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Mild Mannered Reviews - Smallville

Smallville #11

Smallville #11

Scheduled to arrive in stores: November 10, 2004

Cover date: January 2005

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Cover Art: John Van Fleet

2Cover Art - 2: It's a picture of Clark, staring at us, just like the rest of the covers have been. A picture of some of the mains, staring at us (with rare exception). It's not an action pose, and it's very well photoshopped, but it's also obviously photoshopped. There is very little grab me here, there are words on the cover (which some people like, I don't), and there's a WB logo, reminding me I'm being sold something, not told a story.

Nonetheless, the picture is a good choice, it's well shaded, and it is relevant to the story, thus a 2, not a 1. The artist did well with what he had...

Table of Contents:

Photo: Warner Brothers Television

A pretty darned good picture of Lois and Clark. I'm ah, a little confused as to why they would choose this picture, considering that Lois isn't even IN this issue, but I'm not surprised, given that this has a magazine feel to it, where it's more for the awe of the show, less for the feel of story.

1Page - 1: I've said all along this is a redundant measure unless they don't give you all of this information at the beginning of each story. If this were more than 48 pages, we might need a table of contents, but really, we don't.

"The New Guy in Town"

(A profile of Jensen Ackles)

Interview: Bryan Cairns
Photos: David Gray, Michael Courtney

1Article - 1: Very self-congratulatory, giving us information about the guy behind Jason, not his character, and at that, what is his character anyway? I find it hard to care about this guy or his character. He's rich, he's famous, he's got very little that I as a person identify with. Most kids want to be rich and famous and haven't realized that it isn't likely, so they really might like listening to this guy rattle on about his previous accomplishments, and what scenes he's been in in the show (though we already know now), but it's old for me. The only thing I did take from it was an interesting piece of trivia... that this guy was almost Clark Kent (second place, by his reckoning), which frightens me.

Also, though the information that Routh is Superman has been out for almost a month, it gleefully points out that Ackles is in contention for the role still. Amazing!

And finally, it points out gleefully that Ackles has been a freak of the week, and that they look forward to more. Not exactly my favorite of topics...

3Photos - 3: Nothing that really leaps out at you. It's a picture of a guy pretending to be a coach around cheerleaders and looking into the camera, being "dynamically mysterious". I can't fault the aesthetic, I can fault the point, because I don't see it. It's normal companion fare for an article like this.


Writer: Dan Thomsen
Pencils: Tom Derenick
Inks: Adam Dekraker

Clark has been up all night, chasing a guy who (Neal's note, this is NOT a joke) spits Kryptonite acid. That's his power. Or at least, it's really green acid.

The spitter wounds his shoulder.

Clark spins around him, melts the ground beneath him at super-speed, and laments that he hasn't done his studying for a test yet. He slaps some metal around the guy's mouth and takes off as the police pull up.

At home, Ma offers to mend the jacket, and Pa gets angry with him for missing chores. He tells Clark a flood is coming, and grounds Clark.

Clark takes of into the rain for a run.

He ends up in a South American country, slipping and falling before a monolith with a chunk of Kryptonite embedded in it.

A giant cat man is attacking villagers, who are fighting the giant cat man.

One sees Clark and drags him off, as he is in pain from the Kryptonite. As they do, the giant cat man, "Lowtax", slams a claw into Clark's back.

On the farm, Ma tells Pa that the floodgates are about to be opened. They'll be sacrificing the lower farmlands to save the town.

Both wonder where Clark is.

At camp, a man named Remy wakes Clark up, and they tell him of the horrors of Lowtax, a former member of the village who is prophesized to be destroyed by one such as Clark. Clark says he has to go home.

At the farm, they are about to be flooded, but Lex arrives with a private army of construction workers.

Back at the camp, the Chief of the tribe explains Lowtax. Basically, he was a villager with special powers granted by the monolith, who tried to kill the old chief. The new chief (then just a villager) tried to stop him, and succeeded. They banished Lowtax, who got in a fight with a giant cat just as the meteor rocks fell. He became the giant cat man, and the villager was named the new chief.

Lowtax began attacking, and Clark arrived.

Clark tries to tell them that he has to leave, but then changes his mind and goes to take care of Lowtax.

They fight, and Clark loses the upper hand. The new chief comes up from behind, stabs Lowtax through the chest, and Lowtax separates into cat and man again. The cat runs away.

Back at the farm, Clark finds the crops ruined.

Lex consoles him, and the disappointment is played against a letter from the village thanking Clark for being heroic.

Clark goes to work putting the crops back together with his super-powers.

2Story - 2: There's a lot not to like here. But then, there's some TO like, so hey.

Clark uses his powers in front of everyone, blatantly here, without thought. In front of the cops with the "krypto acid spitter" (good God), for instance. First off, the acid guy will know Clark has powers, why wouldn't he tell, etcetera, etcetera, second off, who the heck could wrap a piece of metal around a guy's mouth, thirdly, all those villagers (though they don't know him from Adam, admittedly). And when Clark gets back, fixing the crop...the town will know that the Kents lost their farm. How will they explain getting it back? Just little elements of consistency that drag a story down for me. I know you have to have peril, and it's good to see Clark fail, but then, he doesn't, not really, if he can just fix the crops.

Also, some of the dialogue... man!

Getting home, after having faced down the acid spitter.

Clark: "I finally tracked down that acid spitter."

Ma: "That's nice! We missed you at dinner last night."

Look, when the world loses its sense of wonder even for the characters involved, who else loses their sense of wonder?

The readers and viewers. Simple as that.

Clark blatantly disobeys Jonathan, which is out of character.

The whole thing with the cat man, I mean, read this sentence:

Clark fights a giant cat-man whose tribal power is given to him by a monolith during the meteor shower.

Sounds a bit, well, done.

What I did like was that though everything was fairly badly executed, the themes of the story were actually pretty profound. That Clark can't be everywhere at once, that he wins when he is losing, that there are real consequences to being Superman. All of these thematic elements, had they worked well and not resorted to cliches, and sub-par character work, would have been just amazing. I really like the concept of this story, which is why it's hard to give it so low a rating. Usually, it's just absolute tawdry nonsense, like with Lana and Chloe last issue, but this story, it actually hints at (and somewhat finds, in the final page, with the counterbalancing narrative) a point. I respect that.

5Art - 5: Just incredible work. I want a poster of that splash with Clark running, and that dual page spread with the cat-man, even though I didn't like the concept of the character, was just incredible. Really well done. I have always liked the art on these books, pretty consistently, and I look forward to seeing them again in specials or in other books (since this one is being discontinued as a regular book).

Fly, Clark, Fly

Writer: Edward Gross
Photos: Warner Bros/Entity FX

This is basically an article explaining how they did the flight effects for "Crusade".

4Article - 4: An interesting foray into how they make the effects of the show. I like these articles most of the time. Quite interesting, and they show a lot of great pictures. Speaking of which:

5Photos - 5: I feel bad that we can't credit the photographers, and just a company, but whoever did the pictures, you did well. Really sequential, revealing, and fun. Probably the best part of the whole comic, next to the art on the story.

Smallville Episode Guide, Season Two: (Conclusion)

Writer: Jami Bernard
Photos: David Gray, Ken Regan, Kimberly French

Basically, this is the conclusion of the episode guide started in the first issue, through season two.

3Article - 3: As is typical, average stuff, does its job. I still prefer ours. And get this, though these are adequate and work, you'll never get beyond season two now, unless they do an awful lot in the "specials" they speak of, because the book got put on hiatus. So it's kind of, well, antagonizing. But you can't blame that on the writer, unless you look at it like it's their fault the book doesn't sell. I have my theories, but I don't think it has anything to do with the episode guides.

3Photos - 3: They're all average...none of them really stick out too much. BUT, it is hilarious, to me, that the one we used in the caption contest last week was on page 46, for "Accelerate", particularly given that these episode guides, using a few funny photos (see a few reviews back), were what inspired the caption contest to begin with.

2Overall - 2: The book was entertaining, but it wasted a lot of space, a lot of it was self-congratulatory, and as ever, it read like a book for a sycophant instead of a comic book. Which is part of my theories I mentioned.

I understand why this book was cancelled. It wasn't because the stories stank, or because people don't like Smallville (there was good and bad, just like any comic, and fans stick with bad comics if they like the idea behind them. Look at X-Men, or Superman in his decline last year before the new teams). It's because the comic, front to back, is one big teeny-bop magazine in a lot of ways.

Stories that are months behind in the TV continuity, episode guides that are years behind, coupled with stories that, while promising to have an impact on the show, don't, the focus then, one would assume, would fall on telling a great story. But usually, the stories are essentially the same as the show (meteor freaks) with a twist, like something they couldn't show on television. A giant raptor, a cat man, Lana and Chloe being "bad girls". Couple that with an irregular, bi-monthly shipping schedule, and you end up with a failed comic.

Here's what I would do, were this comic given another chance and rebooted.

Kill ALL the extraneous crap. Pare it down to a monthly, good, 22 page ongoing Smallville story, set in the Universe Gough and Millar have created. 3 or six part arcs which truly cover something important to the mythos that doesn't get covered in the show. Lori Lemaris, or maybe a visit with Pete that goes awry because Pete's changed. A little character, a little less violence for the sake of violence.

The reality is that though the FX articles are interesting, though the guide is well written, though the picture on the table of contents is really well framed, it's just not what geeks who pay five bucks for a book want.

They want a good story, good art, and a little continuity, less far-fetched, self-congratulatory stuff.

I hope they give this book another chance, I do. It's too bad to see it gone. That said, I understand why. Maybe they can fix it. It's too bad, it's always too bad to be short one Superman comic.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2005

February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005

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