Smallville: Lantern Parts 1, 2, and 3 Review

on April 5, 2014

Growing up, I was a fan of Smallville. When it was what it was initially meant to be, I thought the show was a surprisingly excellent and innovative mixture of two extremely disparate presences in entertainment. It was like Dawson’s Creek meets Superman. To get down to specifics, I’m talking about the first three seasons.

I think most can agree that Smallville went on too long for its own good, managing a whopping ten seasons. The whole idea behind Smallville is that it is about Clark Kent before he becomes Superman. And… the amount of time before Clark Kent became Superman was ridiculously long. The show went to great lengths to keep Clark from assuming the role of The World’s Greatest Hero, no matter what plot holes it created (such as having the characters constantly commuting between Smallville (where they lived) and Metropolis (where they did practically everything else), or strong divergences of source material it took (such as having Clark battle most of his key enemies before ever becoming Superman).

Whatever grievances with the show I may have, I can’t help but admit that Smallville was something that was with me through many formative years, and I can’t help but get giddy with nostalgia when I see an image like this…

Something else that was with me through many of those same years was the hit cartoon show Justice League. The show that made me a fan of the character this very site is about; Green Lantern John Stewart. During Smallville’s tenure, I always wanted to see an appearance by John Stewart, even if he wasn’t yet the Green Lantern. Somehow, it just seemed right. He seemed like he could work in that world.

Bryan Q. Miller, writer of the digital first Smallville Season 11 comic series, feels the same, as he brings John Stewart into the continuity of the long running Smallville television series in his twelve part story titled Smallville: Lantern. Now that Clark Kent is Superman, a lot of the silliness and weird baggage that Smallville’s later seasons dealt with isn’t an issue, which makes things inviting to some who may love the original characters and concept of Smallville, but felt the series went astray as it held fast to its “no flights no tights” rule.

The decision to use John Stewart comes as… unexpected. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great, but followers of DC related projects will know that, ever since Justice League Unlimited stopped airing in 2006, DC and WB have been heavily promoting Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, and essentially burying John Stewart. Some examples:
In the many direct to video presentations DC has done, John is completely absent, though Hal Jordan is frequently present. Prior to Van Jensen beginning his run on Green Lantern Corps in June, 2013, John’s roles in the comics have been marginal. Hal Jordan got his own movie and cartoon show. When John Stewart did appear in other media, Hal Jordan had to be there, too, such as in Young Justice and Injustice: Gods Among Us.

DC has seen to it that John Stewart has not had the chance to be THE Green Lantern, as millions are familiar with him being from Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Smallville: Lantern breaks from that tiring trend and refreshingly establishes John Stewart as Earth’s Green Lantern, no ifs ands or buts about it, and for that reason alone, John Stewart fans should check this series out. Thankfully, it’s also a really entertaining comic!

The series begins by revisiting scenes from Clark’s battle with Zod two years ago in comic time. We see that Kryptonians have populated the Argo colony, and as such, life has returned to Space Sector 2813. A Green Lantern power ring soars over the colony, looking for a suitable bearer, but it identifies the Kryptonians there as artificial life forms, making it unable to choose any of them as a bearer.

Superman as a Green Lantern? It’s not the first time it’s happened.

Meanwhile, Oliver Queen wants to continue being the vigilante known as Green Arrow, but his significant other, Chloe Sullivan, who happens to be with child, voices her grievances over those wishes, pointing out that she wants their child to have both parents intact.

Lois and Clark are just stepping out of a movie theater. Clark is a little on edge because of super-related issues, and Lois tries to loosen him up, telling him to enjoy the quieter moments.
There will be no quiet moments for Clark in this story, as the power ring seen earlier streaks through the skies above Metropolis and suddenly fastens onto Clark’s finger in a blast of brilliant green light. Immediately, Clark is shown a vision of Tomar-Re, the former Green Lantern of Space Sector 2813. Tomar’s apparition welcomes Kal-El of Krypton into the ranks of the Green Lantern Corps, ending the first chapter of this twelve part event.

The artwork of Marcio Takara is elegantly simple. The characters resemble the actors we’re familiar with playing them. I’m especially fond of Takara’s Superman, who looks the least like his respective actor, but is an excellent rendition of Superman regardless.
Takara has an interesting way of rendering the Green Lantern uniforms. The Lanterns appear to be in black body gloves, and the green parts of the uniforms are semitransparent constructs. Superman and Tomar’s uniforms have a slightly bulky armored look, and though I’m not a huge fan of Tomar’s, Superman’s uniform is quite streamlined. It’s definitely an interesting take on how the Lantern uniforms are constructed, and much better than that of the 2011 Green Lantern film version. Unfortunately, Tomar otherwise seems to be based on his design from the Green Lantern film, which is a negative for my tastes.

Moving on to part two, we’re taken to New York City. Takara and colorist Carrie Strachan do a great job interpreting the Big Apple. Police are chasing an armed homicide suspect on the streets. The suspect runs into an alley and is chased by a detective. The suspect gets the jump on the detective and opens fire, but the bullets are deflected by a green shield. The detective’s eyes glow green and the other police see the suspect come flying out of the alley, punched by a giant green translucent fist.

With the foe defeated, we’re properly introduced to Detective John Stewart, who leaves the scene to answer a message coming to him via his power ring. Salaak is on the other end, and the grumpy Lantern tells John that there is a new recruit in his Sector that is in need of orientation and assimilation.

John Stewart is a detective in the NYPD.

John is surprised to hear about another human Lantern, but Salaak suggests that the new recruit isn’t human. John flies off to find the inductee.

Yes, you heard right. Green Lantern John Stewart is a New York City detective in the Smallville universe. I’m not entirely sure why that was done, but I’m not opposed to it. Perhaps as the story unfolds, there will be some rationale behind the change, other than to say this is an alternate take on the character.

John Stewart looks superb drawn by Takara. His Lantern uniform looks the best out of the bunch, appearing less bulky than Superman and Tomar’s, and it’s very faithful to the current design being used in the comics (which is derived from the Justice League cartoons), but it still incorporates key elements of Takara and Stratchan’s distinct take.

Chapter 2 is when this story starts becoming really fun! Clark Kent is on a rooftop with Lois, and he’s wrestling with getting the power ring off his finger. Clark has tried all his powers and nothing works. Lois is on the phone to Professor Emil Hamilton, asking for suggestions. It’s delightful watching Lois and Clark banter back and forth. Miller really nails the charm the duo has on the Smallville show.

Clark somehow manages to get the ring off, and he throws it as hard as he can into space, which is another funny thing to see. It’s also sort of amusing when the ring starts coming right back to him. Clark sees it with his telescopic vision and decides to charge it head on. In another brilliant flash of emerald light, the ring affixes itself to his finger and he’s back in his Lantern uniform.

The fun doesn’t stop there, though! Clark suddenly hears an alarm at Metropolis National Bank and zooms to the rescue, power ring and all. When he arrives on the scene, he sees Sawyer, Turpin, and some other cops having a shootout with heavily armed bank robbers. When Superman shows up in his green outfit, he says to the police, “Sorry I’m late. And don’t ask,” which is more excellent dialogue from Miller that helps make this issue a comical delight.

Superman has trouble controlling his Green Lantern powers and starts going wild on the enemies with missile constructs. They try to combat him with a giant robot, but Superman quickly makes short work of that, too, viciously dismantling it with his out of control ring. Fearing for their lives, the criminals surrender to the police. Superman apologizes, and says he’ll get the mess cleaned up as soon as he gets his new skill set in order, and then flies off. Not far away, Green Lantern makes contact with Superman for the first time, and says that they need to talk.

The lore of the Green Lantern Corps is set into place in Chapter 3, which begins with Oliver Queen meeting up with Sawyer and Turpin at the scene of the shootout, and it seems they know he’s Green Arrow. I don’t know how that happened or when. They ponder on what the criminals were after. The amount of cash they were trying to steal didn’t warrant the extremely heavy artillery they brought, like the giant robot.

We catch up with some of the criminals as they meet with their boss in a secret hideout, where the plot thickens. The boss wanted to create a distraction for Superman and he paid the goons to do it. It turns out the boss is the JLA villain Prometheus, and he’s having target practice on live hostages who appear to be homeless people.

Meanwhile, Superman is viewing an illusory world where he’s having a conversation with his ring’s former possessor, Tomar-Re. The ring has created a likeness of Oa, but it’s in ruins. The Tomar illusion tells Clark that it was the once-mighty home of the Green Lantern Corps – an intergalactic peace keeping force.

Tomar further informs Clark that the masters and creators of the Corps –the Guardians of the Universe– are dead. A Guardian was infested by Parallax. The possessed Guardians re-purposed the Manhunter robots to become weapons of fear, and the Corps was created to defeat them. However, later on, Earth’s first Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, was possessed by Parallax as well, and the ensuing Parallax War decimated the Corps. Now, there are barely a dozen Green Lanterns to patrol the stars.

Clark still doesn’t want to be Green Lantern. If he takes up the task, he will be charged with protecting Sector 2813 and the Argo colony, but his home is Earth, and he knows he’s not supposed to interact with the colony.

John Stewart, Earth’s sole Green Lantern.

The illusion fades, and we see that Clark is actually with John Stewart and Lois Lane in a relaxed setting. John says that Superman has the capacity for great will, and that is why the rings chose both Clark and John. Lois cuts in and challenges John Stewart. She’s incredulous that John is more willful than she is. Kyle Rayner is mentioned as having come before John, but John does not say what happened to him, but we’re led to believe he’s dead.

Superman questions what right the Green Lantern Corps has to conscript people into service. John really hasn’t got much to say to that, except “Orders are orders, and you’re one of us now.”

Far away in an asteroid field, the Manhunters have awoken, noting that two Green Lanterns are now active in Sector 2814, which apparently is in violation of some kind of agreement. A shadowy figure sends the Manhunters forward to attack, and we’re left not knowing exactly who or what that figure is.

The third part is really fun. It introduces us to the Corps and where it stands, and more or less gets us familiar with most of what’s going on so we can move forward to the meat of the story. Miller’s take on the Green Lantern mythos is interesting. There is some stuff borrowed from the 2011 film, but that isn’t inherently a bad thing. I personally don’t like that the Corps is near obliterated and all the Guardians are dead, but I’m willing to see where Miller goes with that. What else is of interest is that John Stewart doesn’t appear to know much of what is going on. Clark asks him questions about certain principles of the Corps, and he weirdly doesn’t have any good answers. I’m sure that has a lot to do with the infrastructure of the Corps being near wiped out, and we’ll probably see exactly what that means for the story as things progress.

Bryan Q. Miller captures the voices of the characters very well. The Smallville show has a distinct sort of wit to its dialogue, and it’s all present here. It’s particularly easy to imagine Erica Durance’s voice coming through his Lois Lane. This is all helped by Takara translating the actors’ likenesses well to the comic. Chloe looks like Allison Mack, and Lois looks like Erica Durance, and Oliver looks like… whoever that guy is who played him.

As mentioned, fans of John Stewart should definitely get this. John Stewart is an important part of this series, and seeing him as the primary Green Lantern of this universe is so revitalizing. Bryan Q. Miller addresses most of the other Lanterns, and opens up the possibility of Hal Jordan appearing as the villain Parallax, which would be really cool to me. I don’t really care how controversial an opinion it is, but I’m really not a fan of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, yet I find Hal Jordan as Parallax to be a very captivating character, and I would even say the greatest villain in the Green Lantern mythos.

Smallville: Lantern presents a surprising and incredibly refreshing take on Green Lantern that puts John Stewart front and center after a near decade of DC and WB bombarding us with Hal Jordan. It’s so out of the norm that it makes me wonder why it was done. Could it be just because Bryan Q. Miller wanted to use John, or is DC taking more of a conscious initiative to highlight the oft ignored character, which would be in keeping with his leading role in Van Jensen’s Green Lantern Corps? Or, maybe it’s both? In any case, I very much like the result of the focus on John Stewart, and I hope Warner Bros. is prepping the character for bigger things ahead.

4 out of 5 stars.

Read Smallville: Lantern Parts 4, 5, and 6 Review.