Superman on Television

Smallville: Episode Reviews

Season 6 - Episode 18: "Progeny"

Reviews:

Progeny

Reviewed by: Douglas Trumble

Welcome back folks. It is time to move into the home stretch. The countdown to the season final is on. We all know a cliffhanger is coming since we already know Smallville will be back next year. So let the fun begin.

This week was a bit short on the action but still had some pretty important character moments for some of the main cast. While Clark's part in much of this was as a bystander I think he still had a very good roll here. He was Chloe's bomb squad as he promised and I think that was very important to see. He stayed by her side, gladly using his gifts to help her solve the very personal mystery. Even when she slipped the Kryptonite on him, he still rushed to save her and her mother.

I also really like the continued trend to show Clark using his powers casually in the course of his "adventures". In the past they made the use of his powers as sort of the climax or a semi-climax but now Clark will just use them whenever it seems right. Lately I just think they have done a good job making sure that situations do not feel like a forced situation designed for a certain power. It feels more like they are just coming up with the story and asking, "OK, Clark is in this situation, which power would he use, if any to get out of it?" I like that. X-ray vision, speed, and super-hearing are the things that can be put to use in more situations than super-breath, heat-vision, super-strength or even his steel like skin, so I would expect to see them more often.

In a big twist, which was about as obvious as the shows product placement, we find out Lana was never really pregnant. Do not get me wrong. I like that twist. It really shows how deep Lex is willing to go into the darkness to get what he wants. There are different kinds of evil and this Lex will play with just about all of them. It was something you could see coming months ago but that is ok. I did have one problem with how Lana found out though. Lex obviously knew Lana was hurt because he took Chloe's mother to task about it. So why did he allow her to be treated by a regular Smallville medical center doctor? He had to know that any doctor not under his control would tell Lana what he found? I think this might have been an error on the editor's part. For this to work right Lana would have to be in the hospital for some time before Lex found out in order to escape the "specialists" Lex would call in.

I like how Clark finally went out of his way to save the bad guy this time. Lex was about to get a canister in the face which could have killed him. I was very amused how Clark had plenty of time to just knock the canister aside but chose to body check Lex into the wall instead. Yeah, I know, maybe a bit low brow for our future Superman but still very understandable.

I really enjoyed meeting Chloe's mother and finding out why she left. As a parent you can understand the fear of hurting your child. Plus it is rather common for Kryptonite exposure to affect a person's mental stability so how Chloe's mother ended up in her present situation made a lot of sense. Lynda Carter was a joy to see on the show. She is still Wonder Woman in my eyes. I hope they find a way to bring her back some time in the future.

Lastly I found the Justice and Doom comic story they showed during one of the commercial breaks very interesting even if it was an over glorified commercial. I'll take all the Smallville I can get. I have not had a chance to check out the online version they mentioned but it shows some promise. It was a neat little way to show us what the League is doing on the side.

So all and all a good episode. Nothing that will rock your socks off but still worthy of your valuable time. I'll give it a B+. Call it 4 out of 5 red Yaris pick-up trucks.

Next week looks really good. Clark and Lex forced to confront their failed friendship? I am so there but for now I am going to go test drive a Yaris. We have to help them pay the bills don't-cha-know.

Doug



Progeny

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

MAIN POINTS:

  • Chloe's mother, Moira, is being held captive by Lex Luthor.
  • Lex blackmails her into revealing her power, and Chloe finds her.
  • Lex kidnaps Chloe, and Chloe escapes with Moira.
  • Lex blackmails Chloe into silence, Moira goes catatonic again
  • Lana learns that her baby never existed.

    REVIEW:

    There here be my first words written as someone who's been paid for his writing, and at that, on Smallville stuff. To quote Andy Dufresne when he gets his books: "It only took seven years!"

    But for me it took nine.

    I'm doing short stories for the official Smallville Magazine. Wait and see, it's gonna rock!

    The funny thing is, I'd have continued had this never happened. I'm not exactly rolling in the dough, either, but the point being, though things have changed, nothing has changed. I'm still writing the same stuff, just now, some of that stuff will be for DC.

    Sorry. Had to stop and giggle.

    The reason I mention this is to alleviate any worries you might have. No, I won't suddenly soften up on the show. That would be compromising my integrity. No, I won't suddenly overcompensate on the anger toward the show to make it look like I'm not selling out. It's just business as usual, so no worries. The only real difference is that now I'll have more insight into the process, which I think you'd agree is better for all involved.

    When I got the permission to break the news you guys blew me away. It got more comments than the definition of continuity for Superman. That isn't scientifically possible, and I literally fell over reading it. Thanks! There was only one sourpuss who shall remain unnamed who wrote:

    OMG!!! I too can't wait to one day write crap about a show and then get involved with it. OMG!!! YAHHHH!!!

    Good barb. And a fair one, that seems to ask: Neal, how CAN you write objectively and fair about a show you regularly decry, and how will it be any fun?

    Well, it's a bum question, honestly. I hated "For Tomorrow," but had someone immediately handed me the reigns of Superman, it doesn't mean I wouldn't be able to have fun and write a poignant story. The inherent flaw in this show lies in the temporary instances of its failed directions, not the concepts. I'll be writing stories involving a young Superman in his prime vs. Lex Luthor. How in the world can one NOT be passionate about that? It's a far cry different from criticizing others when their writing shows a lack of enthusiasm in that regard. Don't expect one-off, cookie-cutter stuff from me, or the above WOULD be true.

    At any rate, to the show at hand, which actually delivered pretty well, I thought. It was a freak episode, and it was resolved a bit too pat, but it had a few things that make Smallville for me. Lex being Lex (where has that been, huh?), very little Lana (and what little Lana there was in a semi-interesting subplot), Chloe in character, high stakes, good twists. There was some clunky dialogue, and a few awful contradictions, but not nearly so many inconsistencies as usual.

    My God, is Lynda Carter unfairly hot for her age. I mean, I'm one of those guys who BELIEVES in the expiration date, I do, but I'd chase Lynda Carter and Annette O'Toole all around that set before the young gals. Never been able to say that about a show before. That either makes me getting old, or hideously addicted to the women who were young and attractive in my younger years. Little of column A, little of column B, no doubt.

    Chloe's younger counterpart struck me as odd. Not because her lines weren't great, or because the acting stank. It didn't. More, it seemed like the kid was actually too young to be that smart. It's like a robot dancing perfectly. There's supposed to be a little herky-jerky there. Not like Anakin in Episode One bad, but to have a kid spout that line she had with perfect enounciation struck me as a bit off. Still, they pegged Chloe pretty well there, and I know I was a little nerdlet like that using big words out of my league once.

    I don't particularly know if there are any errors with Chloe continuity here. I'm sure there are. People have pointed out that she moved to Smallville at the age of nine, I think it was, and there have been grumblings about when or where she lost her mother, and where her father is. I really am past the point of caring by now, and the story is compelling enough not to draw my attention into researching that. Feel free, if it bugged you, to taunt me in letters.

    Lex's open flit with the radio made me titter. He went from rap, to rock, to trendy emo crap that I thought he was going to stay on for sponsor purposes, then settled in to nice classical music. Odd, because he was playing in character, AND they avoided an opportunity to shill. Cool points.

    Lex gets skidded off the road, someone brodies, falls back, co-smacks him smart to bald KO style, then steals his flash drive. It's ... CHLOE! Nice teaser, actually. Unexpected. Though you immediately roll your eyes and say, announcer style, "Chloe's not herself lately. Find out how on this week's SMALLVILLE! (Stay tuned.)"

    We've had so many stinking out of character episodes, I was ready to stop and one this mother right there, but it actually turned out to be fairly light in the end.

    We've had, what, six mind control episodes now? It's an old device. There was Hug, Magnetic, Hypnotic, Mxy, that computer chick, and now this one. There are probably more. C'mon, guys.

    Chloe wakes up and finds dirty boots all over, played up a bit obvious with the camerawork and props. Immediately I wonder where the heck Lois is, who lives in this same apartment, right? Point of fact, where is Lois half the time when Clark's doing crazy crap around the apartment and the farm? Or is she living at the farm? I can't even remember any more, and it's so confused it's hard to care, but if she's living in the Talon, this is a gaffe.

    Clark admonishes Chloe not to jump to conclusions when she says that disappearing time is an indicator of something in her freakage developing. She's not really jumping to conclusions. Jumping to conclusions is assuming that because someone has been hearing what you're saying, she can turn into water. This is logical insight, played wrongly for drama.

    Lana awakens in full makeup, already pouting. Lex walks in, bleeding profusely from the head. She doesn't ask him how he is, she admonishes him for not calling. Ah, Lana, I love you.

    Imagine if Lex said, instead of "Hey, honey, how are you, are you okay?" "Hey, babe, how did you not notice me in bed?"

    It's the idea of berating someone in a situation where they're not at fault for the sake of power, and it's constantly written into Lana's character.

    But it's mercifully brief.

    Lana asks for a huge battery of tests, which is odd, given that she lost the baby last week, theoretically. It's played for drama, because we're supposed to be hanging off of how she lost the kid, but we're not, because it's obvious they're not going to give Lana a kid on this show, or if they do, it'd be extraordinarily odd.

    Clark and Chloe come across Lex's wrecked vehicle. They pull up in a brand spanking new, at least $20,000 truck, clean as a whistle (which means it's not for farm work, it's for show), pulling me right out of the scene.

    The police, of course, see them standing there at this crime scene, staring, and yet just kind of, you know, continue doing what they're doing instead of stopping to ask what Chloe and Clark are doing there. This also pulled me right out of the scene.

    You then wonder how Chloe got that big truck, and where.

    Clark uses his powers though, to our benefit. Hearing, sight, subtle, but at very least there. Not too flashy, but not horrible. Even the end effect worked well, even if I don't like the context.

    The speed thing was especially slick. I like the fact that Clark can move past the speed of sight, and constantly wonder why he doesn't use it more, because it's a cheap effect. I mean, a quarter second of blur.

    They head back to the apartment, plug in the flash drive, and...LYNDA CARTER IS NICK NOLTE!

    (http://www.thesmokinggun.com/mugshots/nolte1.html)

    Lowell's scene with Lynda Carter is great, not because the blackmail is novel, or even because Lynda's acting works well (though it does), but because, like I've said before, doesn't matter how you get there, an unleashed Lex is an unleashed Lex. Forgetting continuity, seeing Lex unload both barrels is an instant forgive for me, in the way that cleavage is an instant forgive for most 14-year-old boys, who loved that wrestler episode with those great legs on blondie, but can't quantify exactly why.

    Perhaps I'm more forgivable, given that I can say that I love Lex unbridled because it's just pure fun to have a real, honest villain on this show as opposed to someone who kills just for, well, kicks. Like Moira later does in this episode, losing her sympathy with me.

    Chloe finds out she's caused trouble at the lab while out of character. Again, a jailable offense, punching a nurse. Why no arrest? I can see being restrained, but hauling off and punching is harder to buy even if it looks cool.

    Lex threatens Moira after she reveals her powers while standing right next to her, which is not incredibly smart, and out of character. He knows she can command people, and his belongings are right there on his shirt. I suppose one can say he has the power of blackmail with Chloe, but she can order him to make people back down. It's a bit hard to buy. And also, when she tries having that guy rescue her later, why not have him do that when she first takes control?

    Moira jumps from calm, rational mother to sending people to kill Lex. It's an act that smacks of desperation that the plot didn't justify, and I don't buy it.

    The freak she sends after Lex pops into the Luthor mansion to kill him. How does he know where it is, number one, and number two, why would he think this strange woman would...and how is she knocked out by a minor fall? Lame. Here the episode started to derail, and thankfully later picked up a bit.

    Where did Clark come from? Why were they going to see Lex? This is extraordinarily unclear, aside from the fact that they know Lex is behind 33.1, and Moira is in trouble. There's not enough of a connection there. It's a pat way to save Lana, and it's hard to swallow.

    He also super-speeds into the mansion and throws a dude a good distance, and you can't tell me after all these years there are no cameras in that mansion. Heck, we've seen them turned on Lana. They exist.

    AND AGAIN WITH THE SQUEAKY SHOES!

    And again with no explanation of how she got there from Clark, and no questions asked. Henky.

    Cut to a Justice League car promotion that actually read like a comic book, and with a good story! It leads into my bud Jake Black's story in Smallville Magazine, which I recommend reading. It may sound like a plug, but believe me, I have friends in the business who I'll kindly decline promoting, because I can't honestly say I like it. His Smallville story in the latest issue covers a lot of continuity issues, and I honestly wish the show would pick up Jake as one of the writers, because I think he sees what we want that's lacking in the show.

    It's JL terrorism again, and it looks like they might have whacked a few guys, but it was still a really neat story, and if you just walk along with it, it's a lot of fun. Especially given the medium. The reading speed was a bit fast, which might have dissuaded some, but I thought it was neat to have a little break in the middle of the show for a mini-story, even if it involved car sales. I think this is one of the rare things that might justify shortening an episode a bit for me.

    Lana straight-up tells Clark about the baby.

    Ah-wha? Read that back to me, Betty Brant. Is that a typo? No. Lana actually steps up and fesses up to something without arbitrary drama. My next note: "Where's the lie? Has the world gone mad?"

    But then, after Clark asks Lana why she married Lex but told Clark she loved him:

    "Just wedding day jitters, that's all!"

    Ah, there's the good old lying bich we all know and love.

    And also: "You're the first person I've told!"

    After Lex, Lie-ey McLiarton!

    The indication of this scene is also that Lana married Lex just for the baby, and that she was having the baby to make things right. The quote is something like "I thought having a baby would make things better!"

    I hate people who do that. I really, really do. My loathing for her character jumped about a factor of five, which I didn't think was possible.

    Lana also gives the indication that she's mad at Clark for caring about her. "Don't worry about me!" (etc).

    She says, "I'm going to get through this...like I always do!"

    Oh, Lana! Vestigal virgin, whose life keeps washing over her like something she can't control... I mean, she didn't date four homicidal guys consciously. It just happened! She didn't get pregnant on her own recognizane, or, for that matter, not pregnant by dating a guy she knew was oddly homicidal...

    The only true suffering Lana has had to endure that wasn't her own fault was losing her parents, which is hardly her focal catharsis beyond the first six episodes. Hollow line. Such pity for Lana, where none is deserved, and such an awful, worthless character. I hope she's the one who dies in the finale.

    Oh yeah. You're gonna get through it like you always do, babe. By stomping, crossing your arms, passive aggressively manipulating, crying, whining, lying, killing, and being "The Lana Chloe Knows."

    To quote Vern Schillinger: Goody.

    Here's a note that didn't occur to me until later. Lex tells Moira that she's infected in her blood with meteor rocks, just like Chloe. This indicates that it's not a mutation, but that actual Kryptonite is in her veins. This is an utterly stupid move on the part of logic, given that it now means any time that Clark is close to Chloe or any meteor freak he should be collapsing and in pain.

    But that's not nearly so stupid as the tranced Chloe hitting Clark with a piece of meteor rock and having him lay there with it clutched to himself for what seems to be hours.

    KRYPTONITE MAKES CLARK'S BLOOD BOIL, AND KILLS HIM AFTER SHORT-TERM EXPOSURE.

    I don't know how this is so hard to contemplate after so many years of the character. Kryptonite is not a cold, the Batmobile is not a beeper, and no, I don't do kissing. That'll cost you extra.

    Chloe is kidnapped, and gets a KO. Clark gets a KO. Everyone's getting knocked out this episode! Lex, Lana, Clark, Chloe. Heck, even Moira, technically. She goes back to coma.

    Chloe and Moira try to escape, and in doing so, Moira, who's already caused a guy to go homicidal, causes another guy to throw two Luthor goons in a way that would almost surely kill them. Yeah, they're trying to kill Chloe and Moira, but this is a housewife and a young woman. They don't even FLINCH when two dudes are thrown to their near-death or death right in front of them?

    Clark pops in just in time to stop Chloe from killing Lex.

    The mother committed herself to stop herself from commanding her daughter to do bad things, but here commands her to do a bunch of stuff that almost gets her arrested, killed, or causing a murder. Jeesh, Wonder Woman!

    Carter played her role well, but I wish she'd been fleshed out mentally more. She was really, ultimately, just a misguided, homicidal FOTW in the end.

    But back to the bullet. Clark stops the bullet from killing Lex, but he HESITATES. It's muted, but it's there, and that kills me. That he would even consider killing Lex is not like Data considering the Borg Queen's offer. It's just utter blasphemy. I saw it in the director's cut, they really pushed it there, and here they shortened it to make it seem less awful, but it's still there. 20 year-old Superman almost lets Lex die out of jealousy. Miserable.

    Neat effect, though. Ironic. And that's one big dang bullet, man. Hoo dang.

    I find it hard to buy that Clark and Chloe wouldn't break into the compound to get more drugs for Moira, or force someone to give them to her. It's forced, but it leads to the scene where Moira goes away, which is touching, so it's hard to lament, ultimately. The consistency sucked, but the emotion of the scene almost made up for it, making it a draw.

    AND AGAIN WITH THE SQUEAKY SHOES!

    Lana finds out...THERE NEVER WAS A BABY! Okay. That was unexpected. Well played, Clerks! There was no bulge because...there was no bulge! You GOT me. That's hard. Impressive. Most impressive.

    But you are not a Jedi yet. Because even if there was no baby ultimately, no one ever said, "HEY, WHY AREN'T YOU SHOWING?" which kind of undermines the cool factor. Still, well done.

    I have a hard time feeling for Lana, I do. I mean, she's with Lex Luthor. How much more plainly stupid can you get, even if his actions are vaguely shielded behind Machiavellian lies. She was still too stupid to see through it.

    I would gladly sacrifice every drop of blood in your body for another scene with Lex Luthor like the one he had with Chloe at the end of this episode. Coldly acted, well written, and LEX FRICKING LUTHOR as I've always dreamed him to be in my head, where you'll always catch me playing with my dolls again.

    I did have a little titter when he used PLAN B as a way to shut Chloe up. It's so well acted, it works. He doesn't even have to mention what it is, but I know what it is. Plan B, so sadistic, new levels of hell, etcetera, just as Lex describes it.

    Lana being her roommate again. That's plan B.

    Stop screaming. You need to read the rest of the review.

    Clark reacts defensively, saying Lex is in his crosshairs, that he knows Lana will be fed to the lions, and that the war is about to begin.

    I mean, I know there's no war. There are no soldiers. It's over-dramatic and maladapted to this continuity.

    BUT LEX LUTHOR IS THREATENING PEOPLE AND CLARK IS ABOUT TO GO TO WAR WITH HIM.

    I'll sign up for that, please.

    Inconsistencies drug this episode down, as did the patent dumbing down of what could have been an epic character, Moira, but there were many epic character moments, items of total coolness, and a strong opening. The season isn't turning into something great, but it's heading back to Smallville average.

    3 of 5.

    SUPER SHORT REVIEW:

    LETTERS:

    Letters

    Image courtesy of the totally awesome Dave DeSomer. Please, guys, if you feel like making stuff like this, send it along. It makes my day, it's great to share with folks, and it's a blast.

    I'd pay good money to see Lana getting kicked into the abyss.

    Mike wrote:
    Hey Neal,
    great review on the episode of "Promise". I agree with you that it was a really great episode, one that almost makes this season worthwhile.
    But there was one thing you wrote in your review that really bugged me. Now I don't know if I just misunderstood what you were saying, and if that's the case than I apologize.

    No worries. Let's figure it out.

    But you said that because Lana is pregnant with Lex's child, that binds her to be with him until she sees any reason no to. First of all, they're not married yet, and that baby was conceived out of wedlock and it's unfair to assume that they should get married because they're having a child together. And even more unfair to expect the show to have the same idea. Secondly, just because she is having Lex's baby doesn't mean she should ignore her feelings of the ones she loves. While it's true she has no reason to think coldly of Lex, she also has no reason to be IN love with him. Her true feelings are for Clark. And I think that's what this episode was trying to get at. As much as Lana loves Lex, she loves Clark more but knows they can't be together.

    Here's my flat-out opinion. I have absolutely zero sympathy for anyone who gets pregnant with no intention to spend the rest of their life with the person who gets them pregnant and/or at least provide a father figure. People hate me for saying that, but it's how I feel. If a character in a show doesn't do that, I can't support them in any way. A widow is one thing. In an era with eight hundred methods of birth control and unending opulence, there's no reason to bring a child into the world under questionable circumstances, and I don't find compelling anyone who does. If anything, we should err on the side of less humans.

    I particularly find "love" to be an arbitrary concept to justify such moral failings often used to forward a story, and it drives me crazy. That's my rationale.

    I find little compelling reason NOT to get married if you're stupid enough to get knocked up without a future plan. Which is a compelling enough reason not to get knocked up. I know, it's so simple it hurts and seems cruel, but I've managed not to get a girl pregnant, though I've loved many, and I'm 27.

    That's enough of my rant on this topic.

    No worries. I rant too, as you can see. ;)

    Also, you brought up at the end of your review about why Lex hasn't killed Lionel yet. This is just something I thought up after reading your review. With Lionel turning back to evil and trying to assert control over Lex, maybe the show is leading up to that. Perhaps a season finale and way of cementing Lex in his turn to the dark side.

    That'd be neat.

    Oh and I'm surprised you didn't bring this up in your review. When we see the scene in the cellar for the second time, through Lana's eyes, when Clark speeds away, they so clearly messed up the special f/x on his running. Clark just disappears instead of actually running away. hahaha what was the deal with that?

    It was intentional, I'm sure, for effect.

    cheers,
    Mike

    Brendan Taylor wrote:
    In your writtings you are upset with Clark as the cause of the death of some of these phatoms. Do you give any creedence to the argument that since Clark is not Superman yet, he is an adolescent; and that he is going through life lessons that lead him the ultimate Superman standards that people are familiar with (not killing, no sex, no politics, etc)?

    Nope. I've actually covered this a bunch of times before, but no sweat. No, you pretty much know who you are at 18 morally, I'd say. Generally speaking. And especially if you're Superman.

    Given this take I think the show does a decent job of showing how Clark struggles with emotional urges vs. what feels like the right thing to do. Let me know what your take is on this idea, sorry if you have already written about it and I just missed it ( I try to read your reviews and letters regularly).

    No worries. Hope that helped.

    Thanks,
    Brendan Taylor

    Bruce Kanin wrote:
    Yo Neal,

    Letter/review overload! Danger Will Robinson!

    You're telling me! Heh. Not complaining, though.

    But all great stuff. I just need time to read yours and re-read mine!

    One more but - but where did I write that wrestling is fake? I didn't write that - although - the crap on TV is clearly fake. So there - I said it :)

    I might have misquoted and lost it to time. If so, I apologize. I usually write these responses on the butt end of tired.

    Take care,

    Bruce

    You too!

    Azor wrote:
    Hey Neal,

    You said, "Intelligencia, for the most part, are atheistic, because they question everything, whereas religion tends to make you not question, in fact, it's a pre-requisite."

    Yep. And it's true. Religion insists (at least Christian religion) that you accept some given precepts without any questioning of them. God simply is. His manner is mysterious (you can't say, is it deliberate? because that leads to palpable testable hypothesis, etcetera. Faith is faith, logic allows questioning. It doesn't make faith bad or wrong, but the above is true.)

    I concede that many religious folks may not be all that inquisitive, but your statement that not questioning is a pre-requisite of Christianity is not accurate. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 tells believers to "test everything." 1 Peter 3:15 mandates that believers be prepared to give a defense of their faith, which I think would be impossible without questioning upon what their faith is built upon. Rhetorically, the New Testament writers were very much in line with the Greek Socratic tradition of asking questions. Many of the Pauline epistles are organized as a logical progression of rhetorical questions.

    I gotta call BS here, without trying to be offensive. Quoting a text as a way of affirming a text, firstly, assuming I believe the Bible is an accurate historical source material for the way religion is participated in or upon (I stridently do not), but just beyond that, "Test everything" is widely contradicted by statements to the contrary urging you to kill, main, convert, or conquer anyone who tests the given faith. The Bible as a historical record of how to live in a series of codas, if you read it (and I have) is wholly contradictory in multiple ways on most subjects.

    Does that mean it's a bad book? No. But it goes very slow toward proving the point that religion dares you to question in almost all ways. One quote in a thousand page tome isn't going to sell me, particularly given faulty translation and personal bias.

    As for the "intelligentsia," I would admit that they are an inquisitive bunch, but I also think their tendency to atheism is partly cultural; ironically, there is a lot of pressure to conform to a certain worldview, so those folks, particularly in academia, often aren't as freethinking in their inquiry as they would claim (and given your general distrust of academia, I think you'd likely agree with me there).

    Actually, if ANYTHING, the overwhelming pressure even among intelligentsia is to become Christian. Just because your ten buds at the office with tenure are atheist doesn't mean mom isn't constantly around the corner spouting quotes from the bible, or that the Jehovah's witnesses aren't knocking at your door, or that whenever you profess atheism people aren't writing you angry letters (not yours, but just in general). The overwhelming propensity in society is to push for theism, hardly atheism. However, given a logic-based scientific method approach to most things, the only rational conclusion can be agnosticism or atheism beyond personal experience, which doesn't follow the logical method.

    Again, not saying that theism is wrong for you or anyone, just that it's rational where religion is not and doesn't try to be.

    Furthermore, I think it's unfair to say of believers that they stand "outside of reason and rationality purposefully in favor of an idealized belief without proof." Our culture has certainly set up a dichotomy between faith and reason, but I think this is a false dichotomy (and a particular invention of the Englightenment).

    Cite your evidence, sir. (With all due respect). I believe the association of Christianity with faith over rationality has nothing to do with the enlightenment. I came up with that conclusion knowing nothing of the Enlightenment at the age of 14. The only thing that allowed that, however, was a life without constant indoctrination, something most people don't get the pleasure of.

    Unfortunately, I think many believers themselves have bought into this dichotomy and become the unthinking and unquestioning people that you lament.

    I would say most.

    A really good exploration of this phenomena from a Christian perspective is Nancy Pearcy's "Total Truth."

    I would in response recommend "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" and "Philosophy and Social Hope" by Richard Rorty. Philosophy and Social Hope changed my life, because it is irrespective of the atheism vs. theism debate (though Rorty is an atheist). It simply examines how best to solve most problems practically and offers a practical rational belief system for both the religious and the irreligious. It also, however, advocates simple scientific method logic, which is beyond the tenets of most faiths, that cannot even respond appropriately to the question "What is God?" before moving forward into reactions and codicils that entail it.

    BTW, thanks for publishing that letter from that guy about Toonami. Like you, I had no idea what he was talking about; but it was so specific in its randomness it was hilarious. It kind of reminded me of the old days of the Internet when most forums were unmoderated and people just posted detailed and arcane off-topic rants about whatever they fancied.

    I publish all letters with "Okay to publish" unless they're not funny or irrelevant.

    Scotty V wrote:
    Hey Neal,

    I'm still not up to Combat yet but I did scan dodwn just to see what your final score was of all the eps. I must say I was completely stunned to see you rated the Lana/Lex wedding ep as a 5 of 5 ! That's amazing to me. I mean, I'm very happy because that must mean that it really was a good episode, despite the fact that it was about Lana marrying Lex, which cheezes me, as well as you, off. I just wanted to comment on a few of the biz stuffs that you had after Combat, cause I'm reading some of those now. Don't worry, I skp past all the stuff that's about eps I haven't seen yet.

    Cool.

    Someone writes in with:

    "4. Superman has not always been the "moral compass" you make him out to be. Chris Reeve had pre-marital sex with Margot Kidder in Superman 2, something they're exploring in the current movie. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher did the same thing in Lois & Clark."

    I just wanted to say that they absolutely did NOT have Clark doing anything against what should be his moral compass in that show. He said many many times that he would never kill. Something like: "that's not the way I work!" on one episode which made me tear up cause it was so Superman. And as far as the virgin thing, they ever came out and said for sure either way but, Lois and Clark definitely did not have sex until AFTER they were married. No big deal was made as if to preach, but it wasn't ever approached before tehn, which deletes any reasons for anyone to really complain.

    Yes. All true.

    Then Neal, you say in response to me saying that I've really only heard LuthOR pronounced correctly consistantly in STAS:

    "Heck, it's most mediums that they do that, and only recently that it's been lax like that. Script supervisor, hoooooo!

    Being into descriptive grammar, I like evolving languages. Sometimes I disagree, as in the case of neways, r u, 2, 4, and Luthor pronounced LuthER. And hey, in real life, I don't blanche. You stand before me and say it ER all you want. In formal expressions, however, it should be a formal expression. It's not Clork Kent, and if you heard that, it'd be odd"

    Man! I'm eloquent.

    I still have to reitterate that it seems to me it's been very inconsistant in every show I've watched except for the animated ones. Several people say it wrong in SR. People said it wrong in Lois and Clark. And definitely in Superman TM they said it wrong all the time. "Too late LuthER, too late." (Superman II)

    Yeah. It's just a me thing, I'm learning.

    And again, I'm not saying I don't agree with you. The name definitely sounds better when pronounced our way - LuthOR - I'm just not sure anyone's actually made a point to say it anywhere definitively. But believe me I agree.

    Coolness.

    You:

    "That all depends on if you believe Superman has to work out or not. I'm torn on that one, myself"

    I'm not sure how you could be torn on whether Superman has to work out or not. He's got Superpowers. His strength and body look have nothing to do with conventional human ways of gaining that strength or look.

    True, but it humanizes him if he has to go to the gym like I do. I like that aspect of Byrne.

    You mention about watching GA's origin:

    "I dunno. I don't have a cell, so I didn't see the origin."

    I haven't seen it either, mainly because I realy wasn't interested as I think GA's already gotten way too much attention on a show that's suppposed to be about a young Clark Kent, but it's available to view online now. I think on CW.com.

    You then say about the comics:

    "I still don't know what it was. I'm just plain lost on Superman books right now in many ways. It's become so scaled back and irregular, I could literally drop it and not miss anything, at least for most of the last year."

    Actually, that's not true any more. It was a month ago. Now I've learned otherwise...see recent articles.

    That's really ashame and it seems like such a waste to me. See I'm weird. With me I've always been very peeved since they removed the number shields off of Superman's comics. The reason is that I can never seem to find out from anywhere where or when and it what timeline or universe a particular Superman story is taking place. So now what I do is I collect whole story arcs before I read an issue, because there are simply too many books to be reading them all disjointed and out of order. It's been worse this last year because I've been reading all of the 52's before I plan to get to the One Year Later books. Just because I didn't want to get confused as to how things were happening plus I thought it would be much cooler to actually "experience" the return of Superman with the rest of the characters and celebrating with them. But it's unfortunate that you say they've been so bad because I've relaly been looking forward to it. Although I can't see anyone really being excited about this latest issue with the Prankster in it. That's waaay silver age, which is I guess what they're going for these days from what I've heard. Also, I'm not sure any of the DCU has particularly promising continuity and that's bothersome.

    They blew a lot of One Year Later, and continuity is still a bit odd...but it's looking to find a way back to cohesion, I would say.

    You say about your assertion that Lana has a valid reason to be pissed at Chloe:

    "I don't know. I think in a world of strange circumstances, logic still applies. Occam's Razor is the law even in a fantasy world."

    Logis does still apply, but what I'm saying is that All these character should know by now that the most logical explanation in their world isn't always the right one. They encounter weird freaks who can do all sorts of things every week. For instance, in the comic world, if Clark's shirt would have lipstick smears on the collar, I would EXPECT Lois to know that he wasn't cheating on her. She knows who Clark is. Much like the characters on Smallville should know by now, and therefore not be shocked by things people can do anymore, Lois should know that Clark doesn't play that way. If she immediately accused him instead of just saying "hey Smallville, how'd this happen," with a smile and a wink I'd be disappointed in the writing. It's arbitrary tension for no good cause.

    I agree.

    In an earlier letter column, you mention that:

    "WE, the AUDIENCE, are the only one who knows Clark has done something "reprehensible," even though it wasn't"

    Then I responded by saying that to the characters on these shows helping someone to cover up their secrets IS reprehensible. I don't agree that it is because I think everyone has a right to provate things in their lives that they can share or not share. I'm just saying that on these shows all the...women, primarily, make a big deal about how "reprehensible:WE, the AUDIENCE, are the only one who knows Clark has done something "reprehensible," even though it wasn't it is to not share everything. So to Lois in this show it would be reprehensible since Clark is helping Ollie to not be truthful. Again, I disagree with that but that's what these shows do. When i gave that explanation you then said:

    "She kissed him. He didn't force her to do it"

    I was never insinuating that she was right in slapping him or that he forced her to kiss him. Though I did later say that if the GA isn't Ollie, which Lois believes at this point, that SHE might have reason to think she could slap him because (before she thought he might be Ollie) the GA is still a scum criminal in her mind.

    This is true. But he hot!

    You:

    "I've said it a hundred times, hitting over a disagreement is the height of contemptibility, no matter what the circumstance."

    Of course this is usually the case, but I would say that if someone mistakenly kisses someone they believe to be a criminal or a murderer and then they realize that they might react by hitting or pushing. That wouldn't be totally contemptible. Again, she think this guy is a CRIMINAL. Not someone she disagrees with but a robber and a violent criminal.

    You mention of an idiot in need of slapping that:

    "And yet, I didn't slap him. Yeah, that guy wins a prize. He even did something else afterwards I can't share"

    You could write me a private letter if you'd like. I love stories about fools. Fools. Burecratic fools. They don't know what they've got there...

    It's probably already in a poem on my personal site, likely...I forget the context.

    I thought the letter in this biz was crazy too. Theg uy who, once again, complains about your entry to the contest and tells you you're not a fan. World's Finest? Indeed.

    Oh, there's a lot of fun out there if you're just willing to touch the magic. People abhor matter AND a vacccum. You can't win. I have a poem about that, too. "S%#t in one hand, S#%t in the other. S$#t s@%t s$3t s@%t S%#t."

    On sale now...

    ALright then Sir, talk to you soon,

    Scotty V

    Take care, hombre.

    Irwin Santos wrote:
    Hey Neal,

    Were you just pooped out from writing? "Combat" was the shortest review that you've done. You didnt' tear it up as you would normally do for a 2 pointer.

    Hah! Actually, I get to thinking repeating myself endlessly is boring, so I just do the bare bones, throw in humor when I see it, and try and find a new angle...I will do my best, though.

    Aloha from Hawaii,

    Irwin (the Hawaiian Superman)

    Thanks, Irwin, man. Loving the emails.

    Declan wrote:
    Hey Neal

    So I just want to say that I thought your review of Promise was spot on. I enjoyed the episode more than any other episode of the past 3 seasons. The only problem with the episode is that the fact it was so good meant it looked out of place. We finally had an episode with Lana NOT acting like a tool so it feels inconsistant. Or we have Lionel at his Machevillian best, but given what has been happening with the Magnificent B@stard of late, it came out of left field. But in my opinion, if you take this episode for what it was, and ignore some of the crap preceeding it, then all the elements add up to a great story. And i dont know what the heck Douglas was doing giving it 1.5 out of 5!? I generally don't read his reviews (no offence Doug!) but anytime I do I've NEVER seen him give like below a 4! However, things were cleared up for me when I saw that he gave Combat 4.5 out of 5......FOUR POINT FIVE OUT OF FIVE!!!??? (Douglas writes his own reviews, so I assume he's at least 8......correct?)

    Douglas is just another dude with another opinion. Honestly, I'm glad that we're at sharp contrasts at times, because it gives dudes and dudettes an alternate opinion. I'm not about squelching folks just because I disagree with them. Never have been.

    I think, just coincidentally, that Doug just likes most of the stuff I don't, and vice versa. Nothing criminal about that.

    Anyway, just want to re-iterate the fact that I think Promise is a keeper, and that it's actually one of the very few episodes of the last 3 seasons which I can see myself watching again.

    Likewise!

    Thanks for the work you put in. My weekly smallville experience isn't complete until I've read your review.

    Declan

    Much obliged. :)

    Mary wrote:
    I was reading the letters you posted at the end of your Combat review and I noticed one of the writers weighing in on the pronunciation of 'Luthor' wrote:

    "For instance, actual British people in general speak the words of the English language properly and the way they're meant to be spoken."

    Hah! My buddy Sion would have a laugh at that. Or a loff.

    Being British I've gotta step in on this and point out that there are many distinct accents within the British Isles offering wide variation on pronunciation. I also totally disagree with the idea that there's a way English words are "meant to be spoken", but since Luthor is a proper noun I guess there is more weight for the argument that it should have any one pronunciation.

    You know, I know this is off task, but just picturing a chick saying that last paragraph with a british accent did me in. I love a british accent on a gal. Such a sucker. MUST...STAY...ON...TASK!

    Personally, I grew up with Lex Loo-thah. That's Estuary English. Received Pronunciation - the archetypical 'proper' British accent - would probably characterise it as Lyoo-thor, not Loo-thor, although, let's be serious, he wasn't named by the British (and we are talking about an accent whose speakers deliberately inserted dipthongs for no reason other than to look educated - burn). I reckon you'd come across Loo-thor in weak RP, though, and since British English is the language of Hollywood villains maybe that should be the pronunciation. If you ever get Alan Rickman's number, ring him up and have him settle it once and for all; for now maybe we can agree that Luthor is the most villainous of the lot.

    I would actually prefer Luth-Ah to Luth-ER. At least then we get an awesome accent.

    Bottom line, I know what I like, and I'd prefer to talk to a british chick than win this argument, so you win!

    Featherstonehaugh is a good last name.

    I like the last name Cheese. Then you can name the son Richard.

    - Mary

    Thanks. :)

    Daag Alemayehu wrote:
    Neal,

    "Combat" had a lot of elements I see in my current favorite TV Show, LOST; that is, I don't think everything we saw was really what was going on. Specifically, I don't think Lana had a miscarriage.

    Well, now we know you're right...

    I think when Lex and Lana toasted to their first week of marriage early in the episode, Lex slipped something in Lana's drink that caused her to pass out. You could see a strange look in Lex's eyes when Lana took her first sip. I think once she was unconscious, he had some evil-doer doctor C-section that baby out of Lana before they finally took her to Smallville Medical. As for Lex's crying, I think he has developed feelings for Lana (either recently or perhaps even long ago) and his crying had more to do with the pain he feels for lying to/tricking Lana than for the "loss" of the baby.

    Ah, I dunno. You might notice a baby disappearing.

    This may appear to be an off-the-wall crackpot theory at first blush, but I think there were plenty of seeds planted during the episode to support it. I won't be surprised if this subplot doesn't unfold EXACTLY as I've described it, but I think it's more likely that something like this will occur rather than the baby subplot disappearing altogether.

    I think it'd be neat to have the baby out there somewhere.

    On a completely different subject, I think you might have misunderstood some of the details of the meteor freak fight club concept. I think the fight club was started by the Belle Reve doctor (his name escapes me at the moment), who doubled as that annoying cowboy hat-wearing announcer. He used his patients as fighters, but he also hired outside help (e.g., Titan). Titan did not start the fight club, he was just a fighter. All of the organizational work was done by the doctor. Makes more sense, no?

    Yeah, I got that. I was more confused that he was even interested in a terrestrial fight club at all.

    thebrakeman wrote:
    Clark: "That's a Kryptonian prison tattoo!"
    Ah-wha? I didn't know Clark had done time.

    Neal,
    First, Clark can read Kryptonian symbols ever sense he spent time with daddy. So it's not a stretch that the symbols had such information. Like "Sentenced to life in prison".

    Second, we ALL know Clark has done time. He was sent to the Phantom Zone. He very well would have seen such symbols on a few people.

    I know you prefer for such things to be explained, but I don't think it's such a stretch.

    Yeah, that's true. It was just an absurd statement.

    thebrakeman wrote:
    Neal,
    Lois didn't need an explanation for why she hurt her hand. She asked, while in pain, something like, "what are wearing under there, plate-steel body armor?" Why would they need any further explanation than that? Lois doesn't know why Clark is at a cage fight. But if he's there, and he doesn't know his powers, she shouldn't be surprised that he'd be wearing some protection.

    Again, this isn't a stretch for the viewers to grasp.

    Right, but it's not like smacking a plate. It's like smacking a chest, only made of rock. You can feel the difference.

    thebrakeman wrote:
    "Like every other Zoner, Titan knows Kal-El despite the fact that there's no way he would, given that Kal-El was a baby or unborn when he was imprisoned, likely."

    Bow-wow explained by the zoners know about Kal-El. They all knew that Jor-El saved only his son from Krypton's destruction. How? Who knows! But it has been explained. Maybe Raya blabbed her mouth about it, never expecting that Clark would arrive and accidently free some of them. More likely, Zod had a clue as to what Jor-El was up to. Everyone there hated Jor-El for creating the zone and sending them there.

    Look! A rabbit!

    Again - I don't see any of this as a stretch of the imagination, given information in this episode, and in prior episodes. I like your reviews, but it seems you aren't bring more of the subtle history into your analysis (sometimes).

    Actually, it's more just that I find it odd that people from one planet would care at all about a little baby son of a scientist and want to kill him for creating the Phantom Zone. They're mad at Jor. They get free, they'll probably want brews and a quiet retirement, not revenge.

    Michael wrote:

    Neal,

    I bet you missed it, but Pete made an appearance in the Lana Stalker
    episode of Smallville.

    Do tell!

    Well, a photo of Pete appeared anyway. Lana sees it on Clark's desk
    when she walks into his bedroom. It's like they're trying.

    Attached screen capture proves it. Publish if you wish.

    I did. Awesome!

    Like everyone else, I think you're crazy for liking Promise. Or
    inconsistent, anyway. I enjoyed the show, but it had all the same
    problems you usually complain about, pre-eminent being a lack of
    continuity with the last two seasons. I think if I hadn't seen the
    last two seasons, this season would be much more enjoyable. I'd see
    Lana and Chloe being best friends at the bowling alley and I'd think,
    "Wow, what a big change! I really have to catch up on the episodes
    I've missed. I can't wait to see how the writers developed that."
    Yeah, right.

    No worries. These things happen, and should. That's the glory of rating based on gut. You're gonna like stuff for incomprehensible reasons sometimes.

    Michael

    Letters

    gary wrote:
    Most of the time you slam episodes pretty hard so I was suprised you rated Promise so high. I thought it was ok but not a 5. One for some of the reasons you said like Lana and Clark's motivations and trying to be together romantically instead of it just being about Clark trying to save her from lex and Martha and Chloe's flip flop of advice.

    Yep.

    But one thing the aside from that I wouldn't have given it a 5 for which if everything else was the difference in lines in the wine cellar reveal scenes. The first time Clark says "then you do know me as well as well as I thought you did" and the second time he says "know me very well" and it is suppose to be the same just from Clarks view and then Lana's. Even without counting the other stuff off because I understand that's what they want to do with Clana the episode deserves at least .5 off for the dialouge mistake because It could have easily been right by just using the same footage or paying attention during editing.

    I didn't notice it, or I might have.

    Speaking of that, I was also suprised them by your review of COmbat because after rating Promise so good which I thought you would blast for the Clexana reasons you've been blasting other ones which I partly agree and partly disagree I think it may be able to be handle different but I still don't think some stuff you blast about the show in general is as bad as you make it and at the same time you miss stuff I see as wring which are more technical than storywise.

    Like in Combat I really didn't have much problem with most of the stuff you blasted, I probably would have given it a 3.5 because while I didn't think it was as bad a you said there was room for improvement.

    Coolsville.

    The one thing that stood out to me which I totally thought you would catch and now maybe you can explain to me how it could be explained away so it's not an error is the Deal with the Internet feed.

    At the end Lex's lackey said he didn't know who could have killed Titan because the feed went down before their team moved in. While that is true if they had the Internet feed running before it went down the would have seen Maddox announce Vixen(Aka Lois) and Man of Steel(Aka Clark) and then Lois and Clark standing there and Lois circle him and punch Clark. Then CLark Heat visioned the Equipment and Titan came in and fought him. So while they wouldn't have actually seen Clark beat Titan. They would have seen that he was there and Lex should have wanted to see any footage before it went out to see who was there at all and if he saw Clark he wouldn't have been positive but He would have had a pretty good idea that Clark is the one you beat Titan.

    Good call. I didn't even think of that! I can't explain that away.

    What I don't understand is why the lackey didn't say anything and Lex didn't want to see whatever footage there was. The makers of the episode went out of there way to show Clark Heat vision the feed and have Lex's lackey say the didn't know why wouln't they think of them seeing that Clark was there. I was blantant to me the second I saw it. I loved the fight but it took something away from it to me that they didn't think of that. That was one of the tthings I worried about before I saw the episode was the internet thing and I dunno they could have handled it different. I know they needed to have it for Maddox to start the fight at all and they needed for him to have Lois not looking, but I'm sure somehow they could have figured a way to do it right becuase having him seen and then Lex not find out when he clearly should have is just a big plot hole that just didn't need to be there.

    Agreed.

    Now for the whole killing issue I'm not as strict with that as some people. I belive he should have an ideal and feeling of not wanting to kill and trying not to. But when it comes down to it I think it's a little naive to think with his strength and the villians he fights say in the comics that at some point theorectically he would be in the middle of a battle and kill somebosy by accident by punching to hard or by the villian accidentlly dieing on there own. Also there are some villians I personally don't think should be left alive if he is in an all out battle after the villians kills a bunch of people.

    In the Marvel Universe, yes. But the DC Universe is a magical place that way. You can make a vow not to kill and succeed. It's just part and parcel to Supes.

    I always thought there were some things to think about in the difference of Clark being Superman and having a custome(in comics)and publicly accepted identity and allies that are far enough along with enough resources to help him keep most villians locked up. When it comes to Super Alien Warlords and others that powerful I think though they sometimes come up with quick soultions I don't always think they wou'd be the best. I mean come on these guys are so powerfull they could destroy of inslave the world(Ex. Darkseid) what is Superman to do Beat them up and let them go back to their planet and hurt more people and then come back and try to get Earth again, or lock them up in a facility on Earth or the Phantom Zone and then they always seem to get out somehow and try again. So what is he really suppose to do. He can't kill everyone of them and he can't let them keep geeting out so what's the solution. Should he lockup some after battle and then some if they are powerful enough and vicious enough if they die in battle so be it and if they don't lock them up. It's a hard thing to say it's not as black and white as you make it.

    I think, honestly, that a good and creative storyteller will carve their way around that difficulty. For instance, making the villain accidentally kill themselves is a classic. It shows the peril of villainy without taking the hero to their level. And yes, Superman should stop Darkseid for his genocidal buttheadery, but killing him only makes him on that guy's level. There are better ways.

    When it comes to Smallville he has even more reason to kill them. They Freaks are people and he should lock them up like Superman does the Metahumans, but he doesn't have the public persona to hide behind and has to do this stuff in secret without the help of anyone else, he may get some advice from Chloe his mom and the JLa guys but when it comes down to the monet and he is in battle he is the only one strong enough to beat them. When it comes to this specific episode I didn't see anyway before it aired for him to defeat Titan without killing him and while I didn't really want him to cold bloodly kill him I really didn't see another , which is why I was glad it happened by accident, Clark FOught him and punched him and may have even had the intention to kill him in the end but he really didn't he punched him, like he would have if he was just fighting anyway like he was the rest of the fight, so landing on the spike wasn't his direct. But even if Clark had killed him out right at this point in canon in the show there was really no other way, he couldn't knock him out and lock him up Titan is to strong would probably break out and start killing again, and as far as they have shown on the show and from what Clark said t the end of the episode with Martha he has no way to send them back to the Phantom Zone. Though the writers could solve that easy enough by having him go to the fortress and get a PZ Projecter or ring from Jor-el and using it. But in canon in the show he doesn't have one so what else is he suppose to do, in general and in the timealloted to wrap up the fight.

    There are any one of a hundred different ways that Clark could have solved that dilemma without killing Titan with his fists, even if it seemed an accident in the end.

    Plus I've always had kinda of a problem with the Phantom Zone anyway. COmics wised they(Kryton) don't belive in the death penalty but the believe in sending criminals to a eternal wastland or hell dimension. Where you are immaterial and pretty much a ghost anyway. Or in Smallville they Send you to the Zone and it looks like the worst ones are seperated from there bodies which makes them Phantoms so that's pretty much killing them anyway and allowing them to be in a place they could escape and start huting people again or they send them there in solid form and which it seems like they live without aging but may be able to die anyway(Nam-ek), and then they don't age and can get out later and kill people so what good is it. It just keeps them there and allows them to get p!ssed off and not age and come back for revenge later(Ex. Episode 1 season 6 Zod, and Action comics 845 and 846.

    I agree. I don't like the concept of the PZ punishment. It's un-Superman-y to me.

    So you tell me what the solution is. I think he should not want to kill and try not and feel remorse for it. But I think sometime logically there is way around it.

    Here are five easy solutions. I could come up with a hundred on demand:

    1) Catch a villain in a teleporter loop.
    2) Knock them unconscious and keep them sedated.
    3) Put them in prison.
    4) Depower them.
    5) Threaten them with Lana.

    Let me know what you think about the Internet feed thing from Combat and what you think as a sulution to the Killing Issue.

    Thanks and good talking to you. I enjoy seeing your perspective on episodes even if I think it's a little harsh at times.

    Thanks! :)

    RMF wrote:
    "Combat" was a "be careful what you ask for" episode. I had joined the chorus of whiners complaining about the poor quality of all Clark's fights this season, so I was ready to see him cut loose. Well, he did, but they had to ruin it by essentially having him kill someone. Sure, it wasn't as if he broke off the spur and personally drove it into Titan's chest, but considering the writers offered us no other possible outcome but the death of one man or the other when Clark went looking for the fight, it can't be dismissed as an accident. Plus, they didn't have Clark saying, "I had to stop him somehow, he was killing people", they have him saying, "I wanted to kill him". When Martha credits his guilty conscience with distinguishing him from someone like Titan, it's ineffective. It's not enough to feel bad after the fact; morality has to infuse your deliberate actions, or there is no practical difference.

    I agree. This is my response to the above letter. Thank you for making it more poignant.

    I'd been wondering why they've been flirting all season with Clark nearly killing someone, and then I remembered that in an early episode, Chloe had portentously asked, "Is there anything that could make Clark Kent kill?" so I guess it's a theme they're clumsily exploring. That means, I assume, that we're supposed take the "accident" business seriously, rather than concluding that the answer is "yes". The question is whether anything meaningful will come out of this. It's not as if Lex killed Lana, so it's off kilter that losing Lana is enough to push Clark to beat up criminals and kill bad guys. It's not only not Superman, it's not the Clark Kent we know from Smallville. Last year, in "Vengeance", Jonathan Kent's moral guiding voice was enough to stop him in a similar situation after Jonathan's *death*. They've also got to explain why, even though Clark reactivated the Fortress of Solitude in "Fallout", he didn't go to Jor-el to find out how to put corporeal Zoners back in the Phantom Zone so he wouldn't have to kill them. This kind of writing just doesn't inspire a whole lot of confidence in how they'll resolve a fairly weighty issue.

    What it is is that they see an avenue to make Clark seem like a bad-@$$, and don't care that it's a cheap way to do so. He's so mad he'll...KILL! Yeah! That's Superman. He's a KILLER! Name that quote, folks.

    Score another flipflop for Martha Kent. She's gone back to telling Clark to move on from Lana. I guess when you become Luthor arm candy, your brains turn to mush.

    Yup.

    I wonder what is going on with Lois in this episode. A Lois Lane who can't find her own story? A Lois Lane who has to scrounge for crumbs from Chloe's table? She finds her way into this story only because the fight club is conveniently located at a military base she was on as a child. There's a vivid contrast between her dumb luck and the detective work done by Clark and Chloe. I also wonder what the heck she wrote in her article, since she found out so little of the real story, and Clark didn't want to cooperate. If the writers want me to take Lois seriously, they're not making out a very good case for it.

    Not this season, so far, anyway.

    The Lexana stuff was actually mildly interesting, at least for what is going on in Lex's head. He has evidently miscalculated the toll the baby subterfuge would take on Lana. The show has made it apparent that he has pulled a fast one with regard to the pregnancy, and judging by the way the camera lingered over the apple-cider toast in this episode, he also did something to cause Lana's abdominal pains. It seems that he used the pregnancy to manipulate Lana into marrying him, then brought it to an end when he had what he wanted. His victory is turning to ashes, though, because she is devastated, and he was too busy calculating to see it coming. She's lost Clark, she's lost her freedom, and after pinning her remaining emotional hopes on the baby, she's lost that too. As befits a Victorian heroine, she's gone all neurasthenic on him. Lillian Luthor redux. I kind of like the logic of this, it's just too bad it's soap-opera swill.

    A Victorian Heroine at least has enough self-respect to remain consistent. Lady Chatterly is annoying as hell, but more entertaining than Lana on all counts.

    In principle it's actually not a bad psychological setup for the Lex Luthor character. Lionel craps on him for years, then becomes infatuated with Clark. Lex manipulates Lana into being with him, but she really loves Clark. It kind of leads nicely into Lex one day wanting to be a hero to the public, only to find them idolizing Superman instead. I just wish the Lana character had enough gravity to really make this work.

    Likewise.

    Cheers,

    RMF

    Mike wrote:
    Hey Neal,
    Just finished reading your review of "Combat". I never got a chance to read your first review, I guess that's what it is. So I'm kind of confused on your overall point of view on this episode.

    No worries. The bottom line is that my reviews come from the gut, so even if I watch a show that's ten times better and give it a two when this one gets a three, it's all based on my gut estimate. That's why I say it's open to debate instead of trying to be a blowhard who knows everything.

    From reading this review however, I have to say that I'm surprised you didn't think it was decent. I mean they kept up with the storyline from the previous episode. And when you get passed the always expectant stupidity of Lana and the needlessness of Lois Lane I thought this episode was rather good. A step up from the last grouping of episodes where everything seemed to focus on Clark pining over Lana and pretty much everything else you've seen 100 times in the last...well series.

    Continuing a storyline isn't really a guarantee of a good story just because it has the same elements. A notable example is Phantom Menace.

    But you really seemed to be bothered with the fact that Clark went on this rage and actually wanted to kill Titan. But you seem to totally negate the fact that at the end of episode he had this horrible guilt about it. Sure Martha was trying to justify what he did as self-defense and protecting the greater good, but in the end Clark DID feel guilty about his actions. And sure Superman isn't supposed to want to kill in the first place and isn't supposed to be vengeful. But let's not forget that Clark Kent isn't Superman yet. Right now he's still trying to learn about who he is and how he's supposed to fit into this world with his powers. And there's no better way to learn than from experience. So you say that Clark killing Titan is contradictory to Superman, I think it's more of a stepping stone towards becoming Superman.

    Actually, killing a dude is a stepping stone to becoming a murderer...

    Basically the "horrible guilt" you speak of is two lines of dialogue that Martha then refutes. He mentions it in passing.

    I don't buy the "He's not Superman yet, so he can still learn things through actions!" vibe. I mean, do I have to rape a gal to know that rape is bad? No. You know at 18 what's right and what's wrong. You may not know who you are, but you know that if you want to be a hero, you don't beat a villain to death, you incarcerate him.

    But you are right, Clark killing people in the first place shouldn't really be in there...but how else would he learn to become a person who doesn't kill?

    Just some food for thought.

    Cheers,
    Mike

    thebrakeman wrote:
    Hey, Neal!
    Clark said he would finish his training after he took care of all the escapees from the Phantom Zone. When Clark escaped from the PZ, I remember counting exactly 7 "points of light" in the sky. If you add in Zod's escape prior to sending Clark to the PZ, we have 8 total. By my count thru the episodes, 8 are now accounted for:
    1. Zod, a phantom Kryptonian in the Zone, inhabited Lex before being captured in Jor-El's crystal by Clark.
    2. Clark, a physical Kryptonian in the Zone, is alive and well on Earth.
    3. "Plant-Woman", a physical alien in the Zone, is killed by Clark.
    4. Raya, a physical Kryptonian in the Zone, is killed by Baern.
    5. Baern, a phantom alien in the Zone, inhabited Bow-Wow before being captured in Jor-El's crystal by Clark.
    6. "Batista/Bone-cruncher", a physical alien in the Zone, is killed by Martian Manhunter.
    7. "Dr. Hudson/dream-maker", a phantom alien in the Zone, inhabited Clark before being captured in Jor-El's crystal by Martian Manhunter.
    8. Titan, a physical alien in the Zone, is killed by Clark.

    So! Out of 6 bad guys, 3 are dead, and 3 are in the crystal. Not sure if this means they are back in the PZ, or if Clark will have to do this in a separate "download".

    17 episodes down out of an average 22 episodes per season. We know from the end of "Fallout" that the Fortress has already been re-energized. How many lame freak episodes out of 5 do you think it will take before Clark finishes what he started with Jor-El?!?!

    Well, I can't say, but I can say that the above warrants a KO Count addition, with thanks!

    Tom wrote:
    52: Week Forty Five

    "The only cog in the works is the cog that I've seen from the beginning. I'm unsure why, professed changed attitude aside, the world has allowed Black Adam to reign and continue in his tyranny. I mean, sure, no Superman to stop him, but then, if they're rallying to stop him now, I wonder why they didn't when he was ripping people in half in front of embassy ground."

    The same reason why Iran has been allowed act like a pack of @$$holes for all these decades, while you're busy injecting real-world parallels into the story: no one had the balls to stop him, for fear of being savaged by the far-left press.

    Uh, yeah. There was a Republican Oligarchy for four solid years, they did nothing to stop Iran, and yet it's all the fault of the far-left press. There are also UFOs that they don't tell us about, did you know that one? It's a vast flying-saucer wing conspiracy. Clinton is also to blame for the recession.

    In case you can't tell, I'm being sarcastic and pointing out that real-world issues aren't that simple. They ARE, however, that simple in the comic book world, where you can easily point to the bad guy and go dispatch him. Thus my critique.

    Frankly, I'm surprised you didn't make mention of the similarity between Isis saying that Black Adam's way was best (#44) and the pack of morons in THIS country who think Iraq was better off with Sadaam still running his rape rooms. Restraint, or oversight?

    Oh, I could say so many, many funny things here, wasting my time and poking holes in what you've just said.

    So I will!

    I believe you're making the common equivocal mistake of saying that the people who believe going into Iraq was wrong are people who would, therefore, prefer that Saddam were in power and thus churning out the rape rooms from his rape room factory. This is erroneous, because I could apply the same logic to you and make you responsible for millions of deaths. Don't you know, you're responsible for millions of deaths?

    Why?

    Well, because you were a part of that pack of morons who thought that Iraq was better without Saddam Hussein, and because you rallied to commit our resources to that as opposed to stopping Kim, now tens of thousands of people are starving under the North Korean dictatorship which STILL has no electricity across the whole of the nation!

    Does that make sense? No? Let me put it more stupidly. Because you were a part of the pack of morons who thought Iraq was better without Saddam Hussein, tons of people in New Orleans died that might have been saved had National Guard forces not been depleted.

    Are any of these criticisms fair? No. They all show a remarkable naivety for the realities of the situation, and a desire to smear through language that equivocates and angers as opposed to befitting the dialogue.

    IF, however, you wish to approach Black Adam as an allegory for what's really going on today, he shares similarities not only to the leaders in Iran and Iraq, but Bush as well. In fact, he shares the propensity of most leaders to make rash, stupid decisions that cost lives and don't do much good in the end, and my critique still stands. Superman would not abide from it coming from Pelosi, Bush, Saddam, or other self-appointed authoritarians.

    Steve wrote:
    This is all going to seem very random, but I don't have a lot of time to write this. So please bare with me.

    I shall.

    It's amazing how the trailers for each episode make them look like the show'll be good, but end up disappointing us. I just saw the trailer for the rest of the season and it looks like we're in for some awesomeness to come. Perhaps Lana will tell Clark that she know's about him? Hopefully it wont lead to another disappointment.

    Actually, I have a lot of hope for the rest of the season. Whether that will bear out is another thing.

    You know, I was watching season 3 recently and I realized I have never seen "Shattered" before. Odd, seeing as how I don't ever remember not seeing an episode when they first aired.

    'Tis one of my favorite.

    I know this is highly insignificant, but Chloe's hairstyle that she's had all season makes her look like a little girl and not a young adult like she should. I say they bring season 3's hairdo back next season.

    I think that little girl/hot chick line they walk constantly on TV is kind of scary.

    Again, sorry for the randomness.

    P.S. what does XD stand for? I see this all the time in your letters and it frustrates me not to know what it means.

    I think it's a grin that's so big your eyes close. Look at it sideways.

    Tyson L Cromeens wrote:
    I had missed your review of this comic earlier and just now found it. First of I want to say thanks. Thanks because even though you are an anthiest you saw the heart of the story and how it relates to Superman. I am a Christian. I am at church every Sunday with my Wife and 2 sons and Sunday night and Wed night. My best friend is the owner of Star books and comics in Lubbock, TX and he believes the same way you do. Funny thing is he is more moralistic and good hearted than 75% of my church (and its a big church).

    I find morality and church attendance mutually exclusive. It's like gay guys who are overly manly because society expects them to be wimpy. People say atheists are heathens with no morals, so we make too much of an effort to always be in the right.

    Even though I dont try to convert him, he still talks about how my deep faith relates to Superman(my next true love behind God and my family). After 25 years of reading Superman, he knows that the same thing that drives my faith, is doing what is right and good for others. This sounds the same as the friend you aforementioned. I did not know you were an athiest but by reading that review I did not loose respect for you I gained it. Superman is probably not a Christian, not a Jew (like his creators), not Musilim, not Daoist, and not Buddist. He is a Humanist, meaning he does what is right for humankind.

    Ding! You really get it. He's just a good guy, there for everyone. You forgot to say, "Not an atheist." Though, which I think would be more than fair. He's not there for any particular group, which is the big point and why I like him.

    Even though he has the power to turn everyone to him and the god Rao he doesn't. He just does what is right,ALWAYS!! I don't usually write alot to reviewers and board people as such but this review struck me. So nice job. This 31 y/o got a pleasent suprise from a fellow Humanist (sounds like you are to me). Even though I may not always agree with your reivews know that sometimes you get to some people and make them think.
    Ok my long rant is over. Continue marking the calendar days until the next Action comes out.
    Tyson

    Thanks, Tyson! You'd be surprised, over the years, how many people wanted or expected Superman to conform to their own exact viewpoint. It gets kind of crazy. Keep on enjoying the ecumenical side of the best of us all!

    scotty V wrote:
    Hey there Neal,

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Just got finished wawtching "Justice," I know, I'm way behind. Why can't all episodes of Smallville be this well written, dramatic, caring of the characters and just so damn good?? I haven't read your review yet but I have it open and I'm going to go through it as I type some of my thoughts here. I found my eyes welling up at various points during this episode and I saw my sister's eyes tearing and different points so that tells me they hit alot of the right notes here. How can the same writers, producers and creative forces that come up with such drivel as "Wither," most of season 4, much of season 5 and a good deal of the rest of this lackluster season still believe that an episode like "Justice" is good? I mean, I thought in many ways that "Justice" was one of the best episodes ever, but I just don't understand how the writers who are generally concerned with what Lana's doing now or who's loving Lana now could send her away (joy!) so she didn't even appear (Thank the maker!) and write such a cool episode that really does "Justice" to the characters represented. Something that this show so very seldom does anymore. I just don't get it. If they can do it, why wouldn't they want to do it ALL THE TIME????!?!?!

    I have no idea. Time crunch? Pet projects? Producer edicts? We'd know if they communicated more.

    First: Lana's in EUROPE?? No reasonable explaination will ever get through to me as to why this character would ever go to Europe. Not the first time and not this time does it make any sense. It makes even less sense now that she's pregnant and women are advised not to travel long distances and flying is almost alway right out after a certain point. Maybe she hasn't passed that point yet or maybe they actually mentioned a good reason why Lana would have left the country, I tend to fog over any scenes that even mention Lana beyond something like "Hey Lana's in Europe so..." Blah blah blah and what I hear is "That means she thankfully will henceforth be known as "Lady not APPEARING IN THIS EPISODE !!!"

    That was one of the episodes biggest selling points, actually.

    HALLELUIA!!! Don't know if that's spelled correctly and frankly, my dear I don't give a damn. Know why? Because I didn't need to look at Lana's (pretty, yes) but sour, annoying, conniving, unbelievably and inconcievably immature face for an entire episode. I almost didn't even need to hear her name! Any script that can finally accomplish this much is really some sort of miracle from the heavens and really deserves a hardy standing ovation....

    My man!

    Hang on a minute...I'm still clapping.

    The tears are pouring over my cheeks.

    I'm thinking now about the Lana-centric episodes that I know are on the way since I'm behind and I've seen the synopsis and such for them and that makes

    The tears pour down my cheeks. This time for an all together different reason.

    Of course I know the show I once could have truly loved has not really returned, but at least for one epiode I can finally say they got it pretty close to right.

    That's the sad caveat for most blowout successes in this show.

    Second, after the first fifteen minutes or so, the story was compelling, dramatic, interesting and really really exciting and neat. This is a feat this show often does not accomplish and I give them props for finally making it work here.

    Third, the music they used for the slow motion JL scenes, albeit shot specifically that way for the fan-boy in all of us, was so good it almost made me shiver. It was many of those scenes that made me well up with excitement. That excitement forms as a sheen of glossy wetness over my eyes.

    No chimes, either!

    Fourth, and there was so much more in detail but I'm sure you've covered it, the way they ended the show with Clark saying he really wants to be a part of it and knowing that it's important but that he has a mission of his own to accomplish really made Clark seem like the responsible hero he's supposed to be, instead of the whining, self-centered, loner dark heroic type figure who hates himself and his gifts that he seems to be most of the time. Unfortunately, I'm sure that lofty mission will be forgotten very soon if not by the very next episode in favor of pining over Lana, saving Lana, accusing Lex of stuff and simply waiting again, for the Phantoms to come to him. But hey, it sounded really good at the time, if only the writer's would really hold themselves to task for stuff like that.

    Some of the minuses, which don't bother me as much when an episode is this good, are unfortunately the same minuses that have mired down even the bad eps.

    One: Lionel Luthor. I really used to love this character and his interactions with Lex. It's not that I don't like him now but really, the writers - because of Lionel's written ambiguity and mussed continuity issues - make it very hard to like his developments, whatever they're supposed to be. Which , of course, we don't know and we may never know. Why is he suddenly good? Then seemingly still bad? Then good? Then shady? Why is he protecting Clark from Lex? Why do the Kents suddenly accept him as a friend. These are all questions that have been plaguing us for some time and unfortunately, based on the writers' track record, I really don't expect they'll ever be answered. This saddens me.

    Me too.

    Two: Clark is not SUPPOSED to be a loner, dark figure who hates himself, his powers and doesn't want to be a hero. Clark is supposed to be the greatest hero of all. The first, the original, the one who inspires others to do what he does as closely to the way he does it as they can, not the other way around. Clark was a FOUNDING member of the Justice League. Not someone who can barely even be convinced that it's something worth doing over what...bailing hay and milking cows! Sure, Superman mostly operates alone, but he also started the JL, routinely works with other heroes AND believes that the Earth and people are basically good and that with just a slight spurring from himself, in the form of great deeds of goodness performed routinely, that he can help humanity to find that goodness and keep it in peace for all time. He is not brooding, vengeful or desiress of a "normal" life. He embraces his gifts, embraces his life and embraces the world as his to protect and serve. This is not just an unfortunate occurence here, obviously, but a trend that started in the pilot episode and makes me sad. I can accept an Elseworlds tale, sure, I just wish the creators would make up their minds and then follow their own continuity once they do.

    If I were ever to write a Justice League story, Clark would definitely take the lead and push the other team members to their highest potentials through leadership.

    Three, and this ties into the last one very closely, The Green Arrow, Cyborg and Impulse - (Impulse? Not Flash? ...Okay it's minor so, whatever) are not supposed to be so far ahead of Clark in the hero or secret identity thing. Not only that but again, Clark was the first. The one who inspired all the others to do it, only they can never do it quite as well. This type of thing goes all the way back to the pilot, where we saw the painted Smallville Crow mascot crow superhero, with red capes, on the walls of the high school. There were no superheroes with red capes, or evene ideas about superheroes with red capes before Clark and Superman. The whole idea of a superhero type figure in a red cape COMES from Superman so to have others doing it first (red cape or not) is just wrong. The there was the "Vengeance" episode, where we are led to believe that in a future we won't actually see with these characters and this production, that Clark will emulate a cold-blooded killer who works at the Daily Planet by day and wears glasses while bumbling clumsily through the newsroom but mureders bad guys by night. Again, something Clark wouldn't do and should never have been portrayed to someday do so. Look guys, I understand the subtle jokes and in-things you're trying to give us, I really do and on some level I even think it's kinda cool, but it just really takes away from what Clark and Superman is supposed to be and supposed to stand for.

    That's one I'm less firm on. I figure the secret ID can be obvious.

    Four, and I may be biased on this one because just before watching I had read an issue of Smallville Magazine, which I'm also behind on, where the creators are talking about the happenings for early season six. In the article Al or Miles mention how Lois' attraction to Ollie is just the beginnings of where we see Lois' infatuation with superheroes. I've also heard them speak of this before. Probably back around the time of "Aqua," when they had Lois hoping in bed with another superhero. Lois is not supposed to be a person who is simply "infatuated" with superheroes. The problem with this is that it really undermines the future that we won't see on this show (so maybe they don't care what they screw up there) and makes the relationship Clark and Lois eventually have really look like second rate cheesecloth, if you ask me. They are supposed to be the perfect match for each other. True Lovers , is you will. Not simply the lates in Lois' batch of superhero flings that happens to stick because, well, after all he's the best. But I know, I know, this is an Elseworlds tale, right? Yeah, to bad they're not admitting that and they're trying to pass it off as continutiy. Do you know I actually ran into a guy on another message board who said that the Superman franchise was "virtually dead" and that without Smallville there never would have been another Superman show, let alone Superman returns and that Smallville has been the whole reason for any interest in Superman again. Wow, talk about giving over-credit where credit ISN'T due, huh?

    I will concede that right now Smallville is the most recognized Superman media property next to the flicks. Comics are only ten percent of the people on this site, as I recall from a survey. Which is kind of odd. We should ask that question again.

    Overall though, I really really enjoyed this episode, and at least for this one, because it invoked such a strong positive response in me, I'm gonna overlook all those above negatives, simply because I know they'll be there again next week once the bad starts again anyway so hey, we might as well enjoy the goodness, possibly greatness, while we have it for the week right?

    Ok Neal, so now I will commence reading your thoughts. I may interject here and there, don't mind me.

    Sure.

    I didn't want to write too much about your review because I figured, and was right, that most of what you'd say I'd have agreed with. I had to mention this one though, because I thought it was so glaring. You mention it too and I said it out loud but everyone in the room disagreed with me because Ollie says something like: "No I didn't just hang him out to dry, I already went after him and the whole place was cleared out. Everything was gone." My thoughts on Flash disappearing and Ollie just hanging out in his place with his shoes off like the playboy he pretends to be are these: The Flash, or Impulse for whatever reason, has been sent to do this job by Ollie. Therefore it's sort of Ollie's fault that the Flash, or Impulse is captured. And what does Ollie do? He just hangs out in his place with his shoes off like the playboy he's pretending to be. Does he keep looking endlessly till he finds Bart in a jail or dead or being held somewhere? No. Does he call Clark and ask him for help finding the kid? No. But I guess since Clark's not in the loop and it's essentially a secret, illegal operation, he probably wouldn't do that. But what IS he doing? Nothing by the looks of it and that annoys me. I think it mainly annoys me because he's always the first one to yell at Clark, he even does it again in this episode, for waiting for things to come to him and not being a proactive hero. Therefore it's even more out of character for Ollie to be having a cocktail and relaxing.

    Smallville pays more attention to novelty of scene than practicality, I find.

    This also reminds me that I wasn't really sure about Clark participating and actually agreeing with an illegal action to blow up a building. Sure it was cool and all and I still love the slow motion and the music but again, I'm not sure this is really the Clark any of us know he's supposed to be based on. Again, I know, a retelling.an Elseworlds.a what if? Too bad they never said that.

    Yar.

    You mention that no one can finger Clark and that there's no mask or cameras or security and I need to remind you of something Lex says at the end. I don't know his exact line of dialogue but it's something like: "The security tapes were all destroyed in the explosion but my men saw someone that looked like Clark." And then Lionel (for some unknown and possibly unconscionable reason) protects Clark's identity. Unless there is further tampering with Lex's mind in the future, I have no idea how they're not gonna end with Lex knowing about Clark's abilities and that is Elseworlds.

    It's a bit hard to swallow.

    I think AC DID say Bro at least once, maybe twice. But it didn't seem that bad.

    Yep, just finished the review and I think that you're right AND Lex is right about thte whole act of terrorism thing. Through re-thinking this episode myself and then reading your review, I'm no longer so sure this was one of the best eps ever, which I did say earlier. But as you say, I did enjoy it and thought there was a lot to like. I still hope, as you do, that they keep at least TRYING to make a show that people want to see. It's obvious to me, as in that same Smallville magazine that I read they mention ratings in the pilot being 12 million, that something is wrong with the way they do things. And yet they mention how the peeps at the WB were fans and that they would never tell them what to do in regards to Smallville and that it's still great, even now that they're at the CW because even the new bosses think it would be silly to "Mess with a successful winning formula and screw up what works."

    Now now...that's drinking the Kool Ade.

    I don't even understand how they can say that when the pilot had 12 million viewers. Then the average during the first few seasons was something like 8 million and now it's 3 and a half. To me, that's definitive proof that something is being done incorrectly. 12 million people were interested in this premise and then, like any show, the numbers dwindled down to the regular fans who were going to watch pretty consistently. But then, with the bad writing and inconsistencies, horrible character development and soap opera stylings, the numbers got worse and worse and now here we are. CW I BEG you! PLEASE intervene! Please look at the evidence and know that there are actual fans of this idea in theory that want to see so much more good come of it then what the PTB are allowing for it now.

    Actually, I have no proof of this, but my guess is the format change and budgetary "intervention" is a large reason for the decline in quality.

    Oh well, I'm sure they won't though cause hey, why mess with an obvious winning formula?

    Thanks for doing these reviews Neal, I really enjoy conversing with you,

    Scotty V

    Thanks!

    Neil Blumengarten wrote:
    Neal,

    Maybe it's the fact that we share the same name (albeit spelled differently), but I have to say I look forward to your reviews, and I wish you reviewed all of the comics for this site.

    Thank you.

    You definitely fall in into the category of "wow, he said what I was thinking, but was too clumsy to put into words." I am always amazed at how I look around the internet for posts/reviews of books I've read, and I never seem to find one that encapsulates what I feel as well as your reviews.

    Thank you times two...

    Case in point, Superman #661. Around the internet, I've read mostly positive reviews, which astounded me. I like Kurt Busiek, I think he's an awesome writer, but he's not infallible, and yet people are treating him as such.

    He did do Astro City. But then, I tend not to let people coast on past accomplishments. That said, Camelot was just fine by me.

    I think what really hit a nerve was your review of the art as "circa 1988-Byrne." What made that hit home for me was the fact that I felt that way about the issue as a whole, writing and art. It really read like those early Post-Crisis issues of Action Comics, where Byrne matched Superman and a guest-star against an utterly forgettable villain. I am immediately reminded of Action Comics #585, where Superman and the Phantom Stranger faced off against Arathaza (who was never heard from again).

    My impression is that people tend to think that these little guest stars turn into major players later. The sad reality I've experienced is that for every Metallo there are fifteen to twenty Khyranas, and the difference in terms of novelty is usually readily apparent. For instance, Parasite already does what Khyrana does in a more dynamic way. And if you argue that Khyrana is a girl and more representative thusly...well, we had a girl Parasite. Have?

    I've read your reviews for a while now and found myself agreeing with you more often than not. I just never thought to commend you for your reviews and let you know that you have a fan.

    Thanks, Neil!

    Sincerely,
    Neil Blumengarten

    Chantal wrote:
    Hey Neal,
    It's Chantal, I wrote you at the start of the season, I think my letter ended up in your review of Reunion, or somewhere around there. You get alot of letters, so I don't expect you to remember. But I was basically asking you to not be so hard on the show in your reviews. Sorry if I sounded a little negative, but the show could just be so much more than what it is, and believing that it is 'at it's best' is I guess a little bit too idealistic and optimistic (not to mention ignorant).I've missed most of the season but in the last week have caught up on many of the episodes, which brought me back to this website. Seeing such episodes as Subterranean (Did I spell that right?) and Hydro was actually quite depressing. But personally Justice and Labyrinth gave me some old-school Smallville style warm-cozy feelings, you know?

    Likewise. And no worries. Many people push me not to be so hard on the show.

    I think I read in one of your reviews about what the show should do to end on a good note; so is this for sure the LAST season?

    Nobody knows yet. We assume it will go to seven.

    As much as this show has stripped Clark Kent of many noble qualities to a new generation of Superman fans, and however often it has fed us 'subliminal' advertising, and story lines hanging simply on sex appeal, I'm sure alot of fans don't want to see it end. I guess its always kind of sad when anything changes. Either way, when the show does end, it was nice that throughout it all your reviews were always faithfully posted each week. Though sometimes harsh, but usually funny, they always reminded me of one thing. That though a show, movie, or any commercialized representation of something we love may dissapoint us, the heart of any story is in the loyal fans. The ones who care and appreciate characters and heros for what their creators meant them to be, and remember the reasons they played their part in anything from our culture to our childhood. And that never changes. Thanks for your time!

    I'm with you. Which is why I did Star Wars. It's not about what Lucas mucks up. It's about having fun with people who like the universe with you.

    Chris Miller wrote:
    Hi, Neal-

    Thanks for posting this. (NEAL'S NOTE...the Busiek continuity article) It does help to clarify DC's attitude toward these things (at least, as it's been conveyed to and understood by Kurt). Can't say I'm happy to read it, though. To quote some remarks I posted on the ComicBloc forums...

    I gotta say, though, it sucks.

    It's not really an answer, after all, about how Superman's past looks now (or the DCU's in general)... it's more of a statement that "the past is an open question, and if you give us time we'll fill in some bits and pieces of it, but don't assume you actually know anything."

    IMHO, this is frankly an insult to readers' intelligence.

    That's why, in the article, I put "Whether you like it or not, this is how it is." Personally, I have yet to be won over by this continuity at all. Mostly because, like any story decision, there should be a rational and coherent reason for it, and no good reason has yet been evinced. I see no reason why Byrne continuity would block anyone from telling any stories.

    The "house of cards" metaphor Kurt first establishes and then sets aside isn't a bad one -- it's damn tricky to replace cards at a lower level and still keep the whole structure standing. But don't worry about that, Kurt says -- it's not a change to the current house, it's a [I]whole new house[/I]!

    Except, of course, that (to extend the metaphor) we were [I]standing in the living room[/I] when the change happened, in [I]IC[/I] #5-6. "New Earth" was created, and we looked around, and the view out the window was the same, and the room around us had the same decor, and the people in the room were all in the same places. A little furniture had been rearranged in another room, as it were, based on what Alex Luthor said about the changes, but otherwise it was clearly the same place.

    That's one of the reasons I'm not yet convinced. I'll give it a fair shot, but I see no reason to say continuity is gone or to do it.

    Now we're being told, no, you just [B]thought[/B] it was the same place -- actually the whole place was torn down and rebuilt around you without you noticing, so now you have to "explore" the rest of the house to find out what's there. A few pieces of old furniture may have been kept (possibly reupholstered), but that's it. ("Oh, but don't try exploring through that door over there -- we haven't [I]actually[/I] rebuilt that part yet...")

    Stay tuned.

    To expand the metaphor even more -- since we're talking about the whole DCU here, not just one character's history -- it's more like we're in a condo of a big multi-unit building. Lots of interdependent systems -- wiring, plumbing, etc. And we're being told that this whole unit has somehow been scrapped and rebuilt, while the rest of the building remains standing around it, without interrupting the people living there or disrupting the overall structural integrity. Quite a trick, that is.

    Yes.

    I just can't buy it. There's this thing called "causality," meaning that present circumstances depend on past events, and if you change the past the present is highly unlikely to remain identical to what it was. Hell, lots of comics stories (and SF stories in general) depend upon this basic logic. Now we're being told to accept that the past has changed dramatically -- different characters did different things in different ways at different times -- yet not only does the present remain the same, but it's actually all so cosmically inconsequential that we don't even need to know the details of what changed.

    This is another reason I am unfavorable to the idea right now.

    I suppose Kurt and/or DC consider this an open door to creative freedom -- a chance to blaze new trails in a "new" DCU. It's not, really. First of all, it's tantamount to telling us that none of the stories really matter -- that you can strip out all the details and the outcome for the DCU will still be the same, at the writers' whim -- rubbing our faces in the artifice of it all, making that all-important willing suspension of disbelief extremely difficult, and draining any real dramatic tension of new stories in which, one presumes, the writers want the details to matter.

    Which is why, to my mind, it needs a firm editorial direction, and that doesn't seem to be the DCU strong point right now, particularly in terms of deadlines.

    Second, we've been through this all before. DC did the same thing after the original Crisis -- although then they explained it far more logically in story terms, and had the decency to clarify that it was indeed a "blank slate" (as Neal writes) for continuity purposes, in essence ushering everyone out the front door to watch the building being torn down and the new foundation being laid. Even so, last time it took years of confusion, with tons of flashback stories, retcons, and "reintroductions" of old story elements, before DCU history really made any sense. It was frustrating for readers and creators both, although some great stories were told along the way and eventually it did get sorted out. (Mostly. Some readers just gave up and decided that "continuity" and "DCU" were mutually exclusive terms.) But even if it works, spending that kind of time and effort on redoing the past is exactly the opposite of focusing forward] -- and given what a dog's breakfast the process was last time, why on earth would DC want to put us (and themselves) through it all again?

    You know, I wish I had a practical insight here. I do not. Maybe Matt will chat with me about it. I'll ask.

    Especially since they've so obviously gotten off on the wrong foot already, given the widespread confusion readers have expressed?

    Wouldn't it be easier and more logical for all involved, readers and creators, just to say that the past remains intact as established (post-Crisis), with the sole exceptions of changes specifically required to accommodate new stories, with those changes to be conveyed clearly when those new stories are told?

    Why invite trouble (and reader disillusionment -- I'm certainly not the only one) by saying it's all up in the air? What's the point? It just doesn't make sense, in creative terms or story terms.

    I actually wholly agree, and very well put.

    Mike Decker wrote:
    Mr. Bailey,

    Neal, please. :)

    Another fine piece of reporting. I'm always entertained by your opinion, even if I don't always agree with your conclusions.

    Cool.

    I'm glad to hear the ultimate answer to the ultimate question of "Whose bloody continuity is it anyway?" has finally been put to rest. I'm not too happy with the answer we got, but it doesn't really matter at this point since I've basically given up on the NEW DC UNIVERSE.

    I've honest-to-god almost lost my entire reason for reading comics. I told myself through thick and thin there would at very least be frequent and consistent Superman. Now I have inconsistency and hope. And late books. I'm very personally disillusioned.

    Just so you know, I've been a regular Superman reader since the late sixties. I love the Silver-Age (of which I have an extensive collection) and I was an avid collector/reader during the Schwartz Era of the 70's & 80's. So I know a little something about shakeups in continuity.

    When the Byrne Era began I was (to say the least) uneasy. But it didn't take me too long to dig where they were coming from and get onboard with the NEW Superman. I feel that the Superman comics from 1986 to 1999 are some of the best stories in the entire history of the character.

    Many at DC tend not to share this feeling currently, for some reason, as I understand it. I don't know why. 75-85 is hardly as memorable, at least as I've read them.

    I'm really sorry to see this tightly woven tapestry dropped in favor of the more nebulous "nothing is real unless we say so" editorial policy of today. At least with the Byrne revamp of '86 there was a CLEAN BREAK with the past.

    A very important truth.

    I'm afraid this new policy will have the effect of losing old readers (like me) while not giving new readers anything to really sink their metaphorical teeth into.

    My take exactly.

    Oh, well. I can always enjoy Grant Morrison's excellent ALL-STAR SUPERMAN whenever they bother to put one out. *sigh* How I long for the days (not so long ago) when I could go into my comic shop every Wednesday and buy another thrill-packed episode in the weekly adventures of my fav'rit guy....Superman!

    Likewise. I mean, it just seems to be a slow downward slide. I don't want to be "That guy" who laments the past and how everything was better. Honestly, the past is the same as the present in many critical storytelling respects. I do, however, have the nave hope that comics will evolve beyond schlocky gimmick and every creator acting as if they're the king of the castle...

    Thanks for listening.

    Mike Decker

    Thanks for writing.

    Ryan Frank wrote:
    Thanks, Neal. This has been driving me nuts for years, and your reviews have often been helpful in at least making me feel like I'm not alone in my frustration. I got especially frustrated when Dan DiDio was referring to Birthright and the Silver Age as if they were the same thing and another figure (was it Bob Wayne? I forget.) scoffed at continuity criticisms, saying they just came down to quibbles over "what the rocket ship looked like." I really appreciate your efforts in getting us an answer and, while I'm not overly happy with the answer, at least we have one.

    Thanks. And I can see how. At every con, there's some guy who wants to talk at me for a half an hour about pedantic crap, and that's likely what most of the creators are exposed to, as opposed to we folk who like to look a little deeper on the internet, but won't cry ourselves to sleep if there is no post-Crisis Streaky.

    I'm still irritated by Idelson's assertions that he doesn't want to shackle his writers by tying them to continuity, as if telling a coherent narrative has somehow become too heavy a burden to place on a professional writer, but this does help.

    I actually vomited a little in my mouth at the impact of the truth behind the above statements. Imagine me being a Star Wars novelist and saying, "Yeah, you know, I don't like the fact that there were only two Sith for a thousand years. I want to change that."

    Good luck, buddy.

    I still wonder, though, if something else is at work. With all of the publicity from DC about "The End" coming at the end of Countdown, I wonder if we should take that literally. Maybe we're actually getting an across-the-board clean slate when "The End" reaches us, and the current loose-continuity period is just an excuse to let the writers do whatever they want when they know it will all be undone in a year anyway. I can hope, at least.

    That is my firm hope, actually.

    There's one major element of the "Steel Age" Superman's history that I'm surprised hasn't been mentioned more often, now that people are wondering what elements of that history are still valid. Given Kurt's explanation, major events could be kept, though sometimes with the characters switched. So, here's one I've been wondering about lately: with all of the previous Zods gone, I wonder if Superman has still killed. If he has, the next issue would be who he killed, what character was substituted into the history. For me, that story has always been right up there with the Death in terms of significance, so it will be interesting to see if it's ever addressed.

    I can say that the answer to this is "no," but I can't tell you how I know that.

    Ok, I've gone on longer than I had originally intended. So, I'll close by again saying thank you.

    Thank you!

    Bruce Kanin wrote:

    Just watched it via DVR but didn't take notes and as such no review this week. It did seem B-rated, i.e., pretty good though not great.

    Some thoughts:
    Why did Lex throw Chloe in with her mother, in his "hospital"? Seemed kind of silly.
    People continue to barge in to Lex's mansion easily, and even the Kent home.
    Why would Chloe, even under the influence of her mom, leave Clark with Kryptonite, which can kill him?
    When the Luthorcorp guards overpowered Chloe's mom with her and Chloe escaping, why didn't the mom take over the mind of the guard who was touching her?
    So we learn that Lana had a fake pregnancy - was that to get her to marry Lex, or for something more sinister?
    Lex's prisoners seem like escapees from "Heroes".
    In the teaser, Lex picks up his cell phone to take a call, while driving (a bad thing). No speakerphone in the car for such a rich guy? No gun in the car, for a guy with so many enemies? Didn't he at least have ONSTAR?

    Neat (these are thoughts, too!):
    Clark hesitating before saving Lex for the umpteenth time.
    Clark super-speeding in and out of Lex's disabled car to come back with "evidence".

    Potentially neat:
    When Clark is outside Lana's hospital room, the doctor mentions her miscarriage (this is before we learn that it was not a real pregnancy). Then, when the doctor leaves, Clark walks into the room, and you think he's heard about the miscarriage, but he acts like he hasn't. Perhaps he heard about it, via his super-hearing, but had he, it would be letting on re: his powers. He actually looked like he heard it, but didn't want to say anything. If the usually-doofie Smallville writers actually intended all that, then my hat is off to them, and it was a great scene. If they didn't, then they should take credit for it anyway, while they can!

    Nasty:
    Lex warning Chloe at the Planet. He seems more sinister than ever. I still still still don't buy his descent into evil, but he's very convincing, just the same.

    Also:
    I almost completely zipped through the JLA comic book that they were showing. Didn't interest me a bit! Seemed dopey.

    Next week: Lex and Clark, together.

    Cheers,

    Bruce

    I very much hope that the Lex and Clark pairing next week comes off epic. It'd do a lot to what appears to be just another freak episode. That should be interesting! And hey, now I know that I wasn't the only one who saw that hesitation....

    Best, all!

    Neal



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