Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review: Smallville Continuity #4

Smallville Continuity #4 came out this week, the final episode of this arc and this book and probably this continuity. I have been both eager for this issue and dreading its arrival.

I have absolutely loved this book as writer Bryan Q. Miller has created a deep, complex, and frankly classic version of a DC Universe. We had a heroic Superman with a strong Lois who was very much in love and involved in the adventures here. There was a League of super-heroes that  liked each other and enjoyed working together. There was a determined Supergirl. And there was Steph Brown Babs Gordon as Batgirl.  So I have been wanting to read this conclusion, knowing it would be great. But I also knew that its arrival meant the end of the book.

Miller has done a great job with pacing the last couple of arcs. The Crisis event at the center of this arc was basically ended last issue. That means all that is left is the wrap-up. And Miller does a great job looking around at this universe he has created and giving us an ending/new beginning for many of them. I was hoping for a nice coda to the book/continuity and Miller gave it to me. (Although, I was sort of miffed that Kara doesn't get much notice here.)

The art on the book is solid as done by Ig Guara and Marcelo Di Chiara, as they go walkabout to all the characters. I'll point out some of the panels that really struck me ... one in particular. And as usual, Cat Staggs gives us a great cover highlighting all these characters. I'll miss my monthly Smallville Staggs cover!

To wrap up this intro, there are enough open character plotlines here that make me think that Miller has more stories inside him. Maybe we'll get a one shot now and then?

The opening scene has Superman imprisoning the last of the Monitors. The Smallville Universe has been entirely recreated.  And Superman has imprisoned all of the remaining Monitors within a crystal matrix until the heroes can decide where and when and how they can be reconstituted and not be a threat.

As usual, there is a little metatext on Superman by Miller here. We hear how almost all Superman 'designates' never kill and those that do aren't here. We won't get a Goyer-like Superman willing to watch his father die, being taught to let a bus sink under the water, or snapping necks here. It's why I love this book.

I don't think Superman should kill either.

With the Monitor imprisoned, we get a tour of the major characters in the universe, a sort of wrap up to all the character plotlines we have loved reading these last years. All of these moments are superb. It shows how much Miller cares. It shows how three-dimensional they all have been in this book.

Steph Babs and Bruce have a final moment. After years of grimness, it was great to see Batman show some emotion. He admits that the joy that Steph Babs brought him actually saved him. He would have sunk deeper into darkness if not for her. How great a moment is this!! I loved it!

Steph Babs heads into space with the Green Lanterns. And Bruce finally meets Dick Grayson, the 'gymnast' we have heard about.

Both storylines come to a conclusion ... but open-ended.

Superman is able to overcome the fear of his alien heritage by those on Earth. He gives a speech at the White House about how he considers Earth his home and will always protect it.

We see Martha shedding some tears as she listens. She is a proud mother even if she can't admit it freely.

Tess Mercer became the electronic oracle in the book until she finally made a body for herself last issue, becoming the Red Tornado of the Smallville world.

Finally ... finally ... after all my years of reading comics ... a Red Tornado I would actually enjoy reading!

Here, Miller has her approach humanity even further. She has pseudo-skin. She eats and processes food for energy. And she loves. How great to see her and Emil begin a relationship!

With the Watchtower on Earth destroyed last issue, we see Tess head to the moon, the site of the new Watchtower, a true League HQ.

Great endings for these characters. But also with the sense that there are more stories here.

Chloe and Oliver join Diana in the DEO.

Oliver will train a bunch of new recruits the DEO have put together as a unit. Yep ... it's the Outsiders.

After all my worries that Oliver or Chloe or both were going to die, I was relieved to see them survive. And again, this is a logical ending for them. But also, the beginning of a new phase with possible new stories.

As for Lex, just when I think he is going to turn the corner in this book we see him literally eyeing the White House. Power corrupts. And there is a precedent for a Lex president.

What I love is how he misses Otis so much that he makes his new assistant adopt some of Otis' mannerisms.

And finally we have a blessed event. Chloe gives birth to a baby boy. And the gang all arrives to share in the happiness. This is Chloe's family now. And they decide to name the boy after a man they want their son to aspire to be like. They name him Jonathan ....

Hold on, it's dusty in this room. I need to wipe my eyes.

The one off note for me is the lack of a true ending scene for the Smallville Supergirl. There she is on the left (I'm assuming it's Kara).

I'll also miss the black body-suited, skull shirt wearing Diana!

And then my favorite scene and panel of the book. A scene of Lois and Clark alone and clearly in love.

I wondered if we might get the wedding here but I like this scene better. Lois asks Clark to fly here into the nighttime sky so she can parachute. (I love how she comments that you need great core strength to be carried along.)

But Clark says he will never let her go. And they kiss in the moonlight.

I can't help but look at this picture and 'feel' all the initial pictures of Superman and Wonder Woman kissing. It evokes that image. But it isn't Diana and Clark. It's Lois and Clark.

I hope it was intentional. I hope this was Miller saying that these are the characters that should be in that pose.

And I will miss my Lois and Clark moments that this book has provided me. 

I mean ... am I only seeing what I want to see? Am I transferring what I want the intent to be?

And then the ending ...

With Lois drifting to Earth, the 'Boy Scout' answers a call from Tess.

But from now on he wants his call sign to be changed.

"This looks like a job for Superman."

What an ending! I have talked a lot about how this book has been the place for me to go when I wanted a more classic take on Superman and his role in a DCU. Why not end it with one of the most classic line uttered by Superman!

I obviously loved this issue and this book and this universe. I don't think I need to belabor the point.

So all I have left to say is thank you to Bryan Q. Miller, Cat Staggs, and all the artists who worked on this book over these last years. I am sad to see this end. That's the biggest compliment I can give a comic.

Overall grade: A


Starsaber said...

Considering they were still trying to have the wedding in the flash-forward at the end of the series finale, I wasn't surprised to not see it here. I agree with most of what you said about this issue (though I had to refresh my memory a bit since I've only read it 2-3 times since it came out digitally).

Anonymous said...

Great review, Anj. I miss this book very much and you have inspired me to go back and read it again.

Re:the kiss image. It's important to note that that image from JL 12 was actually a copy of a prior Superman/Lois image from For Tomorrow. So I don't think it's at all an homage to that as much as it's an homage to the decades of images of Superman and Lois in front of the moon as they were the ones who actually did that first.


Jay said...

No characters own any sort of pose or visual. I hope that's not the statement trying to be made because from my POV I'd see it as kinda immature. Its just a pretty romantic panel, doesn't have to be any more than that. Don't really see why it has to shame Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship in the other reality.

Anonymous said...

Jay, No one "owns" anything but fiction is filled with motifs and imagery and symbolism. Lois Lane and Superman have a long history across all media of embracing in the sky and in front of the moon. It's a motif and repeated image for them. It doesn't mean that they "own" it but like all motifs it does mean that it's an image easily associated with their history. That motif influenced Jim Lee when he created the cover for JL 12 as he opened admitted it on the DC All Access.

It's clearly bothersome to you that people are comparing this image to Superman/ Wonder Woman. But you are in the wrong to call anyone here "immature." To YOU, it's "just a pretty romantic panel." To myself and to Anj, it means something far greater and it is not your place to tell me or him that we are wrong for viewing it that way.

Anj's initial comment and my post were perfectly relevant and in line with the discussion.


Anj said...

The image in Smallville reminded me of the SM/WW one. Given all the meta text of this arc about continuity I wondered if Miller was commenting on the current state.

I may be completely wrong,

Of course, Superman kissing someone in the sky will mostly be Lois. But given the years of stories, I agree, no one owns the poses, but they can be iconic of something.

Jay said...

It really doesn't bother me at all, and I certainly wasn't calling anyone here immature. I have an immense respect for Anj and his blog. I wouldn't bring that here. I said if it was truly the statement trying to be made by Miller, I would think it silly.

Anj said...

Thanks Jay!

I am all about the conversation and enjoy differing opinions as it sparks discussion. I like talking about comics almost as much as comics.

And Shades I love your passion! I agree with your out Lois not having enough presence!

LJ-90 said...

This comic was awesome, really all that I think Superman should be. I really love the "never" panel, because that's Superman, there's always another way.

The comic made me go and rewatch certain episodes, Legion, Salvation, Society, Finale. Those episodes were Clark was acting like Superman, willing to give his life for others, but not willing to let anyone lose their life if he can help it.

Great review Anj, and you're right, that panel with Clark and Lois kissing is just beautiful, I'm happy Miller use it, so the latest iteration of that kiss isn't Superman/Wonder Woman, at least for me. I'll miss having a weekly Superman comic to read, but at least this run was solid, now I guess it's time to search for old issues of Adventures of Superman, never got to read those.

P,S: I don't know if I should still recommend Ultimate Spider-Man, with that comic ending I guess you could not read it, although Marvel will release an Omnibus with a lot of the first issues, you may check that out, if you're interest of course :)

Jay said...

No problem Anj, this is a fun place to be and catch up on the stuff I'm not reading and get different insights on stuff I am. With this title ending, maybe they'll make a new home for the Convergence versions of Lois and Clark and their baby. :)