spreading the talent

Review: Smallville Season 11 Episode 1 (Guardian)

Review by Rick Pipito

When Smallville was on TV, I used to tune in every week to watch the new episodes.  The show had its flaws, one in particular that I won’t go into and cant forgive, but overall it was enjoyable.  When the series ended I almost shed a tear to see something that had grown on me for 10 years.  Clark had finally become Superman, and saved Earth from the threat of Darkseid and Apokolips.  After that finale, I wanted to know what could have happened in the Smallville version of Superman.  Hopelessly wishing for a new series that would be more about the Man of Steel and less about the growth of Clark Kent into what he had become, I had my prayers soon answered.

No, it wasn’t exactly how I had envisioned it, but the announcement of Season 11 being continued in the comics gave me hope.  No longer did they have to worry about budget issues, and the stories could go on.  Here is my review of the first 4 print issues of Smallville Season 11.  Each issue comes with 3 chapters (which are all availabe for digital download as well).  Twelve chapters make up an episode.  Be warned, that there are spoilers ahead.  If you want to see what rating I gave it, scroll down to the last paragraph.  That being said, here it is… my review of Episode 1 “Guardian”.

The story picks up 6 months after the season 10 finale.  The world knows that it has a savior.  People are glad to have such a marvel amongst them, and even the Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) and his wife, Chloe Sullivan are up to watch Superman’s morning streak through the sky.  People feel safe.  There are of course people who view Superman as a threat.  Lex Luthor is one of these people.  His reasoning is that if a man is powerful enough to move a planet out of orbit (Apokolips) then he is too dangerous to be living among them.  While trying to piece together memories of his past, his new assistant, Otis (yes, the same Otis from the Christopher Reeve Superman movies) listens to his boss.  Luthor makes an observation as Superman zips across the sky, that the Man of Steel has changed his costume.

Here are some things I’ve noticed about this issue right off the bat.  The artwork really is fantastic for the most part.  Each character looks to be drawn almost exactly the way the actor who portrayed them looks.  There are certain angles that look off in certain frames however.

In space, a Russian station is hit by some kind of wave.  I am a little upset that there was no explanation as to what this damaging wave was, but it is soon forgotten as we get our first glimpse of Superman’s new suit.  It’s not a bad design, though at first I was looking for the original outfit.  No big deal.  It grew on me.

Superman’s ego is portrayed well in the next few frames.  He knows people look up to him as an icon, and he loves every bit of it.  Then we get a glimpse of the homelife of Lois and Clark.  This is what I believe the comics have so far done perfectly.  The humor, sarcasm, and issues that they have to deal with everyday are addressed well.  The chemistry of the couple is dead on the way I picture it to be.

Oh, and I spotted an easter egg.  Lois’ laptop computer says “Waynetech” on it.  This is the first real mention of Bruce Wayne or Batman in the entire series.  A foreshadowing of events I guess.  After a quick change into his Clark Kent persona, we are taken from that scene to where Lex luthor is chatting up General Sam Lane (Lois’ father.)  Luthor wants Lane to take action against Superman.  Finally during this discussion it is mentioned that the Russians were putting weapons in space.  That is what caused the accident a few pages prior.  Plothole filled, but reader still not that happy.  I want to know WHY the accident happened.  I’m left to believe that it may have been Lex who somehow sabotaged the space station.  The reason I think this is that he is trying to get the General to place his Guardian satellites in space, as a protection against Superman.

I love that every sinister word being said by Lex Luthor continues on with what I missed of him once he “died” in the series.  Now that he is back, there seems to be no good left.  Everything he does has a purpose, and he is the center of it all.  I hope Michael Rosenbaum is reading these issues to see the greatness that was left behind and that he could have continued.

Next I found another hidden nod to comic fans.  Clark is reading a newspaper, and the headline is about Superman saving the Russians in space.  The headline reads “Russia’s Red Son”.  This is of course a tribute to the Red Son story in the comics.

As he is checking out this paper, he bumps into Luthor.  Just as Clark’s ego swells when he’s Superman, Lex’s ego is all about money.  He is portrayed as a rich snob who basically doesn’t see how he and Clark could ever have hung around in the same circles.  Clark is nervous that Lex might remember something, but it looks like Luthor is only knowledgeable of his past through paperwork, and not memories.  I’m glad too.  The last thing I want is for Lex to know who supes is again.  Then it would get too predicatable.

Here comes a Smallville twist on the next page.  Tess Mercer (aka Lutessa Luthor) is dead, buuuut they still managed to work her in.  Lex is seeing visions of her.  It makes the reader believe that he is losing his mind.  Don’t worry, this is soon corrected as they explain in the next issue that a part of her consiousness lives in his brain.  How?  I am not sure, but they most definitely have to answer this at some point.

Finally, we get to see Green Arrow kick some butt too.  He takes out a whole gang, but is almost killed until Clark arrives to save him.  Oliver and Clark have a quick “brotherly” conversation, and Queen mentions about him heading off to Star City as soon as Chloe is finished with one last task.  Well my suspicions were wrong, because it wasn’t Lex who sabotaged the station.  Chloe finds out that some sort of space ship came down in that explosion.  This is why I love Smallville.  The suspense keeps me going, and the comic continues to bring that.

End issue 1, begin issue 2… It begins with Lex being checked out by a doctor.  The doc explains that he is puzzled because while Lex’s brain is whole, it appears to be brand new (this is of course because he has been cloned from his original DNA.)  He also explains that the neurotoxin that made him forget everything actually left his brain operating at beyond normal potential.  Here is my problem.  If Lex were to really be hit by a neurotoxin that has the capability to completely wipe his memories clean, wouldn’t he forget how to talk, do business, etc?  Or is it more like a permanent amnesia?  Either way, it is a slight loop hole.

Next problem?  well Superman is in space scanning for any source of the ship or trail.  He scans using his multiple spectrum visions which is cool, but he is speaking to Chloe over the head com.  Noise is absent in space, so for him to create a sound would be impossible even for him.

Now we get to the good stuff.  Lex holds a press conference to announce a shuttle mission led by commander Hank Henshaw.  If you are familiar with Superman characters, then this should excite you.  Lois is in attendance and attempts to rile Lex with some snide questions.  While he is clearly agitated, he handles it well, and even manages to deal with Oliver Queen’s intrution too.

When the shuttle launches, Superman is there to save the day.  As yet another accident occurs, Superman grabs the astronauts one by one and flys them back to Earth.  Henshaw is his last save, but not at a cost.  The Commander is exposed to deadly levels of radiation outside of our ozone layer.  Superman gets him home alive, but he is scarred at this point (to say the least).  Oh, and remember that unknown ship that came down to earth?  Well, it landed in Smallville of course.  Whoever was in it emerges, and knows quite a bit about Superman to say the least.  I don’t know why she is wearing armor though that looks as if she is straight out of a Halo video game.

On the las page, it is clearly stated too that Lex set this whole accident up.  There is a purpose, but at this point we don’t know what it is.  End issue 2… begin issue 3.

Oliver and Chloe head to Smallville to investigate the downed craft.  This scene seems a little forced, but what we do find out is that to their surprises, the craft is not alien at all.  In fact, it says Queen Industries on the side of it.  Now they are just as puzzled as us.

We also find out the status of Commander Henshaw, which is not good.  I like how they put the emotion of having his wife in there.  It is relatable to a lot of us to see someone that we love sick or dying.  Because of this, there is an audience connection.  While his wife blames Superman, the Last Son of Krypton races to see Lex Luthor.  He claps and blows in the windows in Luthor’s office.  I love how he is shown that he has to control his temper here.  Between the outburst and the closeup of the clenched fist, it portrays how dangerous Superman really can be.  Perhaps Luthor is right?  At least he’s got witnesses and some of the public may begin to agree with him.

General Lane, despite his daughter’s safety, puts Superman to the test with a few missile launches.  After more Tess and Lex interaction, Luthor goes to STAR Labs and talks to Henshaw’s wife.  He says that he can place Hank Henshaw’s mind in one of the High Density robots to at least save his consciousness.  Of course, Luthor always has an ulterior motive.  If it works, he may have a way of getting rid of Tess from his own mind.

Back to Smallville where Oliver and Chloe are being stalked by a mysterious figure.  They are following the “Halo” like woman, while they are being watched by from what I can tell a bald man with earrings in one ear and a few lines on his head.  I’m dying to know who this is, because he only shows up once later as well, and we are left guessing.

Otis finally gets a little page time in a scene where Lex was talking to Tess.  Of course, he is the only one who can actually see and hear Tess, so Otis acts like the bumbling lackey that he is.  They check back in with Hamilton and see how the transfer of Henshaw is going.  (Oh, and you do get to see Lex’s gloved hand ungloved.  The scarring is very detailed and depicted gruesomely awesome.  Henshaw is transferred and wakes up.  Immediately he grabs Luthor by the throat.  I’m not sure I like what they did here with Cyborg Superman, but it is their interpretation, and while the design is not what I’d expect for that character, I do like the idea and design as a whole (if it were for another character).  BTW you can see the design I’m talking about on the cover of issue 4 in this post.

End of issue 3… begin issue 4.  The one cool thing though is when Cyborg Superman is angry, his digital face turns red.  When he’s calm, he is has a blue face.  The lights that run across his body also sort of form the crest Superman has on his chest, only there is no “S”.  It is also explained that the body was made for deep sea and space exploration, and has lasers for mining as well as a jet propulsion unit.  Okay, so it has heat vision, has a nearly invulnerable body, super strength, and can fly.  Yep, sounds like Superman’s cybernetic counterpart to me.

The real Superman soon shows up and saves Lex from the robot.  The bot and the Kryptonian battle and throw each other around, but after the long build up, Cyborg Superman doesn’t prove to be much of a challenge in the end.  I felt that it ended much too soon, and was upset at how it all went down.  Afterwards, Hank Henshaw is shown as just the cyborg’s head attached to electrical wires in the lab.  I’m confused too.  At one point, he is completely ripped apart and basically system repairs himself, but then when he is a head he can’t do the same?  I’m skeptical to say the least.

In Smallville we find out that the Halo figure is in reality, Chloe Sullivan from Earth 2.  She explains that the parallel world has been destroyed, and that she came to give them a warning… that the “Crisis” is coming.  Could this be a foreshadowing to Crisis on infinite earths storyline from the comics?  Or perhaps one of the other crisis stories.  Only time will tell, but this was a setup to something coming down the line, that I can’t wait to see.

Earth 2 Chloe dies and we also find out that when Superman saved the shuttle, Lex knew he’d be exposed to radiation.  Now, no matter where Superman goes, Lex will be able to find him via satellite.  This does not bode well for Lois and Clark, because now Superman cannot return home until they figure out how to get the radioactive marker out of him.  Clark tried to see the good in Luthor, but it is definite that he is a fool to think anything of the sort.

end of issue 4.

So where are we?  This was a fun reintroduction to the Smallville universe.  I’m happy to see the characters again, and am left wanting more.  The questions remain:  Who is the man who was stalking Chloe and Oliver, and killed Chloe from Earth 2?  What will happen with Hank Henshaw (Cyborg Superman)?  How will Lois and Clark get out of Lex tracking Superman’s every move?  What is the Crisis that is coming?  So many possibilities and new questions to come about, I’m sure.

My opinion of the series stands.  There are always things that I feel could have been done better, but overall, I love this universe.  Episode 2 comes up next, and it will involve the first Smallville meeting of Superman and Batman.  I can’t wait to see where this goes, and will post a review up at the end of the episode (in 4 months).  I’m glad to see new characters being constantly introduced.  Cyborg Superman may not have been the best design in my eyes, but I loved having him as part of Smallville continuity.  On a scale of 1 to 10, I give this episode a 7.  It effectively continues the feel of the show, and I hope that it continues on for a long while.

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