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Smallville #5 – Review

By: Bryan Q. Miller (story), Chriscross (pencils), Marc Deering (inks), Carrie Strachan (colors)

The Story: Just when you thought the teenage angst was gone, along comes a teen and angst.

The Review: Once you got used to the idea of seeing Superman on television (especially in the low-rent settings of a CW show—remember how often people would have to drive up to farm just to have a conversation?), the funnest part was the guest stars.  I’m not really talking about the actors so much as the parts they played.  For anyone longing for a live-action Justice League, seeing Aquaman or Cyborg or Lois Lane in an Amazon outfit was just irresistible.

The transfer from small screen to printed/digital page sucks a lot of the fun out of the experience, sadly.  For comic book fans, the appeal of guests and cameos on Smallville was seeing your favorite characters come to flesh-and-blood, grizzled and beautiful life.  It’s like how putting Clark in the cape and costume in a comic doesn’t really compare to putting Tom Welling as Clark in a genuinely stitched-and-sewn cape and costume on a high-def TV.

What I’m getting to, of course, is much as you would like to get excited over Batman’s long-awaited appearance on Smallville, you mostly feel a bit let down.  It’s not through Miller’s fault at all; he practically jumps through hoops trying to generate enthusiasm for the big moment, giving it as splashy and ideal a treatment as you’d hope for had Batman actually appeared on the show.  Freed from budgetary and legal constraints, Miller shoots for the stars in terms of his choice of storyline, involving no less than Joe Chill, the Crime Bible, and one trusty sidekick.

Obviously, being a huge fan of the Stephanie Brown era of Batgirl, I followed the controversy (if you can call it that) over her supposed appearance on this series with a lot of interest.  I guess I don’t mind the transplant over to Barbara Gordon, exactly, but it’s pretty obvious Miller didn’t write the part for that Batgirl.  The young woman in this issue comes off a lot bigger, brighter, and bolder than any Babs I’m used to.

Whatever her name, this spunky heroine Miller has crafted is a match made in heaven for the dour Bruce.  Forgive the indulgence, but I’m just gonna have to quote you a sample of their potent chemistry.  Newly arrived in Metropolis, Barbara and Bruce have a Superman sighting, after which you can almost see the drool on Babs’ lips.  Bruce nips the crush in the bud.

“He’s spoken for, Miss Gordon.”

“How can you possibly know that?”

“There were over forty women in that crowd, and his eyes didn’t divert once.”

“…However—”

“I’ll stop you right there and note they didn’t divert to any men, either.”

Cross’ inconsistency has always been his greatest weakness.  His loose, almost random use of line often results in an image that looks less than polished or sophisticated and occasionally downright unpleasant.  I never got why he loves the Botox lips so much, though he’s toned it down somewhat here.  Still, you never know quite how one character will look from page to page.  On one page, Clark has a narrow, boxy, youthful face; on the next, his face is clearly bigger, slightly roundish, and aged.

Conclusion: It’s not what I’d like it to be, but for sheer fun alone, I’ll stick by this series no matter what.  I just need my fix of consistently non-grim material each month.

Grade: B-

- Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: - It’s too bad Easter Eggs have lost their power in this series, because you get a whole basket of them, with appearances by Turpin, mentions of “Allen and Montoya,” and name-drops of “Holt and Kord.”

- Somehow, Superman correcting a captured baddie’s grammar during his public apology seems so fitting and hilarious.  “…I apologize for doing anything that might have effected—”  “He means ‘a-fected.’”  “Come on, man.”  And for the record, Superman, it’s “a-ffected.”

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