Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: Smallville Season 11 #4

Smallville Season Eleven #4 came out in print form this week and wrapped up the Cyborg Superman storyline while opening the doors to lots of new plotlines.

In some ways I am a little surprised to see how quickly the end of the Cyborg plot happened. I thought for sure there would be more to mine here. And yet, I wonder if we won't end up seeing more of Hank Henshaw before this comic wraps up.

And yet, the promises of the future plotlines, including one that made me shiver a bit, made me glad to see that the punch-em-up with Henshaw ended now. There is a lot hinted at now that I want writer Bryan Q. Miller to explore.

And through it all, the Smallville Superman continues to have the air of the pre-New 52 Superman in many ways, enough to make me appreciate this book much more than I thought I would (given my problems with the show).

Pere Perez' art in the issue is the strongest I have seen of him on this book. This is the Perez I know from the Nightwing/Flamebird issues of Action and Batgirl. He just shines here.

Last issue General Lane witnessed a potential attack on Lex by Superman and responded with military force.  When property damage and civilian risk started to outweigh the mission, both sides stand down.

There were a lot of good moments in this issue but this one is near the top. It is pretty clear that Lane knows that Clark is Superman. So to have him pause when he says they need to make their relationship work is telling. How can they co-exist if Superman's goals and Lane's orders are in direct conflict. Maybe this will open up some sort of grudging version of the Gordon/Batman relationship. Solid stuff and very effective work of the pause mid sentence and the new panel.

In the meantime, Henshaw has basically become unhinged by his condition, vacillating between a blue-faced sadness over his condition and a red-faced rage. In an uncontrollable fury he actually vaporizes his comatose flesh body.

But he seems tangential in his thought pattern and in his ire. He initially is angry at Lex. Then his wife tells him Superman could have saved him and that violent rage becomes focused squarely on the now-arrived Superman. As I noted before, Henshaw is a guy tuned into his senses so a sterile robot existence wouldn't be a comfort for him. In fact, he anger aimed at Superman makes him 'feel again'. Nice consistent characterization of Henshaw here.

Much like Captain Comet is a foil for Superman in Action, Henshaw is a good mirror for Superman here. During their fight, Henshaw wonders how Superman can act at all knowing he will never save everyone. And then when subdues via decapitation, the Henshaw head says he meant well but lost his himself. He wonders how Superman holds it together.

Remember, while Clark has been in action for some time (as the Blur, etc), the Superman persona is still young. So this discussion on being a hero in the open, trying your best and knowing you will fail, reining in your emotions for the better of others, it all resonated.

As for Henshaw, knowing what we know about the Cyborg Superman how long do you think he will be content in just that head? How long before his consciousness spreads over the wires into other places?

The mysterious traveler in the Queen Pod turns out to be Chloe ... but not from the future. Instead she is from another Earth.

It looks like some weird reaction happens when our Chloe tries to touch this one. It looks like she is killed by a shadowy figure in a small rift. Maybe the Lex of this other Earth? Maybe this one is a super-scientist in a power suit?

With the Henshaw crisis over, Superman goes to finish his conversation with Lex, albeit in a calmer mood.

One thing I like here is the overall optimism that Clark has. He remembers a Lex that struggled with evil and tried to move away from his family's legacy. He keeps hoping that this Lex has some good in him, that he has a desire to do good.

But this Lex is too far gone.

This Lex did purposefully sabotage his shuttle launch, threatening the crew's lives and damning Henshaw to his fate.

And all this to coat Superman with a radiation that Luthor can easily track. Lex will know exactly where Superman is from now on. That means no time as Clark. No time with Lois. No Kent farm. He has to be Superman and above it all from now on. It is a cruel blow by Luthor.

But here is an actual representation of that restraint that Henshaw didn't have. He could brain Luthor. But instead he flies off.

It leads to a tender goodbye scene between Lois and Clark/Superman. There is no easy solution. No zapping of satellites. No easy scrubbing off of the radiation. Instead it has to be goodbye for now.

Lois is as strong and feisty as expected first threatening to go and punch Luthor before saying goodbye.

Look! It's a Lois/Clark relationship in comics! And it works!

The 'other' Chloe, said to be from Earth 2, dies. But not before she gives Oliver a warning. Superman needs to know that The Crisis is coming. Very nice use of the red background here, evoking blood, fire, and the red skies of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

But knowing that Miller already said that Supergirl will be making an appearance in the book, it also gave me a chill.

My favorite subplot in the book is Tess' consciousness being buried in Lex. With Henshaw experiment having failed, Lex had nowhere to safely download his sister. I guess putting his sister into a killing machine wouldn't be safe for Lex more than for Tess.

This last scene implies that Tess is trying to usurp control of Lex's body, trying and apparently succeeding in making him move his finger (while he is sleeping). Excellent. How fantastic would it be for Tess to take control of Lex, making him ride along helpless in his own body!

Again, nothing to complain about here. The story moves along quickly. There is solid characterization everywhere. And now the hinting of the Crisis. Add to that the sharp art and it is a winning combination all around.

That said, the 'Vandervoort' Supergirl better not die in this Crisis!

Overall grade: B+/A


Anonymous said...

"That said, the 'Vandervoort' Supergirl better not die in this Crisis!"
I would not put money on that if I were you...DC has a long history of making bad mistakes with the Supergirl character, and we are about due for another one IMHO.
The "Smallville Franchise" is particular has a propensity for tossing Supergirl over the side the very second she starts overshadowing Clark. Keep that in mind as "The Crisis" draws near, "No Head Can Be Higher Than Clark Kent".


Anonymous said...

They should've had a Vandervoort Supergirl spinoff (in costume, of course).

WIth that said, I wish they'd make a Vandervoort Supergirl spinoff of the Smalville comic book at least. Stick her in the classic movie/matrix costume. That always seems to be the most popular version of the costume and she already wore a version of that on the show.

I love the new Supergirl, but, growing up in the 80's/90's, I'll always prefer her in the skirted costumes with the one piece and the more feminine cut bottom.

LJ-90 said...

I loved this issue, great review Anj. I loved the scene where Hank and Supes are fighting and Henshaw says:

‎"If you can't save everybody, then why even bother?!"

And Superman just answers:
"You think that doesn't keep me up at night? But just because it's impossible, that doesn't mean I'll stop trying to make it a reality"

It was a powerful moment, I really hope this comic is here for the long term, I love this version of Superman. I had problems with the show and even with this comic, but this Superman is so close to pre-new52 Supes that it's just a great read.

Anonymous said...

This is totally off-topic, but still Supergirl-related. Last weekend, I bought a huge poster at a used book store: it was a painting by Alex Ross featuring a very nice depiction of Supergirl in what I think is her 1980s costume (blue V-neck blouse with Super-S on the breast). She is smiling confidently with her arms folded. It's really nice and a total surprise that I found it in a bargain pile. Does anyone know which project this image is from, or is it just a nice poster?

PRgirl1294 said...

Just to clarify something about this, the other Earth that the now-dead version of Chloe is from is the Earth-2 that Ultraman and that bad Lionel Luthor were from. If you've seen Season 10 of Smallville, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Anj said...

Just to clarify something about this, the other Earth that the now-dead version of Chloe is from is the Earth-2 that Ultraman and that bad Lionel Luthor were from.

Thanks so much.

I did watch Smallville but its continuity isn't in the forefront of my brain sometimes. Thanks for cluing me in!