Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Review: Smallville Season 11: Alien #3

Smallville Alien #3 came out last Wednesday and continued the push towards an eventual Crisis event in this universe. While that tension and suspense of that impending cataclysm looms large, this issue seems to take a bit of a pause. Instead of putting the pedal to the metal and moving the plot open at breakneck speed, writer Bryan Miller instead reveals just enough to keep the snowball moving down the hillside. But Miller also gives the supporting cast great character moments that keeps this universe as detailed and three dimensional as possible.

No don't let that opening paragraph fool you. There are a couple of great plot moments here which are jaw-dropping. And there is a cliffhanger which seems to harken back to the opening scenes of the show. But it is the small moments in this book that is the glue.

This issue also continues the world-building that Miller has done so well. There are basically a whole gaggle of super-heroes, super-villains, super-teams, and cosmic beings out there, all gleaned from the DCU proper but with a Smallville spin. So hearing about someone called 'The Ray' existing here isn't surprising and does make me happy.

Edgar Salazar is on art here and his clean detailed style shines. There is less of a dynamic feel here than someone like Jorge Jimenez. These panels seem like photographs, the characters frozen in the moment. Beautiful, don't get me wrong. Just less dynamic than other artists that have been on the book. Cat Staggs gives us another great cover.

Last issue ended with the Monitor battling Superman and some Rocket Reds before disappearing into some time/space rift. It is clear that this Monitor packs a punch as he is able to bloody Superman.

While basking in the sun to heal, Superman puts Tess on the case. How did the Monitor hurt him? And where has the Monitor gone.

I love the way electronic Tess is visually shown in this book. Here she is manipulating satellites to get the needed info. She is sort of the ultimate Oracle.

As I said before, Miller really does such a great job of making the characters in the book feel three-dimensional. Back in action as Clark, Superman convinces Lex that they should hunt down the Monitor.

Surprisingly, Luthor tells his aide Otis to stay behind. It is too dangerous.

So Lex cares about Otis! Fascinating. All along we have been shown a Lex who seems to be 'protesting too much' to be a bad guy. This is another peek behind the armor.

And Otis has grown from the bumbling sidekick to something more.

Meanwhile, Lois and Chloe are still in Gotham investigating the death of 'other Clark'.

So the next couple of scenes aren't necessarily moving the story forward other than adding some subtle details. But what they do is further define and refine the characters.

Here I like the strength of Chloe as she asks Batman to join the group of heroes operating out of Watchtower. Let's face it ... it's going to be the Justice League.

And like most Batmen, this Bruce isn't interested. At least for now.

This scene shows us parts of Chloe and Bruce that we might not other see.

And then we see Lois walking the streets of Gotham with Nightwing. Sort of an odd time to take a stroll.

During the talk, we hear a new wrinkle to the story of "other Clark'. Genetically he is a human. So how is that possible? As he is from some other universe, who knows. Maybe he was in some weird de-powering pod like in Superman II? Maybe in that universe, Earth explodes and Clark is sent to Krypton?

Anyways, a nice little nudge to the plot.

But the rest of the scene has Lois talking to Nightwing about relationships with a super. Lois tells Steph Babs that her love life with the 'normal' circus gymnast is crucial, a way to ground her to the world around her, remind Nightwing who she is fighting for.

So, again, this scene is there only to discuss this point which, in many ways is separate from the Crisis storyline. But it does give us some insight into both these characters.

That said, maybe a hero needs to die in the Crisis (like Supergirl and Flash in the original). Would the death of this Nightwing be the impetus for a 'normal circus gymnast' to don the togs and remember who he is fighting for?? Would really hate to see this Nightwing go away.

This panel illustrates what I said about Salazar's art. This is a beautiful panel. But I have no feeling that Lois is flying into that kick.

And back to Otis!

Maybe still waters run deep. Maybe there is more to his past than bumbling oaf. Trying to figure out which super-villain he could have been in a past life.

But a backstory for a character that could have very easily been a caricature of the silly sidekick is pure Smallville.

Clark and Lex finally arrive where the Monitor flitted off to. There is a Monitor ship underground.

The two decide to investigate and stumble upon this. Grant Morrison called this the Ossuary of Earths. But clearly it shows a tube of Earths, all resting on one foundation Earth at the bottom. Is the Smallville-Earth the bottom Earth? Or is the DCnU Earth the bottom one? I love this visual.

Eventually the Monitor finds them and tells Lex and Clark that other Earths have already been destroyed and theirs is next.

One thing I know ... you only see the Ossuary during a Crisis.

And then two great cliffhangers. Batman discovers traces of the person who killed 'other Clark' and it leads him (and eventually Nightwing) to an amusement park. There they confront someone - who I presume is Clark's killer. It is Bruce from another world - a sort of morphed Joker/Batman.

Nice! It's an Elseworld-palooza!

And in Russia, the Monitor tries to kill Clark and Lex, finally landing a blast to Clark that knocks him out and into the water. Ahh ... but it also exposes the super-suit. Another nice cliffhanger.  It also feels like a reverse of their first meeting when Clark dove in to save a drowning Lex.

So overall another great issue of this book which has entertained month in and month out.

We are building to something big here. And we have a whole cast of characters that as readers you feel you know, care about. And that is going to make the eventual tragedy that will happen in this Crisis affect us as readers even more.

I just hope it isn't a Nightwing death. But that would be some sort of echo to a Supergirl death in the first Crisis, no?

Overall grade: A

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