SDCC kept us all pretty busy well past that weekend, but I’ll always eventually find time for my Smallville review! The event also gave us some Smallville related news, whether it’s good news or not I’ll leave up to you, but it’s definitely spoilerific, as are my thoughts on the latest issues. Chapter ten of Guardian begins the final act of what will be considered the first episode of Smallville Season 11. The strength of the story will be easier to evaluate after the full episode is completed, and chapter ten especially feels like one that needs a little more time to digest. A few points feel a little muddled, for example was the U.S. military actually intent on bringing Clark in for questioning, or was that only their pretense for testing his abilities in such a dramatic and destructive fashion? If the second one is true, then would they still have been after him whether Lex Luthor had manipulated things or not? I’m still debating Hank Henshaw’s transformation as well. Does he truly blame Superman, or is his logic corrupted by the insanity of his situation?
The transitions don’t all feel smooth, but there is a lot to like here. General Sam Lane’s conversation with Superman has the same tone of mentoring and fatherly type advice as his trust-someone-who’s-been-there speech at the end of Ambush. Remember the one about making time for family? Henshaw’s destruction of his own human body in a fit of rage adds an extra layer of tragedy, which is an essential aspect of that character’s story. His motivation of replacing Superman comes on quick, but combined with his new body’s powers it’s a stroke of genius. The origins of the Cyborg Superman aspect of his story are buried so deeply in continuity and tiers of retcon that they’re barely viable anymore in DC comics, but Bryan Q. Miller found a way to honor that era. Miller has a knack for finding what’s at the heart of something, and extracting the vital elements, so much so that had I been in charge I would’ve given him the helm for the whole New 52 reboot. Visually chapter ten of Guardian is beautiful to look at, especially the confrontations at the end. There are times when I regret not being able to see this story in live action, but clicking through my digital copies always erases those thoughts from my mind. Chapter eleven feels like the beginning of a two part finale, so I’ll review it together with chapter twelve as a concluding review for the episode. We’re moving on to the update from San Diego Comic-Con 2012, so don’t scroll down below the credits unless you want to know a big time spoiler about the characters appearing in the next episode!
Unfortunately the SDCC update requires a bit of a retraction. I had previously reported that the next episode of Smallville – Detective, would feature an appearance by Batman – and that he’d show up with the assistance of Stephanie Brown in a Nightwing type costume and role. These facts were all confirmed in statements made by a very enthusiastic Bryan Q. Miller, who was thrilled to be using those characters until DC stepped in and took Stephanie Brown out of the equation. I can only speculate as to why, so I won’t, but in any case it’s an unfortunate set of maneuvers. If you’re going to do a fun Smallville remix with the characters, Miller’s original plan is an easy one to defend. Steph’s history includes a stint at Batman’s side as Robin, and her story also parallels Dick Grayson’s maturing into his own full fledged hero. Barbara Gordon is now being inserted into the situation, and while I’m sure the professional and talented Bryan Q. Miller will have no problem writing her, using that character in the same way doesn’t feel as justifiable. Unless this is all a smokescreen to keep secret a brand new Stephanie Brown series written by BQM, it’s a disappointing piece of news for everyone. Speaking as a fan I can’t lie, this does rain on my Smallville parade a bit, but I also know that Smallville will still be the best it can be in Miller’s hands.