By James Robinson (writer), Eddy Barrows (penciller), Ruy Jose with Julio Ferreira (inker), Rod Reis (colorist)

The Story: Kal-L, the original Superman, the one born on pre-crisis Earth-2, rises from the dead. Kal-El (the current Superman) and Conner (Superboy) are in Smallville on the anniversary of Pa Kent’s death. Just imagine how things gets bad.

What’s Good: The Art, it blew me away. I haven’t run into Barrows with Jose, Ferreira and Reis before. This art team is brilliant. The ‘camera’ angles run from ant-point-of-view (splash page), bird’s-eye view (page 2), pedestrian point-of-view, to ceiling-fan-point-of-view, to out-of-the-pit-point-of-view. It sounds like a lot of contortions, but visually, Barrows keeps approaching every scene, and even panels within scenes, from different angles, making every view fresh. And the level of realistic detail is sharp, from the cracks in a headstone, to the lettering on the general store, to textured hair and clothing. Colorwise, Reis does an amazing job. Robinson shows us Smallville frequently through the eyes of Black Lantern Kal-L and he runs across the Blackest Night colors and emotions: purple for love, yellow for fear, etc. It’s not only well-done visually, but it fits perfectly with the writing.

What about the writing? With only a few dialogue issues, it’s top notch. Robinson evokes small town America in Smallville. At the diner, they talk about the guy who cut his hand in a band-saw. Kal-El and Conner are natural and real, while Kal-L is probably the creepiest Black Lantern. He keeps on making promises that inspire more and more fear. He belittles Connor and manipulates Kal-El’s emotions. He’s really, really powerful. There’s no reason for me to think that he won’t win. He’s simply a great villain.

As a side note, I think another great example of how good Robinson’s writing is would be to look at Krypto. The concept of Krypto is frankly stupid. He’s an early-silver age DC creation pandering to the juvenile audiences of that time. In 2009, it’s really easy to not hit the right note with him and have him come off like the Jar Jar Binx of the Superman mythos. Robinson handles Krypto deftly: the reader likes him, as they want him to protect Ma Kent. He definitely has grown to be a character that readers can’t easily get annoyed with.

What’s Not So Good: This was almost a flawless performance. The failings were minor and are mentioned now only because I’m picky: I thought the dialogue of some of the residents of Smallville came off as cliche or a little too Norman Rockwell. I think Robinson overdid it in those moments, but it doesn’t detract much.

Conclusion: Buy this book now! You’ll love it. I did.

Grade: A

-DS Arsenault