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Saturday, April 14, 2012

DAMN Good Comics -- SMALLVILLE SEASON 11 #1


Yes, Smallville fans, you've waited long enough but it's finally time for Season 11.  Might as well start things off with the Remy Zero theme song...

There...That's better, isn't it?  Almost a year after the TV series' final episode, DC Comics has returned to this alternate Superman world with in a digital comic format that will also be released in traditional print every month.  Season 11 picks up six months after the events of "Finale," revealing what's become of various cast members and how the world is dealing with a Superman as its protector.

In this first chapter "Guardian" (Yes, the traditional one-word story titles have returned as well), Smallville TV series writer Bryan Q. Miller reintroduces us to married couple Oliver and Chloe, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor and of course, Clark Kent, now fully embracing his destiny as the world's greatest superhero.  We don't learn much in the process, although there's a new connection to the Richard Donner Superman films with Lex taking on Otis as his latest henchman/assistant.  Oh, and it seems Clark has swapped his Superman Returns uniform for a version that resembles a cross between the Shane Davis version from Superman: Earth One and the new Henry Cavill costume worn in the upcoming film The Man of Steel.

As for the art, a very bold cover by Cat Staggs (shown above) starts things off nicely with Clark as Superman bursting upwards through the series logo.  It's a very striking image that makes effective use of the widescreen layout and Staggs' rendition of Tom Welling seems more faithful to the series than Gary Frank's first cover for the print edition.  The main story belongs to Pere Perez, who produces some solid work that conveys the story even if it isn't particularly innovative or stylish.  However, some nice coloring by Randy Mayor makes the scenes set in Earth's orbit considerably more effective and interesting, especially a storm of energy that flashes behind a Russian space station.

And while I'm thinking about the horizontal/widescreen layout, while it seems to make certain things pop more than a traditional vertical comic book format, it also loses something in terms of story content.  Because it essentially splits vertical pages into two upper and lower halves, the story flow feels somewhat light with most horizontal pages containing only two-to-four word balloons per page.  Basically, ten pages of a traditional vertical format are stretched out to twenty pages, so you end up flipping through them faster and things are over before you know it.  There's also a minor issue with splash pages being repeated, with a horizontal version of half the page followed immediately with the full vertical splash that encourages flipping your iPad around in order to view it properly.

All in all though, a promising start and one that should prove interesting once things finally get going.  Lex is obviously ready to make some moves into classic Superman Vs. Luthor territory, and this energy storm that pops up out of nowhere should result in some other menace for Clark to address.  If nothing else, Smallville fans should take comfort that the saga of Clark Kent still continues and in many ways, is only just beginning.

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