Written by Art Baltazar & Franco
Art by Art Baltazar
Published by DC Zoom
Superman of Smallville by Franco (Aureliani) and Art Baltazar is clearly aimed at the same young reader audience as that duo’s previous works such as the recent Tiny Titans/Little Archie crossover or the earlier Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam.
In spite of that, I came away from it with a real desire to have them just go ahead and take over the regular Superman continuity.
Well, actually, title aside, this is really a Superboy story—a good, old-fashioned, fun, exciting Superboy story like one might have found in that character’s early Adventure Comics series way back in the late 1940s.
We re-meet young Clark Kent, about to start middle school and really enjoying learning to use his super powers.
We also re-meet two of the earliest “LLs” in our hero’s life–red-haired Lana Lang who makes Clark literally walk on air, and the here still red-haired Lex Luthor of the Science Club, Clark’s eventual bald-headed nemesis.
And on top of all that, Krypto the super dog!
It’s the art style more than anything else that differentiates this from a classic Superboy story but that’s hardly a bad thing. It’s done in what has become a very familiar style to modern readers of the increasingly pervasive graphic novels aimed at the tween level.
In the olden days, that was the perceived audience of most superhero comics, but they were drawn in the semi-realistic fantasy style that became the norm. In recent years, in an effort to perhaps identify the reading level of these types of things, that wheel has been re-invented.
The art in Superman of Smallville is simple but exciting, making great use of many of the techniques and tropes identified by Scott McCloud in his classic volume, Understanding Comics. Colorful and at times, yes, cutesy, and yet the first-rate storytelling moves the adventure along as well as any Steranko or John Byrne ever did.
Speaking of Byrne, who, himself majorly rebooted Superman in the mid-‘80s, he gets a shout-out as a character name in the story for us old-timers, along with others including Superman creator Jerry (Siegel) and Superman: The Movie director (Richard) Donner. So clearly, they knew it wouldn’t just be kids reading these stories!
The book is rounded out with a fun Kryptonian Key that allows you to read some of the language from Clark’s home planet that pops up throughout the latter part of the story.
Finally there’s a long preview of a Swamp Kid graphic novel which seems from this to be cleverly told, but not really that interesting.
Bottom line is there’s no blood here, no complicated romances, no world-threatening monsters, no political issues, no in-fighting. Superman of Smallville instead offers the kind of friendly, kind, superhero we could all use more of in comics these days.