Feb 6 2010 12:27 AM ET

'Smallville: Absolute Justice' review: Clunky, or funky fun?

Smallville’s two-hour “event,” the introduction of the Justice Society of America to the world of Tom Welling’s Clark Kent, was alternately endearingly clunky and just plain old clunky. For viewers who only know the Superman/boy mythos according to Smallville, it must have seemed strange to have most of the series’ ongoing subplots put in storage for this week’s two-hour edition. Then again, since the villain of this piece was a faux-hawked foe called the Icicle, frozen plotlines were inevitable.

But I don’t think you had to be a regular comic-book reader to get of a small thrill out of seeing Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Sandman, and to a way lesser extent, Stargirl (sorry: plucky-cheerleader is not my idea of a fun character personality) come to life. Smallville rolled out these characters with enjoyably florid, extended flourishes, thanks in part to a script by comic-book and TV writer Geoff Johns. He conveyed origins stories through dialogue that only occasionally succumbed to portentousness. On the one hand, you got a Hawkman who said windily, “It wasn’t the throne that was important, it was my people!” On the other hand, Hawkman was also capable of fun funkiness such as fondling his mace and saying with relish, “It’s been a long time since I made someone bleed.”

Plot? Someone is killing old heroes such as the Star-Spangled Kid and Sandman. Oldies like Hawkman and Dr. Fate team up with Clark Kent (because Fate can divine that he’s the future Superman), Green Arrow, and John Jones’ Martian Manhunter (poor Phil Morris, saddled with the stiffest lines, which was only Geoff Johns doing his job, since MM also used wooden dialogue in his heyday). Their common target is the Icicle, who turned out to be a pawn of Checkmate agent Amanda Waller, who in turn may have been a pawn of, as she put it, the coming Apocalypse (or is that Apokolips?). Waller was played by Pam Grier, and seeing her just made me want to NetFlix Jackie Brown again.

The first hour contained the stand-out visual sequence: Dr. Fate donning his golden helmet and having an exciting smear of visions (including, at one point, seeing a Superman-red cape, a totem usually banned on Smallville). The second hour was more lumbering and its big fight-scene finale was unsatisfying for two reasons. First, it really didn’t seem as though it required the combined fire-power of Clark, GA, Hawkman, and Martian Manhunter to defeat a villain as lame as Icicle — even an Icicle with Dr. Fate’s super-duper helmet on. Second, I’m afraid big-budget superhero movies have made the CW-budget special effects on Smallville seem pretty skimpy.

Speaking of special effects and budgets, what did you think of the costumes? I thought Hawkman’s gigantic cowl looked as though it might break the actor’s neck (the actor being Michael Shanks from Stargate SG-1). But then, I continue to think Green Arrow’s emerald hoodie looks too lightweight, so I guess it all balances out.

If you didn’t care for Absolute Justice, don’t hold it against Johns, who’s doing some terrific action-writing in the comic books’ Green Lantern: Blackest Night series these days. If you did like it, I wonder what aspects of this two-hour extravaganza you found most appealing. Was it the sight of old characters come to TV-life? Was it the way Smallville’s regulars (yay, Chloe!) interacted with the costumed heroes? Let me know below.

For a look at how great the Smallville: Absolute Justice ratings were, check out The Ausiello Files report.

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Comments (1-15) of 180 Add your comment

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  • greg

    As someone who’s loved the JSA since all those old twelve-cent summer crossovers, I thought this was great, nostalgic fun. Too bad they didn’t mention the Spectre, though!

    • James

      Oh my god that would have been AMAZING. If the badass in green just made a brief appearance…no doubt I would have shat my pants

      • cute

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        It’s the best place to meet an older boyfriend or a younger one. ..So i got a username(Anny Bely) there in order to find a new boyfriend.i just don’t know if it’s right !!!!

      • becca

        The Spectre was shown in the Justice Society painting.

    • Joe Malik

      Pure teen dreck.

  • Robert

    I’ve been a DC Comics fan my entire life and tonight’s event (no quotes–it was a legitimate TV event) was amazing.

    “Absolute Justice” was proof-positive that a Justice League TV series could not only work, but work incredibly well.

    • Eric

      Except the worst part of the episode (besides Hawkman and Green Arrow’s dialogue) was the fight scene where the heroes worked together against Icicle. It was so lame, and really any one of those heroes could have taken down Icicle. I do think it’s about time for Clark to just be Superman already.

      • LeoLA

        Ditto what Eric said. Couldn’t agree more.

  • JaySin420

    Incredible! I’m actually shocked how good it was. The mention of Lex, manhunter getting powers back and saving the day, the suicide squad, just amazing.

    And Apokolips is a place like hell where darkseid lives.

    • Mark

      Yes, is it just me or does anyone else wish the Kandorian plot would disappear now? The Checkmate/Suicide Squad hints were more involving than anything else this season. At least last year had the Doomsday to lead to. I am way more interested in this subplot. The ep was decent though. Would have liked to see other heroes. And it sucks that no one ever shows up for the JLA. I hope that changes/

      • Nerwen Aldarion

        Yes but the Doomsday plotline turned out to be a total bust.

      • JaySin420

        Yea I agree about the checkmate stuff but I think the guy playing Zod is incredible so I don’t mind too much. Hopefully they mix it up. (And yea the doomsday ending was awful but most of that season was very good)

      • James

        I wish the Kandorian plot would die too. This is too much for one season. I think everything with Checkmate is going to be the next season. DAMMIT.

      • topazbean

        Yeah the Suicide squad reference was quite disturbing – something I wouldn’t usually say about Smallville. If they kept that up I’d definitely be intrigued enough to watch.

    • James

      It made a lot of sense about Lex and the Martian. Although I’m curious as to how Lex survived.

      • Cathal

        I agree about losing the Kandorian sub-plot, far too sedentary. As for the comment about the guy playing Zod, Callum Blue has to be the worst actor I have ever seen, and that includes school plays! His diction is terrible and his face looks as if it is made of melting plastic, about as scary as an Ewok, and about as realistic as well!

    • Joe Malik

      Writing, acting, costumes…all HORRIBLE.

      • Becky

        Very cheesy! Hawkman’s costume was the worst!

  • Wilson

    I was pleasantly surprised overall. The story entertained me, the costumes…ugh…the costumes..they sort’ve detracted from it a little I suppose, but they’re kinda SUPPOSED to look like that…and as for the effects, I thought the Fate powers, and the icy powers were awesomely portrayed, especially when you take into consideration the budget. (Now, if you wanna talk INSANELY good graphics on a budget, see last night’s “Supernatural”–Anna’s death was AMAZING…as is the show, which never seems to get recapped *COUGHHINTCOUGH*)
    But it kept me generally throughout the episode. I felt the Hawkman’s acting was annoyingly over the top, and I thought the fact that ultimately Clark could’ve taken down such a modestly powerful villain by himself was a little bit of a let down, but then they saved it when they showed he was working for Waller. And the last scene where she shoots him was pretty awesome. It reinvigorated my hopes for the show :)

    • Michael KM

      I agree with all those comments. The costumes weren’t great and the acting/dialogue way too earnest. Still, the story was surprisingly engaging, and they really caught the superhero iconography. And two MAJOR props: 1) Pam Grier as Amanda Waller. BEST. CASTING. EVER. Finally, Smallville will have a decent villain again. I can’t stand Tess Mercer, and Zod has been a letdown. There has been no good villain since Lex left. But in just one episode, I saw that Pam Grier is ready to step in. PLEASE give Tess the boot, and let Amanda Waller be the main villain. 2) Did anyone else catch the nod to Chloe as the future Dr. Fate? I have been wondering what they would do with this amazing character, and Chloe as Dr. Fate (or better yet, the Spectre) is a fitting tribute.

    • Donna

      that visual effect of Michael killing Anna was way terrible. Do not compare Smallville’s VFX with Supernatural’s.

  • Nerwen Aldarion

    EW, in the future when people are supposed to write recaps for shows, could you please make sure that they actually have either A. Seen the show or B. Actually have enjoyed the show at some point in the past.

    I’m not sure Ken Tucker fulfills EITHER quality

    • Gabe V

      I agree. This guy doesnt know smallville at all. Why didnt they get Ausillo or somthing.

    • LauraT

      It’s not Ken Tucker’s fault he likes quality television. Even if he knew Smallville like the back of his hand, he’d still have the right to criticise it for its bad acting and horrible writing.

      • LilysMom

        Why are you watching or commenting on it, if it is so horrible? What a waste of time…..

    • greenerpuddles

      I’ve watched Smallville for nine years and can say with certainty and credibility, those were two of the most boring hours of television I’ve ever watched. This show relied on the chemistry and charm of its cast, qualities that are scarce these days.

    • Ana

      I agree with Nerwen. Someone please kill this Ken-gay-guy.

  • Lewis P

    Yes clunky, but more also very very fun. Budget restraints aside, Smallville continues to do what the Bigscreen either can’t put together (a Justice League Movie) or can’t seem to get right (the very emo-Superman Returns). Grade: B

  • DS9Sisko

    I used to love Ken Tucker. Now, he’s like the friggin’ Sarah Palin of pop culture reviewers.

    • Robert

      LOL!! Totally agree!

  • Andy Bluebear

    Geoff Johns is a bit overrated, if you ask me. And why shouldn’t we hold it against him if we didn’t like then episodes? If people thought the dialogue was clunky, then we should blame the writer. Still, this was a fun episode, though the visuals helped out a lot (I mean, seriously, they used Stargirl, of all people?). But, it was strange that nobody knew about the JSA in Smallville’s world…considering how, unlike Clark and his crew, they go around wearing bright colorful costumes…

    • jen

      Stargirl is based on Geoff Johns sister who died in a plane crash back in 96 so I think it was important to him to use her

  • indecision

    i loved it! i dont know a thing about comic books and i still could follow the story and enjoy all the geeky references , it totaly lived up to the hype , yay Smallville for making awesome episodes in its 9th(!) season :)

  • J.

    Fun at times, but a little disappointed that the show is strapped for budget. Would like to have had more villains and better fight sequences. Glad Martian Manhunter is back!

  • Brian

    I hate to admit such a geek moment since I’m in my 40’s and have been out of touch with the comics world for a few years but I got a brief case of goosebumps when Dr Fate put on his helmet. I’ve lost track of the recent Smallville continuity but I thought they did a pretty good job.
    I know it might have further strained the budget but would it have killed them to put the Golden Age Green Lantern and Flash in action for a little bit since they are more iconic than the other JSA members who were offed? My power went out for a
    few minutes in the middle so I’m assuming they
    were killed out of costume.

    • jordan

      i think i heard that they weren’t allowed to use the green lantern because of the movie that’s in development.

      • Dan

        Now that I don’t get. Why not let Smallville use Green Lantern as a way to PROMOTE the upcoming movie in some way? Ugh :/

  • darrin

    loved it and love the series

  • Gabe V

    I dont like the guy who reviews this. they should of got ausillo he knows smallville!, ABSOLUTE JUSTICE was awesome!!!!

  • Craig

    I liked it! The frustrating part is that this series is coming to its conclusion and why they don’t embrace Clark’s ‘destiny’ and get him more of the Superman mode but keep going with the denial part I don’t get.

    • darkkent5

      Ken? Is this you?

  • bdog

    Nerwen– Next time you troll a review, could you A) Actually read the review before commenting and B) Not fall back on critic-bashing cliches that aren’t relevant to the review at hand? It’s pretty clear Ken saw this movie (given the wealth of detail he provides), had seen the show in the past (given the references he makes) and enjoyed it, given his mostly positive take.

    And DS9Sisko, how is he like Palin, exactly? I don’t think this review lied, intimidated government officials, trafficked in racially charged fear-mongering, or called its child a “retard.” But maybe I missed something.

    • ash


    • trueamerican

      Shut up about Palin you socialist liberal Loser. Why dont you find out the real facts before you go spouting out your media brainwashed vomit! If we had a consevative in office right now this country wouldnt be in anywhere near the horrid shape its in.

      • Superman

        Yeah! You tell ‘em trueamerican. Remember the last time we had a conservative in office (for eight years!) – he left this country in amazing shape!! No problems there.

      • Jeff J

        Seriously true. And the show last night was great too.

      • LilysMom

        Wow I think maybe you should just run Smallville on your TV all day. Since you seem to be living in a land of make believe anyway….

      • Shaun

        Wow… Do you conservatives know how to have a civil conversation without spouting so much hateful drivel? It’s alughable to hear you talk about how we wouldn’t be in such bad shape if we had a conservative running the show… Where were you the previous eight years? Remember the buffoon who was running the show for most of the past decade? OK, Bush wasn’t running it himself, seeing as he can barely read. It was his puppet handlers, like Cheney and Rove. Now remember the massive economic collapse? Yep, that was on their watch. Obama’s only had to deal with the awful mess THEY left him. Of course, we could get into the all the waste and loss (both econonomically and in terms of human life) in Iraq, also Bush & Co’s fault since Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and then there’s 9/11 itself which also happened on Bush’s watch.

        Now if you honestly think a nimrod like Palin, who’s into garbage like faith healing and didn’t even finish her job in Alaska, is qualified to be president, I’ve got some land I’d like to sell you. She’s no smarter than Bush is.

    • Nerwen Aldarion

      Wealth of detail????? Are you kidding? You could have gotten most of this info from the promos!

      Comparing a TV show to movies is ridiculous and really lost credibitlity of this review.

      And this is about Smallville…how did politics get into this?

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