The much-anticipated 2-hour movie premiere of Smallvile, Absolute Justice began on a high note. DC Fanboys (and girls) must have all geeked out a little in the opening as we zoom down to Chloe coming out of Kyle Rayner’s favorite java joint, “Radu’s.”
I also suspect that many of you reading this enjoyed the aforementioned Chloe getting not so subtlety tossed into a dumpster. I’d like to think that was writer Geoff John’s not so subtle way of hinting to us all he’d prefer not to include the Watchtower maven in this particular story, or even in any story ever again, but maybe I’m just reading into things.
The garbage man in question was none other than original Justice Society member, Sylvester Pemberton, a.k.a., The Star Spangled Kid (Starman.) Unfortunately for Pemberton, saving Chloe was the last selfless act this long-time hero in hiding ever performed. Unfortunately for the rest of us, whoever killed Pemberton left Chloe relatively unharmed.
Before I get too far into this article, I’d like to bring up the fact that I really find it a bit too convenient that in a major metropolis like Metropolis, far too often our main characters are the only ones out on the streets. I’ve lived in and visited plenty of big cities around this country and the world, in my life. It’s very rare that I’m the only one on the street at any time of day or night, but somehow a bustling city like Metropolis (This berg has it’s very own Statue of Liberty to give you an impression on which giant municipality Metropolis is based on) has very little foot traffic, and next to none when the bad guys come out to do bad things.
Now back to our show. The next victim of this mystery killer of masks from the past turned out to be Wesley Dodds, The Sandman. That frustrated me a little. I’d have liked to see some old school Sandman roughhouse, and I felt cheated when a bona fide fedora –wearing Golden Age legend like Sandman goes to his eternal rest without so much as a single blast from his gas gun. I suppose the argument could be made to say that’s how formidable Icicle Jr. was, or how rusty Sandman was, but I’m not buying that. Sandman deserved to go down fighting, not frozen solid while frozen in hesitation.
As I suspected, we got Smallville’s interpretation of at least a part of the film, Watchmen. (A movie I loved, and I realize I’m in the minority on this site.) As Clark and Chloe watched the black and white super 8 footage of this band of mystery men, it was hard not to think it was a watered down interpretation of the opening credits of Zach Snyder’s movie. They even went so far as to cart off hero Kent Nelson to the looney bin. It was also hard to believe that Ted “Wildcat” Grant was so easily subdued by four policemen. I’m willing to accept that Ted figured he would eventually be released and found not guilty of anything, so he didn’t clean clocks like he could have, but come on… Wildcat would have pulverized those mooks without breaking a sweat, and still been ready to answer the opening bell of a scheduled 15-round championship fight.
I’d also like to point out that I was given that very same Allan Scott/Green Lantern ring at my local comic book shop during some recent DC promotion. Love that stupid little plastic ring.
Brent Stait did a nice job as the mentally fragile Kent Nelson (again I felt a Watchmen-ish vibe. Nelson’s internal struggles felt similar to Jackie Earl Haley’s Walter Kovacs / Rorschach) I didn’t however understand why Michael Shanks felt the need to “Batman” up his voice whenever he donned his feathery helmet. Shanks’ own vocal timbre is gravelly and menacing enough – there was no need for the extra audio distress.
Another thing we didn’t really need was the clichéd comic book platitudes, but we had them regardless. Yes, it’s been pointed out in countless Sci-Fi/Adventure/Fantasy stories before that, “Humanity has a great capacity for violence is great, but their capacity of hope is greater.” Klaatu said it, Brando Jor El said it, even Jesus probably said it. We don’t need to hear it ever again. It’s understood. We as a species are potential diamonds in the rough. Blah, blah, blah.
What we could have used is some more John Jones. It was sad to see Dr. Fate run through by an icicle, and again, very hard for a real comic book fan to believe anyone, let alone a guy who shoots ice missiles, gets the drop on Fate. The guy sees the future and has some other pretty impressive powers. You think he’d have conjured up some mystical ice-resistant shield. Surely Dr. Fate, a man who can see into the future, would have prepared for the Snow Miser (as Ollie called him.)
But at least with his dying breath, Fate restored Detective Jones’ Martian powers (as well as his weakness for cookies) and I have to say, that pumped me up. I was looking forward to more Martian Manhunter action. I was also hoping for some Jay Garrick/Flash, Allan Scott/Green Lantern and definitely some more Wildcat. I was let down.
We did get a little of the classic Hawkman vs. Green Arrow tussles, and it was good to see just like in the comics, GA wasn’t completely of league (pardon the pun) against the much stronger opponent. I did however find the animosity between the two to be a bit forced. I couldn’t help but chuckle at Justin Hartley’s eyrolling, “Whatever, Douche” look he threw at Shanks’ Hawkman after the line, “You go back to Sherwood, Robin Hood, I’ll turn the Icicle into slush myself.” To me that was Hartely thinking, “Why the Batman voice dude?… I already know your secret identity.” But then again, maybe I’m just reading into things.
We could have also done with Lois in this episode. The only reason she was featured is so Dr Fate could tell her (meaning the audience) that she’s destined to hook up with “the one who will heal us all.” But guess what? We all know Lois and Clark get together, do the nasty, and have a love that rivals all the loves in superhero land. We could have done without Lois, and been treated to more John Jones, or a bigger appearance from The Golden Age Atom, or seen Sandman put up a decent fight.
We did get to see the great Pam Grier show up as the great Amanda Waller, and it’s interesting to get a whiff of how Tess Mercer became such a lethal hand-to-hand combatant.
Overall, while I enjoyed parts of this blockbuster, I didn’t love it. Absolute Justice didn’t have any off Smallville’s too often truly sucky moments, but considering all the hype, at least here in this Smallville-loving community it didn’t deliver the kind of Grade A entertainment we got from last week’s regular season episode, “Disciple.”
Joe Oesterle is an award-winning writer and illustrator, but what he often fails to mention is that many of those awards were won on a New Jersey boardwalk. Check out some of Joe’s other writing, illustrations, animations, and photography. If he can’t get a blister doing it, Joe does it.