Smallville #12 came out last week and, for once, I will have its review done before the subsequent Wednesday's books are released.
This book ended the Haunted story, a title which not only referenced Impulse being chased by the Black Flash, but also Chloe being haunted by visions of Earth 2, and Lex's body being haunted by the ghost of Tess. And, amazingly, it wraps up all of these storylines, maybe a bit quickly, but nonetheless satisfactorily.
One of the things I love about this book is the small moments that writer Bryan Q. Miller infuses into the story, little things which build up the overall effect of the closure of a plot line.
And more seeds are sown for the eventual Crisis storyline which has been percolating in the background. It has been said that there can't be a crisis without the death of a Flash. Hmmmm ...
Jorge Jimenez is on art here and his are was solid throughout. I liked his work on the 'speed' scenes best of all.
Our Chloe had the memories of her Earth 2 counterpart downloaded into her brain a couple of issues ago. Unfortunately, that Earth resembled a horror movie more than home movies. As a result, she has been plagued with visions of horrible things which happened to her loved ones over there.
It also showed just how cocky that Chloe was. That Chloe set up a trap for Clark 'Ultraman' Luthor using Oliver as bait ... Oliver, who was her lover and her cousin's fiance. Unfortunately, Clark was a bit more on the up and up than she expected. And so, at an anti-Ultra Man press conference, in front of a throng of people which included Lois and Chloe in a perch with a K-bullet sniper rifle, Oliver gets his neck snapped, his head turned around.
Earth 2 isn't a nice place. That's for sure. But how must this weigh on our Chloe ... to see her doppelganger husband killed because of 'her' poor planning.
But the main storyline is the Black Flash trying to kill Impulse. Clark, garbed in a speed suit which absorbs the Speed Force, is in a dogfight with this thing but neither seems to be gaining an upper hand.
Bart decided he can't hide anymore, he can't run away from the Black Flash, he can't let Clark fight his battle for him. And so he begins running faster than ever before, absorbing all the excess speed energy which has been aging people around the world.
I have read enough Flash comics to know when they say 'faster than ever' they are nearing some sort of event horizon with the Speed Force. And so we get this panel where suddenly Bart is being chased not by the Black Flash but other figures. This has to be prior speedsters who were sucked into the force. Three people, one appears female - Barry Allen, Max Mercury, and Jessie Quick? I thought this panel was great laying down subtle information for a future story.
And the Bart absorbs all the Speed energy from the juiced up Clark. Suddenly Bart knows what he needs to do ... confront the Black Flash. And crackling with energy, he runs away from Clark towards the confrontation.
I thought this page (of which I present a snippet) was great as it replayed the ending of the Smallville TV episode where we see Bart outrun Clark backwards! It was a way to show us, through Clark's memories, that Clark knows he won't be able to save Bart here. Bart is simply to fast.
And Bart has to know it is a one way trip. He's crying as he goes.
Finally Bart goes nose-to-nose with the Black Flash and force feeds him all the speed he has absorbed. The resulting explosion seems to have disintegrated the Black Flash and Bart. Only a familiar symbol, blasted into the ground remains. Now I don't know why they disappear exactly.
I think that resulting Flash symbol crater is great and poignant way to end that portion of the story, especially if it was other Flashes which were talking to Bart. This is one of those small things I talked about before. A Flash symbol crater carries so much more artistic clout than a simple crater.
Is this the real 'end' of Impulse. I'm not buying it. He probably got sucked into the Speed Force. But when the Crisis comes and space/time is acting higgledy-piggledy, I bet he re-appears.
Meanwhile, Chloe finally gets up to the point where the Earth-2 version of her is killed by a Monitor here on Earth-1. It doesn't sound like there is a Monitor and an Anti-Monitor like the classic Crisis. This sounds like Monitors, like in Countdown. You never want to be compared to Countdown.
But I love how this Chloe faces her fate, saying her life end before .. when Ollie died. This is one of those nice moments that I referenced before, a single line which adds so much depth to that character.
If Bart talking to other Flashes might be foreshadowing, this scene where Clark and Jay Garrick talk about Bary's sacrifice has to be.
Once again, Clark reminds Jay about heroism, doing what's right, and running towards something not away from something.
The scene ends with Jay looking at his Flash winged helmet.
There can't be a Crisis without a Flash dying. I am calling it now. In the Crisis arc, Jay comes out of retirement, helps save the day, but dies in the process. And I'll even go one step further. I'll say that somehow his sacrifice brings Bart back into the world.
If there was a silver lining to this Black Flash adventure it is that Clark's exposure to the Speed Force sped up his metabolism enough to burn away Luthor's tracking radioactive isotope. Lex can't follow Superman's steps any more.
I like the understated panel here of Lois and Clark hugging. By putting it into silhouette, it allows the reader to imagine what they think that reunion looks like in detail. I think that works better for something like this rather than showing me exactly there expressions, etc.
But there is little time for romance as Lois brings him (as Superman) and Green Arrow into the Lex Tower where they somehow (as it is all done off screen) drain off Tess and create for her a sort of electronic existence. Maybe she will be a sort of Oracle for the team, gathering intel literally from the inside?
This is the ending that I thought felt a bit rushed. How did they do this? Is this construct physical? Or is this just a hologram projected from the computer ether?
The Tess plot was one of my favorites so to have to surmise the conclusion of it is sort of a downer.
With Black Flash gone and Tess freed, there is only one more Haunted plot to end.
Haunted by the horrible things she has seen and fearing what the life of her unborn child will be like if Ollie and her continue to adventure (having seen the result on Earth 2), Chloe basically retires from super-heroics. She hopes Clark will understand and ... of course ... he does. Again, this is one of those moments which make this such a dense and appreciated book. These are three-dimensional characters.
At times I worried that Ollie and Chloe were taking up to big of a role in this book. Now I am kind of depressed that they aren't going to be around any more. I don't think it is an all or none phenomenon. I hope Miller is going to check in on them every so often. I suppose Tess' new condition makes her a natural to replace Chloe as the 'Oracle' of the team.
Bart defeats the Black Flash, but I don't know how.
Tess is saved, but I don't know how.
And Chloe and Ollie are out.
But that said, those stories are written so well with such great supporting scenes that even if the conclusion is unexplained I know enough to sort of roll with it.
The best thing about 'Haunted' being over? The Supergirl issues are that much closer.