Thursday, October 2, 2008

Review: Supergirl #34 - The Wait Is Over!


Pardon the long post, but there is a lot to cover here.

It was back in late June that Kara fans first learned that Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle were taking over the Supergirl title. Since then there have been numerous interviews and panels in which the team described their approach to the character. They wanted to make Kara a likeable character again, a heroic character again; someone who will try and fail and grow and try again and succeed. We have seen glimpses of this ‘new Kara’ in Action Comics and Final Crisis. Even though I liked Kelley Puckett’s run on Supergirl, I have been looking forward to Supergirl #34, the new team’s first issue for some time. It finally was released yesterday and I can say succinctly it did not disappoint.


Before we get into the issue itself, I also have to commend the DC promotion for the title as they try to bring in new readers. We saw preview pages on Newsarama; we had interviews on CBR. Supergirl is currently prominently displayed on their home page. And we get this very nice Fernando Pasarin variant cover, enticing to collectors and dealers alike. I love the joy on Wonder Woman’s face as she and Supergirl take out this griffin. But on to the issue …


As hinted at all along, the issue starts with a shot of the front page of the Daily Planet showing Cat Grant’s ‘Why the world doesn’t need Supergirl’ opinion piece. Despite Clark and Lois’ attempts to persuade Perry White to scrap or bury the piece, the decision is made to run it on the front page.


Cat actually does a good job of defending the merit of the piece listing off all the things that haven’t gone well for Kara recently: taking down Air Force One, hurting people during the Reactron rescue, leaving the Atlas battle, and not saving Thomas’ life. Of course, all the good things that happened during those incidents are conveniently not discussed.

I am so glad that the current team is taking on this perception and not forgetting Supergirl’s recent past. I feel sometimes when new creative teams begin a ‘bold new direction’ they simply ignore recent history and start with a blank slate. It would have been easy to simply not mention the prior runs on this title, as out of synch they have felt with each other. That would be the easy way out. So kudos to the new team for taking on Kara’s confusing and conflicted history head on.


Oblivious of the smear campaign, Kara battles the Silver Banshee above Metropolis. Unfortunately the battle lands them in the middle of the Metropolis Monarchs baseball game.

Acting quickly, Supergirl saves a player and (in one of my favorite panels) swiftly decisively takes out the Banshee by dropping a garbage truck on her! What a great action shot!


While pleased with herself, the crowd is not so happy as seen above. First we get a Baywatch shot of Kara smiling about her victory. If this was TV, a slight breeze would be blowing out her hair. That happy moment ends as quickly as the battle with a soda to the face from the disgruntled crowd. Rather than thank Supergirl for saving them, the crowd brings up the mess she made, how she interrupted the game, and tell her ‘The Daily Planet’ was right.


Not knowing what they mean about The Planet, Kara flies off and reads the Cat Grant piece. In what is probably my favorite panel from the book, we see a despondent Kara sitting in a windstorm of the paper. It's like her life is metaphorically swirling out of control around her. Now some might complain that this shows a weak Kara, but for me it was a moment of realism. Supergirl has been on Earth for a short period of time and has mostly strived to do good. Despite that, she never seems to catch an even break. Why shouldn’t she feel sad when no one mentions the good she has done and only mentions the bad?


She broods through until morning when Superman shows up with a coffee and advice. Throughout the conversation, Superman is completely supportive of Kara and recognizes her heroism. This is not the chastising Superman we have occasionally seen in this title. He is shocked when Kara asks her if he agrees with Cat and tells her she is ‘more than worthy’ of carrying on his legacy.

He does give her one piece of advice … get a secret identity. He tells Kara she needs some space to decompress. He does not want her to stop being a hero … just stop heroing for 24 hours a day.


Supergirl agrees and begins to ask advice of her other friends. First she talks to the Titans. Robin gives her Connor’s glasses telling her that Connor would be proud to have someone in the family using them. Then she talks to Wonder Woman who tells her that the mask that is worn by a hero is sometimes their secret identity, changing to Diana to prove the point.

I was never a big Connor fan but I feel this is a nice homage to his character. Superboy died saving the universe from Prime so I also think the glasses will be a reminder to Kara about the price and power of heroism.


Lastly, she talks to the Kents and Lana Lang. Kara talks about how Clark wanted her to hide from her problems in a secret identity, not exactly what he said but maybe how she interpreted it. Supergirl and Lana hit it off, both realizing that they have been running away from their problems and need to face them instead. They decide to face them together.


Cut to the Daily Planet again, where Cat Grant finds this card on her desk. This was a perfect response by Kara. It shows that Supergirl is not going to shy away from the Cat Grant problem, not run from the city. It shows self-confidence in an understated but powerful manner. She didn’t write ‘stop writing about me or I’ll pulp you’ or 'F U' like the Joe Kelly Kara might have.


And then the unveiling of the secret identity …. Linda Lang!!! Okay, so I like the use of Linda here, an obvious tip of the hat to prior Supergirls. Nice touch! Nice ending! This issue is what 'bold new direction' issues should be ... a recap of the character and a bunch of hooks to grab the readers and keep them coming back for more.

I am sure there will be people out there who did not like the issue because Kara seems weak, tearful, and too subservient to Superman. For me it didn’t feel that way at all. This felt like the natural ending to 3 difficult years of stories. Kara is bowed but not broken. In fact, she seems to have emerged stronger.

On top of this big thematic change, there were other nice touches throughout the issue, like Supergirl dropping Kryptonian words into her conversations. That just makes sense giving her background.

And the art by Jamal Igle was absolutely stunning. The battle scenes are crisp. Kara looks lovely and healthy. But what really impressed me were the facial expressions throughout the book, perfectly capturing the character’s feelings. I could post a dozen more panels of facial expressions that were spot on. I think Geoff Johns and Sterling Gates were right when they said Jamal hit this issue out of the park.

I wish there was one or two more issues before the new Krypton storyline so we could have the team really solidify their direction before a big cross-over event. But really I have nothing but praise for this issue.

Overall grade: A+

19 comments:

kwaku said...

I really like her Linda Lang ID. It keeps her within the family since Lana is practically family but at the same time it keeps her just far enough away from the Kent ID.
I'm sure they will still have Thanksgiving together.

I also like that everything every one in the book did was about Supergirl. Even when she wasn't on the page they were talking about her. Lana was exception, on the page with Perry, but I think it's important for regular supporting cast to have their own lives too so I like that.

She didn't seem weak either. I love how Gates writes her attitude during the fights. She will sort of take it easy on you but if you start trying to kill people, she'll drop a truck on you. Or if you breath fire on her she'll freeze you.

Can't wait for Action Comics next week then New Krypton.

Heath Edwards said...

i agree, this issue was great, and gives me excitement towards the coming storylines... yay for everything :)...

The Fortress Keeper said...

It's definitely a good reset (although part of me really wanted to see Linda Lang sport a brunette wig) and actually has me looking forward to (instead of dreading)future issues of Supergirl.

Geez ... I haven't been able to say that about Kara 2K since maybe Supergirl #0.

Anj said...

I also like that everything every one in the book did was about Supergirl. Even when she wasn't on the page they were talking about her. Lana was exception, on the page with Perry, but I think it's important for regular supporting cast to have their own lives too so I like that.

She didn't seem weak either. I love how Gates writes her attitude during the fights. She will sort of take it easy on you but if you start trying to kill people, she'll drop a truck on you. Or if you breath fire on her she'll freeze you.


Thanks for the post.

I agree that this whole issue revolved around Kara unlike some of the "Guest Starring ..." issues from the title. That's the way it should be ... it's her title.

And yes, her fight with Banshee was fierce, brutal, and quick. I loved it.

Anj said...

i agree, this issue was great, and gives me excitement towards the coming storylines... yay for everything :)...

Thanks for the post.

This issue did just what it was suposed to do ... set the table for the coming months and tell a compelling story.

Anj said...

actually has me looking forward to (instead of dreading)future issues of Supergirl.

Geez ... I haven't been able to say that about Kara 2K since maybe Supergirl #0.


All the reviews I have read have been positive. It looks like we have a hit on our hands.

And I agree, no dread here. I can't believe I have to wait a month for the next issue!

Anonymous said...

Let me add, that my local and the reliable retail comics provider one town over were BOTH out of this issue as of last night...good thing it's the first item on the pull list.

I read this book and of course, liked it immensely...but I did have a moment where I said to myself "Why was it SO HARD to produce the RIGHT Kara Zor El?...what makes her to damn challenging??"
Anyway small beers, the issue was great the fight with Silver Banshee a highlight and the new ID has great potential...me happy!


John Feer

Anj said...

Let me add, that my local and the reliable retail comics provider one town over were BOTH out of this issue as of last night...good thing it's the first item on the pull list.

Well, my store knows my love of Supergirl well enough to throw the variant cover in my file.

I did ask them to put a little card in front of the book that says 'new creative team' as a way to plug it more.

I read this book and of course, liked it immensely...but I did have a moment where I said to myself "Why was it SO HARD to produce the RIGHT Kara Zor El?...what makes her to damn challenging??"

I remember a post on the excellent Fortress of Fortitude blog where he summed it up nicely. Supergirl was DC's Peter Parker, the hero you could be with all the aspirations, disappointments, and ethics to do what was right no matter what. It is hard to write *that* character if you can juggle asteroids.

Take a bow Fortress Keeper, I only hope to maintain the quality and longevity of your blog on this one.

Anonymous said...

I read the post....

Not sure what to make of the Linda Lang reference.. but.. Itt's ok in my book...

Stunning art and loving the writing!

Just wondering is Sterling male or female?

....

I can't wait for the next issue!

-ealperin

Anonymous said...

Wait!!! Nevermind about the Sterling Gates question... I found out he's a guy...

-ealperin

Nikki said...

I'll chime in with a previous anonymous message. I went for my copy today, there were none upstairs where the new releases regularly are and downstairs I had a job finding one. No varients left just say 20-30 issues there after one day of release. When I went to buy the assistant actually said to his friend 'I was meaning to get that one'

TalOs said...

I'm actually floating on cloud nine right now. Y'see, was actually VERY fortunate to have my towns 2nd comic store that I frequent for quite some time now (what with the first being real bunch of class A a holes) to be MORE then kind in wanting to give me both alternate Supergirl covers (while still being in the process of putting the comics that had shipped that very Thurs on the shelf.) And I even got the alternate cover at THE same price as that of the regular to boot! :D

TalOs said...

Now, on to some of this all new issue in questions subject matter:

- Lana Lang: Um, exactly WHY has she got blond hair like Kara when she's usually known for her famous trade mark red hair come this specific supporting cast character? Was it a stuff up on the colorists end or was it actually intentional?

- Linda Lang: So THIS is Kara Zor-El's now official secret id proper eh? It's....er, different I'll give you that. The only gripe I have about Kara's look in her Linda id is that her hair should be RED and NOT blond. Otherwise, she looks to much like that of Wonder Girl/Cassandra Sandsmark in her own newly adopted blond hair with glasses too so called "Drusilla" secret id in turn here. So please DC, change Kara's Linda id self to having RED hair in future issues.

TalOs said...

Last but certainly NOT least, just wanted to say yet another top notch review of this title's specific issue just out too, anj! :D

John M said...

Excellent review of Supergirl 34! It has been a long wait since June, but it was well worth it! :)

The variant cover for the issue looks just as great as Joshua Middleton's cover.

One particular touch I love about this issue is Kara's use of Kryptonese! It reminds me of the show Firefly when the characters would sometimes use Chinese expressions.

And Jamal Igle's art is so beautiful and full of heart. Especially the scenes when Kara has that soda cup thrown at her and on the roof after reading Cat Grant's article. My heart just went out to her! I think it really says something about an artist when they can move you.

I really agree with Talos about Lana- I remember seeing Renato Guedes' Lana with red hair in Superman 679. Maybe she dyed it for her stay in Smallville. Hopefully Lana's iconic red hair will return!

Anj said...

Thanks everyone for posting!

It think it is great news nikki and talos that there was some difficulty finding the issue.

It certainly has got great reviews from lots of sources. I may end up posting links to some of the better ones here too. Maybe this issue will sell better than expected. Maybe even get a second printing?

And I also agree with talos and john m that Lana's red hair needs to return.

Nice comment talos about Linda Lang being a bit like Wonder Girl's Drusilla. We'll have to see how it all plays out.

But overall, it is great to see such a great issue and see such an outpouring of praise from fans and professionals alike!

TalOs said...

Nice comment talos about Linda Lang being a bit like Wonder Girl's Drusilla. We'll have to see how it all plays out.

Thanks, man. :) But, it seems Mr. Igle himself has this to say to it all: "Sorry, I'm not taking requests. Kara, rather Linda, looks the way she does on purpose." Um, ho-kay. :/

But overall, it is great to see such a great issue and see such an outpouring of praise from fans and professionals alike!

And a sincere heart felt HEAR HEAR at that, bro! :D

drth said...

I like this issue. It was the best out of all Supergirl issue I have read in since the new Kara appeared in Superman/Batman #8.

Logging off,
Dr. Thinker

Anj said...

I like this issue. It was the best out of all Supergirl issue I have read in since the new Kara appeared in Superman/Batman #8.

Logging off,
Dr. Thinker


Thanks for the post.

It is great to see this issue bring old readers back and please new readers too.