Fire and Ice: Welcome to Smallville #5 is the point where things get interesting, and by that, I mean that the “special guest” isn’t so much of a friendly face like Ma Kent, Jimmy, or even Lobo, but a big bad from Ice’s rogue gallery. It’s hero time, but are Bea and Tora really up for it at their respective rock bottoms?
Series regular cover artists Terry and Rachel Dodson take the Smallville elements out for a cover that feels like both a classical cover and doesn’t reveal too much about who or what now poses our two heroes a threat. Spotlights are affixed to puppet versions of Fire and Ice being controlled to fight each other by an unknown master – leaving a whole lot of questions unanswered.
Ted Brandt and Ro Stein’s variant cover can best be described as a high-definition rendition of what Fire and Ice looks like in the issue based on Natacha Busto’s art. In fact, it feels like her art for this series was used as a reference for Brandt and Stein. Especially with how Fire’s face and lips are handled as she takes a selfie with Ice and L-Ron, it’s uncanny. At the same time, it’s also a really cute and wholesome variant.
Stjepan Sejic also keeps it cute and wholesome with his variant as he does with nearly all his art pieces of women across comics. Bea and Tora have a pillow fight in their pajamas fit for a slumber party. Again, their respective outfits represent their superhero identities and colors as several variant artists have done. Sejic is a special artist because as bubbly as his art is, they are always photorealistic and detailed.
Within the first ten pages of the issue, it’s not going great for anyone in the cast. Lobo takes off having stolen from Fire’s group of misfit villains, the salon suffers a fire and is badly damaged, Bea thinks Tora did it, and Tamarind’s time with Honey might have been all touch-no feeling. On top of that, when Tora goes to talk to Rocky, everyone including her seems really off and is keen on not letting her leave Smallville.
As it would turn out, it’s a Norwegian skin walker-like being called Crave who was actually responsible for the death of Bea’s mother. Lot’s Wife was the first to be possessed in issue three when she ate Beefeater, even though it seemed more like a gag. Now, Crave has come to Smallville for Tora. Meanwhile, Fire goes to see Charlie at his bar while the villains humorously try to hustle back their stolen money. Needless to say, our cast isn’t exactly the Justice League. Can they band together to save Superman’s hometown?
There’s now a lot to look forward to and now it feels there are actually stakes as opposed to just two heroes on a gateway of self-discovery and amusing farces. Joanne Starer continues this delightful series with special attention to the characters of Fire of Ice with even some callbacks to a 1990 issue of Justice League of America where they were first featured. What started out as a funny, quippy story could become one of the definitive Fire and Ice tales. Letters are done by Ariana Maher.
Natacha Bustos illustrating and Tamra Bonvillain coloring continue to be a great visual team. There are lots of reaction shots not to action but to dialogue. The secret seems to be it’s all in the eyes especially now when the viewer needs to be able to tell who is under the influence of Crave. It seems simple at first, but towards the end, the panels become bigger and more detailed.
Fire and Ice: Welcome to Smallville #5 needed to really set the stakes with the last issues being largely played for laughs and this one being the penultimate issue – it does just that with a big villain, a town in peril, and hero roles that need to be filled.