Following the decade-long success of the CW’s top-rated show about the Man of steel’s modest Kansas beginnings, Smallville moves from the small screen to the printed page, with a DC-produced Season Eleven graphic novel series that isn’t restricted by the TV show’s original “no tights, no flight” policy.
A labor of love most likely dedicated to show’s numerous fans, Smallville Season Eleven picks up right after the series’ finale, in which Tom Welling’s Clark Kent finally came of age to become Superman, albeit not in name. With Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex Luthor (who returned for the final episode) having no memory of the decade-long series — or his interactions with Clark – due to a retro-virus sneakily injected into by a dying Tess Mercer, this post-series continuation frees itself from having to explain how the two former best friends go on to become each other’s arch-enemies.
In the first collected volume, titled Guardian, several months have passed since the show’s events which had culminated with Clark’s victory over Darkseid, the much awaited point when the former teen student and all-around savior finally donned the red and blue suit we’ve come to know so well. Clark and Lois are still together, working at the Daily Planet and sharing an apartment in downtown Metropolis. Clark/Superman tries to sneak away when necessary, so to help save lives, such as the case of a space shuttle caught in a small meteor storm which causes a hull breech.
With the city (and the planet) slowly getting used to the caped wonder, with the possible exception of Lex Luthor, who is still recovering from the retrograde amnesia suffered at the hands of his late sister Tess Mercer. Luthor is planning to expose Superman as the alien threat the world should be afraid of, and enlists the help of General Lane (Lois’ dad) to try and bring in Supes for interrogation.
A few issues in, we are introduced to an astronaut by the name of Hank Henshaw, who most seasoned Superman readers remember as one of four alternate Supermen upon his death at the hands of Doomsday. Similarly, an accident causes the unlucky astronaut to be burned on most of his body, resulting in a Lexcorp experiment which turns him into a mad cyborg hellbent on revenge. This echoes the Cyber-Superman storyline from “The Death of Superman” in the early 90s.
Meanwhile, lovebirds Chloe Sullivan and Green Arrow Oliver Queen continue to fight the good fight on their terms, while also investigating a potential alien visitor whose arrival was masked by a meteor shower similar to that of Clark Kent’s back in the day. Very mysterious. Their bacon is saved by Clark a few times, especially when outnumbered.
As for Lex, he is plagued by visits from the great beyond when his deceased sister comes back to torment him, while only he can see her, of course. Not even loyal assistant Otis can help the ultra-smart billionaire figure this one out, though it’s great fun to see the artists’ rendering of Michael Rosenbaum’s incarnation of the bald villain.
It goes without saying that much of the content of this first volume relies heavily on elements from the show, from character likeness to dialogue. This is largely due to the involvement of Bryan Q. Miller, a writer who contributed to the last three seasons of the show. Miller truly captures the feel of the show on each page, especially in exchanges between Lois and Clark.
Gone are the red trunks, a throwback to the olden days of the 75-year old DC Comics character now easily dismissed, both in this series as well as DC’s New 52 timeline, not to mention Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel film currently in theatres.
The sky is truly the limit in this new series, in that the manipulative selective amnesia plot line used in the show finale allows this new series of stories free rein, since Lex never conceivably knew Clark after all, once knowledge of him over the years disappeared in a flash. Many fans had raged on about the unlikely bond between sworn arch-enemies, so this latest chapter brings the mythology back in line with the established mythos.
While the re-introduction of the Hank Henshaw storyline is a bit week, it’s still nice to see an unrestrained story limited only by the artwork and writing of its creative team. Witty dialogue abounds, each character’s voice stands out as it did on the show, especially Lois’ sarcasm as originally delivered by Erica Durance.
Also gone of course is the no flights, no tights policy from the series, which helps liberate every subplot restricted by the need for Clark to maintain secrecy as the evasive Blur. Now, as a red and blue icon of hope for Metropolis, Clark/Superman need only worry about keeping up his bumbling persona as clumsy Clark from Smallville, now working in the big city as a reporter for the Planet. This allows him full access to emergency situations where a caped hero is needed in town, while keeping up civilian appearances, though a handful of close friends are already in on the charade.
There’s great hope for this series to continue, as another volume, titled “Detective”, is slated to publish in a few months. That chapter will introduce Bruce Wayne as a never-before element in the otherwise standalone Smallville universe. With much of the former TV franchise having been grounded in more or less of a real world environment, one must wonder what it’d had been like if we’d been watching a show called “Gotham” for the past decade. For now, we the fans can keep enjoying this show in graphic novel form, just as Whedonites did with a fictitious 8th season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer a few years back, and which ran for 40 issues.
3.5 out of 5