Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review: Smallville Season 11 #14

Smallville Season 11 #14 came out last week and as usual, I am a bit tardy in putting up my review.  And that is a shame because of all the books came out last week, this one should have been at the top of my review pile. This was a great Supergirl book and should have been showcased here earlier.

I have sung the praises of this book for over a year now so I don't need to beat the Smallville drum again. But, once again, writer Bryan Q. Miller does a great job with characterization, grasping a lot who Supergirl is and making her compelling here. This is the Smallville Kara, so you have to pick up where Laura Vandervoort's character left her. But I can't help but feel like there are echoes of Silver/Bronze Age Supergirl here as well. Her reactions to some things in this book feel like what a classic DCU Supergirl would do. Others sound more like the current Supergirl. It is like reverberations of all her incarnations seem to feed into this Kara.

The art is done by Daniel HDR who brings a very smooth and polished look to the book, befitting of a Legion-era book. His Kara is strong and expressive. The cover is by old Supergirl friend Pete Woods. I love this version of the costume, a sort of flight suit with duster jacket sort of bottom. The design is by digital Smallville cover artist Cat Staggs.

I can't help but concentrate on the Supergirl aspects of the book in this review.

As I said, this Supergirl has some reactions that feel like the Bronze Age Supergirl, the one who felt like she needed to escape the shadow of Superman and become her own hero, the one who was initially thrown into an orphanage and 'hidden'.

So it is true that Superman has come to the future and just rescued his cousin from a red sun prison.

But he also is someone who didn't seem to notice or care that his cousin, his only family, simply disappeared from his life months ago. Initially Supergirl seems to take it in stride, smiling.

But then the classic Kara strength and fire right afterwards. She looks downright peeved that she was ordered by Jor-El to vacate Earth in a time of Crisis so that Clark could accept his destiny.

I think all Supergirl fans had a similar look in watching that episode as the active and heroic Supergirl was shunted away so the mopey Blur could finally seize the day.

And then there is this exchange which feels like the current Supergirl.

After landing in the future, Supergirl was accepted by the Legion and joins the team. But then Argo was discovered and she finally felt like she had a place to belong. Look at the pain in that second panel. This sounds like the Supergirl struggling to find a place to call home.

It is a whirlwind of emotions and feelings but I suddenly felt like I understood this Supergirl completely. Miller brings us up to speed immediately. It's like we see the gamut of Supergirl-ness in three pages.

But then he adds another wrinkle.

Kara wasn't truly a prisoner for the EarthGov. She was a spy for Argo allowing herself to be captured to gather intel. That is because a Legion diplomatic mission to Argo ended with their cruiser exploding. It was rigged by the EarthGov as an opening volley against the Kryptonians. With three sides to the conflict - xenophobic Earth, New Krypton, and the Legion - Supergirl sides with her people.

This 'imprisoned' strategy sounds like a crazy plan. Because just how much information would she be able to share stuck in her red sun prison. She is lucky that Clark was there to spring her.

So the actual reasons behind all the animosity still seems cloudy to me.

But it has reached a point where EarthGov has actually sent to agents to New Krypton to plant a bomb. I guess the government is so isolationist that they are willing to send terrorists to their 'enemy'.

Anticipating such a move, the Legion has some agents on the ground. Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy are there and they stop them.

Superman and Supergirl arrive just after the bomb is disarmed.

Clark is shocked to see just how he is revered on Argo. After all, it was the Zod military pack that Clark shunted away that ends up being the first citizens on this world.

I love the look of shock on his face. Superman is a humble guy. He isn't into this sort of worship.

Now, I freely admit I watched Smallville weekly but casually. So I don't remember a lot of the details of episodes. So I am thankful that Miller gives some background info when information is crucial.

Here Superman learns that while he is considered a hero on Argo, they actually worship Faora. Thankfully, I am reminded that she was Zod's partner, was pregnant with Zod's child before he killed her. And that fetus growing in her, born on a yellow sun world is considered a sort of keystone for the Kryptonians' future.

And Faora's tomb, on Earth, is actually a focal point to the friction between Earth and Argo. Earth won't tell the Kryptonians where Faora's body is nor will they turn the body over. The Argoans want the body returned.

So I don't know if I quite understand why EarthGov would do that other than they are xenophobic and don't want to help.

I don't quite understand why Kara seems so peeved here. She was told to spy on the Earth to try to find out the coordinates of Faora's tomb but she wasn't told the messiah overtones. As a result of being kept in the dark, she feels she has been taken advantage of. It does allows us to see her dealing with her life a bit. At least in Smallville she seems to be a good soldier following the orders of Jor-El, the Science Council, etc. It is time for her to start doing what she wants.

I did like the middle panel where Clark shows some compassion and even discusses his own reluctance to achieve his own destiny.

Faora is there and Clark seems to have bought into the legends. Could that baby really have led to complete understanding?

Unfortunately, it is suddenly clear why the EarthGov wasn't ready to turn the body over. They were extracting the baby's DNA for their own uses.

And they are using that DNA to make their own uber-Kryptonian, something EarthGov can use to eradicate the Kryptonian threat. No doubt we are looking at a new Doomsday. This outfit looks completely like the way Doomsday looked when he crashed on Earth way back in the 'Death of Superman' story.

So this was a great issue for Supergirl fans as it really shows how complex and intriguing a character she is. I will say that I am suddenly a bit worried that this story ends with her battling this Doomsday to both their deaths. It would be a riff on the original Death of Superman, it would bring about a heroic Supergirl dying to save the world like Crisis, and it would satisfy the 'grabbing her destiny' plot we heard in this issue. I will be very sad if this Supergirl goes away like that.

And there are other good moments in this book. We see Booster Gold dealing with his own inadequacy and lack of heroic history. We see how the Legion Protocol Six was activated.

That said, this war storyline between Earth and Argo with the Legion caught in the middle is still a bit amorphous to me. I don't know if I quite understand enough why they are at each others' throats. Is there open war? Is the Faora body enough to bring about war? Is it just fear that a planet of super-humans is a galactic hop,skip,and jump away?? I don't know if I have my head wrapped around this plot well enough to feel I understand it.

Still, that isn't a major complaint because the rest of these this issue is so great. Supergirl and the Legion is like chocolate and peanut butter. They always go great together.

Overall grade: B+


Phillyradiogeek said...

I love the Supergirl costume design!

LJ-90 said...

Good review Anj. You mentioned lots of good stuf, but the thing I loved most was when Kara says "my place in any world" and Clark answers "You always have a place in mine".

Solid issue all around.

Martin Gray said...

This is the first Smallville issue I've read, not bad, though I'm tired of modern DC's constant Krypton storylines - it used to be that a visit to the planet felt special, now it's, oh no, not again.

Still, great Kara costume. I hate the costume, though, she looks as if she should be working in a boiler room.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

I did like that line LJ. Nice to see the cousins acting so familial somewhere in the current comic world.

I do like this costume as a Smallville variant. It feels a bit like The Matrix (the movie that is).