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Mild Mannered Reviews - Smallville Comics

Smallville: Season 11 #17

Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #17

Released Digitally: September 21, 2012

"Detective" - Chapter 5

Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Penciller: Jamal Igle
Inker: Marc Deering

Reviewed by: Marc Pritchard

Click to enlarge

Green Arrow is pursuing Batman away from Stryker's Island and learns that Batman has a stealth "hovercraft." On that craft, Batman tells Nightwing he is relieved to have survived his run-in with the Man of Steel, on whom he has placed a tracking device. Superman, meanwhile, has flown with Bruno Manheim up into the sky for an interrogation, which leads to verifiable information about Joe Chill, the killer of Bruce Wayne's parents. Lois finds a new lead in the hunt for the designer of the teleportation suit, one Oswald Loomis. There's a Bat Signal in Metropolis.

4Story - 4: There was much to appreciate about this week's chapter of Smallville. So much that I am happy scoring the chapter a relatively-high 4 of 5 but not so much that I am able to give a score for chapter 15. We'll have to continue to be patient on that one. A bit of hanging stuff was resolved this week, and some good new information was introduced - always a net positive, notwithstanding the truncated weekly form that limits exactly how much resolution and/or new information that can be reasonably provided in any one chapter.

I'll have some remarks on all this good stuff presently.

For now, I want to address the main reason this chapter doesn't rate a 5, which I'll frame as a question: Why is Batman relieved about the outcome of a fight he started for no reason?

Or, for no reason that we can reasonably discern at this point, which is precisely what begs the question. And I'm framing it as such because, while I do have an answer, it's just as based in speculation as my musings last week on why he started the fight in the first place.

Last week, I predicted the assault's eventual explanation would be one of two things:

  • Batman reveals he really wasn't sure whether he could trust Superman (that maybe he was just like the other "aliens" from before [Season 9's Kryptonian clones]), or

  • Batman knows Superman is good, so good that he, Superman, will stop Batman from getting the information he, Batman, wants out of Bruno Manheim (spelled with only one n in Smallville).

    This week, I want to add a third possibility:

  • It was a test. Batman needed to confirm his suspicions and/or conclusions about Superman's "power set" (a phrase that really pulled me out, by the way).

    I wrote that options 1 and 2 would both lead me to conclude that Batman is an idiot in this continuity. This new third option, however, would make a bunch of sense and would fit with a Batman who is not only endowed with above-average intelligence but also above-average gutsiness. I guess we'll see. Ideas in the Comments are always welcome.

    The point, though, is that we still don't know what Batman's actual motivation is. That's not the end of the world, but it's unnecessary. Indeed, I think the dialogue in the "hovercraft" with Nightwing (whom I was seriously considering dubbing "Nightgirl" until the later bit where Barbara Gordon says she didn't want to be called "Batgirl," which, you know what, goes to character and so is perfectly fine with me) could have easily covered this, and quickly: three sentences from Bats: "He's just as powerful as expected - more. But I think he likes me. That's a relief."

    Amirite? And anyway, that's only one new sentence and simple revisions to two that are otherwise present. Batman's motivation on this pretty significant point of character and plot should not be a mystery to Nightwing, and is still less a mystery than just vague characterization from a reader's perspective (mine, anyway). It's not like any of the other characters are even talking about it. It's just left hanging.

    Which leads me to a very important question: Is "Detective" supposed to be a mystery story? That would be appropriate, would it not? But this doesn't play like much of a mystery to me. No more than a normal outing of Smallville crime drama, anyway. Why? For me, it's because the questions the story is making me ask are not the same ones the characters are asking. Mostly. There's one exception: Who created the teleportation suit?

    The problem here, though, is that the story doesn't seem to be nearly as interested in this question as I am. Maybe this is the real misdirection (and don't think I won't willingly eat crow in the event of some unforeseen twist that puts paid to all my criticism). Because consider: we saw weapons in "Detective" chapter one, but they were in Gotham, and we didn't see what they can do. All we've seen Superman seeing is the teleportation tech (which we've seen), which is what he confronts Luthor about, which leads him to Toyman. No other reference to weapons. All we see Batman saying to Supes is he's looking for the guy who killed his parents. No mention of weapons, no mention of the suit. Now, Superman is talking only about weapons and still thinks Toyman is connected. It's like he's forgotten about the suit.

    Maybe it's still just early in the arc.

    Or maybe it's not supposed to be a proper "mystery" at all.

    Or (final suggestion, you tell me what you think) could it be a cheap way to connect the weapons and the suit by relying for cohesion on what we've seen and ignoring what makes sense for the characters to have seen?

    This is not a call for hand-holding, just for logic. I'm confused and distracted, if not misdirected.

    Anyway, back to the good stuff I mentioned earlier: resolutions and new info.

    In general, this issue brought more forward motion than the previous two issues combined. For my part, I approve of the progress but wish it were just a bit more evenly paced. We got a huge update on Batman's "toys" - the Batwing (it's not a "hovercraft," at any rate, not the way it flies), tracking device, electrically-charged escrima sticks, Bat Signal (maybe... it remains unclear whether Superman fetches it from Gotham or invents it... for the record, I'm expecting the former). We got the bit about Barbara not wanting to be called Batgirl. We got a nod to past continuity with the reference to Supergirl, though it would have played better and rooted them more firmly in the world had Bruce and Barbara straight-up known Supergirl used to be a presence (there should be video of it, for one, though admittedly it would be from before there was a Superman, but that's ok... I'm trying to move on). We got a Prankster tease, which is cool.

    But we also got some dumb, like Oliver asking Chloe which way the Batwing is heading when he's right there heading the same way and then sees it head up into the clouds after reaching the cliff; like a hard core resurgence of those redundant character identification text labels (at least it wasn't just for Oliver and Chloe... again); like rubble just hanging in the air around Manheim's head, unaccountably, the entire time he's up in the air (or maybe it's supposed to be ice, an indicator of the cold up there, but that was a really late thought on my part, and if that's what it's supposed to be, it fails); like a few other things I've already talked about.

    Finally, we got some seriously strong: Clark nervous about Lois's reaction to his handling of Manheim; Oliver's line about needing to make better investments; Nightwing's lines about Superman and Bruno and then just Superman being above the Batwing; Lois's line about having a guy everywhere (though not the self-congratulation that followed, nor her saying "up, up and away" or "pointy-eared play pal"); Prankster; the Bat Signal.

    All in all, an above average outing. Bravo, Smallville. See you next week.

    4Art - 4: The pencils are getting more consistent, especially with characters' faces, which is the main thing that's been lacking in the past four issues. I'm bumping the grade up a point. Still some work to do, but it's getting there.

    Cover Art - N/A:

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