Saturday, December 6, 2008

Review: Supergirl Cosmic Adventures In The Eighth Grade

This was a busy week for Supergirl fans what with Superman/Supergirl Maelstrom #3 and Showcase Presents: Supergirl Vol 2 coming out. But the big release on Thursday was the much anticipated first issue of Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade, written by Landry Walker and drawn by Eric Jones.

We have heard from the creative team all along that this book was going to focus on a young Kara trying to find her place on Earth. That journey of discovery was going to come as Linda Lee while attending middle school.


The first few pages have been previewed on Newsarama twice but some spots are worth seeing again. The book opens with a Superman/Lex Luthor battle, a battle cut short when Kara's rocket luckily crashes into Luthor's robot.

I love how the paparazzi quickly surround Kara asking her what her name is and if she is 'Superman's Emergency Weapon'. Of course, that is what Superman called her in the earliest of Kara's appearances in Action Comics and therefore is the first tip of the cap to Kara's history in this book.

Startled by the sudden attention and shocked when her XRay vision kicks in rendering everyone naked, she flies away ... well more like jumps away. She nearly plummets back to Earth, only to be caught by Superman.

I wonder if Walker is writing Kara with an 'original Superman' level of powers. Remember when he couldn't fly but could leap 1/8 of a mile, where he wasn't invulnerable because a 'bursting shell' could pierce his skin. If true, it certainly would add an element of physical vulnerability to Supergirl.

Kara then tells her origin to Superman. There are some deviations from the standard Kara story.

First off, Argo was a domed city on Krypton's moon. When Krypton exploded, the moon was suddenly shifted into another dimension ... quasi-space. The citizens of Argo all survived, but are trying to get back into our universe.

Initially, Kara tells Kal that she was rocketed to Earth because her parents hate her and wanted to banish her despite the fact that she was the perfect daughter. But Superman sees through the ruse and Kara ends up telling him the truth as seen above.

Seems like Zor-El made a rocket which could break the dimensional rift and get to Earth as a way to contact Superman and let him know of Argo's existence. Kara was supposed to be at the launch to cheer and see it off (thus the Superman outfit) but did not do well on a test and so was being punished. Wow! After 'Kill Kal-El' Zor-El and now 'Cool Killer' Alura in the main title, we finally see normal caring parents for Kara.

However, Kara thinks the punishment is too severe and sneaks onto the rocket figuring she would be discovered. But she isn't and the rocket is fired with her as a stowaway.

Kara thinks it's no big deal because 'Superman can do anything'. He really is revered on Argo. She asks him to help her get back home and gets a serious dose of reality. Superman isn't a scientist and has no idea how to cross the rift to Argo.

Kara cries realizing there is no easy way home.

I think we all have done something stupid in our youth which really blew up in our faces. Kara just learned that lesson.


Superman tells her he will try to figure out how to get Kara home but in the meantime she should learn how to control and use her powers so she will one day be Supergirl. But first she needs to learn all about Earth and it's culture.And until her powers develop, she needs to keep them a secret.

His reasoning ... until she her powers kick in she could be hurt by his enemies. It is similar to Superman's reasoning in Action #252, albeit it there it seemed to be more for his protection than hers.


And Superman figures the best place for all those things to happen is in a private school. Kara adopts the Linda Lee identity and starts school.

Much like a tweener clumsily gets used to an ever-growing body, Kara has to adjust to her super-powers. She immediately makes an impression by breaking her desk. I love how she stammers about being a normal human.


But that is only the beginning of a harrowing day as the awkward new girl. And no comic has better shown what it would be like to go from an advanced scientific world to ours. Linda is clueless about most things and that makes her the focus of ridicule. Here are just a couple of examples.

Ugh ... I can remember saying dumb things in junior high and being laughed at mercilessly. This brought back some cringe-worthy memories.


And if that wasn't bad enough, even in areas you would think her powers would help her, like P.E., she becomes the target of laughter. Here she also becomes the literal target of dodge balls, and apparently her invulnerability hasn't kicked in.


After 2 weeks of nonstop ridicule, Kara figures it's time to leave. Maybe her powers can somehow get her home, to a place where she is loved.


Nope. She can't fly just yet. 'This planet hates me.' Just what you would expect a young girl or boy to say when nothing is going right.


Finally, the world cuts her a break. Superman found a communication device in the rocket to Kara can talk to her parents. She apologizes for running away and her mother tells her that she is happy Kara is safe.

So where to begin. Like any first issue, this one sets the stage for the future and gives a few hooks to keep us coming back.

It is clear that this Kara is going to have a lot of growing up to do. The fact is that she was not purposefully rocketed to Earth but got here by running away sets the tone. She did something childish and now has to deal with the results. Maybe it is time to grow up.

And the school scenes are so perfect. As Linda, she is a stranger to this world and has a lot to learn. But tweeners are unforgiving and so she becomes the 'odd girl', the girl who gets laughed at.

Still, despite this awful beginning, Kara carries on.

This read so wonderfully. There was an innocence of the Silver Age but thrust into the tawdry reality of junior high school derision. But this Kara seems to be spunky enough to roll with the punches and come out on top.
The art is perfect for the book. Kara looks like a 12yr old girl. Jones does a great job with expressions as we see Kara's joy and sadness, frustration and excitement, determination and doubt.

This issue was cute, funny, sweet, and somewhat nostalgic both for comics and my geeky youth.

I read it to the oldest Supergirl at home and when it was done she said 'that's it?' When I asked her why she was disappointed, she said she wasn't. She said 'that's it' because she didn't want it to end and was hoping for more pages. That is high praise from a 10yr old. Her grade appears below with mine.

Overall grade: A

Primo Supergirl's overall grade: A-

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Honestly, this was a "believe the hype" book...them things are rare believe me.
When DC proclaimed this an "all Ages Comic" they mean it both adults and "young 'uns" can read it with pleasure with neither group enduring any condescension from the writers.
Kara's origin struck me as a riff on the movie's version the whole "tanrum then stowaway" thing was a nice neat simple explanation for Supergirl's arrival...simplicity of origin being a key element for any nascent hero.
Imagine her embarrassment when this Supergirl turns 18 and starts joining various super-hero teams..she'd have to explain how she got to Earth etc....
That is a mark of strong storytelling right there. As of today, Landry Walker is inducted into a tiny cadre of writers and artists who "get" Supergirl....it's an exclusive club...Jerry Siegel is there, Paul Levitz, Mark Waid....honored company indeed.

John Feer

Landry said...

I'm so glad you liked it. The days leading up to the release of this book have had me a bit on the anxious side. And thanks to John Feer as well. Your praise is beyond high.

Anonymous said...

A missive from a "pro" and I would choose to miss-spell "tantrum".
:D
Seriously hoping this becomes an ongoing series...it has that much potential IMHO.

More high praise from John Feer....

:D

Nikki said...

I noticed John that your writers who 'get' kara were all legion writers. It seems you agree with me that kara is best with the legion. Among equals where they elevate her rather than put her down. (see maelstrom for a good example of that crap). I miss Waid's uber-efficient Supergirl so much. It seems in legion she could whistle to stop an earthquake but in the superbooks she can never do anything right.


As for the cosmic adventures I loved it. It was funny and quirky. I can't wait for the next issue. Also I didn't feel like a kid reading it. I just felt like I was reading a funny book despite the looks it probably got me on the train home.

And to bring my comment all together. I'd love the legion in cosmic adventures.

Mike Z. said...

I think my favorite panel is Allura rolling her eyes at Kara's drama. And I love that Kara's costume is her Superman cheer squad uniform.

It's every bit as adorable as I expected it to be. I'm sad that it's only going to be six issues.

Anonymous said...

All Legion writers? Yes now that you mention it that is true.., in Waid's case I was thinking more of his use of the character in "The Brave and the Bold" wherein Supergirl makes good decisions in the fashion of a saavy but inexperienced 17 year old girl. Making good comics out of that is no small challenge. To that list of writers I'd also add Steve Skeates who was Kara's prime writer thru the end of her run in Adventure Comics.

John Feer

Anj said...

I'm so glad you liked it. The days leading up to the release of this book have had me a bit on the anxious side. And thanks to John Feer as well. Your praise is beyond high.

Thanks so much for the post!

As I was doing the review, I realized that no recent Johnny DC title has had so much publicity or review. I am sure that added to your anxious feelings!

But so far so good!

Is there plans to continue past 6 issues if sales are robust or acclaim stays high?

Anj said...

As for the cosmic adventures I loved it. It was funny and quirky. I can't wait for the next issue. Also I didn't feel like a kid reading it. I just felt like I was reading a funny book despite the looks it probably got me on the train home.

Thanks for the post!

Much like Tiny Titans, I think this book is going to have appeal to all ages ... even us grown ups. So stay strong despite those looks!

Anj said...

I think my favorite panel is Allura rolling her eyes at Kara's drama. And I love that Kara's costume is her Superman cheer squad uniform.

Thanks for the post.

I liked the little marching band Superman hat too!

I do think there is some potential plot points about that hero worship of Kal. Superman is viewed as being 'able to do anything' from the Argo people in quasi-space. Makes Kara's desire to impress Superman that much more difficult.

Heath Edwards said...

this was good fun :). the wife did express some concern that i was reading it :), but all is fun...

Gene said...

An excellent comic overall. I also saw similarities between this issue and the 1984 movie. Stories like these prove that Kara does not always have to be the sole survivor of her hometown to make an important contribution to Supergirl lore.

If someone wants to make a live action or animated Supergirl TV series, I hope they read this comic first. Or maybe Bruce Timm can make a direct to DVD animated movie based on this particular comic book series....

Anonymous said...

Only 6 issues? I hope that this series will have the chance to continue beyond that. There are far too few all ages comics out there that fathers, mothers and daughters can enjoy together. Kudos to Landry and Eric!

John D.

TalOs said...

Huh? Only 6 issues?? Man I could've sworn it was intended as an ongoing upon it's original announcement by DiDio myself. :/

Anywho, I simply thought this was a very cute effort for a kid friendly Supergirl intended title and loved the nods to the 84 [i]Supergirl[/i] movie at that! :D (e.g. "Inner space/Outer space" anyone?)

Anonymous said...

"Among equals where they elevate her rather than put her down. (see maelstrom for a good example of that crap)."

I've read Maelstrom and I didn't see that crap anywhere.

I didn't see Superman putting her cousin down during the Bronze Age, either. He treats her as his partner and they interact as equals in most of stories that I have read.

On the other hand, I constantly see people trying to elevate their favorite character by putting a perceived rival character down.

Both Superman and Supergirl are great characters. You don't need to misrepresent everything Superman does as Super-dickery so Supergirl looks great. She is already great.