Yes, Rod Reis does a great job on this book, bringing us some of the most gorgeous hues I can recall seeing in a comic. Just look at this moment, as Clark and Conner Kent are confronted by a rather skeletal face from the past (click to enlarge): We go from the naturalism of Ma Kent’s scullery to the emotional reading of our heroes’ auras. Intense stuff.
Aiding Reis here are penciller Eddy Barrows and inkers Ruy Jose and Julio Ferreira, who provide some excellent images for Reis to enliven. I love their portrayal of Smallville, recognisably smalltown but not stuck in a 1930s time warp. Extra marks for their depiction of Pete Ross, who looks a real Midwest L’il Abner type, barrel-chested, square-jawed and kindly. Elsewhere they do a fabulous job of darkening the mood as a visiting zombie – the Earth 2 Superman – wreaks havoc with the town. And their moody art isn’t confined to Earth, with a scene on New Krypton a masterclass in how to knit the horrific into shiny sci-fi illustration.
A clever artistic decision on the part of Barrows is the absence of panel borders, giving the tale a dreamlike quality, perfect for the first story I can recall featuring Smallville at night. That in itself ups the weirdness factor. Every page has something to delight, whether it’s Zombie Superman looming in space, or an exceedingly cute Krypto (‘Rieww’). Take this shot of someone flying against the sun, a simple idea that’s carefully rendered for maximum impact. And Nei Ruffino steps in as colourist for Barrows’ grabby cover putting a ghoulish spin on the classic Welcome to Smallvile (oops, typo – I’ll leave it, it suits the story!) sign.
Also playing a part is writer James Robinson, who gets me on side immediately by presenting, for the first time in what must be 20 years, a happy Pete Ross. Relieved of an unhappy marriage to Lana Lang, and an accidental presidency, he’s running the Smallville General Store that was once so integral to Superman mythology. In a nice nod of the hat to one of Superman’s greatest creators, it’s just down the street from (Curt) Swan Art Supplies.
The interplay between Ma Kent and her two sons is a joy – even though they’ve gathered to remember the recently departed Jonathan Kent, they can manage a smile. The pain of bereavement is giving way to the consolation of memory. And of course, Robinson’s favourite, Krypto, is on hand to guard one and all. There’s a decent amount of bashing and property destruction, but this is as much a mood and character piece as anything. And, wonders never cease, Conner even has a moment in which he shows that he’s more than lunkhead eye candy.
Having given up on the Green Lantern books due to a serious case of Prologue Fatigue, I’m not too sure of the significance of the emotion readings, but as they lead to such great visual moments, I don’t care. I’m even happy that this Blackest Night tie-in is running a couple more issues, because if they’re as well-executed as this one, I’m in for a treat.