Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Review: Smallville Season Eleven Special Effigy

Smallville Season Eleven Special:Effigy came out last week, a Batman/Martian Manhunter sort of Brave and Bold sort of adventure. Despite the basic lack of Super-family, I enjoyed this book because it brought all the things that I love about Smallville to other DC characters. 

I have enjoyed the series Smallville Season Eleven immensely, amazed at how writer Bryan Q. Miller has been able to bring an old-school Superman feel to the character while keeping modern sensibilities of current comic stories. So I get a heroic Superman inspiring heroes, married to Lois. And I also get snappy dialogue, an undercurrent of humor, and multiple storylines all happening at the same time. If I have one compliment for this book is that it actually makes me want to go back and watch the show! Something I never thought I would want to do.

Another thing that I have enjoyed with Smallville has been the universe building that Miller has continued to bring to this universe. And boy, does Miller add an interesting new character to the Smallville universe in this story.

This story allows Miller to explore the concept of family and mentorship in the Smallville universe, with (of all people) Batman being used as a sort of sounding board for what it means to have family in a super-hero world.

Lastly, there is a lot of Steph Brown Babs Gordon Nightwing in this book. And any time I get to read Miller writing one of his signature characters, I am happy. There is great stuff here and it will lead me to a particular plea at the end of the review.

Axel Gimenez does the art here and brings a great energy to the story.

The book starts with a peek into John Jones personal life. Living in an apartment building, befriending a single mother and her young son, J'Onn seems to be settling in nicely to a life on Earth. And you almost get the sense that he feels somewhat fatherly to this boy.

While retreating to his apartment, J'Onn looks longingly at a Martian artifact, a sort of cave drawing depicting a family, parents holding a child's hand. He is then attacked psionically, clearly by a white Martian (given the telepathic word balloon), and drops the tile, symbolically breaking the family in two.

I do like the family theme working through this story. But the sort of cave drawing feel to this artifact felt wrong coming from the Martian culture.

Before we get too much more into J'Onn's story, we move to Gotham where Batman and Nightwing are stopping the Mutant gang from an arms deal. It is clearly a riff on the Mutant gang from Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns.

What works here is the banter between the moody Bruce and the more effervescent Steph Babs. We saw a lot of this in the earlier Smallville Detective arc. Nightwing gets the best lines here, punning and funning her way through her fight. There is joy here, a little light in the darker Batman universe, just as we saw in the Batgirl title Miller wrote.

Beating up Mutants is one thing. But around the corner is a White Martian who savagely slashes Steph Babs across the abdomen.

With Nightwing recovering in a Lazarus Pit tube, Bruce is confronted by J'Onn in the Batcave!

J'Onn is there to try to team up but you know nothing goes that easy with Bruce. Seriously, J'Onn appears, reveals that the creature was a Martian, and wants to join the fight. Bruce, being Bruce, tells him to leave and then has Alfred shoot a flame thrower at the Manhunter. I guess Bruce is Bruce no matter what universe you are in!

Still, Batman knows when help is needed and so brings J'Onn alone to investigate the crime scene.

It turns out that the White Martian has struck all over the country making J'Onn think that it is trying to ferret him out.

As I said above, one thing that I like about this story is the feeling of family and the importance of family running through it. J'Onn seems shocked that Commissioner Gordon is unaware that Barbara is Nightwing. I like how J'Onn thinks Bruce should come clean given Babs injury.

Unfortunately, the White Martian has finally found where J'Onn is hiding out. She arrives at J'Onn's apartment house and attacks the mother and son he has befriended.

In what seems to be a recurring riff on Will Smith's famous line from Independence Day, J'Onn welcomes the white Martian to Earth.

The white Martian is driven off.

Afterwards, J'Onn reveals to Bruce some Martian history about the war between the whites and the greens, how he was part of that war and slaughtered whites, how he lost his family and then everything, and how he has reinvented and redeemed himself on Earth.

Again though, even if unsaid, we see J'Onn perseverating over that family cave drawing, furthering that need for family seeping into the story.

This was also one of my favorite scenes in book. While researching the White, Bruce learns that Steph Barbara has recovered. J'Onn tries to figure out that exact nature of the Batman/Nightwing relationships. I really love that Bruce calls Steph Barbara his anchor. He needs someone to keep him in the 'real world' so he doesn't really go off the deep end.

That also adds some comment on J'Onn's life. J'Onn is alone, completely. Maybe he needs someone too.

Finally, a pattern emerges in the White Martian attacks. It leads Batman and the Martian Manhunter to an abandoned missile facility in Colorado.

J'Onn battles the martian where it is revealed that her attacks were only on criminals. She seems young and impetuous and very angry and sad.

Meanwhile, Batman discovers that this martian had been living a life as King Faraday's (!!) daughter. She was rocketed to Earth by her loving parents to save her from the ravages of war ... a sort of sideways version of Superman's origin. She was found by Faraday and raised in the likeness of his dead daughter.

I suppose it could be creepy ... raising a shapeshifting alien as your dead daughter.

When Farady died, the white Martian became angry and alone and began to lash out.

And the white Martian is ... M'Gann Morzz. Hello M'Gann!!!

And so both M'Gann and J'Onn find someone to care for and share their lives with. Despite the planet's history, these two recognize the value of family and so take each other in. You can definitely apply the earlier conversation about Bruce/Babs to these two - too old to be a daughter, too young to be a lover, instead an anchor.

And then we get a nice 'quiet' moment between Bruce and a recovering Steph Barbara. We see a crack in Batman's armor as he actually cracks a joke while training, only to self-mock immediately afterwards.

Overall I thought this was a great issue, introducing Miss Martian to the Smallville universe and showcasing how these heroes need someone in their lives to keep them semi-sane. And, much like the main title, it really deepens and broadens this universe. And it continued to have the nice blend of humor and action.

But if there is anything that this Special #1 did is made me hope ... BEYOND HOPE ... that a Smallville Special #2 is already in the works ... one starring Supergirl, Nightwing, and Miss Martian!!!

Let's face it, we have read Miller's Kara/Steph crossover stories and how fantastic those stories were. Why not bring that magic here!

I don't know if Bryan Miller comes here or reads this ... but if you do Mr. Miller, please write that story!!

Overall grade: B+


LJ-90 said...

Great review Anj!

I really liked Effigy, even if I'm not a big Batman or Martian Manhunter fan. I enjoyed the theme of family and letting people in, and overall I like the theme of the season, Miller said in an interview that S11 is about:

"Brian: Growing up and finding a way to face the world with a smile on your face and a cape on your back. Realizing that, even though the weight of the world is on your shoulders, you're never as alone as you think."

Just a couple of corrections though, Lois and Clark aren't married yet (I really hope the season finale is a flashforward so we can see their wedding) and you put Superman instead of Smallville in the title of the post :P

If you do get around to watch the series again I would recomend you to watch season 9, I believe it's the best season even though it's a little "dark", but I think it's a really great season overall.

And a Special #2 is coming! And it's about Lois!

Anonymous said...

White martian, her, could it be? M'gann and Kara are my favorite characters so I'm glad to see M'gann introduced to the Smallville universe. I'll have to read this.

Thank you Anj for reviewing this, I wouldn't have known she was in it otherwise.


PRgirl1294 said...

I really liked this issue and you did a pretty good job reviewing it. I've been waiting for this review for months. Being a "Young Justice" fan, I was very pleasantly surprised when that White Martian turned out to be Miss Martian. With the appearance of a White Martian, I figured that she would show up, but I didn't think that that would be her. Unfortunately, the next special is gonna be that "Valkyrie" story arc with Lois Lane and Lana Lang fighting Metallo in the Congo, so it won't feature M'gann. But hopefully, the special after that will feature her, though it'd more likely be her with Superboy than with Supergirl. I'm pretty curious about how M'gann and Conner would interact, especially since they have similar histories. I think that it would be cute if they got together like they did in "Young Justice". And if they hook up with Blue Beetle, Speedy (Mia Dearden) and/or some other teen heroes to form a Teen Titans/Young Justice team, that would be really cool.