Friday, August 8, 2008

Review: Supergirl 32

The “Saving Thomas” storyline nears its end in Supergirl 32 which came out this week. I find that my review posts tend to be long … hopefully not too long. If so, I apologize.

A quick recap of our story so far: Supergirl has sworn to save the life of Thomas, a young boy with terminal brain cancer. Last issue, he passed away despite a last ditch effort to save him with a nanite-enriched blood transfusion.

First off, this is a pretty nice cover with Kara and Thomas in half-shadows. The word ‘Choices’ on the cover in conjunction with the dual nature of life/death and light/dark aspects of the art makes this captivating. This is the last of Drew Johnson’s work on the title. As I have said in the past, I liked Drew’s art a lot. I thought he drew a stunning Kara. But he just never seemed to be able to keep up with the art.

This issue open up with Kara and Superman attending Thomas funeral from afar.

Superman attempts to comfort her, applauding her efforts but saying the old cliché ‘it was his time to go’.

In response, Kara shows her commitment to saving Thomas. We have seen a stubborn streak in Kara before, but this seems to border on obsession, or maybe irrationality. She states again that she will do whatever it takes to bring Thomas back no matter what it costs, no matter how long it takes.

Now at this point the story takes what I think is fascinating turn. We jump 50 years ahead in time. Kara, now in a spiffy new uniform, is leading a group of soldiers against an alien named Dolok. Despite being in her 60’s, Kara looks remarkably young. I have seen this in other titles where it is assumed that Kryptonians under yellow suns will age slowly because of their super-metabolism. I am pretty sure that Grant Morrison had Superman being alive in the 853rd century in DC One Million, for example.

Here is the uniform.


It is a nice look … a one piece short blue dress with the cape draped over the shoulders. And look closely … pointy sleeves. I don’t know why I love the pointy sleeves, I just do.

Now Kara is trying to capture Dolok so she can use a device he has to help her in her mission to save Thomas. Dolok can travel backwards in time. As a result, every time someone gets close to defeating him, he travels back to before the defeat and tries to change the outcome.

Now Puckett uses an interesting (if not confusing) way to tell the story. Since Dolok seems to only be able to travel back in time, Puckett starts out 50 yrs from now but then counts backwards from there. (From here on, this sort of like that Seinfeld episode where it unfolds backwards.) Kara, realizing that Dolok will continue to teleport away into the past, seems to stay in space at the point he always reappears to try and capture him. And she seems to camp out in space for years, as we see the result of multiple leaps by Dolok. While Kara is always shown in this new costume, I don’t think she is leaping in time with Dolok. I think Dolok is constantly meeting younger versions of Kara who is simply waiting for him to appear. To perhaps add to the confusing nature of the timeline, Puckett references the time by counting down from the initial Dolok encounter, that is 50 yrs from now. Yeesh, it sounds incomprehensible as I write it … and I actually understand.

So lets start out and for clarity’s sake I will put the year (and Kara’s age) with each scene.

50 years later (from Thomas’ funeral) – 2058, Kara 67yrs old

She flies off her space battleship with her troops and almost gets Dolok in his stronghold. Dolok then teleports 3 minutes into the past to attack her before she even leaves the ship. Kara reveals her secret weapon, a Green Lantern, and Dolok is almost defeated again. In response, Dolok goes back in time one month to stop Kara from first recruiting the GL.

One month ago (from initial Dolok encounter), 49 yrs 11months after Thomas funeral – 2058, Kara 66 11/12 yrs old

Again, Kara almost defeats Dolok and he teleports away, a scene we see replayed again and again throughout earlier spots in time.

One year ago (from initial Dolok encounter), 49 yrs after Thomas funeral – 2058, Kara 66 yrs old

Ten years ago (from initial Dolok encounter), 40 yrs after Thomas funeral – 2048, Kara 57 old

Thirty years ago (from initial Dolok encounter), 20 yrs after Thomas funeral – 2028, Kara 37 old


Kara finally (?) defeats Dolok and is able to obtain his time-travelling tech (despite having promised the GL that she would destroy it, albeit in a conversation that won’t happen for 30 more years). Can I say 'finally defeats' if this may be the first time she has fought him as this is the earliest point in time we see them interact?

In essence, Kara has stayed in one spot in space for at least 30 years to be able to pull off this victory. 30 years standing around in space … sounds borderline psychotic, no? Obsessed, yes?

Regardless of her psyche, the 37 yr old Kara – time travelling device in hand – seeks out Thomas’ parents. She plans to give them the device so that they could go back in time to be with him. Unfortunately, enough time has passed that both parents have died themselves. Kara meets Thomas’ grown sister who tells Kara that Thomas’ parents always appreciated what she did to save Thomas and were sad that they never thanked her.
For a second, Kara thinks about using the device herself. She could go back in time before the parents died and give it to them then, or go back and try to save Thomas again, or even further. She could correct all ‘her mistakes’ and live a ‘perfect’ life. In the end, realizing the insanity of those thoughts, the futility of them, she destroys the device.

Supergirl realizes it’s time to move on.


There are some things about this issue that are good and things that are bad.

For one, I like the idea that Kara really felt passionate about saving Thomas to the point of doing all she did to save him. But that means, it seems, that rather than saving others she remained static in space for decades to try to capture Dolok. So that doesn’t seem heroic. At least in the end she realized that this was always a doomed mission. Of course, according to the timeline, it took her 20 years to come to that realization.

Secondly, I also have become a bit weary with stories looking into Kara’s future. First we had the ‘phantom zone ghosts on Earth’ future in the Kelly run, then the dystopia version of Earth due to Kara’s rule in issue 27 of this arc, and now this issue. While I actually kind of enjoyed the reverse time leaping style of this story, I would rather read about Kara’s growth as a hero NOW, rather than seeing what she will be in 20 years. I want to read how she gets to that point.

Lastly, I think that I am so pumped for the Gates/Igle run to start that I came into this issue with some weariness. This is the lame duck part of Puckett’s run. In fact, next issue, the last part of the "Saving Thomas" arc and the last issue pre-Gates, isn’t even written by Puckett but by James Peaty. It’s a pity I came in with that subtle ennui because I really think that Kara has grown under Puckett’s care, that she is a better person, a more heroic figure than she was at the beginning of his arc and certainly much better and much more heroic than Joe Kelly’s unlikeable Supergirl. In some ways, I am sorry to see Puckett go.

Ron Randall’s art is serviceable. The new costume was a nice change of pace.

Overall grade: B

7 comments:

Heath Edwards said...

mmm, this one left me a bit weary, too. but, i think its more because i wouldn't've taken on the desire to keep thomas around. kara shows she has quite a strong will, and will stick around when the going goes from worst to even worse... yay kara!!
loved the uniform, and though it mayn't be around after this issue, i did like the 's' connected to the cape and the full blue costume...
i do wonder what more they can say about thomas, though... a couple of these issues have felt like filling...

Anj said...

i do wonder what more they can say about thomas, though... a couple of these issues have felt like filling...

This story has all been about Kara learning her limitations, her place in her new world. Hopefully next issue is more an epilogue about the story than anything else.

But remember the last time we saw 'our time' Kara it was at Thomas' funeral stating she will do whatever it takes. Most likely next issue picks up right there ... at the casket.

Mike said...

This story was unbelievable even by the standards of comic book time travel stories. I absolutely love that uniform, though. I particularly like the way the cape goes into the shoulder pieces, which go into the S, like the Crisis-era Kara.

Anonymous said...

Liked this arc but idn't love it. Clearly Kelly Puckett had an editorial mandate to shift Supergirl from being whiny and semi homicidal to someone more heroic and persevering. Where he failed was in the details and his storytelling style...but the big picture, Kara the compassionate, Kara the perseverent, Kara the hero who makes decisions like a saavy 17 year old girl...that was all there and very welcome too.
I give it a B as well.

John Feer

Anj said...

This story was unbelievable even by the standards of comic book time travel stories.

It is true. How would the 37yr old Kara know to be in that spot? Still, you have to admit it was an interesting story-telling technique.

I absolutely love that uniform, though. I particularly like the way the cape goes into the shoulder pieces, which go into the S, like the Crisis-era Kara.

I am more partial to the Matrix styel uniform. But I do agree that the shoulders worked very well on this version, especially since the dress was the solid blue.

Anj said...

Where he failed was in the details and his storytelling style...but the big picture, Kara the compassionate, Kara the perseverent, Kara the hero who makes decisions like a saavy 17 year old girl...that was all there and very welcome too.
I give it a B as well.


Thanks for the posts.

It was such a welcome change from the Joe Kelly. And in today's comics market where there is so much trash, a B is a pretty good grade.

But you are right ... compassion, perseverance, heroism ... those were the broad strokes. And they hadn't been in title otherwise.

Heath Edwards said...

as john feer writes, she is perseverant. that's a great trait, i'm glad they've decided to bring to the front...
a casket issue should be interesting. will thomas's parents be interested in saying 'thank-you' at this point in time, as they were in the future when kara met the sister?? hmm...