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Mild Mannered Reviews - Smallville Comics

Smallville: Season 11 #3

Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #3

Released Digitally: April 27, 2012

"Guardian" - Part 3

Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Penciller: Pere Perez
Inker: Pere Perez
Cover: Cat Staggs

Reviewed by: Marc Pritchard

Click to enlarge

In the process of busting up a bunch of smugglers at the docks, Green Arrow is saved from certain death by Superman, who arrives in the nick of time to stand between Arrow and a rocket. Moments later, Oliver Queen and Clark Kent discuss their private lives at the crime scene while police figure out how to deal with the group of smugglers, now tied en masse to a pole. This conversation continues as Oliver and Clark walk and talk, eventually culminating in well wishes between the two over Oliver's and Chloe's pending departure from Metropolis for Star City.

Meanwhile, at the Watchtower, Lois arrives to bring coffee and conversation to Chloe, who is investigating the phenomenon Superman encountered in space earlier. They discuss Lois and Clark's nuptius interruptus and plans surrounding Chloe and Oliver's pending departure from Metropolis to Star City, only to be interrupted by the discovery of a space ship in the video footage from the Russian space platform...

3Story - 3: If you've been reading these reviews since the beginning, you'll know that I've been hard on a couple of recurring issues in the storytelling, principally the six month time frame between the end of the show and the beginning of the comic. I've also been explicit about acknowledging that Bryan Q. Miller is on record addressing certain challenges involving the writing for this kind of weekly format. The thing has warts, and I'm still trying to find a happy place for dealing with them without unnecessarily antagonizing anyone.

This week's installment underscores the difficulty with preparing what amounts to complete reviews between, effectively, commercial breaks. And that's because we're still in the rising action phase, from a structural perspective, so one is naturally inclined to want to reserve judgment until we see where this goes. Story rating is the same I gave last week for this very reason.

I am, in any case, going to restrict my comments this week mostly to general things - some stuff I might have commented on in the previous weeks had I not been so distracted by the time frame, and other stuff that bears mention. Let's also put them into two categories (Good and Not-As-Good) and number them, that way when you're dragging me over the coals in Comments, we'll have a nice way to reference things.

The Good

  1. Dialogue. This is easily the strongest feature of the writing. First episode was largely derivative, last episode we were starting to find an original story, more or less, but in all cases the dialogue has felt like Smallville - brisk, defining and well-paced. The characters' inter-relationships feel more or less the same as they did on the show (when the characters on the show were being consistent) and you can almost hear the actors delivering the lines. The exchange between Oliver and Clark about Clark having a third job (living with Lois) was particularly apposite. (Also, the "There was an exploding baby once" line from Clark later that scene.) Kudos, Mr. Miller.

  2. Character. Though it's too early to expect much in the way of actual development here, the distinctiveness of each of the mains has carried across the media in satisfying ways. Indeed, the opening scene from three weeks ago set this tone quite well. But there has been development, too, notably this week in the dialogue between Oliver and Clark on what Superman is "about," which subtly interrogates Oliver's feelings of relative inadequacy compared to Clark by couching the discussion in terms that might have easily applied to Oliver himself when he first revealed himself to the world (e.g. "show-off") last, um, season.

The Not-As-Good

  1. Repeated-panels/page at the end. Please, Smallville: Season 11 "producers," stop this. In guided view in the DC app especially, it is doubly maddening: first for making me think the installment isn't over only to force me to repeat the reading of that final page and, second, for being anti-climactic, as I noted two weeks ago. In this issue's case, a recommendation: show us the close-up panel of Lois and Chloe seeing the ship (Lois: "What... is that?" Chloe: "Proof I won't be leaving town as soon as I thought.") THEN show us the image of the ship heading to Earth. I'd like to hear from ANYONE who thinks s/he has a reasonable explanation for why they are doing this.

  2. Naming the Aurora/Rift(/Nexus). This is the epitome of tiny detail, but it's starting to get annoying: fine if no one yet knows what that phenomenon actually was, but if simply calling it something different every issue is how they plan to proceed, I'm not impressed. Aurora and rift denote entirely different things, an aurora being a display of light and a rift being some kind of space or gap between other things. Logically, this would be resolved as the phenomenon in question being both, given especially the space ship revealed at the end of the issue (which presumably came out of the thing). My fear is that they won't actually resolve it now that they've established the existence of the ship. And that (them not really caring what the phenomenon is) wouldn't bother me if references to it were along the lines of "Whatever that was Clark saw in space." Instead, they are giving it an identity. So, please, oh please, resolve it logically.

In this episode, we also have the first instance of a broken convention, namely the one Miller noted in the article linked above that there would be "no captions or narration boxes," just as there normally wouldn't be in the television program (the occasional countdown clock or similar device notwithstanding). To date, we've gotten basic labels identifying time and place. In this issue, we get a bit of a pointless intrusion from "One quick-change later." Gonna have to break my own self-imposed rule about discussing only general stuff this week to talk about this.

First of all, why do they think we need to be told that a "quick change" was involved between Superman's arrival to save Green Arrow from the rocket and showing Oliver and Clark overlooking the strung-up band of thugs in the presence of police? What other kind of changes do super-heroes have time for? In this case, I don't need to be shown the change, either, and in fact the bigger question is why are Oliver and Clark looking on like this anyway? Everyone knows that Oliver is Green Arrow, and I can accept that Clark would show up in service of his reporter's gig, but having the two of them banter so familiarly with the cops around seems a bit risky, from a Clark's secret identity perspective. Would have made sense if it was Clark interviewing Oliver/Green Arrow on the apprehension. ("So, you say Superman arrived at the last minute and stood in front of a rocket that would have killed you? Wow - what a guy, huh?") That's a character dynamic I could get used to seeing from time to time.

Point is, I'm ok with the occasional narrative box - this isn't a TV show, after all, though nor do I necessarily miss the old days when somebody like a John Byrne might have had the panels filled as much with words as art, and I'm very much a words kind of guy - but here, and to better observe the convention Miller had already established, a simple "Later" would have done the trick (they did just this last issue). A small detail, perhaps, but the sort of thing that distracts nonetheless. Maybe they are preparing us for more, and more regularly, to come? Hope not - one of the things I like best about the completely unrelated Walking Dead book is its complete lack of captions and narrative exposition. So much better to keep you in the action.

4Art - 4: I continue not to have much in the way of complaint regarding the artwork - it's generally pro-grade and effective, if not especially original or otherwise ground-breaking. Of all the likenesses, especially neither Chloe nor Lois look much at all like Alison Mack and Erica Durance, but frankly I don't really care about this.

Of special note in this issue is the full-page panel of the would-be smuggler lying on the ground debilitated by Green Arrow's stun darts (or whatever you want to call them). Good use of color and frame.

That said, I am finding the sound effects to be overwrought and distracting. I didn't need to hear General Lane sipping his coffee last issue, and the "TUN-NUN-NUN-NUN-NUN" when Green Arrow's arrow arrives on the scene this week could have done with a "nun" or two fewer. (I don't even want to mention the "Clickety-clack-clickety-clack" of keyboards this week and last.) Done well, sound effects can greatly enhance the comic book reading experience; here, I'm feeling like we're still working out the balance.

And that's that, folks. Until next week.

Cover Art - N/A:

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