Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: Smallville Season Eleven #19

As with last month, two comics starring Superman and Wonder Woman were released last week. And as with last month, they are radically different from each other and how they approach these heroes and their relationships. I decided to review the better one first.

Smallville Season Eleven #19, the ending of Olympus, was my favorite comic that I read last week and I bought ten books. Superman and Wonder Woman team up to fight Hades and try to save Washington D.C. from an army of the undead and giant monsters made from our nation's capital's landmarks. No one likes a good 'punch em up' like me. But despite the great action, it is the characterization of the heroes that made this my favorite book.

Writer Bryan Q. Miller has always written a great Clark/Superman in this book, showing a humble man trying to do what's right because it is simply the right thing to do. His Lois has been brave and strong. And now, in Olympus, he shows us that he has a complete grasp of Diana. In this issue, garbed in a more classic Wonder Woman outfit, his Diana says all the right things and does all the right things. It is refreshing.

Add to that Jorge Jimenez' continued great art and you have a great issue. I have been completely impressed with Jimenez' work on this arc. It has been dynamic, stylized, and had the perfect feel for this story.

I am sad to see this story end ... that is the mark of a great story. I hope that when Smallville eventually gets to its Crisis that Diana is one of the gathered heroes.

And there are the small bits that Miller throws in just for fun.

With Washington D.C. under attack, the President takes to the air in Air Force One. Of course, there is a harpy on the wing. And 'Billy' sees it.

This is clearly an homage to the Twilight Zone episode 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet' which starred an addled William Shatner seeing a gremlin on the wing of his airplane.

Unlike Shatner's plane, Superman is around to save this plane.

Now trust me when I say that there is great action in this issue as the Superman/Wonder Woman duo battle Hades. It is standard comic book action, wonderfully drawn and choreographed.

So while I might not highlight the best action shots, I have to include the best lines, best characterization, that comes from the battle.

First, as Superman confronts Hades he says 'I'm not a god. I'm just a man doing what's right'. Perfect. Especially when punctuated by a nice right hook.

And when Superman gets sidetracked with a stone giant made from an animated Washington Monument, Diana engages. Now this page commences with a nice orange background silhouetted figures of Wonder Woman slicing her way through the undead. It is a great picture which invoked some of the stronger images of the '300' movie. But I liked this panel even better.

Hades decides to try to make it personal by scooping up Steve Trevor and threatening to kill him if Diana continues.

Diane retorts 'I don't fight for this man. I fight for ALL mankind!!!' Perfect. Especially when punctuated by some zombie thrashing.

And then the moment of the book for me. The writers of the Man of Steel movie should take note.

Hades is endangering countless lives with his attack. He will bring his chaos to all corners. The easiest way to remove Hades from Earth is to kill the human he is tethered to ... Felix Faust.

So why not kill Faust and end the threat?

Because Superman doesn't kill.

'There's always another way!'

That's how Superman thinks. That's what Superman does.

Superman grabs Hades and flies him up to space.

And he makes Hades an offer he can't refuse. He can spend eternity locked in Tartarus again, biding his time. Or Superman can throw him into space to float forever through the void.

Faced with that choice, Hades allows himself to again get tossed into his underworld prison. And Faust gets tossed in too for good measure.

There is always another way!


And then there isn't an embrace and kiss between Superman and Wonder Woman. There isn't the two of them melting into each others' arms, entangled in a mile long magic lasso.

Instead there is a high-five, a nice hand shake between colleagues who just vanquished the god of the dead. I love this image.

And I love that they are celebrating that Superman ultimately defeated Hades with his brain, his words.

I like this relationship between the two heroes.

As I said, the characterization here is wonderful. This is a Superman who is meant to inspire, to lead by example, but is still this humble kid from Smallville.

Even Diana can sense it. Superman serves Justice and Light.

But a farm boy doesn't want to be a god.

And Jimenez continues to shine throughout.

This panel struck me as one of those examples of art and words complementing each other wonderfully.

Diana says that she will not return to Themyscira. She will stay and prove to the world that someone in the pursuit of truth and justice can make a difference.  Great words, great sentiment, great character growth.

But this also means she is putting her old life behind her. So looking at the distant sun, putting her in silhouette, adds a layer of emotion or tone that the words can't do by themselves. By having her face away from us we know she is looking ahead, that her job isn't finished. This is the beginning of her journey and she has a long way to go.

If this was a close up of Diana's face, or her looking at us in bright light, we would miss this. And the silhouette is part of that power.

But the fallout from the attack has enraged the populace. Even though the President praises the superheroes for stopping things, the public reacts with fear. They decide to protest anything 'other'.

The world is a cynical place. We need a Superman to shine despite the cynicism, to show people what they should do, to eventually work past the fear to inspire.

What Miller does, that I like, is show that Clark is still a bit squeamish about the pressure of great responsibility and great power. But he knows what he needs to do. He needs to step into the spotlight and try to be that role model. It might be tough or rough. But it's right. So he enjoys one last quiet night with Lois.

And then admits to the President that he is an alien.

Nice cliffhanger.

Unfortunately it also means Olympus is over.

Between the Diana origin story flashbacks, the DEO subplot, the 'white suited' Diana Prince, the eventual donning of the Wonder Woman outfit, Superman's power and ethics, this has been one heck of an arc. Everything about this story clicked ... the plot threads, the pacing, the outcome.

And Jimenez hit a grand slam here. From the beginning, his stuff has crackled. I truly hope we see him back here (or on any DC book) in the near future.

Hooray for this Superman/Wonder Woman book.

Overall grade: A


Jay said...

I definitely like the characterization, but to be honest I think you're being a bit biased in trying to insinuate that this is any better than they're relationship in the New 52, just because its a romantic one and not platonic. I know its a touchy subject but I just don't see how one interpretation is any more "right" than the other, y'know? In this verse, they're just friends, and that's awesome. In the New 52, they're more than that, and that's fine too and I just don't buy any argument I've seen anywhere trying to paint it off as fundamentally untrue to either character.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comment.

You're right Jay. I am biased. And I guess that makes doing a review even harder.

I just think this version of their relationship *is* better.

Anyways, I try to see the best in comics. And, as always, good stories go a long way in making a new direction more palatable.

Jay said...

And hey that's okay. I'm biased too, when I say that I don't mean it as an insult. Everyone has their biases.

I definitely respect anyone who simply likes the platonic relationship better.

Anonymous said...

Erm, WW in a tight black fitting jump suit with a SKULL is not exactly right for WW imo. It's absurd for one and just apes the worst run of WW by Picoult and Heiburg where she struts around in a body fitting jump suit and expect people to not see she is WW. In colored shades and working for the government so she can be near Stevie. Utter tosh for WW who came off Perez and the Ambassador no ID era. If she had to have an ID should not more in line with travelling the world and making a difference. It's weird to me anyone who claims to like WW can even like this. He seeing Clakr take off the glasses and going oooh I didn't see it, is foolish pandering too. Also him telling her to be a hero. Smallville Superman who whined his way to becoming a hero lecturing Diana is rich.