Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Review: Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom #2


The second issue of Superman/Supergirl:Maelstrom was released last week, part of the biweekly schedule of this 5 part miniseries. You may recall that the first issue was not exactly awe-inspiring, what with Kara getting a beat down from Maelstrom as well as a verbal lashing from Superman.

This issue doesn't start out well with it characterization of Supergirl either.

Word balloons are fairly rare on covers these days. On this cover, Kara ignores Superman's warnings about the planet saying 'relax Kal, what could possibly hurt us out here?' all while putting her hair up in a pony tail. It feels like superficial Kara all over again. And having her putting her hair back while speaking rather than just standing there, it smacks of some immaturity.


The issue starts immediately with action as Superman and Supergirl are defending themselves with sticks against some monstrous aliens. Superman provides some exposition here. He has brought himself and Kara to this planet in a red star system to help train her to act without relying solely on her powers. He also hopes that it will allow them to grow closer.

Seems like something of a silly plan. First off, these beasts are huge and appear dangerous. Both Superman and Supergirl nearly fall off a cliff to their deaths early on. Doesn't this seem irresponsible of Kal? Risky? Are the lessons Kara might learn here worth the risk?


We then cut to Apokolips where Maelstrom is getting her own dangerous education. Remember, for going to Earth she is being punished ... forced to fight gladiator style. Surprisingly, she makes short work of a death squad, killing them for the glory of Darkseid. He rewards her by sending her to the slave pits.

It is clear that Palmiotti and Gray are trying to show some similarities between Maelstrom and Supergirl. Even the art helps out ... notice how the whip forms an 'S' in 2 panels, even aligning over her chest.

Both Supergirl and Maelstrom are young and trying to find their way. Both are trying to impress or gain favor with the imposing men in their lives. Kara wants to understand Kal, figure out why he does what he does, and see if she wants to follow in his footsteps. But most of all, she wants him to respect her, see her as more than a child. Maelstrom is also trying to rise from her perceived lowly status and gain Darkseid's favor ... but more, she feels she deserves to be his consort. Talk about trying to grab the brass ring.

Back on the red sun planet, Supergirl asks Superman what we all were thinking: what if we die here? Why come to this place where they are powerless and 'play human'.

Kal tells her he does not play at being a human; he considers himself human.


And Earth has its troubles. They aren't as enlightened as the Krypton Kara grew up on. Man needs their help, but not as rulers.

Supergirl continues to push him. Shouldn't Superman be doing more to enlighten mankind? Shouldn't he be spreading the Krypton ways in an effort to improve Earth?


Superman gently reminds her that Krypton wasn't completely enlightened. The people there didn't listen to Jor-El's warnings.

Regardless, Superman tells Kara that mankind needs to grow as a race on our own rather than by following the Kryptonian ideal. He lives as one of us. His responses as Clark are not acting, they are real and based on his upbringing.


While Kara debates with Kal, Maelstrom attempts to organize the slaves in the pits in hopes of escape. The other slaves do not join her and as a result she is overwhelmed by the guards. Now there will be more punishment ... isolation.

Meanwhile, the debate continues to rage on between the super-cousins.

Kara again brings up the danger in this little camping trip, wondering when the lesson is over. Superman calls her passive aggressive and tells her to get some sleep. Appropriately annoyed, Kara tells him to stop treating her like an overtired infant.



Frustrated, she storms off into the wilderness lamenting the lack of toilet paper and television ...


Only to find herself alone and surrounded by aliens.

Well, I think this is a better issue than the last one. While Superman continues to treat Supergirl like a little girl at least she debates him as an equal rather than simply deferring. I have to agree with her ... going to a dangerous planet like this seems hazardous to their health. At least she calls him on it a couple of times. Her responses do occasionally sound a bit superficial.

Still, Superman's attitude seems more like the Silver Age Superman who chastised her all too often. And I don't quite know what his agenda is here. If it simply physical training on a red sun world that's fine. But it seems like this is supposed to teach her some wisdom and I haven't wrapped my head around what it could be.

Maelstrom also shows some potential here. She clearly reveres Darkseid and yet continues to defy standard Apokoliptian ways. Organizing a potential slave revolt? Sort of impressive.

And, the art is typically delicious Phil Noto. I really like his Supergirl. The book is colored a bit darkly. I had to brighten up the scans so you could see the details.

So while I don't like how Superman is treating Supergirl in this book, I think she sort of held her own here. And that seems a step up from issue one.

Overall grade: C

7 comments:

TS said...

Nice review! I had convinced myself to give this series a pass, but you've gotten me very interested. The art does look great, and even the odd characterizations seem forgivable so far.

Anonymous said...

I agree on all your major points.
Supes sez Kara has to learn to use her powers more efficiently, Kara responds "Fine but why don't we use them to improve Terran civilization"? As you say a debate between equals.
My key issue is still the same; Maelstrom is the sort of D-List opponent that SG should've beat like a red headed stepchild...
Instead they import some new villainess and thus make Kara look lame and unprepared. It'd be different if she couldn't overcome say Blackstarr or Doomsday or some other potential heavy hitter.
They have to measure the dose to the strength of the character, I don't see that here.
But what the hell, beats homicidal crystal stabbie-girl any day.

John Feer

Mike said...

The art is lovely, and the story is ok on its own terms. It's not really the kind of Superman/Supergirl story I'm looking for right now, but it's not actually bad or anything (IMHO). I'm guessing that the storyline is leading up to both Maelstrom and Supergirl teaching their patriarchal authority figures a few things.

TalOs said...

Surprisingly MUCH better then the first issue but still needs even that tad wee bit more improvement.

Mike said...
I'm guessing that the storyline is leading up to both Maelstrom and Supergirl teaching their patriarchal authority figures a few things.

Man lets sure hope so ah! :D

Anonymous said...

Yeah, they can't leave Kara on the Job Squad not with her big debut with the JLA spin off comin' up....

John Feer

Anj said...

Supes sez Kara has to learn to use her powers more efficiently, Kara responds "Fine but why don't we use them to improve Terran civilization"? As you say a debate between equals.

I think this was a key improvement. Given the ending of the last issue I was worried that Supes would just dominate her.

My key issue is still the same; Maelstrom is the sort of D-List opponent that SG should've beat like a red headed stepchild...

Completely agree. That was my main problem with the first issue.

But what the hell, beats homicidal crystal stabbie-girl any day.

LOL ... agreed.

Anj said...

I'm guessing that the storyline is leading up to both Maelstrom and Supergirl teaching their patriarchal authority figures a few things.

Given how they are setting the characters up as 'two sides of the same coin', I can totally see how that will happen.