman the way that we'd all wanted to see him in the 10 years that Smallville was on the air. It's great that they've maintained the look and feel of the series in comic book form while also progressing it to a genuine Superman title. The writing is great and does a very good job at creating the tv season/episode feel. Each new episode of the comic actually feels like a new episode of the tv show, so it really is great in that respect. The art is beautiful, and creates spot-on references to the show. From the Daily Planet to the SAME CITY STREET that was used in every episode of season 9 and 10, to Lex Corp Tower, everything looks like it did in the television series. I would say that if you watched the show when it was on tv, then start buying the print issues at your local comic shops or you can download the digital copies off of the DC Comics website or iPhone app or you can buy it off the Comixology website or iPhone app. New digital chapters are released every friday and the print issues are released on the first Wednesday of every month. Each chapter online is only .99 cents, so it's well worth it just to give it a shot!!
4.5/5 Stars for the comic book series as a whole
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