Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Review: Smallville Alien #2

Smallville Alien #2 came out last week and continued to ramp up this season's grand finale of a Crisis. While the Alien term refers to Clark's coming clean with Earth that he is from Krypton, that storyline is pretty much left behind in this issue. Instead, the Monitor seems to be the most Alien thing we encounter here.

Bryan Q. Miller continues to slowly unspool his plot threads as we get to this Crisis event. We have known this was coming since the opening pages of the first Season 11 issue. One thing about this slow unfolding is that it has upped the feeling of dread inside me. We have ongoing strong plots (like Olympus and Argo) but always with more and more Crisis stuff seeping in. And this issue felt saturated! I think this is great.

The art on the arc is done by Edgar Salazar and he brings a fine-lined precision to the pages here. It is a different feel from the stylized art from Jorge Jimenez. But it works very well here. And, as usual, Cat Staggs does a great job on the cover. I love this one in particular, looking down on the crime scene from the site of where the victim came. Beautiful.

One thing I am happy to report is that on Twitter, Miller told me that Supergirl, despite being in the present with a Crisis looming, is safe. When I said I was worried for Kara, I was told by Miller to 'rest easy'. Whew! Supergirl fans fear a Crisis!

The book starts in Gotham of all places. There is long brawl between Batman and Bane in which Bruce is hoisted for the patented 'Bane backbreaker' only to escape relatively unharmed. As usual, the banter in the scene is great - especially some low end criminals talking about the need to wear hats if they work for the Mad Hatter.

But the scene, as usual, is stolen by Steph Babs as Batgirl. She arrives at the end of the fight because she was busy. She was on a date with a 'gymnast' ... or acrobat. Presumably this is Dick Grayson. We may never find out.

But Steph Babs performing a little flip on the car as she talks about the date is the sort of joie de vivre I have come to expect from the character. Maybe one of these Smallville Specials needs to be a Batgirl solo adventure? Pretty please?

The plot thickens in Gotham when Batman and Robin are called to a murder scene. This young man, dressed as Superman, is found in a Gotham alley, beaten to death.

Hmmm ... t-shirt, jeans, and a blanket tied around his neck as a cape? Seems awful New 52, doesn't it?


But this isn't a Batman book. It's Smallville. And so we head back to Russia where a Monitor crashed and was captured. Lex and Clark were heading that way when their jet malfunctioned and was rescued by the Rocket Reds.

I find the Smallville Lex an interesting character. I think he is evil and conniving because it is the only thing he knows. Don't get me wrong ... he is a killer, a plotter, and has destroyed lives. But at times he seems to pause before succumbing to those acts. In recent issues, he has seem more depressed, sitting around waiting for something to happen, rather than chortling gleefully from evil.

Here he is very interested in the Monitor and the other universes out there. So much, he is willing to buy the Monitor. Slick.

The Smallville Universe is getting larger and larger as more heroes and mainstream DCU characters are moving in and out of the book. So adding the Rocket Reds is a great addition.

But I like how Miller maintains a sort of internal consistency to the book. The head Rocket is Alexi, the Russian satellite saved by Superman in the first arc Guardian.

It is very clear that Miller wants Superman to be the bright light he should be, the inspiration for others to be heroes. Alexi makes sure that he tells Clark to let Superman know how much he has been inspired, to be a hero himself.

This isn't the kindly Monitor who was doing his best to save the multiverse in the original Crisis. This is a mean-spirited Monitor who has come to this Earth to witness its reckoning. This sounds more like he is one of many Monitors like we saw in Countdown.

And he has a lot of disdain for the world, literally spitting on the ground in disgust.

But he offers Lex something Luthor can't refuse. Knowledge. He promises Lex that he will cure Lex's amnesia if released. And Lex can't refuse.

Still. The fact this guy seems happy to watch an Earth die makes me think he is the villain of the piece. Maybe an Anti-monitor?

Lois and Chloe end up heading to Gotham and run into Batman/Batgirl and join in the investigation. There are some great lines and Batman and Chloe start debating who knows more about everyone. Both are pretty Big Brother-ish in their monitoring.

If you thought it was interesting that the 'dead Superman' looked like the New 52 t-shirt/jeans version then you will think it is very interesting that the 'dead Superman' turns out to be ... Clark Kent! That's right! It is a dead Superman from another world.

How did he get to Gotham? Why? I love a good mystery.

It seems that Lex decides to free the Monitor who then decides to do some property damage, lashing out at everything and everyone around him.

I did like this panel showing one of his powers. It seems he can rip a hole in reality, maybe shunting things to another universe/place. Here Rocket Red missiles disappear into the rent in space which then snaps shut.

If he has this power, he can clearly move himself from one place to another. So why did he get here via meteor crash. Why did he stay captured? (Maybe he needs to move his hands to open the space.)

So lots of unanswered questions here.

As I said before, the Smallville Lex is a little different than the callous Lex from the DCnU.

When the Monitor goes on this destructive spree, Lex actually seems upset by it. He asks the Monitor why he is attacking. Now the DCnU Lex wouldn't care. As long as the Monitor restored his memory, the rest is just collateral damage.

Even this Monitor differentiates him. This Lex isn't like the Lex Luthor 'Designates' from other universes who would feel humans are just bugs to be squashed.

I'm not saying that I like this Lex. It is just that he is more complicated than the pure evil one in the main universe. This Lex has been that way since the show, fighting nature and nurture, trying to stay away from evil but inevitably being drawn to it.

Luckily Superman shows up to try to even the fight.

But the Monitor is very tough. After a brief skirmish, both Clark and the Monitor are bloodied. The Monitor is no pushover. Realizing he might be outgunned though, the Monitor brings the building down on top of himself ... I assume so he can disappear in a rip in the fabric of space to a safe place.

So this was a find middle chapter of an arc. This revealed a lot of information about the story but leading me to more questions than answers. That is what a middle chapter is supposed to do. Give me just enough to start trying to figure things out but leave me wanting more.

I don't know if there has been a good Crisis since the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. Hoping this one will be a lot of fun. Certainly, there are enough DCU characters introduced here to make it feel big enough!

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

i've always really liked the super suit in this book. really like the blue-gray strip that goes up the side. Can't wait for J Jimenez to get back

ealperin said...

The Monitor? Ooooo! Are we going to get an Auntie Screensaver joke(Linda Danvers) tossed in as reference in this series? :3