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.
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.
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.
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.
This was the strongest issue yet of this mini-series, each issue an improvement on the last.
Overall grade: B+