The World of Smallville #1 (1988)

The World of Smallville #1 (April, 1988)
Writer – John Byrne
Penciller – Kurt Schaffenberger
Inker – Alfredo Alcala
Letterer – Carrie Spiegle
Colorist – Petra Scotese
Editor – Mike Carlin
Cover Price: $0.75

Trying to get things back to normal after my weekend away… really makes me appreciate what a poor traveler I am.  I get home after just two days away, and it’s like I forgot where I keep everything!  The milk’s spoiled, the bread’s past it’s prime… I don’t know where any of my socks are… yeesh, what a mess.

I’d like to blame it all on jet-lag, however, considering I didn’t sleep more than a couple of hours the whole time we were away, I don’t think that excuse will fly!  Won’t stop me from using it, though!

We open with Superman flying through the sky above Smallville.  He’s headed into his old stomping grounds to meet with his parents, and is appreciating the familiar sights he’s taking in.  He looks at Smallville as the one “constant” in his life… and that’s one of its properties he most appreciates.  He lands, ducks into the bus depot, and emerges in his Clark Kent duds.  After greeting Ma and Pa, they head into the Smallville Diner for a bite to eat.

Inside, they are waited on by one of Clark’s old classmates… a woman named Maisie.  Yet another familiar sight for Clark.  After she takes the Kents’ order (and flirts just a little bit), Ma informs Clark that Maisie has gone on to marry and has a couple of kids to boot.  So maybe Smallville isn’t stuck in amber after all.

Clark says he’s happy for Maisie, says its exactly what he’d expected for her… an ordinary Smallville life.  Pa comments that such a thing would be quite boring for someone like Clark… but he protests.  Even with all of the wonders he’s experienced, both in Metropolis and as Superman, a Smallville life is pretty close to ideal.  He jokes about Ma and Pa being ordinary… and not having any “dark secrets”.  This causes an… interesting reaction from the Kents.  After a bit of goading, they decide to tell Clark the story of Daniel Fordman… Martha Kent’s… first husband?!

After the record scratch, we head into flashback mode.  We go all the way back to the day Jonathan Kent returned home from World War II.  It had been circulated that he was killed in action, however, obviously, that was untrue.  His homecoming is similar to Clark’s own in the opening pages… taking in the sights and appreciating the non-changing familiarity and comfort Smallville provides.

Jonathan is picked up at the bus station by his father, and during the ride home they drive past the Fordman home… where married Martha is standing on the porch.  Jonathan knows she’s (happily) married, and doesn’t stop to chat.  We stick with Martha as she enters her huge married home and reveals that perhaps she’s still carrying a torch for the one who “got away”… or was “presumed dead”, I guess.

At home, Jonathan is greeted by his sister-in-law, Sarah.  She’s happy to see that the boy who left has returned a broad-shouldered man.  After a filling meal, Jon heads out to the porch to pine over a photo of he and Martha he’s kept in his wallet.  Sarah joins him… and kinda gives him the business about not being upfront with his feelings before he left for war.  The conversation becomes a bit too uncomfortable for Jon, and he excuses himself.  Sarah then goes to phone Martha.

The next morning, Jonathan heads out to Schwartz’s General Store to pick up a few things for his father.  While there, he is swarmed by locals who are so proud of their resident war hero.  Off to the side is Martha Fordman.  He breaks away from the group to say hello.  It’s here that we learn that her husband, Dan Fordman is currently suffering from lung cancer.

In the telling, Martha breaks down.  Jonathan offers to drive her home.  Once there, we meet the man himself… Dan Fordman.  He’s gaunt, pale, and weak-looking.  He is very happy to see that the reports of Jon’s demise were greatly exaggerated… and suggests they get together the next day, as he has a proposition for him.

The following day, Jonathan arrives at Fordman’s Department Store.  He’s wearing his good clothes… for all he knows he’s headed into a job interview.  In the elevator, he runs into Jackie, a fellow veteran… who happens to be a black man.  He laments the fact that this good man is relegated to such a superfluous position.

Finally, in Dan’s office the proposition is made… with Mr. Fordman knocking on death’s door, with both fists… he’d like for Jonathan to, get this, “take Martha away” from him!

What a weird issue, right?

The reason I decided to check this miniseries out is because of its connection to our old favorite, Millennium, as I work on a podcast adaptation of the epic tale.  I hadn’t read this one until now… and only really knew the series due to it having a (Nobody escapes the) Manhunter on the cover of issue #3.

Now that I’ve read it… wow.  I must not have paid much attention to the cover of this issue… because the “Martha’s been married” reveal took me completely off guard.  So weird… also seems like such a strange place to reveal it.  I’m not sure if this has ever been revisited, or swept under the rug (along with the Manhunter stuff to follow).  I suppose I wouldn’t hold it against any future writers not to mention it.  Don’t know that it had ever been contradicted either.

I appreciated the similar reactions to Smallville being familiar and comfortable from Clark and Jonathan upon their respective returns.  I’ve never lived in a small town, but I’m guessing this is a phenomenon in many.  Having both generations of Kent feeling the same way was pretty neat… just speaks to how “homey” Smallville was.

I also liked the swerve on Dan Fordman.  When the story was heating up, I thought for sure he’d be some sort of a jerk-ass.  I figured he was just some dude who somehow tricked or forced Martha to marry him while Jonathan was away/M.I.A.  Seeing him as a rather affable fella, who wants to ensure his widow-to-be’s happiness post his expiration, was a pleasant surprise.  Not sure if it was just me projecting that made me thought he’d be a bad dude… but either way, I was pleased to be wrong.

Overall, decent, if strange, issue.  I might not dig the big reveal, but I still enjoyed reading it… if that makes any sense.  It’s so weird that I can’t help but to recommend.  While not vital Superman reading by any definition, still a novelty that I’d tell ya to check out.

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