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Superman: The Kansas Sighting #1

Superman: The Kansas Sighting #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 3, 2003

Cover date: January 2004

Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Penciller: Jamie Tolagson
Inker: Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

The book opens from the POV of a television episode of "Strange Mysteries of the Unexplained". A man from Smallville, Kansas, Herbert Moore, is telling a story about the primitive video of what looks like a rocket entering Earth's atmosphere and crashing in Smallville about 30 years ago. In flashback, we see Jor-El, Superman's Kryptonian father, fretting about the destiny and future of his son, Kal-El.

A woman whose child was abducted by aliens several years before Kal-El's rocket landed in Smallville contemplates getting her child back and maintains a "Wall of Weird" in her home where she keeps track of U.F.O. sightings.

And, Superman crash lands in Smallville, where he meets up with Pa Kent. Clark's adopted father relates to him how, shortly after Clark came into their lives, Pa was uncomfortable with the new baby and even considered bringing the child to the FBI. Pa tells Clark that changed suddenly one day when Pa was looking at the baby and realized how much he loved him.

The next day, Clark goes to visit Herbert Moore to find out why he spoke to the people from the tabloid TV show. Clark notices Moore has a new TV, DVD player, VCR (what, no TIVO?), and recliner. Moore tells Clark that he was also visited by Dr. Alicia Berenson of the World UFO League and that she also visited Pa Kent, though Pa didn't tell Clark about this. When Clark confronts Pa, Pa admits the truth that he didn't want to needlessly worry Clark; apparently, the World UFO League believes there is some connection between Superman's landing on Earth and the so-called "Kansas Sighting" of 30 years ago.

In further flashback, Jor-El appears to be experimenting on both an adult and child humanoid.

Meanwhile, in the present, Dr. Berenson speaks with the woman whose son was abducted.

In Smallville, Superman spots a strange light that speeds away from him.

Superman floats outside the window entrance to Dr. Berenson's office in Metropolis and offers her an opportunity to speak to the source instead of investigating Superman on the sly. She insinuates that Superman isn't telling all there is about his origins and that Kryptonians, maybe even Superman's biological father, may have abducted human beings for research. Soon after, Superman has a dream in which he is probed by aliens.

Clark returns to the Daily Planet where he convinces Perry to permit he and Jimmy to go to Smallville to cover this story. In Smallville, Clark discovers that Dr. Berenson's organization is working with the tabloid TV show, which angers Clark. Dr. Berenson claims she is only doing it as a way of obtaining funding for her research.

Suddenly, a spaceship appears on Mr. Moore's farm. The old lady and Clark are both abducted by an alien beam of some kind. When Clark opens his eyes, he is in some kind of stasis bubble, naked, and facing a bunch of little green men and his father, Jor-El.

2Story - 2: Even before I read this comic, I anticipated using the phrase "derivative of television's Smallville" in this review. In some ways, this issue is indeed derivative of the hit TV show. Smallville's writers recently told a similar story, which culminated in "Smallville 1961" where it is discovered that Jor-El was indeed in Smallville before Krypton blew up. The story on Smallville worked for all the reasons that this story doesn't; it was simple and clear.

Continuity in the Superman comic book world remains a complete mess. As Mark Waid's Birthright is retelling the secret origin of the Man of Steel, this first issue contradicts the new origin, ignores the two Return to Krypton stories of the past few years, and portrays Jor-El (and Lara, briefly) as he was portrayed by John Byrne in 1987's Man of Steel miniseries

DeMatteis has stolen and shaken together concepts from the Smallville TV show, the first Superman movie, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the result is kind of a mess.

I haven't seen such a blatant rip off by a comic book creator of pop culture legacy since Judd Winick riffed on the last episode of television's M*A*S*H in Green Lantern (by having GL John Stewart's sister die in a car crash but with Stewart's memory repressed into believing it was his pet who died, not his sister). The Close Encounters rip off is made more obvious with the two individuals whose lives were affected by the "aliens" - the first is a loner male like Richard Dreyfuss's character in Close Encounters and the second is a mother whose toddler son was abducted also just like in the 1977 Spielberg classic. Even in comic books, there is a line between homage and plagiarism and I believe it's been crossed in this series.

Cute moment: Clark convinces Perry that there's a story in Smallville, which alludes to a similar scene in Superman III. Once Perry gives the OK, it is for Clark and Jimmy Olsen to go just like in the third Superman movie. I am probably giving the writer way too much credit, however, and overanalyzing what is essentially a poorly written, poorly edited story.

2Art - 2: The art by newcomer Tolagson is without distinction. The artist has a hard time drawing women. At times, the old woman is portrayed exactly like an old man with long hair.

And Dr. Berenson is drawn like a generic DCU female. When Clark and Jimmy are driving to Smallville, I initially thought they brought Lois with them until the dialogue reveals a page later that the woman is Dr. Berenson. Superman comes off looking like a big dumb farm jock most of the time even as Clark.

The only connection between this story and Birthright lies in the intentional change in Pa Kent's physicality so that he resembles an aged John Schneider, who plays Pa on Smallville. Ma Kent is conspicuously absent.

2Cover Art - 2: The cover is ridiculous. Though Superman as drawn has a Gil Kane quality, there's way too much going on behind him that doesn't do anything to help sell the book. The confusing image of Byrne's Jor-El, the elderly woman who again looks like a man, and Dr. Berenson looking like Lois Lane again all underwhelm the senses. The generic cityscape in the background is too big for Smallville and too conventional for Metropolis. And lime green is not the best of colors to contrast against Superman's red, yellow and blue.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2004

February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004

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