Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sean & Megan Watch Game of Thrones: You Win or You Die

From the blog that brought you "Lynn Phegley Watches Lost," get ready for another experience that redefines the art of recapping TV shows!

Sean T. Collins is a friend to the Cool Kids and avid devotee of George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Fire and Ice" series of books, upon which the HBO television show Game of Thrones is based; he is currently chronicling the series on two separate blogs, one with book spoilers and one without.

Megan Morse is Ben's wife who has never read the Martin books and does not typically go in for the fantasy genre but loves Game of Thrones for reasons she doesn't even fully understand.

Each week, Megan will provide her analysis of the show from a neophyte's standpoint and then Sean will interject with his informed reactions and insights, answering her questions and commenting on her observations.

Whether you're a nerd or a newcomer, if you're watching Game of Thrones this is the recap for you!

Megan: Last week I talked about how I felt there was still a lot of set-up going on, and here in my opinion they got to the top of the mountain and started down the other side, with danger and consequences coming on fast. I really liked the episode for that reason and because the scandal and drama ramped up even higher than it had been. It feels like we're really in the meat of the show. I did think this was the most complicated episode thus far; I have trouble keeping track of all the characters and what each person is doing sometimes, but it doesn't take away from me enjoying the show.

I did not expect Robert's death, but it really hammered home that you can't see what's coming on this show, so even though I liked the character and will miss him, I thought what happened was a cool move.

Sean: You know, I think your former point flows from the latter one. The show already established that Robert and Cersei's marriage was all that was holding the kingdom together -- hell, Robert and Cersei actually came out and said as much. With Robert removed, the dam has broken. Hence your feeling that the story has crested the hill and started plummeting downward.

Megan: I became really interested in trying to untangle the line of succession and how different factors could play a role. Do his brothers have more claim than his son? Can any of his bastard children be considered a rightful heir? Again, it was confusing, but in a good way because it got me thinking and engaged. Obviously it also drove a lot of intrigue and further story lines.

Sean: I've been wondering if aspects of the story peculiar to its medieval setting would catch newcomers' imagination and interest the way, say, the minutiae of setting up wiretaps or selling drugs in a particular housing complex caught up people who watched The Wire with no previous drug-war experience on either side. I suppose this is my answer!

Megan: I really liked where Cersei when confronted by Ned about her relationship with Jaime once she knew she couldn't bluff attempted to justify it with the explanation of how other royal houses like the Targaryens had engaged in incest for years to keep their bloodlines strong. Obviously it's not a rationalization that would fly in most modern societies, but putting yourself in the world of the show, you can actually see where she could have a point, or at least I did. Even if she's just trying to make excuses, she's making the issue less cut and dry, which gives her character and story more depth to me. That she didn't react by seeming immediately threatened but rather somewhat calmly defended herself was an interesting change of pace from how I figured things would go. She doesn't really seem to even mind if the relationship were to be exposed so long as it didn't threaten Joffrey's ascension.

Sean: Yeah, that sounds about right. One thing that becomes clear over the course of the series is that the Targaryens got cut a lot of slack by nobility and smallfolk alike that other Houses just don't. I guess that when you invade from overseas on the backs of three giant fire-breathing reptiles, you can pretty much do what you want.

As for Cersei, I think you can say two things about her for certain: She really does love her kids, especially Joffrey, and she is utterly confident in her superiority to everyone else. So coming at her the way Ned did -- inviting her to a mano-a-mano sit-down in which he threatens to expose a truth about her children that will necessitate them fleeing the continent at best and get them killed at worst -- is perhaps the single worst way he could have approached the situation.

Megan: Something I enjoy every week is the relationship between Daenerys and Khal Drogo. It's about as far removed from what most TV shows offer in terms of romance as you can get, but there is something incredibly sweet about the way they care for one another and the sexuality they convey in their interactions is both undeniable and powerful. When they exchange a glance across the fire there is no question they WANT one another. Regardless of what initially brought them together or what she maybe hopes to ultimately gain from him, the chemistry that comes from their strong physical attraction is gold every time. I liked seeing the side of him that came out when she was threatened as well; the scene where he's declaring war was intense.

Sean: The show had a steep hill to climb with this relationship. Because it lacks the detail of prose, it had to flatten things out a bit to create a consistent arc, as opposed to the ups and downs of their initial relationship that were found in the book. For example, in the book, their wedding night is a lot more tender than what we saw in the show -- Dany was terrified, of course, but Drogo treated her tenderly and took time to make her feel more at ease. But Dany's an even younger teenager in the books than she is in the show, so night after night of sex with a guy she barely knows and can barely physically accommodate takes its toll. It's only after a portentous dream AND Doreah's bedroom tricks that she's able to make sex both pleasurable for her and a tool for growing closer to her new husband. But the showrunners felt like viewers would have a hard time with the idea that that first night might have been relatively okay, and get confused if she started getting upset afterwards and then things went okay again, so they basically made the wedding night as brutal-looking as possible and started sending things in the opposite direction with the subsequent episodes. All this is to say that if they're at the point where a newcomer to the material can find their relationship both sexy and sweet, they struck the right balance with this delicate material eventually.

I enjoyed the declaration of war scene, too. I can totally buy a guy in his situation using his anger and fear over a threat to a loved one to drive himself into doing something crazy.

Megan: When Ser Jorah saves Daenerys from being poisoned is this because he cares for her and realizes she is in danger or is he aware this will be a catalyst for Khal Drago to go to war and wants that to happen? Or are we not supposed to know yet?

Sean: Good question!

Megan: I don't care about the Wall. I don't care about any of the story lines taking place there. Jon Snow is whiny and I don't enjoy him at all. He has a sense of entitlement while at the same time complaining about how harsh a hand life has dealt him all the time; either make something of yourself or don't, you bore me. Samwell is the only reason to watch the Wall scenes for me. That's all I have to say about it.

Sean: The Wall is another challenge for the filmmakers...

Megan: Is Jon Snow a more likable or sympathetic character in the book either now or later on? Basically, am I reacting negatively to the character or the actor here?

Sean: Well, here's the thing: Compared to all the other main characters, Jon simply has less stuff to do during the events of Book One. While Tyrion's getting arrested and fighting for his life, or Ned's getting tapped to be Hand of the King and dealing with a murder attempt on his son and trying to solve the murder of his predecessor and maneuvering against Cersei in King's Landing, or Dany's getting sold into marriage and learning the ways of a new people and fighting with her asshole brother and rallying her new husband to invade her homeland and gestating The Stallion Who Mounts the World, Jon's in boot camp. That's basically it. In the books you bounce back and forth between enough other chapters that it doesn't feel like the storyline's getting padded, but the show has to cut back to the Wall every so often lest we forget about it, and when it does, there's only so much they can show. So you get the repetitive character arc you described earlier, where he's simultaneously arrogant and self-pitying until one of his friends sets him straight. I will say this for Jon, though: Like Ned, he's a fundamentally decent dude. He doesn't have a fuck-someone-over bone in his body. That makes him more sympathetic to me than he might otherwise be.

Megan: The introduction of Tywin Lannister and I'd assume impending appearance of Stannis Baratheon actually made me a bit nervous in a more meta sense than in the story. They're introducing seemingly important characters at such a rapid clip that I get concerned some will get shafted in terms of development. The characters who are getting ample time and depth are great and the show on the whole does a nice balancing act, but there are still some people who have already been introduced I'd like to learn more about before more faces get cycled in. It's not a problem now, it's just a concern on the horizon for me. How far can they bend before they break?

Sean: Ha, if you're worried about this now, get back to me in a couple seasons! Cast of thousands, yo.

Megan: On the show, obviously there are whole episodes where members of the regular cast are missing, like Tyrion and Catelyn this week; are there long stretches of the book where the narrative moves away from characters?

Sean: Definitely. The book's unique trick is that every chapter is told from the point of view of a single character, whose name is used as that chapter's title. In Book One, those characters are Jon, Eddard, Catelyn, Bran, Sansa, Arya, Daenerys, and Tyrion. This is a big part of what makes reading them such an addictive experience: Once you get to a big cliffhanger with Character A, you've got chapters about Characters B, D, X, and Q before you get back to Character A again, so you just race along until you find out what happens -- and along the way you're likely to get similarly hooked on several other storylines. But of course this also means that characters disappear from the action for quite some time, especially Dany and Jon and to an extent Bran, since their storylines really can't intersect with the other characters for logistical reasons. You can see Tyrion in a Catelyn chapter and vice versa, and the King's Landing Starks can split action as well, but Dany and Jon are on their own.

This also means that we only learn about all the other characters through what they do and say in view of the "POV" characters. Without a third-person omniscient narrator, anything that Robert, Cersei, Jaime, Tywin, Joffrey, the Hound, Barristan, Renly, Viserys, Jorah, Drogo, Varys, Littlefinger, Lysa, Samwell, Theon, and Robb do "off-screen" from our eight main characters is invisible to us. One of the big tasks of the show was to add "deleted scenes" between those characters to which we had no access in the books, and I think it's been very successful. Many of its most memorable scenes -- Robert and Cersei's bitter conversation about their marriage, Littlefinger and Varys's pissing match over who knows more about whom, Jorah's conversation with an at-the-end-of-his-rope Viserys, Robert and Barristan's conversation about their first kills, Loras shaving Renly's chest, Jaime being dressed down by his dad -- never happened in the books and were the invention of the writers.

Megan: Despite his getting an exposition scene and the big moment at the end, Littlefinger is still something of an enigma to me. I can't get a handle on him and I'm not sure why. He's still just coming off as a sneaky little bastard and I feel like there's something I'm missing that should open him up more.

You and Ned probably feel the exact same way right about now.

Megan: What did YOU think about Robert's death, both when you read it and how it was handled here?

Sean: I don't remember much about what I thought of it. Perhaps the impact is dulled in the books because of that POV device I described earlier, due to which anyone who ISN'T a POV character feels comparatively minor and therefore expendable? But maybe it's also a case of his death needing to happen to move the plot forward. To get cross-nerd-cultural for a moment, if the Starks are Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Lannisters are Darth Maul, Robert was the energy shield thingamajig that popped up and separated them for a while. For the smackdown to really start, that shield had to be removed.

So because of all that, I think it wasn't Robert's death, or even the nature of his death, that surprised me so much as that all of Ned's plans were thrown up in the air because of it. He takes the risk of announcing to Cersei his intention to out her incestuous infidelity to Robert, in order to give her and the kids a chance to flee and live rather than stay and die...and then Robert, his friend and his trump card, is removed from play, and then he's forced to consider less stable alliances with Renly or with Littlefinger, and we've seen how that worked out. So I remember Robert's death more for its impact on Ned than for its impact on Robert!

Megan: Cool...what's a Darth Maul?

An Open Letter To Geoff Johns & Jim Lee

Dear Misters Johns and Lee,

How's it going? It's been a while since I spoke with you on the phone at a prearranged time. Did you do BBQ on Memorial Day?

Anyway, I'm writing about your new Justice League comic, which was announced today as part of a big honkin DC Comics relaunch of your entire line. What rad news! I'm sure with your past work, you guys will have some cool shit on tap for the League. However, I've got to admit I was a little bummed when I heard the lineup would consist of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman. No Martian Manhunter? J'onn J'onzz denied?

Then I thought about it for a minute, and it occurred to me: is this about his collar?

I know the team is dressing for success with a unified look to their outfits – it's a nice touch! But seriously, they shouldn't be afraid if the Manhunter from Mars wants to pop his up every once in a while. Motherfucker has been popping his collar for years, see?

If this still doesn't convince you, may I suggest the following candidates for League expansion:

I very much look forward to your new comic in September.


- Kiel Phegley

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Enigma of Adam Warlock

I’ve finally been experiencing the pleasure of reading the full Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run on Fantastic Four via the most recent re-issues of the softcover Marvel Masterworks series and though the last few volumes have brought such seminal stuff as the debuts of Galactus and The Black Panther not to mention the classic “This Man…This Monster!” Coming up next, I’ve got the first appearances of Blastaar and Ronan to look forward to, but most significantly for me, the introduction of Adam Warlock. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had questions about Adam Warlock that I’ve never been able to find answers to—admittedly I haven’t looked too hard or I would have read the Jim Starlin stories by now—and hope that perhaps by starting from the beginning, I’ll understand this character and his evolution a bit better.

Characters undergoing wild transformations in comics aren’t unheard of; in fact it’s more or less business as usual at this point. The landscape of modern comics—the super hero genre especially—is littered with figures who bear little resemblance to their original incarnations. Still, Adam Warlock’s four decade-long journey from artificial man to mystical space hero with a significant detour to cosmic messiah and fairly unveiled Christ allegory along the way is pretty unique.

The character that would become Adam Warlock debuted in 1967’s Fantastic Four #66 as Him, an artificial man created by the Enclave to be the peak of humanity. He was more a handsome gold-skinned Frankenstein than anything resembling what he would become, but relevant to this examination, he was a character firmly rooted in science—the Enclave were criminal scientists—and thus right at home in the sci-fi adventures of the FF. Him would resurface a few more times—and Her would be introduced—but he never caught on the way many other Lee/Kirby creations did.

In 1972, Roy Thomas and Gil Kane got a hold of Him and reinvented him as Adam Warlock, introducing what would become his familiar visual cues of a yellow thunderbolt emblem with red and gold gladiator flourishes as a costume. According to an old issue of Back Issue—via Wikipedia—Thomas fully intended to do a super hero version of Jesus Christ, having recently become a fan of Jesus Chris Superstar; Him had some pedigree but little baggage or history, so he made as much sense as existing character. Thomas had the High Evolutionary stand in for a higher power and evolve Adam to godhood, then dropped him on the newly-created Counter-Earth where he served as savior to its people, protecting them from the Man-Beast—a rogue High Evolutionary creation serving as the Lucifer figure—and eventually their creator—the Evolutionary again—who toyed with wiping them out.

Warlock began waxing philosophical not unlike his cosmic contemporary The Silver Surfer, but not about his plight in being trapped on Earth, rather the pressures placed on him by his power and the expectations of those he protected.

The Thomas-written Warlock saga only ran eight issues, but Jim Starlin would pick up the character not long after, writing and drawing a new story that took his messianic routine to the stars. Starlin pumped up the cosmic soap opera by introducing The Magus, Warlock’s evil alternate from a possible future, and weaving in dimension jumping and time travel as well as the established Thanos, but also continued to explore the character as more than just another super-powered bruiser, asking questions about destiny, the corruptive nature of power and what role even a supposed savior had in shaping who he would become. With Magus, Starlin also was not afraid to posit that this might not be the typical “evil twin” scenario comics fans knew well and that instead Adam may indeed by mentally ill and possessing multiple personalities. The Starlin Warlock is—from what I’ve heard—trippy, expansive, of the era and possibly the most well-regarded material that has been produced featuring the character.

This era of Adam Warlock concluded in 1977 with a three-part crossover through Marvel Team-Up, Avengers and Marvel Two-In-One that saw the character give his life to thwart a scheme by Thanos.

Adam Warlock would return 14 years later as part of the crossover event The Infinity Gauntlet, and it was around this time I would be first introduced to the character. In a story written by Starlin, Thanos, recently resurrected himself, gets a hold of the combined Infinity Gems, which grants him near omnipotence, and Warlock along with his allies Pip and Gamora are brought back from a limbo-type existence within the Soul Gem to thwart him. The good guys win and Adam actually gets the Infinity Gems himself for a moment, but they are ultimately split up amongst his chosen Infinity Watch, and they go off into their own ongoing series.

Each of the next two summers—1992 and 1993—would feature another “Infinity” event penned by Starlin, in which Warlock and Thanos would be major players and nearly every Marvel title and character would become involved. In Infinity War, the forgotten Magus gains his own existence out of Warlock’s passing wish to excise himself of all good and evil during his brief time holding the Gauntlet, and creates an army of evil twins of Marvel heroes—fun fact: this is where the Spider-Man character Doppelganger, featured in Maximum Carnage and more recently the Carnage mini by Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain, originated—so that he can try and assemble the Gems. The next year, in Infinity Crusade, Warlock’s “good” side, the Goddess, takes advantage of various heroes’ faith to brainwash them and create a super hero civil war over a decade early while trying to “cleanse” the universe by destroying it.

I vividly recall reading Infinity Crusade with my best buddy Matt Corley when I was 11 years old; when I spotted a few issues of Infinity War not long after, I snatched those up as well. It would be a while yet before I found Infinity Gauntlet in trade and got the full saga (and of course years later I’d pick up Infinity Abyss and Marvel Universe: The End, but those may be stories for another time). I was a kid, so the slam dunk concepts of bad guy duplicates and hero vs hero grabbed me pretty easily—they still would/do—but I always found myself a bit mystified at what exactly was the deal with Adam Warlock. I mean, these were huge Marvel stories that touched every single comic and featured more or less every single character available, but guys like Spider-Man, Wolverine, Iron Man and Captain America were more or less supporting characters—if that—while this orange-skinned dude with a shiny green thing on his forehead was front and center. Surely he was the most important character in the Marvel Universe, right? So why had I never heard of him?

As I mentioned in my post about Thor: Blood and Thunder, there were in fact two Warlock series—Warlock & the Infinity Watch and The Warlock Chronicles—running concurrently in the mid-90’s. At the time, I was curious about this because, again, I really had no sense of who Adam Warlock was, but at the same time, he was starring in more books than Daredevil or The Hulk. Looking back now, it’s interesting and a bit bizarre to think that Warlock, who was such a quirky, boundary-pushing figure in the 70’s would morph into the central figure of some of the most prominent projects on Marvel’s radar 20 years later—and they were written by the same guy! Adam Warlock had gone from being on the fringe of the Marvel Universe, relegated to Counter-Earth or deep space so Thomas and Starlin could dig into the idea of Jesus as a super hero without attracting too much attention, to being right in the thick of things, living on Monster Island, showing up in prominent books and ordering the A-list heroes around in the center of crossovers. If you give the Infinity trilogy and early issues of Infinity Watch a solid read, Starlin is certainly still delving into larger issues of duality, religion and the heart of what makes good and what makes evil, but he’s also writing very commercial comic books, something I can’t imagine he ever thought he’d be doing with Adam Warlock when he plucked him out of limbo decades earlier.

Adam Warlock’s 90’s glory days crashed around the same time the rest of the comic industry’s did. His books were cancelled, he was shipped over to the Ultraverse for a quick crossover/reimagining, then slipped into limbo by the end of the decade. He’d be gone a good six years or so before popping back up in the aforementioned Infinity Abyss and Marvel Universe: The End minis, both written as well as drawn by Starlin, where his primary role is to play counterpoint to Thanos, who has once again gained ultimate power and is waffling on whether or not to embrace his nihilistic tendencies or not.

The most recent Warlock resurrection came about in 2007 with Annihilation: Conquest, and I was actually at Marvel for this one. This time, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning brought the character back—Bill Rosemann told me at the time that he was “one of the last missing pieces of the cosmic puzzle”—bringing things somewhat full circle—if you discount the Him years—with the High Evolutionary being involved and Warlock again being touted as a universal savior whose form is sought by Ultron as a host body. DnA made Adam part of their Guardians of the Galaxy series where he served as one of the team’s many wildcards, in part due to the schizophrenic nature that had long been a part of the character’s makeup and also because he had new mystic-based powers that moved him closer to fitting the Warlock name. This incarnation lasted a couple years before Adam fulfilled his seeming long ago destiny, finally becoming The Magus and getting taken down by his old teammates and later by an evil alternate version of Captain Marvel.

Going back to the beginning, I’m very much looking forward to the next volume of Marvel Masterworks: Fantastic Four—coming this November—to see the genesis of a character who would be Frankenstein, Jesus, a cosmic explorer, the center of the 90’s Marvel Universe, Thanos’ confidante and an outer space magic man; even for comic that’s a pretty wild resume and I’d like to read it all the way through.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Linko! LXX!

Whew! OK, welcome back to a bunch of stuff I've had open in my browser tabs for week. To start, I just want to say that even though Ben's recent Tweet about this blog becoming a TV blog was both apt and hilarious, I'm hoping to get back into comics blogging with more regularity after our drawn-out Smallville-a-thon/Game of Thrones takeover. That is, after I burn off a final few TV-ish links.

* First, anyone who watched the last Smallville at least 35% seriously will enjoy director Greg Beeman's diary of the finale's production. Great photos too including the one above.

* By the way, the Twitter account I followed along with most during all the finale shenanigans was GrahamTracey's. Dude really loved that show in a way we'll never get.

* Probably not as much as this guy, though. (Thanks, Jim Gibbons)

* In other TV news, now that "Justified" has wrapped for the year, I really want to pick this or something like it up.

* And now on to the hard-line comics shit...

First up, an A+ post from Lea Hernandez about how she posed to be a cover girl for Rocketeer artist Dave Stevens. But really it's about so much more than that (and has tons of better imagery in the post). Also: Hernandez notes that she tried to get a spot in IDW's current Rocketeer anthology relaunch but was rebuffed by editorial. She's trying again, and I 1,000% would like to see what she's got cooking

* Great Anders Nilsen quote. I think I'm going to have to dig to figure where exactly it came from though.

* Friend sent me this and I'd never heard of it: Comics as a path to prison reform – both in promoting comics reading in the prison population and publishing true comic stories from inside the clink through the efforts of Lois Aherns.

* Ken Parille on Jack Kirby and Chris Ware at The Comics Journal.

* Speaking of Ware, here's a piece he did for local Chicago Magazine. (I believe this came from Tom Spurgeon weeks ago)

* This picture always makes me grin. I don't think it was really for anything except keeping the trademark fresh. Ditto these ones.

* A while ago, I was a bit down on the birth of the MTV Geek site, but they've been doing some fun blogging of late. Case in point: Alex Zalben talking to Joe Casey.

* A Topic To Return To Very Soon, But Just a Link For Now: Aquaman is the best damn superhero in comic history.

* On to the general Pop Culture arena...

Sad thing about how the internet works: if you don't take the time to watermark your art images in some way with your name, then you get no credit when people troll through Tumblr to make galleries like this one. Some names you can tell just looking through – Ethan Van Sciver for example – but the more bizarre/disturbing examples of fan art will be made by invisible elves I'm afraid.

* Please for you to read: a very nice, very short essay on childhood reading by my school adviser, novelist and all-around rad lady Anne Ursu.

* Required reading: The Paris Review talks about the seminal Our Band Could Be Your Life with author Michael Azerrad.

* Our bud Dan Brooks files a fun interview with Fastball frontman Tony Scalzo on his music today for Flight Path.

* Novelist and X-Men writer Victor Gischler is researching some kind of project by soliciting the opinion of men and dad's about their trips to Disney World/Land over the years. Go play along at this blog.

* To end on a totally cornball note: this was a very cute interview with the First Lady.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Grocery Store Comics: "Phineas And Ferb Holiday Special 2010"

[You may not always realize it, but there are a number of random print comics on sale at general retail outlets across America on any given week. A lot of them are for kids. Whenever Kiel comes across such a comic at a grocery store, a stop n' gulp, a newsstand or anywhere else they sell Doritos, he buys it. This column is the place where he rambles about those purchases.

As always, reviews on The CKT should NOT be considered any of the following things: The opinion of anyone who works at DC or Marvel. Brief. Smart. Entertaining. Insightful. Spoiler-free. Or vaguely resembling something resembling actual comics criticism. We cool? - KP

Phineas And Ferb: Holiday 2010
Disney Publishing Worldwide
Written & Drawn by Various
Website Here

Purchased At: Walgreen's Drug Store, Irving Park Rd., Chicago, IL

So to start out for anyone who doesn't know – because I didn't know exactly what this was until I bought the above magazine – "Phineas And Ferb" is a pretty popular cartoon show that Disney produces for their Disney XD cable channel. I mean, it's a big deal in that way that every few years some show comes along where they make a ton of cash selling alarm clocks and Nintendo game and tooth brushes with the characters on them, and Tina Fey does a voice for an episode or whatever. Maybe if you have kids you know this?

Anyway, I picked up this holiday special when it was, you know, the holidays, but I think they actually still have copies at the drug store up the street from my apartment. The cover boasts "9 Exclusive Comic Stories!" which is what caught my eye, and those pages are about evenly split with a bunch of regular kiddie magazine stuff like puzzles, cutouts and little features centering on screencaps from the show. But the comics themselves I found interesting for two reasons.

First of all, one of the head editors on this is Steve Behling – longtime editor of the comics in the late lamented Disney Adventures digest magazine. I always remember Behling's name not just because he put together some fine comics in that previous gig including work from Art Baltazar, Matt Feazel and the very first Roger Langridge Muppets comics but also because when I first moved to New York I applied for a job as his assistant at United Media like 14 times only to be thwarted by pretty tough HR woman. Behling is credited here as co-executive editor of the whole Phineas And Ferb package, and Rob Tokar – who's got a pretty wild mix of credits on Comic Vine ranging from '90s Marvel series like a Northstar mini to Brandon Graham's King City – served as Comics Editor. Really great to see people who know their stuff finding work on a comics-focused project like this.

The second really noteworthy thing out the gate is the fact that the comics pages really stand out, thanks largely to their design simplicity. A lot of the text and image features in the mag are clip-art heavy and somewhat indistinguishable from the advertisements. So when the comic show up – often at five to nine pages at a clip – their clean white gutters make them pop. Flipping through, that content feels like its both the meat of the package and the main event content-wise.

Beyond that, the actual strips are a mixed bag. I watched a few episodes of "Phineas And Ferb" on Netflix before I wrote this, and from what I gather, the whole series follows a pretty strict formula from show-to-show. Each time out, the titular step brother leads launch an improbably crazy project that takes up one summer – building a rollercoaster in their backyard or (in these comics) throwing their pet platypus Perry a birthday party complete with carnival games. In the process, a few things always happen: their sister tries to rat them out to mom unsuccessfully, they're confronted by an adult who asks "Aren't you a little young to be doing X?" to which Phineas replies "Yes, yes we are" and most wackily, Perry always runs off to put on a fedora and fight a mad scientist who's built some tangential plot-point generating machine with the suffix "-inator" attached to its functional name.

If that sounds extremely repetitive, it feels that way watching the show too. I mean, I only saw two episodes, and I got the formula down pat real quick. Hitting those many specific notes in a few comics pages AND matching the simple and pretty flat geometric character designs makes crafting a unique comics story pretty tough. There's nothing here that a kid who likes the show wouldn't instantly recognize as being "on model" but there's also nothing that leaves a big mark on you. I recognize a lot of the creators who worked on the strips including former Justice League Adventures artist Min S. Ku and frequent DC and Disney kids comics artist Eric Jones (not sure if the Scott Peterson credited as writer is the former WildStorm editor or a TV show staffer), but I saw very little from the work here of their personal cartooning flourishes. Some things stand out – a cartoon show within the context of one strip lets Jones get loose one some character doodling for example – but overall I guess my feeling is that these comics don't feel comics specific enough. The stories try a bit too hard to be exactly like the show – one even attempts one of the cartoon's song sequences with a panel of dancing kids accompanied by some floating musical notation – rather than tweaking the premise for the printed page. A little play breaking the Phineas and Ferb threads from the Perry secret agent stuff as separate stories doesn't quite cut it.

But hey...with the names involved here, I'm sure there's room for growth if this particular brand of comic keeps going a while. I originally thought this holiday special was a one-off, but reading the issue, a lot of the text features push kids hard to subscribe to a quarterly iteration (which I think launched this month, though no copies were at Walgreen's). In fact, it looks like Disney Publishing is ramping up for a few different kinds of these $10 comic-heavy magazines under the direction of Behling and his Co-Executive Editor Amy Weingartner including a "Thor" movie tie-in I just picked up and I believe those Pixar magazines that were recently announced. Marvel Editorial provided the comics for the former, but I'm not sure who's going to be putting together the new Cars 2 stuff after they run out of Boom! reprint stuff. Either way, I'm happy to see more kids comics hitting the once mighty general retail market and hope Disney keeps this stuff up for a while.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sayonara, Smallville: "Finale"

Incredible but true: This year, The CW's "Smallville" embarks on its tenth and final season, making it not just the longest-running Superman TV show ever but the longest-running comic book TV show ever produced. Bananas, right?

We've been off as it's been off, but to celebrate its final year, we're teaming up our collective powers of dumb DCU trivia, long experience watching and writing about the show and general obsession with serial TV to bring you "Sayonara, Smallville" – a semi-regular feature where we'll review the most notable episodes of the season whenever we can. Everyone is invited to play along.

And of course, catch up with all our previous "Sayonara, Smallville" review chats covering every episode of the tenth and final season so far: Lazarus, Shield, Supergirl, Homecoming, Isis, Harvest, Ambush, Abandoned, Patriot, Luthor, Icarus, Collateral, Beacon, Masquerade, Fortune, Scion, Kent, Booster, Dominion and Prophecy.

Ben: Ok, before we get into this, I need to get an opening thought out there.

Kiel: Go!

Ben: I enjoyed watching this finale. There were moments where I am not ashamed to say I honestly audibly cheered. Were there also moments that I mentally tagged immediately as being not just "Smallville" bad but bad? Yes. Was I a bit loopy and sleep-deprived from my trip to Washington DC? Yes. But well I'm fully aware that even as soon as a few minutes from now when we actually dig in an analyze I will find much to criticize about this episode, I felt Smallville deserved me saying that in the moment of watching it, I enjoyed its finale. On that level if nothing else, it was a success in my mind. I would also like to pat myself on the back for successfully avoiding spoilers for nearly 48 hours.

Kiel: Go you! Here's the best thing I've seen said about the finale: "It was better than Lois & Clark" which Ivan Cohen said on Facebook. I laughed, but there's something to that. This show went ten years and stayed consistently up on fun stuff. I think there's a LOT lacking in the finale, but it doesn't drag the whole show down for me.

Ben: Good call by Ivan. To be fair to "Lois & Clark" though, "Smallville" really did get to go out on its own terms. They knew for quite some time this was going to be their last season and were able to get all their ducks in a row. They also ran far longer than I think many people who worked on the show expected and I doubt there are many ideas – I'm sure there are some – they didn't get to.

Kiel: For sure, but just as being a solid overall Superman project, I dig it. But man.This last episode was epically "Smallville" in every sense of the word.

Ben: Oh absolutely, but I've seen quite a few complaints around the 'net about the finale specifically and the show in general about how a big issue was that they "didn't get Superman right." By that I mean people weren't happy because Tom Welling's Clark Kent doesn't match up with their ideal of Superman from the comics and from other TV/movie portrayals. I see a point there somewhere, but mostly I think that's bunk.

This is a show about Superman, but it also isn't. When you create a TV show or movie about an existing character, yes you are taking on some burden of adhering to that character as they exist, but there is a sliding scale there. I expect a Superman movie (or an Iron Man movie or Batman movie) to at least have some tonal shared ground with the source material. But this is a show that started out as a full-on teen drama on The WB. It was about a kid named Clark Kent and his journey, not a straight-up adaptation of the origin of Superman.
For folks used to reading about a multiverse, I think you need to get a bit more onboard that this isn't "your" Superman and it's ok if they zigged where the classics zagged.

If you found the character unlikable, the stories ridiculous or the show bad for any number of valid reasons, I get that, but if you main bone of contention was that they "got Superman wrong," I just have to disagree with you. This show was never about getting Superman "right." Superman was a launch point more than a guide.

Kiel: I mean, I think this: Adam West and Batman and Christian Bale as Batman are both equally "Batman." They're representations of what that character is, point blank. Same respect, "Smallville" is as much Superman as Chris Reeve or Brandon Routh or Tim Daly as drawn by Bruce Timm or whatever. This is a Superman show whether it hit a few style points on person may dig over another.
But it has a lot of its own ridiculous properties by virtue of being, yeah, a WB teen drama too.

Ben: Well put as always my friend. And I say all this with the weight of irony knowing we will surely be bagging on how they got the New Gods "wrong" in just a bit being well known to me.


Ben: We are comic fans. This is what we do.

Kiel: However...before that...

In terms of looking at this finale as just the finale, I think we've got to really look at it as two big episodes. Because aside from having different writers, the two halves of this are totally different stories almost.

Ben: They absolutely are, though I have to say had they not put in the credits and whatnot at the beginning, I would not have necessarily latched on to "Oh, there was the halfway point." It did have a decent transition from one to the next. It's another one of those things that's more obvious when you think about it, but it didn't jump out at me in the moment.

Kiel: The transition out of part one was, BY FAR the best part of part one.

Ben: Oh I have a different opinion I think, but I'll save it.

Kiel: OK, so let's start with the flashforward frame. My question on Twitter was "Is that Gary Frank?" And it was, wasn't it?

Ben: It was.

Kiel: Well, that's nice. Otherwise, that scene didn't do much for me one way or the other.

Ben: And in two of who knows how many hat tips I'll be giving to our contemporaries Chris Sims and David Uzumeri from Comics Alliance, apparently DC books are still $2.99 in seven years and also Superman functions in a universe where there is a comic book telling his life story.

Kiel: But that's just it! I couldn't even pay attention to the price stuff or whatever, because from moment 1, I was going, "So wait...does the world know he's Superman in seven years, or did Chloe just get this one comic made to read to her and Oliver's child?"

Ben: Yeah, it's a pretty HUGE gaping logic hole they're asking you to ignore right off the bat for the sake of a cutesy framing sequence.

Kiel: Like I said, Classic Smallville.

Ben: You know what the scene actually reminded me of? The opening of the original Richard Donner Superman movie with the cover to Action Comics and the kid narrating.

Kiel: Yeah, I got that too...just not quite nailing it there placing it so in world maybe...I dunno.

Ben: Not sure if that was intentional--knowing how much the people who make Smallville dig the Donner movies it could have been--but that was the neatest part of that scene for me. I feel like it could have been a case of them thinking "Oh, this worked in the Donner movie..." but not thinking about implications, i.e. how it was never mentioned again in the movie whereas they had to come back to it later. Did it bug you that we kinda knew Chloe was safe from minute one since she seemed a potential casualty or no?

Kiel: I don't know. I don't think I would have liked the exact opposite track where they make it look like she'll die the whole episode.

Ben: Yeah.

Kiel: And I'll say this: I am very curious to hear what you think about how Chloe went ouf of this show. I think she had the best moment of any regular cast member outside of the big three. Did you still hate her when she said "See you in the funny pages"? COULD YOU?

Ben: First of all, yes, I absolutely could, can and do. But second, I was a bit surprised at how small her role was in the finale overall, regardless of the fact that she got some crucial stuff to do. Aside from Clark, she was really the spine of the series, moreso even than Lex, so I expected her to be around more, but I imagine that had more to do with the fact that Alison Mack had a limited shooting schedule (why, I don't know). I'm not saying I WANTED her in it more, but Rao help me (yep, went there), it almost felt wrong that she wasn't.

But the scene Chloe exited on (aside from the final flash forward) and she got the hug with Clark, goodbye with Ollie and then weird slow-mo and strange look on her face, I took it to mean she was going to have some crazy, unexpected role to play (like, I dunno, she's Highfather or something), but I think it was really just the show's way of saying goodbye to Alison Mack and vice versa. But I need to hear more about why you loved this exit line so much.

Kiel: I guess the exit line was just a cute phrase you'd expect out of the spunky reporter gal that's friends with Clark Kent. It was a fun moment in a finale that had a LOT of super insanely serious ones.

Ben; OK, I will give you that. I will give you your simple pleasures, Kiel Phegley!

Kiel: Damn right, you will! But yeah, I thought she would have had a more central role than, say, the Kents, but I see why not. In some respects they way more embraced the Superman mythological elements throughout this thing than they did the elements of "Smallville" itself.

Ben: Though if you were playing a drinking game revolving around how many times the word "Smallville" was used, you'd be in the hospital or dead.

Kiel: And when I say, "they embraced the mythology" what I mean is "they turned that Superman stuff into an obvious beyond obvious Jesus metaphor."

Ben: Around the time he first flew, Megan commented "So Superman is a pretty obvious Jesus metaphor, huh?"

Kiel: Oh man! They were working it so much earlier than that. Beyond the constant references him to being either a "savior" or "a light to the world," that scene with Oliver and Chloe in the church that starts through a stain-glassed window, zooms in on the cross and then ends with him poisoning the holy water? Seriously: JESUS CHRIST.

Ben: I don't know if you read any of the advance interviews with the producers outside of the CBR coverage, but did you see where they teased Chloe got to do something no other character did?

Kiel: No, I did not! The only thing I can think of she got was a good exit line that she nailed. Other than that, just Chloe.

Ben: She was the only character who got to refer to Clark as Superman.

Kiel: Oh, I guess so....No one said "Superman" at the end?

Ben: Nope. Only Chloe when she was reading the comic to her kid.

Kiel: Hm. Well, good for her i guess. You know what I DID read about in terms of who got to do what?

Ben: Do tell. I know it wasn't Tom Welling getting to dress as Superman after a decade of his life.

Kiel: HAHAHAHA. No, apparently, Schneider lobbied to be the one to give Clark the Superman suit...which leads me to ridiculous point two from part one: GHOST DAD!

Ben: Oh this is about to get so nasty. I'm glad I got my niceness out at the onset.

Kiel: Seriously, WTF? even for this show.

Ben: I was not as horribly offended by it as I take it you were. Thus I would like to hear why it rattled you so.

Kiel: I wasn't rattled by the return of his dad as a figure only he and his mom could see (though it was ridiculous that Clark didn't just tell his mom she was losing it seeing her dead husband everywhere...It was the shoe-horned in plotline that the whole ghost thing represented: "You can't move forward by abandoning your past, Clark!"

Ben: Ok, yeah, that did bother me. Did Jonathan ever actually speak to Martha or did she only see him?

Kiel: She said that she saw him at least. She truly believed he was there with them reaching out to Clark from beyond the grave.

Ben: Because – and I need to go back to our archives here – wasn't a HUGE part of this season being character after character telling Clark he DID need to move forward and that it was ok to leave stuff in the past? Or was it always the idea that you didn't need to abandon your entire past to embrace your future? I feel like that was the huge, preachy sticking point of much of the season and I can't even remember the exact messaging of it. I just remember us discussing it a lot.

Kiel: EXACTLY!!!! It all comes out of nowhere! And the dialogue around him leaving the past behind was, again, Classic Smallville. This is the no subtext, hero specifying craziness that drags almost all populist sci-fi TV stuff down and this show in particular. I was really hoping for a fucking fight to break out at any minute to make things move in a fun, exciting way. Instead, the other main thread from the part one episode was the wedding, which I can only describe as Clois porn.

Ben: And this I believe may be where the Cool Kids Table Smallville Civil War finally breaks out as I was unabashedly in the tank for the sappy Lois & Clark (I will not use the term you just used) romantic stuff. Part of that may be because I have been watching this season with my wife – kudos to her for making it! – and that's the stuff that hooked her in the first place (the dancing in the barn scene), but also because I thought Tom Welling and Eric Durance delivered some of their finest work there in the first hour. Although I could have done without their mid-hour 180 where suddenly she was so into getting him back and suddenly he had jitters.

Kiel: Yeah, that was padding. Some epic padding, but padding.

Ben: But I did think they did a great job of selling this relationship and why it has endured so many years across so many mediums. Did you hate the door scene?

Kiel: Oh, man!

Ben: Aww.

Kiel: It wouldn't have been the worst thing ever, except A) a few of those lines were super groaners and B) They did the whole fucking thing a second time during the ceremony!

Ben: THAT irritated me.

Kiel: I thought they'd skip past ANOTHER voice over sessions with that shit, but woof. Just killed the entire thing. Time stopped it was such an awkward moment of TV.

Ben: There was so much to like though!

Kiel: Ah, it's like I've been saying this whole season: I just wanted to see shit get punched in this finale. I expected some of the romance stuff, but I'd prefer it as cute back-and-forth stuff. True soap opera romantics leave me cold quick.

Ben: Well, you're well aware I own the entire run of Melrose Place on DVD, so I know I'm not shocking you here. Here's why the door scene worked for me...because really when you look at it, the Superman-Lois Lane relationship does not NOT seem so meant to be on the surface. They don't have that much in common aside from being decent people. He's an alien super hero raised on a farm. She's a military brat made for the city.

There are a million reasons for them not to be together – and I'm drawing not just on Smallville here – from his responsibilities to her independence. Nobody is ever going to convince the two of them they belong together aside from each other, and in the door scene, they did. She convinced him that she was good for him, which was another running theme of the season. He convinced her that he needed her, which, see above. Yes, it was padded. Yes, it was sappy. Yes, I'm more inclined to dig shit like this. But there was a beauty in these two people reaffirming for one another why they are greater together than alone--and they are both great alone! And dumb and tiresome as it may have gotten, I loved the rotating camera shot.

Kiel: Well, I've said this, and I'll stick by it: this may be the best version of this romance ever put on screen. The two play off each other very well, and they bring a lot of good out of each other both in terms of what the characters are and their performances.
And this scene doesn't ruin that for me. But, again I'll be thinking of a lot of other episodes for the show for what I like in that other than the finale. That's kind of a shame. You want them to nail every aspect of it at the end. Ah well.

Ben: I think the abrupt split of the couple in the penultimate episode was, well, abrupt, and yeah, they seemed to have it together already earlier on, but I also will disagree somewhat and say that the Lois & Clark relationship became such a huge part of this show despite only flourishing really in the last two seasons that I do think it deserved a significant spot in the finale.

Kiel: I think it deserved a spot. I just thought they could have handled it with way less schmaltz.

Ben: Could they have balanced the soap opera and action better? Yeah, probably. But again, this show started as a drama, not so much a sci fi show, and this was a tribute to that. Overdone maybe – it didn't need the whole first half – but fitting to a point.

Kiel: And there was some padding both here and in the part two in a different way,

Ben: In an admission obviously tough for me to make, Chloe had a great moment/line and Alison Mack did an awesome job with it in convincing Lois that Clark can't be Superman 24/7 and it's unfair to expect him to be.

Kiel: Oh! Agreed. That Chloe stuff early was good I thought.

Ben: Yeah, I thought she was as good as she gets in that scene. And it was even better because Lois called her out on her dumb one-liners. I waited ten years for THAT.

Kiel: hee hee. But...there's one more piece of this first episode that HAS to be discussed. My topic three is this:
The saving of Oliver Queen, which had to ridiculous phases. Phase one: He takes out the Gold Kryptonite ring at the wedding, and when Chloe sees it and knocks if from his hands...no one just assumes that Chloe – who was in love with Clark for YEARS – is just freaking out and breaking up the wedding. Everyone there just goes, "Shit, the maide of honor hit the ring...run for you lives!!!!" Fucking mass pandemonium outside the church in Smallville.

Ben: Oh that was spectacularly bad. It may get the "So bad it's Smallville" pass from me though, the idea that nobody questions why they are being rushed out of the church while the bride, groom, best man and maid of honor remain. I need to cop to something before you continue, Kiel.

Kiel: Go.

Ben: When the Apokolips Three gave Green Arrow the Gold Kryptonite wring, I may or may not have gotten all giddy and screamed "Oh shit! Oh shit! They made a fucking ring out of Gold Kryptonite and that's how they're going to get Clark! That is so awful that I love it! Ahhhh!" And my wife may or may not have told me I'm an idiot. I'm not proud of this, but it may have happened.

Kiel: My first thought at that moment was "Is Smallville going to go for one more genre jump and do Lord of the Rings?" But, carry no shame in your excitement. I got excited in a different way during phase 2 of Olliver Queen's story...THE GREATEST "JUST BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND LOVE" SPEECH OF ALL TIME.

Ben: Ahahahahahahahaha. I had to pause the DVR and explain to Megan how much you were dreading that before it started so she could appreciate the gravity of the moment!

Kiel: Like, I love this for being as bad as it was, because at least if they were going to meet the "Smallville" cliche for possessed characters, they were going to do it bigger than they ever did it before, and Jesus Clark Kent Superman driving the darkness out of Oliver Queen in a church definitely fit that bill 1,000%.

Ben: I assume you enjoyed the single black tear?

Kiel: Oh yeah, bro. There was no other way to end it at that point.

Ben: I am glad you got to have this moment in your life.

Kiel: Oooo! oooo! One more thing from part one! Why was only Tess Mercer's cell phone the only one on the planet affected by FUCKING APOKALIPS in the sky. Did they just not see it floating there before the ceremony started?

Ben: Well wasn't Tess seeing Apokolips from a satellite view, not just by looking up into the sky? Also, how shitty are Tess' friends that they didn't notice she wasn't at the wedding? Also also, how shitty are Emil Hamilton's friends that they didn't even invite him?

Kiel: 1 - I don't know. If it was as close to earth as the wide shots made it look, it'd be noticeable...but overall the logistics of how she could have this whole completely different story going on involving satellites and planets were out of control. 2 - I KNOW, RIGHT! Were Pete Ross' parents supposed to be in there at the end? I heard that but didn't notice anyone singled out.

Ben: I did not hear anything about that nor did I notice it.

Kiel: Or wait...his mom was dead or something in this I think. Intenetz.

Ben: I commented as we were watching that it would be nice if all those extra guests were crew members, but I certainly have no confirmation on that outside of me thinking it at that moment.

Kiel: Then I will assume it is true.

Ben: Granny Goodness' weird pronunciation of Apokolips: Like or dislike?

Kiel: I thought it was fine. The Darkseid people were as good as they've been this season, I thought from their two little scenes.

Ben: Shame they weren't used more.

Kiel: But really, overall for the first hour of the episode I had one thought that I tweeted with you in mind that you never saw...Part 1 of the finale is the true second-to-last episode. And it's every bit as awful as it's supposed to be.

Ben: Haha. Well, I didn't think it was THAT bad, but I can certainly see where it was not tailored to or well-constructed for folks like you who wanted an action-packed Superman finale. I certainly enjoyed the first part maybe more than it deserved to be enjoyed. But let's move on.

Kiel: Chapter the second: You go first with your thoughts. I feel like I've got to wash part one's blood off my hands for a minute.

Ben: Hmm, ok, where to start...I guess an appropriate place to pick up would be with the Luthors, given their absence from the bulk of the first half. I did think the amount of time not just Lionel or Lex or Tess got but that the story of their family got was nice since in the beginning this was a show as much about Lex Luthor as it was about Clark Kent, so that was a neat callback.

I think the writing of Earth-2 Lionel Luthor has been inconsistent at best this season, and as I've said, I think perhaps a lot of that has to do with the writers waffling on whether to just treat him like normal Lionel or play up that he's not, but to his eternal credit, John Glover has made it all work, and more than that, he remains one of the best parts of Smallville from start to finish. The idea that he had become this haunted, depraved, psychotic shell obsessed with restoring his son played into both incarnations of Lionel, as both failed with Lex and were aware of the potential they squandered.

Kiel: Yeah, he was great. Even at the end in Darkseid mode where he had the worst villain dialogue ever, he was genuinely spooky.

Ben: I liked the idea that the relationship between Lex and Lionel came full circle – though the may not be the most accurate way of describing it – over the course of the series as it began with Lionel banishing his son because he believed he wasn't ruthless enough and ended with him sacrificing everything to bring him back since he demonstrated exactly that ruthlessness by killing his own father. The arc of Lex and Lionel is about as close to Shakespeare as "Smallville" is gonna come, so it was appropriately handed to the two best actors on the show.

Kiel: Yeah, I thought part two worked so much better not just because that talent and their story was much more compelling to me, but I think having those actual, tangible antagonists for Clark made him take some kind of action in the show...even if part of it was a little non-sensical ultimately.

Ben: Right. The second part was the meat of the finale.

Kiel: The first half was all about the inner journey of Clark, which in this show means lots of dopey soliloquy. Luthors mean actual drama. Exactly.

Ben: You could argue they could have spaced it out better and mixed the sappy romance with the antagonistic action, but this way at least those who liked peanut butter could have as much as they wanted early on, and those who prefer jelly got their fill later.

Kiel: And hey...it didn't hurt that Rosenbaum IS pretty much the most talented actor of the shows many regulars.

Ben: As much as we praise Justin Hartley and Eric Durance – and they deserve it – or even give Tom Welling his kudos when he brings it, really none of them can hold a candle to the Luthors, Michael Rosenbaum in particular. It's amazing how much this show missed him and a credit to those who stuck around both behind and in front of the camera how much I didn't realize it until he returned. All that said, you could drive a jeep through the plot holes of the Luthor storyline. How did Lionel get a goon squad and scientists when he was thoroughly discredited by Tess and Lois? Why would Darkseid resurrect Lex when it proved in part his undoing? Did he need Lionel's body that badly? Why would Tess' heart be the best fit for the Franken-Lex body when every other part came from a Lex clone?

Kiel: Holy shit, man. And like I said, Lex's return really has NOTHING to do with the plot of the episode. That whole "I'm here to inspire you so I can defeat you later" thing was bonkers. I'm sure people are going nuts over that one and how it "isn't right for the characters."

Ben: How did Lionel not find Conner when he was being "hidden" in one of the very first places he should have looked with Martha? I thought Lex's motivation to help out Clark was fine in that Lex Luthor is always first and foremost concerned with safeguarding Lex Luthor, so it made sense he wouldn't want Darkseid to destroy Earth, but yeah, from a narrative flow standpoint that Clark-Lex scene was there just so we could have a Clark-Lex scene. Not that I minded!

Kiel: Me neither!

Ben: But man, for all the work he has done to improve as an actor, poor Tom Welling just gets outclassed ten times over when Michael Rosenbaum is standing across from him. And of course the "We're destined to be enemies" was a great bookend to the "We're destined to be friends" speech that kicked off the show.

Kiel: True dat.

Ben: And are we to assume Lex's parting "Clark Kent can't save the world, but we both know who can..." is meant to be "Go put on the fucking Superman suit"? I mean it has to be, right? It doesn't really make any sense, but the idea he was referring to anything else makes even less sense.

Kiel: No yeah, that line made zero sense in any other context except Lex being apre-cog or whatever. Try not to think about it.

Ben: You got it. I'll add it to the list. Of things not to think about from this episode/series.

Kiel: And honestly, I got the exact same feeling from Lex/Tess.

Ben: Poor poor Tess. She not only drew the straw we all expected Chloe to draw as far as the non-canon sacrifice, but all her supposed friends never found her and from what we saw never mourned her passing at all. I mean, sure, they probably felt bad at some point during that seven year gap, but still...pretty terrible send off.

Kiel: On the solo character terms, yes, it may have lacked a bit. But at the same time...a well played scene, Rosenbaum brought her game up a little too, and even though the end made no sense, I enjoyed watching it play out until the end. But man...Mindwipes and LexCorp. They really just said to themselves "Let's end scenes with fan service, ok?"

Ben: Oh yeah, I don't deny it was a good scene if you're just looking at the performances. It was cool to see them in a scene together and they both did a great job. I still do not understand the mechanics of the mindwipe we dreaded was coming and I don't gather many people do.

Kiel: Nope. They just decided it would be better to "Set up" the "classic Superman" if Lex didn't know.

Ben: Did she deliver it via that black tar on her gloves? Does he even remember his name is Lex Luthor? Will this make it even more difficult for him to reclaim his empire given he I guess didn't know he had an empire? They had a nice scene, but the lines about the mindwipe, with her explaining what she did and him asking how long and how it would work – dude, Oscar winners could not have made that work.

Kiel: Yeah, impossible.

Ben: Another admission: From what I've read/hear, I'm pretty sure I'm the only one, but yeah, I liked the "LexCorp" bit
It was dumb, but they got me.

Kiel: Yeah, that scratched my proper nerd itch fine.

Ben: To finish with Tess though, as we noted many times this season, Cassidy Freeman frequently did a lot with a little and that character's struggle for redemption became a more compelling story that I thought it would. For somebody who was only ever supposed to be the female Lex stand-in when she was conceived, there was mileage there. I felt genuinely bad for her in the end.

Kiel: I'm on "Team Freeman and Hartley get other shows" for sure.

Ben: The more I think about it, the callous send-off may have sucked to an extent, but it also may have been the most appropriate exit for the character. She was never not going to be a tragic figure, no matter how much she railed against it. And Lex reasserting himself as the sole Luthor standing was necessary.

Kiel: Yeah, no good way to phrase this, but I'm perfectly happy with that woman's death.

Ben: If there was a good way to phrase that, you certainly didn't find it.

Ben: Green Arrow's triumph over Granny, Desaad and Godfrey: How can one scene simultaneously be so cool and so wretched? It was great that Hartley got a bad ass final bit and I loved the donning of the costume and getting the drop on the bad guys. Their shock at him showing up free and clear minded was great. But I will let the nerd in me run rampant here and ask how the fuck did Green Arrow kill three New Gods with a Contra-style triple shot arrow?! At least if he had gotten the Bow of Orion last week it would have made some sense, but those were just normal arrows, yeah?

Kiel: Man, when they embraced the real obvious Jesus metaphor, all chances for Apokalypse to be bad ass on its own terms went out the window. Just boilerplate "we are evil and dark" lines from all of them and Lionel and Darkseid himself for that one bit.
I thought the arrows had some significance, but it wasn't explained. They just presented them as arrows with bad ass tips.

Ben: AND THE FUCKING VOICE MASK BULLSHIT! THEY ARE WELL AWARE OF YOUR SECRET IDENTITY, OLLIE! Justin Hartley had some cool last lines that got RUINED by that stupid thing.

Kiel: Maybe the arrows were infused with the power of Clark's inspiration, and the secrets of Ollie's mask voice, AND the repeating of the phrase "heroes" 453 times? Or...phrases involving the word "heroes." The wold needs them, Ben...but maybe they're not meant to love.

Ben: Hold onto Smallville, Kiel! Hey, you know what I liked IN SPITE of its ridiculousness? Pretty much every bit of Lois Lane on the President's airplane. Great performance by Eric Durance. That felt like everything Lois is supposed to be, "It would never work" distraction of the security guard included. Her speech was terribly corny, but she made it at least half work.

Kiel: Yeah, it was a real Lois Laney moment. Fun use of a new set that didn't feel cheesy. Thumbs up.

Ben: I guess...we're at Clark vs Darkseid, yeah?

Kiel: Yeah. And this is the first example of part two's ridiculous padding: The Super-Montage! Someone has to have timed this by now, but is sure felt like about 4 minutes from each season of the fucking show, man. LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG.

Ben: The montage is an absolutely crucial part to any finale of a show like this in my mind, but this one would not have been handled worse. Not only was it far far too long, but it was impossible to make out which clips we were seeing half the time. I would have loved a nice trip down memory lane, but I would have liked it to not only be shorter and more clear, but to also have been a more accurate representation of the series. Give what a wild and all over the place decade this show has had, they could have done something really cool and crazy rather than just showing Clark getting thrown around by explosions and catching cars a lot.

Kiel: Yeah!

Ben: We should have seen Lana, Lex, Lionel, Kara, Ollie, Flash, Aquaman, the JSA, the Legion, Zatanna, Cyborg, every villains, every hero, etc. They should have gone to the well and pulled up clips of every nobody they had playing a freak of the week who broke out huge from Amy Adams to Ian Somerhalder.

Kiel: The only moment that really stood out to me was when Clark saved Lana in the truck during the Tornado, which was a pretty significant episode I recall. There were big moments over the years they could have been referencing here that would have given some more emotional impact than "So these were my trials?"

Ben: I think the best montage ever was the "Previously On" from before the fifth season finale of Buffy. They literally cycled through EVERY significant moment and guest star, just speeding things up as they went so by the time they were at the end the pace was flying. And then she killed a vampire in an alley in a moment not at all connected to what was going on at the time, but because it was how the show started. That's what I wanted for "Smallville": Some sequence that acknowledged what an insane trip it has been with a nice little homage to the simplest days and then we go fight Darkseid. So yeah, letdown.

Kiel: I will say this, though. When he came out of the Montage and was floating...that was the first "payoff moment" I think they tried to hit and probably the best one in the episode.

Ben: I agree 100%.

Kiel: It put you right back in the moment of the fight, made you go "Oh shit!" and Welling looked significantly bad ass. Good jorb!

Ben: That was one of the moments I mentioned that had me cheering audibly. That was Tom Welling's finest moment. He took ten years of character development that could be excruciating at times and distilled it down into simply an expression that said "Yeah, I've been waiting for this as much as you have." When he FINALLY flew for the first time, it totally felt important, and I didn't think it was at all cheapened by all the "cheat" flight moments like when he was possessed by Kryptonite or in the Matrix. That moment was worth it.

Kiel: Could have used a little more fight afterwards, but yeah...that's a little gripe here. Overall it slayed.

Ben: They convinced me they made the right decision holding fast on "no flight, no tights" through the end. Did you feel like he beat Darkseid too easily? I assume you wanted a bit more of a fight scene there. I did. I mean, on the larger scale I get that the physical victory over Lionel/Darkseid wasn't the point and defeating Darkseid as a concept is both impossible and more important, but I still wanted more punching.

Kiel: Yeah, I did. But I would have been better with it if we would have gotten some actual quality time of Welling in suit, which we did not...AT ALL.

Ben: Yeah...yeah.

Kiel: I mean, I don't think the saving the plane was bad or the whole action sequence could have been done like an actual Superman movie, but when they'd go to mega-extreme close up of him and then just have a bit of super fake cape floating over his shoulder, I'd go "COME ON!" My one major complaint against the whole finale: They could have just stretched that Routh shirt over him and shot him from the waste up. That should have been the #1 picture on the nerd internet the next day. The real payoff image of the show, and it just never materialized. And like I was saying earlier about the episode: Not nailing that final image doesn't ruin the show for me or really let me down, because I've enjoyed a lot of this show over the years. But it was a miss. Total miss.

Ben: I felt equal parts frustrated we didn't get to see it and bad for Tom Welling that after ten years of doing this he didn't get to have that moment.

Kiel: OH YEAH.

Ben: Part of me feels like I'd maybe feel better if we found out the reasoning was he vocally did not want to wear the suit or something...but nah, not even then

Kiel: They knew what people expected. Tom in the suit. I can't imagine what would have made that impossible.

Ben: You know what else I wanted to get? At least a couple line of Welling doing a "Superman" voice. Christopher Reeve and even Brandon Routh did a great job creating a distinctive voice for when they were in costume as opposed to playing Clark and I wanted to hear how he'd do it. But that pales in comparison to the disappointment of not seeing him in the suit. Yeah, I agree, it's inexcusable.

I still love that he just threw Apokolips into space though. It sucked it was CGI, it made very little sense, and it was the same ending as "Superman Returns," but it was another instance where it was so ridiculous that I loved it, ala the Gold Kryptonite ring. I'm a little baffled people seem to be confused that Superman saving the day erased the Omega symbols because inspiration was the anti-Anti-Life. Yeah, it's an even worse version of bad comic book logic, but at the least I thought the show laid it out pretty explicitly.

Kiel: Yeah. I had no problem with the theory for how this episode ended it. Even the stuff we guessed (Lionel as Darkseid, "Love and trust" saving Ollie) were fine in their execution. It was just the big moment at the end wasn't pulled off by this show and its constraints. I really liked the last Daily Planet scene, though! Real Jimmy, the voice of Michael McKean as Perry, some nice Lois and Clarks stuff...and the last image was the best one of Welling as Clark in the how and the music ending with the credits being Donner-style. All positives! It was just that middle where they fumbled hard.

Ben: Was that the voice of Michael McKean? I had no idea. That's great. And I really wish Aaron Ashmore had not been in the credits because that was great too. And yeah, if you can find fault in the way it all ended with the Williams score, the slow mo shot and Welling doing the S-shield reveal...well, maybe you could argue that it was too far abroad from where Smallville started, but that would be a silly argument. It was a great finish.

Kiel: Agreed.

Ben: Megan actually put forward an interesting theory: Since Lex got the total mindwipe, is it possible that he ended up being a good guy and his being elected President was actually the culmination of that rather than an evil scheme?
He was wearing all white.

Kiel: Ha!

Ben: She backed it up with the fact that the show paid so much lip service to being raised a Luthor tainted you and how he technically would not have been now.

Kiel: I don't know. I think he was wearing white back in the day when he saw the future thanks to the blind lady from "Road to Avonlea" and in that flash forward he killed fields of flowers with a single touch of his gloved hand.

Ben: It's something to ponder though. I a world where Lois Lane knew Clark Kent was an alien well before he was Superman or they got married and where Green Arrow has a kid with Clark's high school buddy, nothing is impossible. Of course that was not her first reaction to the finale scene. That would be: "They couldn't reschedule the wedding for seven years?!"

Kiel: That church in Smallville had to replace its baptismal fount and wasn't doing bookings for a while!

Ben: Ha! I noted the whole "He needs to go stop a crime in the middle of this scene" thing may have been a microcosm of why it took them so long, but I like yours better. Y'know, I also had a though re: our complaint that they should have done nerdy Clark a season or two earlier. I realized in their defense that until Lois and pretty much everybody else in the main cast knew his secret, they couldn't do that because they'd all be wondering why the fuck he was suddenly acting like that. Granted it shouldn't work period because at the very least everybody who works with him at the Daily Planet knows he's not a nerdy klutz, but such is the slippery slope of "Smallville."

Kiel: Yeah...I don't know.

Ben: Speaking of which, and continuing on with good things about the last scene, the semi-tease with the "Ms. Lane" bit and then the immediate confirmation that Lois did NOT get mindwiped--which was the major thing I didn't want to happen in this episode--was a nother thing I liked.

Kiel: Oh, I see that. But beyond my general thoughts on this episode, I don't feel like there's much to say. I thought I might have some grand final feeling after doing this all year, but there's not much left. It was a fun show. I'm glad I watched a lot of it.

Ben: I would love at some point to re watch at least the first couple episodes at some point to confirm how crazy the transformation of this show was. Say what you will about it, but it survived for a decade by adapting and still kept something familiar enough at the core that they were able to circle back to things that mattered in the beginning in their finale over 200 episodes later. That is something.

Kiel: Yeah, it changed a lot. I'm really curious to see if it ends up with a rerun life and whether or not people will remember it as much as some other pieces of nerd culture. I mean, it was never as broadly popular as things like The X-Files, but it certainly outlived a bunch of that other stuff.

Ben: I think as two people who at least experienced parts of the prior ten years, we definitely had an interesting window into this show. People who picked it up only with the last season or only when the DC characters started showing up may never fully appreciate just how nuts and impressive it is that this show did what it did. But my true final thought?

Kiel: Go for it!

Ben: I hope Sam Jones III got some royalties from his likeness as Pete Ross appearing in that "Smallville" comic Chloe was reading to her kid. He needs them now more than ever. And that it was truly a great experience doing these with you buddy! In all sincerity, I can't believe and am impressed by us that we made it through the whole season without missing an episode!

Kiel: I think someone from the show will slip him an extra pack of cigarettes to use as currency. I'm in shock we stuck with it this long!

Ben: But we did! Maybe Kristen Kreuk can take time out of her busy schedule.

Kiel: And I've got to say, I'm a little bummed Wonder Woman didn't get picked up because there's no obvious place for us to take this format next.

Ben: We can and will find some way to pick this up in the Fall. There will surely be something. And now we can truly say...SAYONARA, SMALLVILLE!