Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Review: Smallville #10
While I have gnashed my teeth a bit over some of the things happening over at DC recently, I have decided that it is probably healthier to instead try to celebrate the things that are going right. And one of the pleasant surprises has been the Smallville book. Shaking off the doldrums that had occasionally effected the show and distilling out the best parts of the series, and then adding some more classic feeling Superman heroics, this book has been something of a godsend in this more negative realm of comics these days.
Smallville #10 came out last week and was the usual bright spot in my pile of comics. One of the things that has impressed me with this book is how writer Bryan Q Miller is able to keep a couple of huge subplots percolating and moving along without trying my patience. The plots which I am most interested in are the Crisis and 'Tess on Lex's mind'. And we continue to get snippets of these, clues to where they are going, all while the main plot - Cyborg Superman, Batman, and now the Flash, chugs forward.
Usually I would be fidgety by this point on both of these plots, wanting a quicker resolution or wanting them to be front and center. And I'm not. And that's a testament to the quality of the writing and execution of the main plots, which frankly have interested me a little less.
The art here is done by Jorge Jimenez who brings an almost photo-realism to the main characters. That makes things like the 'Black Flash' phantasm stand out even more with its eeriness. Nice work.
So part of my love of the book are the little homages and Easter eggs that Miller puts into the book. Here, in a flashback (or is it Flash-back) of Bart trying to escape a Luthor prison, he see the Black Flash that has been following him.
He calls it Speed Demon (referencing either Speed McGee in the Baron/Guice Flash or the Ghost Rider/Flash mash-up in Amalgam comics) or Black Racer (Kirby's Death in New Gods). Again, small flourishes that make this book that much more enjoyable, sort of the sprinkles on the ice cream.
While Clark and Bart try to figure out their next steps, Lois continues to try to bring down Lex.
She shows up to an abandoned LexCorp site that is being decommissioned. The place is the site of Bart's first sight of the Black Flash entity. As such, it is littered with Kryptonite.
As I said, Miller puts some fun little lines into the book. Here I like how he pokes fun at the show itself, asking about how the meteor rocks gave insect control and bee control to different kids on the show. Don't those powers overlap? Trust me, there was plenty of things about the show that could be ridiculed.
But at the site is a LexCorp worker who is drained of his life by (presumably) the Black Flash entity. Hmmm ...
As I said, the Tess/Lex subplot has been one of my favorites. We have seen him try to download her. We have seen her try to wrest control of his body from him. We have seen him terrorize her within his mind.
Now it looks like we have reached an end game. He thinks he has found where she is physically in his brain and is prepared to have that area removed.
This battle of wills has been great. And since these two are Luthors, it is hard to know what is threat, what is feint, and how actually holds the upper hand here.
In a bit of a stretch, something even Miller self-teases about, Lois dresses like a LexCorp security guard and palms Otis's security badges off his belt. Lex and Otis walk right by here and don't recognize her. Silly.
But Lois is determined to dig up some dirt on Lex. I love her reasoning ... it is all out of her frustration about being separated from Clark, out of her love for Clark.
If folks miss the Clark/Lois romance, they need to be getting this book!
Meanwhile, Clark and Bart get on to STAR labs treadmills. Clark hopes to match Bart's speed so he can see the death entity trailing Bart.
Sure enough, he is able to get up there and see this thing. Man, I love the inky tarry nature of this thing. Creepy.
And I love how it chastises Clark for an impure speed. Great stuff.
The Black Flash is trailing Bart, hunting Bart, and it seems it is feeding when it needs to. It seems to be draining people of their vitality at all the places Bart has been.
So why would the 'Death of the Speed Force' need to drain normal human of their life. There is going to be some twist here. Maybe this is a dying older speedster that needs some energy to survive and needs Bart's energy to live?
Well, I thought that Tess/Lex plot had reached an endgame moment. But it turns out I was wrong.
Lois had the 'Tess written' Lex note analyzed and the hand writing is now known to be Tess's.
Now that is awesome.
As humorous as it was for Miller to poke fun at Lois going undercover right under Lex's nose, this exchange was better.
The dead Earth-2 Chloe has been put into deep freeze and somehow the machine that created the Cyborg Superman has been refitted so the living Chloe can try to access the dead one's memorites.
It is classic 'comic book' science, inane in its improbability. But Miller at least has the common sense to actually acknowledge how crazy it is by having Emil voice it out and then say that he is basically making it up as he goes.
There is something very Philip K. Dick about this memory dive, especially his novel Ubik where dead people are frozen and can communicate mentally for a brief time post-death.
Now two more things made this issue very interesting.
Clark figures maybe prior speedsters have encountered the Black Flash. So he and Bart go out to look for Jay Garrick,
Now including the Smallville JSA in this universe is wonderful. Again, fans of the old DCU should head here. But could Jay have been killed by the Black Flash? Could Jay be the Black Flash?
And then there was this moment where our Chloe sees this last memory of the E2 Chloe. Looks an awful lot like an Anti-Monitor eye looming in the sky. When Chloe said 'Crisis' she meant it!
If there is a Crisis coming up, Supergirl has to be around right?? Miller hopefully won't kill off the Vandervoort-Supergirl in this Crisis, would he?
So another stuffed and satisfying issue. And I love the internal winks at some of the more ludicrous parts of the story. But with an interesting main story and a number of intriguing subplots, this book is a winner.
Overall grade: B+