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"Guardian" - Chapter 5
Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Penciller: Pere Perez
Inker: Pere Perez
Reviewed by: Marc Pritchard
Over at S.T.A.R. Labs, Chloe and Dr. Hamilton continue to investigate the mystery space ship that was detected near The Nexus. Back at the launch, Lois and Clark disagree over whether maybe Lex's plans will work out for the good of the world just before the ship seems to explode in mid-air.
We close on a masked and suited figure standing next to a craft on the ground in Smallville, exploding Guardian Platform reflected in its visor, declaring "This looks like a job for Superman."
Story - 4: Lots of new information in this issue. And I mean lots. (Comparatively speaking, at any rate.) As I discussed last week, the balance of new and old information presented in each installment of a serialized story is a significant factor in the momentum of any given installment. Last week, the momentum was all in the closing scene and most of that in the final panel. This week, both the middle and last of the three scenes contain important forward motion, while the opening scene between Oliver and Lex really serves only to characterize the interpersonal dynamic between the two of them - otherwise, it merely dramatizes a bunch of stuff we basically already know.
Not that there isn't some new info here: The scene also confirms that Lex is proceeding with his plan in the absence of military backing, though it seems he has military complicity. And there is of course the hint at a properly moon-based Watchtower, which I can't help but take as fanservice at its finest. There was always something quaint but viable about the Watchtower as Smallville imagined it, up in that tower and jacked in to everything under the sun. A base on the moon just seems totally over the top in this universe. Yes, Lex is going to have capacity of some kind in space and, yes, that's a threat. But we don't really know anything about the nature of that threat, and in any case the level of technology typically associated with a moon-based Watchtower strikes me as leaps and bounds beyond anything yet introduced in Smallville.
It's too early, basically.
Good distinctive characterization of Henshaw in the middle scene, all of which counts as new information (intra-Smallville, anyway). The interplay between him and Clark was also usefully playful given what's coming at the end, though I did find the awkward little bit with Clark's rollercoasters line a tad too nudge-nudge/wink-wink. We get it - the Clark/Superman duality is a secret. And having the conversation wrap up on a discussion of whether Superman would be justified in employing preemptive action is coy but effective foreshadowing (presumably).
The scene with Chloe and Dr. Hamilton is completely unnecessary, except to establish the context for the final panel. This could easily have been done earlier, but since it wasn't, we need it here. So, ok. My other problem with the scene is that it also calls attention to the inconsistent (and, anyway, frankly, pointless) use of text to identify the characters in one or another scene. The inconsistency is simply that not every scene is so adorned (this is the only one in this issue, but go back to Chapter 4 and you'll see it in the opening scene [just Lex in the MRI] and the scene with Chloe and Dr. Hamilton at S.T.A.R. Labs; in both chapters 3 and 2, the convention is ignored altogether; in chapter 1 it's used in the scene with Chloe [thus confirming that it's not a first-time-we-meet-'em kind of thing] and Oliver and the first panel showing Lois asleep).
It's getting distracting now, just noticing this. And yes, I'd notice and care even if I didn't do these reviews.
Why the whole thing is pointless, meanwhile, is that, in I'm pretty sure every case, we are provided with the characters' identities in some other fashion, either through dialogue or in an exposition box (which used to confine themselves to basic time and place labels but have been expanding to include actual narration - and that's perfectly fine except that it explicitly contradicts what Miller has said about them not doing this because the show didn't. Of course, the show wasn't exactly a paragon of consistency, either, so let's just exclaim a hearty "That's so Smallville!" and get on with it.).
We just don't need these labels.
Anyway, final scene is more good characterization and concludes, of course, on what is possibly the newest information so far presented this "season." Now, I have never been the most ardent Hank Henshaw/Cyborg Superman fan and it's entirely likely I've forgotten lots of details about his place in the mythology (to the extent that I even paid that much attention to him in the first place), but I have few ideas who this new figure at the end is supposed to be. And that's good, as far as I'm concerned. (I suppose it could be Terri, and the figure does indeed seem to be female, in which case there's lots of misdirection going on around this - Hank talking about feeling his wife in his arms when he returns from a mission, for instance.) I mean, we've mostly all been disappointed at the way Smallville has mined the mythology for character material only to frequently basically destroy it in the adaptation process (yo, Mikhail Mxyzptlk, we're talking about you), but much of the original stuff they've introduced has been memorable, whether or not it moves into the broader multi-verse, as it were. I'd take an original direction here, for sure.
In which case, we may finally have some genuine intrigue.
Kind of about time.
Art - 4: These panels are really starting to pop. I've commented before on Perez's facility with illustrating space, but it's not just space - Perez gets the entire sky right, especially when the sun is showing. I'm also past caring about fidelity to the cast in terms of likenesses. The characters all look sufficiently unalike that it barely really matters anyway, from a visual comprehension perspective.
All in all, strongest outing yet. More like this, please.
Cover Art - N/A:
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2012.