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"Guardian" - Part 2
Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Penciller: Pere Perez
Inker: Pere Perez
Cover: Cat Staggs
Reviewed by: Marc Pritchard
Across town, Lex Luthor and General Sam Lane discuss recent affairs, especially Superman and whether he is or is not ultimately a threat to the world. Lex implores Lane to accept a contract to deploy Lexcorp's "Guardian platforms" - presumably space-based defense technology of an as-yet-unspecified nature. Lane remains, at least for now, a Superman supporter, and is concerned not to aggravate public fear and anxiety more than it already is.
Later in the day, Clark encounters Lex at the same vendor seen at the beginning of episode one, as Lex decries the Daily Planet, which Clark is holding, as no longer a "real" newspaper but a tabloid. Clark says Lex's sister managed it well, to which Lex retorts by pointing out that Tess took her own life. They shake hands and discuss the fact that the two of them were friends when they were younger, though Lex does not actually have any associated memories. Clark is not surprised, given Lex's "condition." Super-hearing an alarm, Clark is gone before Lex can take his next sip of coffee.
As he is turning around, Lex hears someone remark, "Seems you've got a talent for making people disappear." It's Tess, leaning against a street sign with a bloodstain at waist level on her coat. "What's the matter, Lex?" she says. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
Story - 3: I want to say straight away that we are now getting much closer to how I expect this weekly format should function, in the sense of living up to Miller's stated objective to present this story the same way they would have presented it on television. Which is to say - we're now clearly at the first or second commercial break (really the first - last week I suggested the episode felt like the teaser and up to the first break, but I'd now like to revise that to just the teaser) and it shows, most especially in the way this episode concludes not on a cliff-hanger as such but definitely at a moment of high tension and suspense.
This is, however, mostly a structural triumph.
One issue continues to color the story for me in a negative way, ultimately dragging down the whole. It's this: six months is too long a timeframe between "Finale" and now. This issue featured somewhat in comments last week, partly associated with my remarks about the headline on the Daily Planet at the very beginning ("We are not alone") being way old news six months later. It's actually true I hadn't considered the possibility that the fresh stacks of papers were reprints, as one reader suggested, a provocative idea but one that I think doesn't really cohere. My objection here is that I believe the prospect of six months of presumably complete reprints of a single edition of a daily newspaper, no matter how significant the subject of the front page story that day or how well-regarded the newspaper, is much more improbable than the appearance of an alien planet in our orbit and the subsequent presence of a super-powered being capable of pushing that planet out of orbit. Especially in a world that has been shown over and over again to be analogous to our own in terms of the widespread availability and use of advanced consumer networking technology. If reprints is what they were thinking, it's much too much.
As much as I love these characters, I'm not about to make willful excuses for ineffective writing. I'd have accepted this if it was only a week later, maybe up to a month. Six months simply strains credulity past the breaking point.
My impression is also that they sort of know it.
The timeframe is addressed twice in this episode - first when Clark asks Lois whether they are "ever" going to return the wedding presents, and second in the conversation between Lex and General Lane. My problem is that, ultimately, Miller is telling us it's been six months rather than showing us six months later. Added to that is the surprise appearance at the very end of seemingly Tess, back from the dead (?) but still wearing the same coat she was wearing when Lex stabbed her and that coat still being unlaundered. Thus the parenthetical question mark: Is this a clue that she's not really Tess, or maybe not really there, or that maybe it hasn't actually been six months, or that she somehow faked her own death and has kept that coat for precisely this moment? The number of questions this scene alone leaves unanswered is why this episode gets a higher rating than last week's did.
(By the way, Lexcorp would almost certainly have needed a few months to develop its so-called Guardian platform, but that single believable component of this whole thing doesn't really make up for the overall incoherence. If that's just me, cool - don't let me ruin your good time. And maybe other pieces will fall in place.)
Otherwise, yeah - we are still in set-up mode, and that's fine. My drink could use a top-up and I could use a trip to the restroom.
Art - 4: More solid, if not altogether spectacular, panels from Perez. We're getting consistent use of lighting effects to convey character, and the likenesses continue to be just close enough to be irrelevant (meaning, not distracting one way or the other). Nothing really stands out as especially great work, but neither does anything stand out as whatever the opposite of great is. I'm not a fan of the way they're using sound effects (I'd take some visible sizzle in the frying pan over toothbrushing sounds any day, unless we are not shown Clark actually brushing his teeth, which we are - the frying pan is decidedly more background), but this is as much a matter of writing as it is of art. (But why the color of the "Brush, brush, brush, brush" morphs from white to green is lost on me. Blame the new colorer or the old letterer? You decide.)
Cover Art - N/A: Nothing to report here this week, simply because our "cover" hasn't changed. That means it's become equivalent to the show's title sequence, and that's probably as it should be. In any case, it works for me.
But this is also the best place to note that the plan from here out will be to reserve this section for the print editions when they come out. As such, I will discuss and rate the print cover but I will also include commentary on how the reading experience is affected by the consolidated segments. We will not be preparing separate reviews of the print edition.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2012.