Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Review: Superman/Supergirl:Maelstrom #4

Hope everyone has a hapy and safe New Year's Eve.

The Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom mini-series continues to gain momentum as it approaches it's finale next month. Issue #4 is the penultimate chapter and again showcases the relationship between the super cousins. After a lackluster opening, each issue has improved on the last and this issue continued that trend.

One thing that does seem to lower the grade overall are the occasional deus ex machina moments or events that seem forced to simply move the plot along. For example, the impetus to go to the red sun planet was an improbable complete thrashing of Supergirl by Maelstrom. The creative team probably needed a reason to get the cousins off Earth and alone so that somewhat forced scene accomplished that.

This issue's moment? Well, don't ask me how Supergirl is able to communicate enough with the scavenging aliens from last issue to get them to stop pillaging the ship *and* to give her the antidote for the poison dart they hit Superman with last issue. But somehow her gesticulations get the message across.

In fact, doesn't it seem strange to poison Superman on the last page of last issue to only have him so easily cured on the second page of this issue? Well, this issue is about Supergirl going out on her own and succeeding. To accomplish that Superman needs to be near incapacitated. So poisoning him and curing him but having him need to 'sleep it off' allows Kara to show some independence.

But that cure seemed somewhat contrived.
Indeed, Superman has been unconscious for the better part of 4 days leaving Kara in charge to guard him and fix the ship. Thanks goodness Batman told Superman to bring schematics. I like Kara's eye rolling over Batman's obsessive personality.

Throughout this trip, Supergirl has shown a little bit of a willful streak. She is young and opinionated. But one thing that I have liked is that she has never really gone over the line. Sarcastic ...yes. Bitchy? Close-minded? Immature? No, no, and no.

It is hard to jibe *this* Kara with the one from the first issue. It thankfully is definitely not the bitchy immature Kara from the Palmiotti/Gray penned Supergirl #12.
Superman passes out again forcing Kara to finally risk leaving him alone to scrounge for food. She battles a flying jellyfish-like bird and kills it with a spear. Actually, she sort of pops it covering herself in goo.

It's a funny scene. I love the 'gross ...oh wait dinner' moment of clarity.


When Kara returns, Superman is awake and looking a bit better. She again calls him to the carpet for taking them to this dangerous planet. She should call him on it! Despite his reminders that there has been personal growth, it does not take away any of the dangers Kal and Kara have confronted. They truly are lucky to be getting out alive and relatively intact. Kara again states she prefers to be bulletproof. Superman counters with she wants to be emotionally bulletproof. While, at times, she has acted this way on the planet, Kara certainly wasn't emotionally bulletproof as she cried on the moon in issue #1. Not falling for the bait, Supergirl tells Superman she doesn't want to talk about anything 'touchy-feely'.

What follows is a pretty funny conversation as the two struggle to come up with something to talk about. Superman brings up boys *and* Jimmy Olsen. Kara shoots that down. She asks what Aquaman eats for dinner. It can't be fish. Wouldn't he hear them in pain as they are being cooked?

I don't know about you, but I have been in situations where I have been alone with someone struggling to end the silence and struggling to find a topic of conversation.

It was pretty funny.

But eventually 'the big speech' happens.

Superman tells Kara that they have a choice of being a hero but it often means doing things you don't want to do. For example, Kara most likely did not want to repair the ship, hunt for food, and protect Superman, but that was heroic.

Just look at Kara's face. You can almost hear her sighing.

Superman continues that despite their best efforts, people will still die. But it is better to have tried to be a hero than not try at all.

Again, the whole reason for this trip was Kara's interaction with Maelstrom. Didn't she try to save people in that encounter? She didn't sit back. She did everything she could, even trying to rescue people while in pretty bad shape.

So I don't know why this lesson needed to be taught now, but the actual conversation felt natural and flowed nicely.

The camping trip comes to an end as repairs are finished. Kara tells Kal that she will miss spending time with him and he says they can work on that.


Dispersed throughout they issue are fairly pedestrian scenes of the Female Furies wreaking havoc in Metropolis. Stuff gets destroyed, citizens get killed, and Lois and Jimmy end up in the mitts of Maelstrom. Hey ... wasn't Power Girl supposed to be watching Metropolis during the camping trip? I guess that was conveniently forgotten to lead into the showdown next issue.

I have to admit, I actually didn't like the Metropolis pages because I was enjoying the cousins' conversation so much.

If you put this series in it's proper place, as an early adventure of Supergirl, then all that conversation makes perfect sense. Of course Supergirl would need to learn to be independent, not rely on her powers too much, and understand the pitfalls of super-heroics. And her responses, while a bit biting, also made sense for an adolescent who thinks they understand things but really still needs the wisdom of experience.

The problem is trying to corroborate that interaction, those conversations, with the events of the first issue. It is very difficult to reconcile the first issue with the need for these lessons. If the reason for the trip was physical training, so be it. But clearly Superman had more on the agenda. I almost wish I hadn't read the first issue. It would make this an overall better read.

I also don't see the need to go to such an obviously hostile planet to get a point across. Let's face it, there were plenty of ways that either Kara or Kal could have died out there. You think Superman would have the fortitude to admit that this trip was more dangerous than he thought it would be.

All that said, the scenes where Superman and Supergirl chat were well done. That is how I think their voices and interactions would sound like. It almost makes me feel like the inevitable brawl next issue in unnecessary.
And, as stated before, I just love Phil Noto art. He simply does a fantastic Kara. She looked great this issue.

This was the strongest issue yet of this mini-series, each issue an improvement on the last.

Overall grade: B+

6 comments:

Jeff Caporizzo said...

Hey Andrew,

You've pointed out editing gaffes in the past, let's add another to the list - I believe Supergirl should show her boredom with Batman's fitness *regimen*, not *regiment*.

What annoys me about the conversation between Supes and SG is that it had the tone of something out of "Seventh Heaven". Thats fine for Jessica Biel's character skipping class and dabbling with heavy petting on the living room couch, its absurd when lives are at stake for an alien who can move planets.

It would have been more refreshing for Supes to grab SG by the shoulders and say something to the effect of

"In the United States theres a murder every 32 minutes, theres a violent crime every 6 seconds, a rape every 2 minutes, a child is abused every 35 seconds (these are real crime stats by by the way). So while I can understand your need to find yourself, to find your motivation, to find the nerve, to find your favorite nail polish color, the truth of the matter is we simply don't have the time cousin, because while you're off on your personal "outward bound" here people are dying - you get me?

Lois, Jimmy, Ma and Pa, the people we care about, they can only do so much to save these lives and change things, but you and I can do ANYTHING. We can dig a new Panama Canal...tomorrow. We can end world hunger, we can leap tall buildings in a single bound. So in wrapping up this little speech - and I promise this is the last time you'll hear it - you need to understand what wearing that "S" really means and get on it, otherwise you're just in the way. End of sermon."

Then Supes gets up and just walks away.

See where I'm going? In the context of Kryptonian power the stakes are higher, and Kara would need to grow up pretty fast, or willfully choose to ignore her responsibility and deal with how that choice plays out. I just feel that even bringing up "Jimmy Olsen" while Maelstrom is back in metropolis killing people is completely out of place - esp. for Supes as he knows exactly the price of inaction based on experience.

my .02¢

Anonymous said...

"We can end world hunger"
To which Kara the daughter of brilliant scientist would respond "Then WHY don't we?"
Then watch Supes sit there staring at his red boots.
:D

Um the dialogue is tight, but as has been pointed the continuity gaffes are annoying and no one will ever convince that Maelstrom is anything else but a jobber on the order of King Harley Race.

John Feer

Anj said...

See where I'm going? In the context of Kryptonian power the stakes are higher, and Kara would need to grow up pretty fast, or willfully choose to ignore her responsibility and deal with how that choice plays out. I just feel that even bringing up "Jimmy Olsen" while Maelstrom is back in metropolis killing people is completely out of place - esp. for Supes as he knows exactly the price of inaction based on experience.

Thanks for the post.

There are a couple of things I would say here.

1) My guess would be that Superman would have instilled the sentiments you talk about gradually in Kara over his early interactions with her rather than needing to do a 'fire and brimstone' sermon.

2) More importantly, the hope is always that her parents would also have told her these things on a more basic non-super-powered level.

3) Lastly, the thing about this whole conversation is that it seems unnecessary given Kara's actions in the earlier issues. She tried very hard against Maelstrom and she was bothered that she couldn't do more. But she neither sat around idly while Maelstrom killed nor did she give up after her defeat.

As a result, this whole speech seems sort of out of context with the whole initial conflict.

But you are exactly right, if the point is we need to do our best to help man, then Superman dragging them off-planet for a week and nearly dying seems foolish. Imagine if he came home and Metropolis had been razed by Brainiac. Not too keen an idea.

Lastly, while I understand that talking about things like boys seems banal to superheroes, I think that Kara would need a break to talk about that stuff between adventures as much as I need to write in this blog between emergency room shifts. So I didn't mind the light banter that much.

Anj said...

the dialogue is tight, but as has been pointed the continuity gaffes are annoying and no one will ever convince that Maelstrom is anything else but a jobber on the order of King Harley Race.

I agree.

This whole story began because Maelstrom thrashed Supergirl and that doesn't make sense. As a result I have had to cast a jaundiced eye on the subsequent plot twists.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one to notice in issue #1 that Supergirl gets zapped with a green beam before the conflict begins? Green K might be an easy out for SG getting so easily thrashed but there it is! I do agree the issues are getting better and I look forward to Supergirl (NOT weakened by Green K but fully powered) kicking some Furie butt next issue!! May not be the story for everyone to enjoy, but the artwork currently is worth the expense of this mini series.

TalOs said...

Mmmm, as good as this issue sounds (still have yet to receive my copy from local comic shop due to Xmas/New Years break where they haven't been able to get their usual Thurs shipments in) it still sounds like it was all for nothing really and Superman just beating his chest at the end of the day at Supergirl's expense. :/