Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Graphic Novel Grab Bag

*** Now that LBM has expanded beyond comics, I've retooled some of the columns for the sake of simplicity. This was originally part of a feature I did called "Graphic Novel Grab Bag." I only ever wrote five, so I've re-tagged them as Longbox entries. This was the first GNGB post, as you'll see if you venture into the early days of the site which I've somehow resisted the urge to purge. -- JA, 1/20/10 ***

What's a "Graphic Novel Grab Bag," you ask? Well, I'm using the term graphic novel liberally here, but hopefully once a month, I'm going to review a graphic novel or trade paperback (such as our inaugural edition today). Basically something thicker than your typical 32-page issue. Usually these are going to be something I've borrowed from a friend or my local library since I don't buy many of them for my own collection anymore.

By the way, libraries are a fantastic way to get good stuff on the cheap (it's free after all). If you live near an urban or college library, they probably have a sizable collection to peruse over. Smaller libraries may not have a great selection, but getting a copy of something well-known, such as "The Watchmen," shouldn't be difficult in most towns. Of course, it'll probably be listed in the Young Adult section, and those of us familiar with "The Watchmen" realize not every young adult is ready for radioactive blue testes mixed in with their superheroes, but that's for their parents to worry about, I suppose.
Anyway, on to the review...

Smallville Volume 1
various writers and artists
DC Comics, 2004
I've seen every episode of "Smallville" that's aired over it's 5 seasons thus far, and while I've enjoyed them on the whole immensely, individual episodes have begun to run together in my mind a bit. Part of this is due to watching all of them for the first time in the last year or so (TV on DVD and DVR is amazing, no?), but it has more to do with so many of arcs still, after five years, having only minimal progression and, in some cases, not being resolved what-so-ever.
Part of the reason why I've been able to enjoy the show despite it's maddening pacing is because I've hedged my expectations of it. I don't expect it to be on the same level as "The Sopranos." I just want to see some cool action scenes and laugh at a couple of jokes over the course of an hour. And "Smallville" usually gives that to me (and these days it also gives me Lois Lane in about as little of clothing as the writers can dream up each week, and I thank them for having those dreams).
So my expectations for the "Smallville" comic were even more diluted than those I have for the show. Despite these low expectations, I'm still left under-whelmed by the eight stories in this collection. I recognized all the authors of the stories from the writing, producing and directing credits from watching the show so often. Because of this, I'm left with the feeling that many, if not all, of the stories were rejects from the writer's room, either due to their lack of intrigue ("Vows") or the immense difficulty in bringing the story to the screen due to special effects ("Raptor," and "Paterfamilias"). But because they are all derived from the pens and keyboards of people involved with the show, the tone of the characters is dead on, Lex in particular. It's just a shame that very little of what was given to them to say was worth reading.
On the other hand, the art is strong for these stories for the most part. Each artist is burdened by having to create portraits of the actors who portray the characters on screen. They can't veer too far from what they actually look like, otherwise it would be too difficult to label the stories as occurring in the "Smallville" universe. Fortunately, this is pulled off.
In the end, this comic was made for rabid fans of "Smallville" the TV show. If you have never seen the show, or don't like the show, stay clear of this title. Even as a fan of the show, I found myself rolling my eyes at some of these stories. Nothing that happens in these stories adds any considerable weight to the "Smallville" mythos. In the end, it's just a decent way to spend an hour of your time.
5 out of 10

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