Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: Smallville Season 11 #15

Smallville #15 came out last week, wrapping up the Argo storyline. In this day and age of decompressed story arcs, of plots that drag out endlessly, I have no higher praise than to say this ... this story ended too soon. I almost feel like this arc could have been one more issue to flesh everthing out. I feel like we really flew through the ending here. And while that certainly gave this issue a breath-taking pace, I wish I had a little more time to savor this.

Writer Bryan Q. Miller and artist Daniel HDR put together and wonderful Superman and Legion story. And yes, this a very good Supergirl story as well. While I could not care less, I bet Booster Gold fans might be happy about this story as well. And in this current market of dystopian futures, angry and disengaged Supergirls, and a killing Superman, Smallville and Argo actually serve up a healthy dose of inspiration and optimism. Even if the underlying plot is Earth vs. New Krypton, even if the big early event in this issue is the overused trope of Supergirl fighting Superman, then ending turns things on its head, bringing us to a brighter place.

I will say, that given the current state of comics there was a ton of irony in this book. Whether on purpose or accidental, I found that some particular moments were memorable.

Hmmm ... maybe when DC decides to bring back the Legion, Miller can be signed up to write the book, starring Supergirl of course.

As I said before, I think much of this story has been pushed forward so fast I don't know if I actually understand some of the crucial elements to the arc. I don't know if I completely grasp just why Earth and New Krypton are at such odds with each other. Is it as simple as the Earthgov being xenophobic and so afraid of the Kryptonians that they instigate a war?

Anyways, with outright war imminent between the two planets, only the Legion stands as a buffer. In a bit of a classic moment, Cosmic Boy gives a rah-rah speech to the team, reminding them that the Legion's mandate is to preserve life. This comic came out the very same week that Superman vaporizes a villain in Justice League. It comes at a time when the Legion comic is being canceled. I love this moment. That's what heroes should be striving to do, preserve life, even in a war where both sides hate them.

May I also say that I love these Legion designs. And how fun to see Ferro Lad again!

Meanwhile, Superman and Supergirl have just discovered that EarthGov has tampered with Faora's tomb.

Again, this angry response by Supergirl feels a little rushed. In fact, much like I don't quite grasp the sides of the Earth/Argo conflict, I don't know if I have a great sense for Supergirl's motivations here. Is she completely invested in Argo and the prevailing politics of that world-ship? Does she think of herself as a Legionnaire first? Somewhere in the middle?

It does seem as like a lot has been thrust on Kara in a very short time in the 30th century. I think the bombing of New Krypton happened shortly after she arrived. Maybe she doesn't quite grasp the sides either.

She does show a bit of the Vandervoort temper here, threatening to fry one of the SciPo officer for being part outside Faora's tomb. And, of course, Superman has to 'teach' her the right thing to do.

This felt a bit Silver Age-y here, with the 'wise' Superman telling Supergirl what she should do and how she should think. I don't want my Supergirl killing police officers. But this confrontation felt a little rushed. Supergirl felt just a little unhinged here, with pretty dramatic mood shifts.

Should Kara care enough about Faora's tomb to have this violent reaction? I don't know. Should she feel this violation be enough for her to label all of humanity as evil?

It does give Superman the opportunity to remind her that he considers himself human, that he was raised by humans, that not everyone is evil.

And as fast as it started, the fight is over and Kara apologizes. Again, I think either Miller or his editors decided there needed to be a Kal/Kara fight and so one is here. But I don't think this was crucial for either their characters or this story.

I do find it ironic that Superman simply blocks her heat vision with his hand. Reminded me of one of the possible endings of the Man of Steel movie. I should be happy, I suppose, that Superman didn't break her neck.

But just as quickly as the two were brawling, they forgive, forget, and get back to work.

New Krypton has sent a gravity bomb to Earth, aimed for Metropolis.
Earth has boom tubed a Doomsday clone to New Krypton.

It is time for an old fashioned Legion strategy. Split into teams and divide and conquer. Okay, so the Doomday team is just Superman and Saturn Girl. It is still great to see Supergirl basically stand up and become the leader of the Legion here. Even Rokk and Brainy realize she is in charge here.

I love it.

This breakdown of force allows Superman a nice moment where he uses Saturn Girl's  telepathy to speak to all the citizens of Argo, mobilizing them into a super-army to fight Doomsday. It lets us see the inspirational Superman that has been missing for a while. I think this is a great panel with the bloodied Superman taking a breather while the Kryptonians swarm.

Unfortunately, it looks like these Kryptonians can't subdue Doomsday. It will be up to Clark. And he knows this is a suicide mission.

I love this panel progression. Just prior to this Saturn Girl tells Superman that his idea to defeat Doomsday will end up killing them both. The thing that works for me the most is that middle panel with the empty word bubble, the slumped shoulders, a feeling of resignation that there isn't any other answer. And then we see a more resolved Superman in the last panel, matter-of-factly stating that he knows.

It is a great moment. This is who Superman should be, willing to lay down his own life to save others.

In another moment that mirrors Man of Steel, the 'gravity bomb' from New Krypton pretty much levels Metropolis. I wonder just when this was written or drawn. Could this all just be comics karma?

But again, Miller shows that Supergirl is a leader as she mobilizes the Legion's efforts in the city. And their only goal is to rescue everybody they can. Again, whether on purpose or not, it differs so much from the Man of Steel movie. Instead of plowing through the city without a care for damage or death, the only goal of the team is to save life.

Still excellent to see Supergirl acting the de facto Legion leader.

While rescue efforts commence on Earth, Superman realizes there is only one way to stop the threat of Doomsday and that is to literally throw him into the sun. If it is one thing that I have learned in comics and super-hero movies, no one ... not even Superman ... can escape the gravity well of the sun. Superman knew this was a one way trip barring a miracle.

But this is so great. As he falls into the sun with Doomsday, knowing this is a suicide mission, his last thoughts (communicated to Saturn Girl) are not only of Lois but also of Kara. It is a classic Superman sentiment ... thinking of others even as the ends approaches.

While Doomsday does plunge into the sun, Superman is pulled to safety when the Legion and Supergirl form a daisy chain with everyone pulling him to safety. That just didn't work for me.

But before I could think about it for too long, Daniel HDR gives us a great 'Long Live the Legion'  image.

Seriously, I would buy a monthly Legion book that looked like this one. Maybe one of the future Smallville specials can revisit Supergirl and the Legion.

But it all ends so quickly. The Earthgov helped the Legion with their rescue efforts. New Krypton will help the Earth recover. As quickly as it started and without much explanation, it all ends. Maybe too fast and too neat.

But that neat ending of the war does leave things more open ended and certainly happier for Supergirl. No longer a spy for New Krypton. No longer feeling torn between two worlds, Kara gets to decide what she wants her mission to be. A happy smiling Kara is a nice way to cap off this issue.

So there is so much to love in this book and story that I can sort of firget about the forced cousin-fighting and the obtuse war storyline we saw here. For the sake of time and space we saw some wild mood swings and loyalties in Supergirl. But she ends the book as a hero, a leader, and happy. I can't complain. We also got some fine Legion stuff as well. And since Supergirl and the Legion are my two favorite DC properties, this was a 'chocolate and peanut butter' combination, so much I basically have no recollection of Booster Gold's role in this story. Add to that some odd synergy with my biggest complaints about the Man of Steel movie and I found this a very entertaining ending.

When an arc ends and I wish it wasn't over, when I wish for more story, that is a sign of success.

And I would be remiss if I didn't again comment on how much I liked this variant Supergirl costume designed by Cat Staggs. Marvelous.

Overall grade: B+


Kent G. Hare said...

I'm with you on this story ending so abruptly. In my blog I speculate that maybe it's a casualty of the addition of the special side-stories, which MAYBE led to a late readjustment of this story from 12 to 9 parts. Whatever, it's a shame and another example of my beloved Legion getting the shaft lately, even though I loved the story as it stands, right up to the final week (I'm buying it weekly online).

I too would pick up a Legion book that's as good as this was overall in an instant. I wonder if that's maybe a way to keep the Legion going in some form, via a weekly digital-first comic - or even digital-first then direct to trade. I don't know the economics of the business, but it seems to me that a digital-first weekly wouldn't need quite the volume of ongoing sales to support it. I could be wrong about that.


Kandou Erik said...

Supergirl news update - the artist has left the title (as of issue #20). Also, Superboy's writer left over creative differences.

Anonymous said...

Great review Anj,

A smiling Supergirl is nice. I could get used to that.

Is Doomsday clone still alive?


Anj said...

Thanks for the posts.

On Twitter, Miller does say that this was the first 9 parter (as opposed to a 12 parter) and that some lessons were learned from trying to squeeze this story in.

The high points were high enough to make me gloss over some of the story lapses. I hope Miller can revisit this.

As for Doomsday Eki, they made a point of saying there was no human part of him. I assume he is either dead or simply trapped in the sun.