Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review: Smallville: Lantern #4

Smallville has been knocking out of the park for so long now that I simply expect near perfection in this book.

Smallville:Lantern #4 came out last week and while still a very good book, it landed just below the bar that Bryan Q. Miller and his bevy off very talented artists have been bringing to me month after month. It can't be easy to live up to some insane level of awesomeness. I am sure that if I read the quality this issue brought in another title I'd be thrilled.

And it isn't as if this book doesn't have it's very good moments. It does ... a couple of really fantastic. But some of the resolutions of the big plots seem too fast and too easy. The good still outweighs the bad.

The art is done by Ig Guera and Marcio Takara. Their styles mesh nicely and big moments have big art. Despite the big action that is in the issue, my favorite art wise are the quiet epilogue pages which wrap things up.

I know this sounds like I was disappointed with this issue and I wasn't.

Last issue ended with Parallax sending hundreds of yellow rings to Earth to create a new Yellow Lantern Corps. We saw the rings find their way to Arkham Asylum and recruit the villains housed there.

I thought this moment was amusing. Steve Trevor notes that a bunch of rings went to Washington D.C. where they took over the Senate and the House.

What I like is that Miller doesn't choose political sides. He says both sides of the political aisle are fear mongers. Loved it.

The Watchtower tech folks discover that the Yellow Rings control their users and not the other way around. They also discover the frequency they operate on, meaning they will be able to jam the signal and cut off power.

Well, maybe not cut off power. But they say they can force the rings to power down and reboot.

I never thought about the ring like a little PC or device. I don't think them magical either. I know they are some type of machine. But rebooting a ring?

Okay, if I can accept the ring is powered by fear, I guess I can buy that they can be forced to shut down and restart.

Meanwhile, Superman is fighting the Parallax-possessed John Stewart and is holding his own.

Miller has shown that he has a great handle on Superman and here is more proof. Parallax keeps yelling at Superman to give in to fear and fall. Superman turns that notion on its head. He says he uses fear to keep him going. That fear can't be defeated but it can be utilized. And then he says that he wouldn't be who he was if he didn't conquer his fear, if he didn't turn away from his 'fate' even though it was frightening.

One thing I thought held down the Smallville show was all this Jor-El talk of Clark's legacy, his role in the universe and how he is supposed to feel. So acknowledging it was a nice touch.

I like this Smallville Clark/Superman way more than the sulking, occasionally glum version on the show.

Now here is one of those things that bothered me slightly this issue.

We have seen Prometheus in prior issues being extremely powerful and savage. He has walked away from fights unscathed and seemed unstoppable.

Here, while trying to rob Fort Knox (!!), he is out-boxed by an armored Green Arrow. Yes, Ollie is in a weaponized suit. And yes, when he punches Prometheus, he is holding a gold ingot giving him some extra oomph. But after 3 issues of coming to think Prometheus is scary, we see him taken out by a straightforward three punch combo.

I don't know, I was expecting something more.

After Batman defeats a yellow lantern, the ring abandons its first host and comes to him.

Realizing that the Watchtower needs time to figure out a jamming signal and therefore needs to study a ring, Batman shows just how powerful his will is (as well as his ability to harvest great fear).

So he controls the ring! He has it go into a sort of sleep mode, or deep scan mode, rather than force him to put it on or seek out a new host if he rejected it. I thought this was great, really showcasing the power and control of Batman's psyche. Pretty slick.

And so a jamming signal is discovered and all the yellow lanterns are suddenly powerless while their rings power down and reboot.

So I said the ultimate resolution of the Prometheus subplot left me a bit wanting.

Unfortunately the Parallax plot resolution also sort of let me down. While the heroes on Earth skirmish with the Yellow Lanterns, the remaining Green Lantern Corps finally tracks down what Parallax is afraid of. Turns out Parallax is afraid of 'going home'. The Lanterns open up a rift to the emotional spectrum avatars. And Ion comes out, scoops up Parallax and (with a little shove from Superman) takes him back through the breach.

It makes sense. But again it seemed just a bit too easy and a bit too out of left field. Maybe a bit too fast. We didn't hear anything about this solution until it appears here. Again, maybe I was expecting too much?

One thing I did like was that the jamming signal works on the Green rings as well. We get to see the remaining corps in their civilian clothes.

And poor Aya. Without the ring power, she collapses into her components.

Still, thank you thank you thank you Bryan Miller for bringing Aya into a comic!

The threat is over. The Yellow Rings are depowered. And John Stewart takes Clark's ring and says he will find someone who actually lives in sector 2813 to wear. Nice and easy. All that's left is the wrap-up.

Look! Clark and Lois love each other and kiss!

Thank you Bryan Miller for giving me a Clark and Lois romance. And thanks for leaving Lois out of this wild action. She is a super human. But she isn't super-human.

And remember there is a crisis coming which means something nasty is going to happen. Miller has hinted that someone is going to die.

So little scenes like this, Chloe talking about how she and Ollie are 'doomed' because of their love of adventuring, seem heavy with foreshadowing. Is one of these two going to die?

We also see an angry Lex stewing in his office with a pile of the inert yellow rings. That guy is always scheming.

The Lantern story wraps up here. We learn about more heroes in this version of the DCU. And things are moving towards a Crisis. But I almost feel like this arc warranted a 5th issue. I would have liked to see the resolutions of the main plots explored just a bit more.

Still, Smallville remains one of my favorite and one of the best comics out there.

Overall grade: B+/B


Anonymous said...

Much as I hate to say it, I wouldn't be surprised if Ollie were to die.

After all, in the future depicted in the last episode of the Smallville TV series, it was left pretty ambiguous about whether Ollie was still alive or not, what with Chloe alone putting their son to bed and a glance at Ollie's quiver abandoned in a corner.

Gerry Beritela

Anonymous said...

I think this arc needed another issue. Like you I felt that everything was wrapped up too fast and neat. Prometheus was taken down way too quickly and it didn't take the Lanterns any time at all to discover Parallax's fear and open a portal to his home dimension. The ending of last issue promised a lot of crazy things to come and didn't really live up to it.

Still, it was a good issue. Miller gets Superman so much. I wish he was writing the New 52 version. Pak's done a good job, but I'm wary about Johns and how he is making Clark out to be the ultimate loner. That's not who Superman is, and Smallville proves that.

Timothy Brannan said...

I have only been following this through your blog, but I think it is high time I picked it up for myself.

I am happy to see this non-52 Clark/Superman. Really happy to see Aya too.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments!

Gerry - thanks for reminder about the ending of the show. Maybe it is Ollie!

Anon - As I said, this issue us better than most on the market. In this day of decompression it is crazy that I am asking for more and longer story!

Tim - Thanks for stopping by! And yes, it was great to see Aya!

Anonymous said...

Something bothered me about this arc is Supergirl not making an appearance, not even during the final battle. Surely a line or a panel showing she was fighting anywhere else would not be too intrusive?