(2004) Mark Verheiden & Clint Carpenter, Titan Books, £8.99, trdpbk, 160pp, ISBN 1-840-23826-7
This is a collection of Smallville the Comic and issues 1-4 of Smallville, which probably makes this a spin-off of a spin-off and, whatever you call it, it exists outside of current DC continuity. Writers Mark (Aliens) Verheiden and Clint Carpenter both co-write tales and pen solo efforts and the title uses a plethora of artists including Kilian Plunkett, Roy Allan Martinez, Renato Guedes, Tom Derenick, Michael Green and John Paul Leon. Jeph Loeb, currently writing Superman/Batman (I've never understood the reason for dropping the World's Finest title other than to fit in with the cartoon team-ups), provides a thoughtful introduction and additional features include "Sullivan's Travels" (by Brice Tidwell), and "Welcome to Smallville" by Jami Bernard, along with the usual brace of covers and photos from the TV series. Some like the TV show and others don't - those who do cite the use of familiar plots from the early days of Superboy stories, those who don't seem to have a problem with the internal continuity of the show. Me, I just accept it on its own terms as another 'alternate world'.
Most of the stories are brief (there are sometimes 3 mini-stories per issue of the comic) and the best of them feature Lex Luthor (though that could be my own prejudice as he's about the only character from the TV show that I have any sympathy with). Of the artists I'm most impressed with Renato Guedes, especially in the tale "Chimera" (a long dose of Luthor), though Tom Derenick does some lovely work in "Vows" (which deals with Luthor's parents' relationship). Though these are original stories, there is plenty of referencing of episodes of the show and the comic allows the writers to explore ideas that couldn't be fit into the US TV format. On the one hand that's great for fans of the show (who are surely expected to be this titles main readership), but might be a bit off-putting for those unfamiliar with the characters. Like the TV series, most of the plots are character-driven, as opposed to concentrating on super-heroics, which is no bad thing in and of itself, though there's action enough for those who can't live without it. I'm not a big fan of the show - too much concentration on 'American values' for my taste - but I had a pleasant couple of hours reading this and was quite impressed by Verheiden and Guedes.
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