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Mild Mannered Reviews - Smallville Comics

Smallville: Season 11 #39

Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #39

Released Digitally: March 22, 2013

"Haunted" - Part 11

Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Penciller: Jorge Jimenez
Inker: Jorge Jimenez

Reviewed by: Marc Pritchard

Click to enlarge

Showdown in Vegas. Bart races Superman away from the Black Racer and explains he knows how to end it, that "a few little birdies" told him how, and that, despite Superman insisting he doesn't have to do it alone, he's learned he's never been alone. As Bart then races back into the city, Superman tries to catch him and has the recurring flashback of the time when Bart, even running backwards, outraced him and thus did not stay in Smallville. Superman shouts for Bart to slow down but Bart, tears streaming down his eyes, says "Not this time, amigo!"

The Black Racer sees Bart heading his way and is ready for the battle. But Bart, instead of fighting, seems to stand down and somehow give all of his speed to the Racer, which causes an explosion that effectively obliterates both the Racer and Bart.

Flashback to Smallville, two months ago (more exactly - the final scene of Chapter 11). Chloe has just shot the mysterious pilot she and Oliver had been tracking and is knocked clear upon physical contact. Then we see the full conversation between the pilot (Chloe-2) and a Monitor before the Monitor kills her (which we saw in Chapter 11). Chloe-2 is "roiling with bleed" from having been touched by her Earth-1 counterpart, and while the Monitor is impressed at the lengths to which Chloe-2 travelled to warn Earth-1, he's not about to spare her life. "The Monitors maintain order. Existence is chaos. And so all existence shall be brought to an end."

Back in the here and now, Chloe rouses from the memory as news of Impulse's sacrifice comes in from Superman. How, she asks Oliver, are they going to raise a child considering the lives they lead? Oliver says he doesn't know.

Later, at the JSA brownstone, Jay Garrick and Superman talk about Bart, about Hawkman, and about how everything ends. Then Emil shows up and reveals that the excess Speed Force that Bart exposed Clark to "might have done more than just save the world..."

4Story - 4: I'd like to observe a moment of silence in remembrance of Impulse, who sacrificed himself so that the world might slow down and live and who, I'm guessing, will be back in a few issues.


Ok, that's enough. I liked Impulse/Bart - thought he was handled well not only by the writers, producers and directors but also by Kyle Gallner, who of course played him on the show. And he was similarly handled well, more or less, here in Season 11, though he was at times still so bratty it seemed he hadn't grown at all in all this time and having him actually say "BRB" in this issue (for "Be right back," fellow fogies) struck me as over the top, but I don't spend a lot of time with teenagers so maybe SMS shorthand has been bleeding into actual speech in ways I never thought possible.

By and large, I liked this issue, too. It made me think (which I appreciate) and it made me go back to previous issues and rethink things that have come before (which I really, really appreciate - though based on a lot of readers' comments about Grant Morrison on Action Comics, I gather I'm in the minority here). I'm Nabokovian that way.

I don't, of course, believe for a second that he's really dead. Maybe he's merged with the Speed Force for a while or something (Bart says Clark hasn't met the "little birdies" "yet" and has, in fact, probably joined them), but actually killing him seems unlikely indeed. Not that I wouldn't respect the decision - indeed, I'd respect Smallville as a whole a whole heck of a lot more if they did, simply because of how many bait-and-switches they pulled over the course of the series. It's also not in any way clear what he did to cause the explosion that seemed to take both his and the Racer's lives. Remember the Doomsday fight, or when Clark inexplicably (other than he's Clark) escapes from the offshore vigilante holding facility despite last being seen inside a Kryptonite cell with Slade standing by inside that very facility ("Patriot," Season 10)? Yeah, this is basically like that, though possibly even more like the Harry Potter thing where he gets to survive at the end because he went willingly to his death.

Meanwhile, Chloe's "See you on the island, baby" bit of dialogue might be the most intriguing thing about this entire chapter, for the questions it raises. This is the "made me think" part: is Miller implying some kind of eternal recurrence in the metaphysics of this universe (Chloe-2 is also a marksman, recall - could she also have been stranded on that island with Oliver? The Earth-2 flashback scene [issue 34] where Oliver is practicing and Chloe is giving tips is unclear, but the implication is there) or is Chloe-2 just being banal and evoking her idea of "Heaven," where she expects to be with Oliver alone on a/the desert island for eternity? Neither of those would be my preference (my preference would have been not to see Chloe impossibly proficient in yet another set of skills, more so given that another character already has those skills and we know how he got them), but doing the cross-reference work is worth the trouble. Ultimately, I think it's purposely vague but needlessly so. My principal gripe with the flashbacks all along has been that they've seemed arbitrary and none too helpful in terms either of advancing the plot or developing the actual (i.e. Earth-1) characters. It's all well and good to fill in gaps left by the show, but unless that filling serves a purpose for the plot and characters we are actually invested in (i.e. Earth-1), it comes across simply as filler, with all the standard negative connotations. I'm still waiting for Clark Luthor in the "here and now."

That said, I do respect Miller for finally making a direct connection between Chloe's flashbacks and the Crisis still pending on Earth-1 (as opposed to the one on Earth-2, even if in some ways they're the same thing, about which hold that thought...), and for bringing it right back to that moment in Chapter 11 when Chloe and Oliver finally identify the mysterious pilot as Chloe-2, which for me is an ideal approach because that's where, for us, the whole Crisis business began (with the revelation that Earth-2 is "gone"; the actual term "Crisis" isn't used until Chapter 12). It also suggests that Chloe's "self-merger" (or whatever) likely began then, not upon the use of Lex's "mind-dive" device (which would have presumably just ramped up the effect). That would explain a few things, not least why Chloe-1 is already showing near-mastery of the bow before having the idea to involve the technology.

So, it's cool that some of the evident fragmentation is being unified, though it still feels a little bit imbalanced, with so much more emphasis (despite the presumed "ramp up" effect) having been placed on the flashbacks post "mind dive" compared to very little (if any) sense of the significance of the two Chloe's touching waaaay back at the end of "Guardian" until the overt consideration of it in this issue, still to no truly unambiguous end other than, perhaps, explaining away new anomalies in Chloe's character in chapters to come. Which is to say, I don't feel that the opening scene of Chapter 29, with Chloe target practicing while Oliver designs his "Arrowjet" is now any less mystifying than I felt it was at the time - indeed, in retrospect, the whole idea of Chloe being a marksman is still a complete mystery in terms of its purpose while that particular scene in the Watchtower seems now to have served no other purpose than to give purpose to the flashback dialogue between Chloe-2 and the Monitor in this issue viz. reference to The Bleed.

Clues that something truly significant had happened in that moment in the cornfield could have been stronger, is what I'm saying. We're supposed to be having an "Ah-ha!" moment but it sort of stalls for me at "Ah."

Chloe's line "My world ended long before your kind arrived" in this flashback plays well, though - it's a clear reference to the chaos wrought on Earth-2 by Clark Luthor but is doubly strong for the subtlety of its reference to Oliver-2's murder at Clark Luthor's hands, which I found to be superfluous at the time and am, now, still undecided whether it is worth the pay-off in Chloe-2 characterization here. Both of them are needed for either truly to work but is either of them truly needed?

Which brings me back to the thought I asked you to hold - that the Crisis on Earth-2 is technically the same as the one coming to Earth-1, even if the characters who populate each are technically not. This, I submit, has been the true underlying project of the Chloe(s) storyline - the joint emotional and intellectual unification of the two Earths, with Chloe again in the middle (like she was between Clark and Lana, Lois and Clark, Clark and Pete, Clark and his secret, [most similarly] Brainiac and Doomsday, and so on). This gives poignancy to her line in issue 33, "Why is it always me?" (although as much for the half-groaning metafictional elbow nudge as for the intra-narrative phenomenology), as well as to the scene in this issue where she questions the wisdom of bringing a child into their lives (and too bad we've already seen that kid). But while it's a worthy project ripe with thematic possibility, its execution, as I've been saying, has been a tad superficial and arbitrary for me, underscored by the too-neatness of the closed loop literally enacted by this latest memory. Still and all, a really good try.

I've also theorized before that the affair between Earth-2's Oliver and Chloe might serve as an attempt to give the romance between Earth-1's Oliver and Chloe a universality similar to what was implied for Lois and Clark in that rooftop scene in Season 10's "Luthor," and that would seem borne out in this issue, as well. Does it strengthen the whole? Not sure. I guess I leave that up to individuals to work out for themselves. All I can say is that it's not the Smallville storyline I care about.

Finally, the idea (at this point only implied, but what else is it going to be?) that Superman's Speed Force enhancement managed to eliminate the Luthor radiation tag is totally acceptable, but more than a little convenient. Moreover, if this is indeed where that's going, it will irrevocably consign the whole Clark-and-Lois-separation thing to the overflowing but infinite dustbin of completely useless narrative devices because of how almost completely unused it was since being introduced 27 chapters ago (and more than once utterly disregarded - three times, in fact: first immediately after Superman learns about the radiation [chapter 12], then after the tryst at the Fortress when Superman super-speed delivers Lois to the Planet [chapter 14], and finally when they eat take-out on the Planet roof and the intern walks in [chapter 31]).

And that'd be just fine by me if I didn't still think opening chapter 13 on the two of them together in the Fortress after having only just separated them at the very end of the previous issue completely robbed the situation of all dramatic energy. It was just too soon. And given that the "real" wedding is still more than six years away (even if Miller says he isn't really concerned about it), returning everything to normal at this point is too soon again. Absolutely nothing, good or bad, has come of this whole thing. So what was the point?

Anyway, good outing. Action-dense but intellectually dramatic, as well. 4 of 5.

5Art - 5: Still completely excellent. You know something is consistent when I never really have much of anything to say about it. (Or maybe that's how you know I'm not consistent... I can never remember...)

Cover Art - N/A:

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