Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: Smallville #16

I have been singing the praises of Bryan Q. Miller's Smallville comic since it came out. It has been a balm for people like me struggling a bit with the New 52 Superman. And while I wasn't thrilled with the last arc starring Supergirl and Legion arc, it still was solid story telling. And it treated Supergirl with respect.

Smallville #16 came out last week, starting the 'Olympus' arc guest starring Wonder Woman. And this arc started out with a bang. Everything about this issue clicked. From the characterization of Diana to the phenomenal art by Jorge Jimenez to the standard Clark/Lois interaction, this issue crackled. Just amazing stuff. Add to that some small homages and flourishes that more seasoned comic readers can read and appreciate without being detracting.

I also have to commend Miller for bringing more and more DCU characters into his version of the DCU. I am telling you, we are heading to a Crisis event and everyone we have met this 'season' is going to team up. Maybe Clark even activates the Legion Protocol six to gather all the Legionnaires together.

As for Jorge Jimenez, his art is obviously manga-influenced. But it skirts the style without being consumed by it. One thing I love is that the flashback sequences when Diana is more of a Wonder Girl, the style becomes even more anime, meandering closer to the Chibi side of the spectrum. It all works incredible well.

We open up with one of those flashbacks. In a wrinkle on the more classic Wonder Woman origin, Steve Trevor washes up on the shore of Paradise Island ... but here as a kid surviving a shipwreck rather than as a military pilot. And a young Diana finds him and decides he can come on land because he is a boy, not a man.

She saves him from the other Amazons, hiding him away as her 'secret boy'. I love this sequence! Diana is strong but also cute and girlish. And Steve clearly needs saving. Jimenez' art sparkles here with some crazy perspectives, some exaggeration (like Diana's hair), and crazy energy.

This was such a nice little update to the origin.

As I have said before, the show Smallville was something of a mixed bag for me and I certainly don't have the episodes and details of storylines in my head.

So I was glad to have Miller re-introduce Ma Kent into the Smallville comic universe. I forgot that she was a US Senator. With her term coming near an end, the DEO, headed by a version of Mr. Bones, asks her to come join. They are impressed with her record dealing with supers.

And if I forgot about her being a Senator you know I forgot about her being the Red Queen dealing with Checkmate.

So adding the DEO and Mr. Bones is another one of those expanded DCU tweets. But I love how Ma comes off as being tough as nails, not fazed or necessarily impressed by Bones.

The limo they are in are attacked by 'cult members' wielding some obvious magic.

Luckily Senator Kent is rescued by a powerful Amazon wearing a white jumpsuit.


Everyone knows that the white jumpsuit is part of Wonder Woman's history. Love it or hate it, it is great that Miller put it in the script. I am a bit partial to it so I like seeing it show up if it is done right.

And I love this panel. Looking up at Diana she is larger than life, confident and strong. And the full moon behind her really just completes the image.

The Planet decides to send Lois and Clark to investigate the attack which makes Clark happy to be there for his mother but cautious about his journalistic integrity.

Here he wonders if he should have just flown the two of them down as Superman. This might be my favorite moment in the issue. Lois wonders what she would do, hold his hand and fly along side with her arms out. I immediately thought of the 'Can you read my mind' segment in the Donner Superman movie. It is subtle homages and references that makes me love this book even more.

But even in this scene, we see how much Miller's Superman differs from what we see in the main DCU. There is no disaster too small for Clark to help with. He flies and gets a little girl's forgotten teddy bear to make her trip smoother. Again, that is what my Superman would do.

Clark and Lois decide to divide and conquer. Clark will head to the DEO. Lois will investigate the 'woman in white'.

Mr. Bones is too busy figuring out what happened with the magical cultists to give Clark some time. I do wonder who the 'London consultant' is who is turning DEO agents into frogs. Seems a bit too overt for Constantine. Tim Hunter??

With Bones preoccupied, Clark ends up meeting DEO agent Steve Trevor! I don't know of Diana is working with him (the spy suit makes me think so) or if she is truly a vigilante hero. I guess we'll learn soon.

Gratefully, we get another flashback segment in this print issue. Diana's secret boy is discovered by the Amazons and they aren't sure what to do with him. A young red-headed Amazon thinks he should be killed. How funny to see a young Diana scrapping with a young Artemis ... yet again! Again, it is this new-look at the old-DCU.

Hippolyta (black-haired again in this world) says she knows what to do.

I wonder if she will erase Trevor's mind of this part of his life. I wonder if that spurs Diana to leave the island. I wonder if this has already played out digitally.

Meanwhile, Lois finds Diana and starts to ask her about her origins and why she does what she does.

Before they can get too far, a bunch of harpies arrive to attack Wonder Woman. Their magical talons bleed her a bit.

Now if there is one thing I worry about it is that Miller is making Lois a little too tough. I love a strong Lois. I want her to be fearless. But I don't know if I need to see her confront super-powered magical monsters and completely hold her own. I want her to be strong but human. In this comic at times she seems like Super-Lois.

I do like that Diana wonders what man could be worthy of Lois' hand right as Superman arrives to help.

And not only does Superman arrive, Trevor does as well. And he and Lois have a history.

Hmmm ... now that is an interesting wrinkle. Was this before Diana made it off the island?

And boy, Jorge Jimenez art is so beautiful to look at.

The Harpies take off but it seems they accomplished their mission.

The cult leader is Felix Faust. And his goal was to get Diana's blood for some nefarious reasons. Nice hook for the next issue.

So nothing but great words for this issue. The art is just lush. Diana, either young girl or apparent super-hero, is portrayed wonderfully (pun intended). She seems equal parts protector and warrior. The addition of Martha and the DEO are great hooks to build up the depth of this universe. And the Lois and Clark interaction is still perfect.

This was one of those issues when I wished I had the next issue in my hand after I finished this one. That doesn't happen too often. Fantastic!

Overall grade: A+


Gene said...

I think the Wonder Woman "Amazon" show would not be in development limbo if Bryan Q Miller was allowed to develop it. This issue proves my point.

PRgirl1294 said...

Great review, but there was one part that you missed that I believe was important, if not to the current arc, to future arcs. While staying at Martha Kent's place, Clark asks her about Conner and she says that he's attending and making friends at a school for "gifted kids" run by Jay Garrick in San Francisco. If you ask me, that sounds like a lead-up to a "Teen Titans" coming in the future. That would be really cool.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

PRGirl - the Teen Titans idea is brilliant. I forgot just who/what Conner was on the show. But I like that Miller is keeping Garrick around as a supporting character!