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Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Smallville: Epic review addendum: Justice League

So, it seems I wasn't completely comprehensive, as I left out an analysis of the Justice League characters. I will provide that here and now.

The first thing we must realize is that this is very much a Justice League in training. The scale starts small and builds up over the course of the series.

Clark meets an extremely fast kid in a red hooded shirt early in the series. Saving Jonathan Kent from being hit by a car, and then stealing his wallet, Clark goes after this kid to find out more about him and get his dad's wallet back. Finding out the kid is much faster than he is, Clark uses his investigative skills to track this speedy character down. Turns out this kid, using a variety of aliases (all previous renditions of The Flash), has been on the run for a long time, using his quick speed to work as a thief. Finally settling on the name Bart Allen, Clark tries to turn him to the good side, saying his powers can be used for good, instead of petty theft. Bart says thanks but no thanks, saying he might stop crime but he's not done seeing the world. Running off into the distance, the show settles that old, but silly debate as to who's faster, Superman or The Flash. (It's obviously The Flash; he has ONE power, he better be the best at it) Later in the series, as the Justice League forms, Bart comes back to help out. An important note is that Bart is not really The Flash, he is actually Impulse. Not knowing too much about Impulse myself, I will say that Bart, in this show, definitely earns the name. He's constantly grabbing whatever he wants, often bringing flowers and chocolates to girls he likes, and eating all the time to keep up with with his metabolism. I would be interested in anyone's opinion of Impulse in the show versus the comic rendition, but I have a feeling that they would be very different and that the Smallville story would be very condensed.

Clark meets Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman during a thwarted attempt of environmental terrorism. Curry, being a fantastic swimmer and lover of all things aquatic, has been working to shut down dangerous weapons produced by LuthorCorp which will seriously harm aquatic life. Curry is a young, attractive, cocky character who runs around in orange shorts and no shirt, for the benefit of anyone who loves abs and pecs. I know only a little of Aquaman as seen in the Justice League cartoon and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, but I have to admit that this Curry is a lot less serious and intense. Many people will probably not like him, if they liked the original, as this Aquaman does not share or seem to have an origin story, and while he seems to be King of all that is under the sea, we never see any of this in the show. He appears to be a mutant, someone one can swim really fast and possibly talk to fish. Also, without water, Curry can still function on land and even has above-normal strength, but without said water, Aquaman literally shrivels up like a raisin. For anyone familiar with the Aquaman from the comics and the cartoon, you'll probably hate this Aquaman. For anyone less familiar, you'll like him for being: attractive, different and refreshing, and an adequate member of the Justice League as seen in Smallville.

Cyborg comes into play halfway through the show, escaping from a LuthorCorp facility. Now, I know little about the comic-book Cyborg, but in this show, he is a young, attractive kid with implants that seem to not only give him great strength, but allow him to connect and interact with computer systems. Clark meets him and forms an uneasy friendship. True to form, Cyborg leaves only to come back later to work in the Justice League. We don't really get a lot from this character. He's cool, and he is funny and works well with the team, but he is clearly a side character and not really dealt with.

Weirdly enough, Hawkman is introduced in Smallville. Mostly done in two episodes, it seems that Hawkman runs the Justice Society of America, an earlier "golden age" team of heroes. Included on his roster are such characters as Hourman, and Dr. Fate. Again, I am not too familiar with these characters, but Smallville doesn't go into depth as to where these characters came from, except for Hawkman. He seems to be an alien, who after coming to Earth with is wife, basically inspired the Egyptian civilization. Hawkman appears to be immortal, reincarnating in some other body after he dies. His character is stern, bold, and quick to lead. From what I know of Hawkman, the Smallville rendition is similar to that in the comics.

The Black Canary was a little disappointing. I am used to a sexy, tough, take-no-nonsense heroine, and while arguably we still got that in Smallville, I didn't really like her as much. We first meet her when she steals some intel from The Daily Planet. Hired by Lex Luthor, she is an acrobatic, ninja-like, short-haired mercenary with an odd ability to shriek really loudly, knocking Clark to the ground with its force. Additionally, we see that her alter ego, Dinah Lance, works for The Daily Planet. Eventually seeing Lex for the man he is, she decides to take her leave and works abroad trying to create positive change in the world. She eventually joins the Justice League, but isn't really important, interesting, or essential to it.

The most interesting member is The Green Arrow. For a certain friend of mine, he might love and hate this. The Green Arrow as seen in the comics is a tough, wise-cracking man whose views on libertarianism are legendary in comparison to the rest of the Justice League. He is also a martial arts expert and pretty much the best archer in the world. Similar to Batman, the Green Arrow has gadgets, a cave of sorts, and fights crime because his parents were killed. Unlike Batman, he doesn't do so with a brooding or nigh-psychotic mentality, but more because it's fun to him and he thinks it's the right thing to do. Now, in Smallville, those traits are the same, but Oliver Queen, (aka The Green Arrow) is a young mega-mogul, a sort of light side to Lex's bad side. Wearing a silly green leather costume, Oliver fights crime because he thinks it's right but also because he's having fun. For anyone familiar with the comic book Green Arrow, you might not like him. He's not as badass, and he is clearly different. BUT, I think you should give him some leeway, and watch more of the show. Oliver becomes a very important character in Smallville and his character arc is one of the best. He falls in love with Lois Lane, but when he finds out more of what Lex is up to, he decides to take more action as both Oliver and as the Green Arrow. Forming the Justice League as an effort to face off against Lex's impending army, Oliver eventually has to break up with Lois because the world needs him more than she does. It's an interesting stepping stone and prelude to the whole Clark-Lois relationship and honestly very heartbreaking. Ironically, Lois finds out about Oliver's secret, but doesn't tell him. After Lex's disappearance, Oliver returns buying out LuthorCorp. The Justice League is still working under his leadership and he keeps trying to persuade Clark to join his team. Clark is reluctant not only to work with them, but also to work as a hero at all. Superman always has this weird dichotomy where he wants to stand alone, but he inspires such teamwork and collaboration. Oliver Queen falls in love with Chloe Sullivan, and never bats an eye at Dinah Lance, contrary to the comics. His love for her is very real, and is developed very nicely over the series. Oliver Queen seems to act as a testing board for many aspects of the show. In many ways, he is the human equivalent/bridge between Clark and the rest of the world. Both are reluctant heroes, both want to do the right thing, but it is Oliver who steps up first. While arguably, Clark has been saving lives longer, it's Oliver who takes the bigger steps, forming the Justice League, and even stepping forth during the vigilante debate. As mentioned in my previous post, there comes a time in the series where the people of the USA are deciding whether or not they want costumed heroes running around, fighting crime. Oliver decides to unmask himself, showing the world that they have nothing to fear; that the heroes are just trying to help. It is a big step, and one which seriously affects him, the rest of the heroes, the people of the USA, and the show itself. The decision, at first, ruins his life. People will not leave him alone and he has to go into hiding because some people are very upset with his life decisions. Oliver goes through a time of great depression, giving up on being a hero, and almost drinks himself to death. During this time, Darkseid's influence gets to him, making him one of the first to turn against good in this struggle. In an attempt to find himself, and via Clark's influence, Oliver changes at the last minute, and overcomes a great evil. He is the first to do so, and his change was probably one of the hardest. While wise-cracking, and seemingly taking nothing too seriously, Oliver has the welfare of the people foremost on his mind. He becomes Clark's best male friend and close ally and it is Oliver who not only makes the big decisions, his influence pushes Clark to become the Man of Steel. Long story short, give him a chance; he's an important character and the actor, Justin Hartley, portrays the Green Arrow very well.

And that's it. There are minor references to other characters, but these are the ones who work in the Justice League. While less awesome than the comic-book rendition, it fits the scale of the show, allowing us to see the start of something greater. There are some problems, some ups and downs, but all in all, not bad, as long as you can keep it in mind that this is like a re-imagining, not supposed to be a direct origin for the characters you know and love.

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