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Mild Mannered Reviews - Smallville Comics

Smallville: Season 11 #24

Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #24

Released Digitally: November 30, 2012

"Detective" - Chapter 12

Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Penciller: Kevin West
Inker: Marc Deering

Reviewed by: Marc Pritchard

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Batman, protected in thermal armor, arrives on the scene of Freeze's "cold nuclear" meltdown and rips the power cells out of Freeze's suit, thus averting sub-zero disaster. Soon after, Superman flies through the scene on his way to the port, where Leviathan is taking on water from having been struck by Prankster's missiles. Inside the sinking ship, Lois and Nightwing are dishing out some irony by rescuing their would-be assassins, who cannot swim, from drowning. As they plan their escape, Superman arrives ("with strength") and lifts the ship out of the water, saving everybody. Batman is impressed. Later, Superman flies to Gotham to see Bruce Wayne, whom he finds at the location of Thomas and Martha Wayne's murder. They shake on a deal to help each other out in future, if necessary. Back in Metropolis, Chloe tells Oliver she's pregnant and Lex tells Tess he's no longer worried about getting her out of his head. He's got other plans to use her to his advantage.

Like discovering who Superman really is.

2Story - 2: A few weeks back, probably in the Comments, I pledged to re-read a given arc when it came time to review that arc's concluding chapter. It was supposed to be a kind of compensation for the alleged unfairness of reviewing these weekly digital installments the same way the Homepage does a regular full-length monthly comic or a television show or whatever. I used to think there was something to this idea; in fact, I believe (without checking - it's belief, after all) my very first review of Smallville: Season 11 included a few remarks about this. I've since changed my mind, not least because in fact the story relies on the very same kinds of structural patterns that more or less all serialized fiction relies on, most especially (and revealingly) cliffhangers. So I've mostly just been doing what I would always do: looking at how the thing is put together to decide whether it "works," meaning (to put it just a tad clinically) whether the effect it tends to have on me correlates to whatever effect the thing seems to want to have on me.

Thus why it's subjective, you know? In the case of "Detective," re-reading really didn't change anything for me. From what I said in the associated reviews, I mean. More or less. There were surely times when I speculated about coming events and was wrong, or went on and on (and on) about the lack of demonstrated logic ("misdirection" not cutting it, in my view) in Batman's unprovoked assault on Superman (if Batman had gone for Toyman, say, leaving Manheim where he was for Nightwing to retrieve, I'd be on board), or simply refused to spend much time at all on the opening chapter, blown away in vexation as I was (not to mention a certain unconstrained measure of rage) and making an ass of myself in the process.

No, in the end, I found that "Detective" under-delivered. It had some nice high points that brought in a few 5 ratings, mostly action-heavy weeks that were paced well and didn't much open themselves to careful critical consideration, but generally my final impression is that it's all just a bunch of stuff that happened.

You'd have thought it was going to play out as a genuine mystery, what with it being called "Detective" and featuring Batman, but it proved simply empty of intrigue. The only element that even really qualifies as belonging to the mystery genre is the early question of who created the advanced weaponry (not to mention the curiously, bizarrely, maddeningly abortive [thus truly mysterious] TELEPORTATION technology) but that was answered halfway through the arc. This is a story that did not require a detective, thus calling into question the need to have had Batman in it to begin with, apart from the cool factor. Call me a heretic, or whatever you want. This story actually got Batman more or less right, but it didn't need him.

Here in this final chapter - which, it must be said, appropriately combines the resolution of some things and, because we're moving into a new arc, the advancement of others (Miller definitely has a strong grasp of form, even if he's not exactly my idea of an especially smart or inventive writer [but, these days? Hello Jonathan Hickman!]) - it's more of the same. Nothing except maybe that one "shot" of an anxious Chloe embracing Oliver way back early in the arc led to the announcement that she is pregnant. Nothing even in this issue really accounts for why Superman has (or even wants) to use Freeze's power cells to create snow and a "perfect moment" for Chloe and Oliver. I appreciated the bit where Lois and Barbara are saving the thugs, but not so much having them speak in unison - as characterization, it doesn't suggest they're somehow "equals" as much as that at least one of them is somewhat redundant. (Hint: it isn't Lois. Is that the point?) Nothing leads to Oliver suddenly being the insecure, envious, fame-hungry and extraordinarily vain jackass he's shown to be here. Where's this going? I'm not sure I want to know.

There were indeed some pretty strong moments: Oliver asking "Like... how?" in response to Superman, flying with Leviathan held aloft, asking for "a hand"; Superman realizing that Bruce is also mourning his young self who essentially died alongside his murdered parents; Lois exclaiming that she's going to "kiss him on his stupid face" when Superman arrives at the sinking ship. These are flashes of greatness interspersed too rarely, I believe, in long periods of so-so. So that, at the end, I'm left both wanting and not really wanting more. It's weird.

3Art - 3: I don't think I want to know why art duties keep changing hands on this book, it would probably depress me. After last week's high point with an entirely new team, here we're back to a combination of general inconsistency, dull/dumb eyes and stock physiques on Superman and Batman especially. The only panel that actually seem to impart its emotional energy was the very last one showing Lex leaning in close to Tess from behind and her worried eye looking back, despite the inanity of physicality here in the first place: she's supposed to be simply consciousness inside Lex's mind, remember? This is truly simplistic dramatization of what should be a cool and compelling situation. Of course, it's been like this almost the whole way through; indeed, it's a big part of why I've been finding this storyline so uninteresting. It's one thing to have to convey an impossible scenario to a readership, where actually showing Tess and having her interact with Lex can cut right to the heart of what's essentially going on. The problem I have, though (and I think I only just realized), is with the fact that Lex also interacts with her. This is really counter-productive. Despite a couple of cool moments that made the situation pretty clear, like that scene where somnambulistic Lex at the keyboard sort of morphs into Tess, in general this all would have been more convincing if they'd simply avoided ever showing Lex actually looking at her, which he does all the time. It may seem like a small thing, but the fact is it reinforces the sense that she's actually in the room when they should be doing just the opposite, precisely because they're showing her.

But I did at least believe the alarm in her eye.

Cover Art - N/A:

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