Monday, June 16, 2014

Review: Smallville Lantern #3

For some reason Smallville tends to be the last comic of the prior week that I review. I figured it was time to buck the trend.

Smallville Lantern #3 came out this week and was another fun and entertaining issue. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised anymore. Writer Bryan Q. Miller put together a stellar run on Batgirl with Steph. And so far his Smallville universe continues to grow, adding more of the DCU, and speeding to a Crisis.

This issue seemed to concentrate more on the Green Lantern side of the story with Superman taking something of a back seat. It's okay because this is a middle chapter. The plot needs to progress and we need to learn more about the yellow lanterns and set up a climax.

What surprises me the most is how Miller is able to weave in a number of smaller subplots into the issue while moving the main plot along. We see Oliver and Chloe continue to search for Prometheus. We check in on the Titans, and the JSA, and Batman and Nightwing. Even the sub-subplot of Steph's Barb's love life is touched upon. Great stuff.

I am a huge fan of Marcio Takara's art and he shines here. From quiet scenes of two people talking to intergalactic battles, he brings a great style. And the cover by Cat Staggs showing Batman surrounded by rings is great.

Last issue Parallax, angry at a perceived break of a truce, sent yellow rings to Earth. The rings will sow fear which would feed the monster.

While most of the rings head to Gotham, one heads to the Titans headquarters.

I thought this was a fantastic scene. One of the rings approaches M'Gann and seems to consider her as a Yellow Lantern. But after scanning, it moves on. I like the dynamic feel to Takara's art here. You almost see her twisting as she eyes the ring.

Given her actions in Smallville Effigy, it makes sense that she might be approached as a bringer of fear. And yet, it passing on her shows how much she has grown! Great little moment.

The bulk of Yellow Rings head to Arkham. That also makes sense.

For me, the Nightwing of Smallville  is the breakout character of the book. There is clearly a Steph-ness about her which is refreshing. Smart, strong, funny, emotional ... it's all there! Earlier in this scene, we see her take out a couple of punks clearly based on the Mutant gang of Miller's Dark Knight Returns.

Then with the rings screaming to Arkham, she has to break her date with the as yet unseen boyfriend ... named Richie. Hmm ... Richie, a gymnast, family owns a circus. When will we meet this Mr. Grayson?

As for Clark and Jon Stewart, they are still in deep space and clearly outmatched by Parallax. In order to give the Lanterns some time to retreat, Ganthet awakens from his slumber and tells Jon that the secret to defeat Parallax is to find out what Parallax fears.

The price for his telepathic information ... being ripped in half. Over the last 5 years I have seen more dismemberments and characters being torn in half than I have in the prior 3 plus decades. It has become routine and lost its emotional response.

And yet, this one shocked me a bit more just because these moments are few in Smallville. They still shock here and that's a good thing.

With rings all over Gotham, Jon facing off against Parallax, and Clark streaming back to Earth, Miller takes a step back giving me time to catch my breath. And in that space we catch up on the rest of the cast.

Chloe isn't too upset at Oliver despite his heading out on adventures. Mostly she is just thrilled he is alive.

What I love about this is how this has raised her ire. She wants Oliver to finish the job now and bring in Prometheus.

What I like about the art is Chloe existing outside the panel, bigger than life, determined expression. This is a big moment for her, to allow Oliver to head out and do his job, and it shows in the construction of the panel.

And we catch up with Lex who is still trying to learn about Green Lanterns by researching Alan Scott.

In the JSA headquarters, he tries to intimidate Ma Hunkel into giving out information. When she doesn't, he threatens her by saying he'll simply buy the building and force the JSA out.

Unbowed, Hunkel tells him how all bad guys think real estate is the answer to everything. I have to think it is a reference to Gene Hackman (and later Kevin Spacey) concentrating on a complex land deal as a way to grab worldly power.

As for the yellow rings, they find lots of easy recipients at Arkham.

But this small moment made me smile. Initially, Victor Fries is able to fight it off, love of his wife being the dominant emotion in him. But the power of the yellow ring seduces him.

I am a sucker for character moments. Much like M'Gann rejecting the ring and Babs calling Richie, this panel just adds depth to this book. Mr. Freeze is an afterthought in this book but he gets his moment to shine. I like a 3-dimensional comic world and this comic has that.

Like many of Batman's villains, Freeze dons the ring, creates a Yellow Lantern costume/armor and begins terrorizing the city.

Miller takes the opportunity of being in Arkham to add Harleen Quinzel to the Smallville universe.

Harley Quinn!

Surprisingly, Parallax begins to verbally attack Stewart, talking about corrupting Hal Jordan and defeating the Corps.  It is only a matter of time before Stewart gives in to fear.

Jon responds by showing how much he misses Hal by creating a massive Jordan construct and attacking. Much like Doomed is showing how much Superman means to the hero community, I thought this response showed how much Jon cares for and revered Jon.

But it isn't good enough ... Parallax continues to come on and attack both mind and body.

Despite the intergalactic catastrophe that is going on, the Prometheus problem is still out there. And it looks like he has something massive planned and will use the Ring attack as a cover/diversion.

And someone has to stop him. So why not Oliver in a quickly rigged set of armor.

Nifty design.

But Arrow against Prometheus? Seems like a mismatch.

Superman shakes off his green armor to better battle the Yellow Lantern Corps of Batman Rogues when things suddenly get worse.

Stewart has been worn down and dons the Yellow Ring as an agent of Parallax. And they're on Earth!

I don't know if quite understand why Stewart fell so quickly. But this certainly is a solid cliffhanger.

So let's start guessing. What is Parallax afraid of? Hal? Hope? Superman?

But will the combined might of Superman, Batman, and Nightwing last long enough to find out.

As much as this Lantern story is interesting, I have to say that I love the small character moments outside the arc even more. One thing I don't see too often these days is a solid, well developed, supporting cast. It makes a book so much more enjoyable. 

Add to those moments more DCU folks appearing (Freeze, Harley) and the solid Lantern main plot, and you have a great book.

Overall grade: A

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