It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s adolescent Superman!

As if dealing with girlfriend issues, puberty and passing class wasn’t enough, Clark Kent of WB’s “Smallville” has bigger fish to fry this season – how to gain the forgiveness of his parents after causing the cataclysmic explosion that resulted in a death in the family.

Flying up the ratings scale faster than a speeding bullet,”Smallville” has moved to the 8 p.m. slot on Wednesday nights after winning over fans of all ages. The series focuses on the adolescent adventures of a pre-Superman Clark Kent.

Executive producers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar said many times that the “Smallville” experience is unlike other Superman incarnations. Forget seeing the leading man in a skintight blue suit – the unofficial tagline for the show is “No tights, no flights.”

But don’t think for a Kryptonian second that “Smallville” lacks the alien feel of a superhero-in-the-making series. Clark, portrayed by Tom Welling, is armed with many budding powers, including super speed (wouldn’t you love that for those days when you have two minutes to roll out of bed and run to Bliss?), X-ray vision (every young boy’s dream), heat beams and, as always, he remains bulletproof. So what will season three bring? Rumor has it that super-hearing may be on tap – which, for College students, could be a very bad thing, considering how thin our walls are.

Aside from the “present day” interpretation of the “Boy-Who-Will-Be-The-Man-of-Steel,” another aspect that makes “Smallville” distinct is the bad guys. Forget bald baddie Lex Luthor – he is actually one of Clark’s friends. He’s a bright, badass businessman, who is only now showing signs of what will turn him into this twisted madman of the future. In past episodes of the show, Lex has shown his obsession with what Clark is hiding (he hit Clark with a car in the pilot episode), and has an entire room devoted to his Sherlockian quest. Season two revealed that both Lex and his tycoon father Lionel are fighting to find out what is so special about the Kansas farm boy. A plot point to pay attention to this year? The Luthors have a vial of Clark’s blood, which may be used for some genetic experiments. Superman comic fans can guess at what this may mean.

So where does the season pick up? When we last saw Clark, he was under the influence of red kryptonite (which turns him into a reckless badboy), fleeing Metropolis in a motocycle to escape the pain he has caused at home. In the time since Clark destroyed his ship in an attempt to escape his father’s ghostly commands, the newly rebellious Kent has headed to the city where he apparently joins forces with a crime syndicate and causes countless acts of crime such as bending a parking meter around someone and punching his hand through an ATM to “borrow some cash.”

Unsure of what to do, Clark’s adopted parents Jonathan and Martha look all over for their boy. Lana Lang (Clark’s dream girl), Chloe Sullivan (a nosy reporter friend of Clark) and Jonathan all take turns going after the wayward youth, with varied results. Jonathan apparently cuts a deal with Clark’s biological father Jor-el to bring Clark back. All he needs are a few temporary super powers – if only it was that easy in real life.

Several questions remain unanswered at this point. Last season ended abruptly for Lex, who, after getting married, apparently died in a plane crash. According to previews for the series debut, Lex borrows a few pages from the “Castaway” book and survives just long enough to be rescued. But who tried to kill him? And what effect will this have on the already mentally unstable millionaire?

“Smallville,” as a series, has evolved by leaps and bounds since the pilot, and incorporates many new ideas to the Superman mythos. However, there is plenty of room for improvement. The writing was erratic in seasons one and two. While both seasons had memorable moments, the series was plagued by episodes that seemed out of place and unimportant. Some of the dialogue and interaction remain stiff, and the kryptonite “freak of the week” storylines often bored the audience, causing ratings slips.

Like Clark, though, the series is growing stronger. Guest stars like Terrence Stamp and Christopher Reeves thrilled fans of the movies and comics alike, and gave the show a more sophisticated air. Interconnected plots seem to be forming, and secondary characters like Chloe and friend Pete Ross, seem to finally be getting some more attention from the writers. And, as the series moves past the halfway mark (most likely the show will be on for at least one more season after this), Lex will finally be delving more into his dark side.

Featuring an all-star supporting cast and hot new stars, Smallville is powered by the powerful idea that Clark isn’t so different from us. He has girl troubles despite being able to survive bullets, argues with his parents and is as unsure of his future much like any high school or college student. One thing is for sure – season three will make or break Smallville as a prime time powerhouse. Will it become a Show of Steel season, or will the storylines be as weak as Clark in front of those pesky green kryptonite rocks? Tune in Wednesday nights to find out.