Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Review: Supergirl:Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade #2

Supergirl:Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade #2 came out last week and much like the first issue was a simple joy to read. Landry Walker and Eric Jones seem to be mining the Supergirl mythos as they play out this 'Mean Girls' take on Kara's early adolescence. I have to say, I laughed out loud at some points.

The issue starts with Linda falling asleep in her science class, daydreaming of being a beloved super-hero. Too bad she is caught by her teacher. She can't necessarily explain why she is so exhausted (I guess saving cows is a nighttime chore for young super-heroines), stammering to say that she had a long night doing 'normal teenage human things'. Her punishment for classroom dozing is to write 'I will not whine about my life in science class' on the blackboard.

For me, these thought balloon glimpses into Kara's thoughts are quickly becoming my favorite part of these stories. Whether they be memories or daydreams, they capture this version of Kara's personality. Here she is so desperate to become a super-hero she roams the fields 'saving' cows. I like that ambition ... touching and humorous.

After accidentally smashing the blackboard, she again dreams about simply running away from the situation and finding a better place to live, someplace where she is loved and respected.

Again, the thought balloon gives her feelings away ... run away to the moon and live the life of unstoppable crime fighter. I think we all had feelings like this growing up. There must be a better place for me somewhere, a place where I fit in and can thrive.

Knowing she can't run away to the moon, Kara tries to fix the blackboard. But that 'stellar rock collection' her teacher was talking about included a chunk of Kryptonite. It's radiation is focused into a beam thanks to an old-fashioned overhead projector, bathing Kara who quickly succumbs.


When Supergirl awakens, she is confronted by the results of this 'duplicator ray', an evil doppelganger ... Linda version B ... or Belinda. Since this is middle school, the opposite of Linda isn't a backwards speaking monster. Nope, she is a cute confident cheerleader with an evil streak a mile wide. Funny how life's situations define what your individual Bizarro will be like.

Kara hopes to have Belinda become her friend and confidante, someone who understands the pressures she is feeling. Instead, Belinda puts together a string of insults calling Kara embarrassing, a train wreck, frumpy, and someone with 'zero grace'.

Let the war begin!
The next day the school is abuzz, teasing Linda mercilessly as she walks down the hall. She realizes that everyone is talking about her because the school has been plastered with embarrassing Linda for class president' posters with a less than flattering picture of her. What's worse ... there isn't even an election planned.

Check out the crowd in the school again.

Look who else is apparently a student at Stanhope! Yep, Wally the God-boy!

Fans of Peter David's Supergirl will remember Wally as a living embodiment of God who helped that Linda through some of her more harrowing trials.

Putting Wally in the Stanhope was a nice little Easter egg for us old timers.


Linda gets chastised for her 'poster prank' by the principal who unfortunately piles on a bit. While there was no election planned, the student body thinks there will be one. As a result, Linda must now run for president. And her hand-picked opponent? Who else but Belinda Zee who has already snowed the staff into thinking she is wonderful.

Linda can't get Belinda out of her head. Her life at the school was already rough. Now she has to see an evil version of her excel! That's tough.

Belinda turns up the heat though, intent on making Linda's life more of a living Hell. She tricks Linda into opening up about all the problems she is having while secretly taping the conversation. She then plays the awful dialogue over the school intercom. Linda suddenly finds herself ostracized even more than before.


Belinda begins the endgame of the election. She tells Linda that she is her polar opposite. If Linda wants people to like her than Belinda wants people to hate her. Belinda is just unrelenting in this social sabotage. She begins to gloat about how she will be president of the school and everyone will shun Linda.

But suddenly, Belinda begins to quack like a duck.


I love how everyone begins to quack behind her. It's just a subtle jab at how cliques all fall into line.

Turns out that Linda has a friend in newer student Lena Thorul, a science whiz who created a defective mind control helmet which makes people think they are ducks. Seeing a kindred spirit in the marginalized Linda, Lena asks if they can be friends and roommates. Linda agrees.

Of course, long time Supergirl fans remember the Silver Age Lena Thorul. Lena was Lex Luthor's sister. Lex's parents changed their name to Thorul (sort of Luthor spelled sideways) and hid their son's villainy from their daughter. When Lex and Lena were young and still lived together, Lena gained precognition and telepathy when an experiment Lex was performing on an alien brain went awry. Lena was kept in the dark about her family tree. Lex even went out of his way to secretly protect Lena from ever learning he was her brother.

In a new twist of the old idea, this Lena knows Lex is her brother, harbors some resentment for Superman, and seems to have Lex's knack with super-science. The issue ends showing the two roommates saying good night to one another, not suspecting their connection.

This was another fun and adorable issue in this mini-series. One thing I like is how the usual trial and tribulations of early adolescence are elevated to the super-hero level. I just cringe when I see Linda trying so hard to fit in only to have it inevitably blow up in her face. Like most comic book and D&D geeks, I can remember feeling like I was on the outside looking in both in junior high and high school. So to see Linda squirm as things she said are broadcast to everyone, to see her dream of 'running away' to the moon, to see her haunted by the 'ideal girl' Belinda ... it just resonates a bit. This comic is just the perfect mix of innocence and angst, of humor and pathos in a superhuman middle school world.

Add to that the 'tips of the cap' to Supergirl history and you get a really wonderful book, both for the older fans and the Johnny DC crowd. I mean Wally the God-boy and Lena Thorul in the same book?? Perfect.

As usual, I read the issue to the oldest Supergirl at home. She giggled and thought it was funny. She did say she thought there would be more super-hero action and hopes there will be in the next issues. I can't wait.

Overall grade: B+
Primo Supergirl's overall grade: B+

15 comments:

TalOs said...

Not to long ago got #2 of this gem of a title and read it 3 x over as such! Brilliant writing and characterization by Landry Walker in my honest opinion, loved the revelation as to exactly WHO "Belinda Zee" is, and a real surprise easter egg added in for us longtime Supergirl fans that's garenteed to bring a smile to our faces at that! (but how could I have missed PAD's Supergirl reign's own God/"Wally" in the background??) Man this title just keeps getting better and better! :D

Saranga said...

Thanks for the explanation about Lena Thorul! I knew I was missing something.
Not impressed I missed Wally god boy though. I'll just have to reread PAD's series. (oh shame!)

Anonymous said...

I have two words for you
"MOON SUPERGIRL!"
WHEN does she get her solo series????????

Good call on Wally D. Itty and his cameo appearance....personally I love Linda's nigh anthropoidal posture, she walks around with rounded shoulders and splay-footed...the weight of the world literally on her back.
It's touches like this that make this title nearly exquisite to read....wonderful wonderful book, proof positive that Kara was a natural as an "all ages" character.

John Feer

TalOs said...

My sentiments EXACTLY, John Feer! :D

Anj said...

Thanks for the explanation about Lena Thorul! I knew I was missing something.
Not impressed I missed Wally god boy though. I'll just have to reread PAD's series. (oh shame!)


Thanks for the post.

Maybe I'll do a post just on Lena from the SIlver Age at some point. It'll give me good reason to dust off some older issues.

Anj said...

I have two words for you
"MOON SUPERGIRL!"
WHEN does she get her solo series????????

Good call on Wally D. Itty and his cameo appearance....personally I love Linda's nigh anthropoidal posture, she walks around with rounded shoulders and splay-footed...the weight of the world literally on her back.


Thanks for the post.

I love the Moon Supergirl bits too! The ultimate escapist thought!

And the art is perfect for the title.

Anj said...

a real surprise easter egg added in for us longtime Supergirl fans that's garenteed to bring a smile to our faces at that!

Yeah. I haven't seen Lena Thorul since the Superman Family days!

It's clear that Walker is sprinkling all sorts of Supergirl history into the book and I love it.

Anonymous said...

oh and I wouldn't put it past Luthor to build a "little sister robot" to infiltrate the school in a bid to seek out Kara's secret identity either. It would fit with the book's general theme of multiple identities and the inevitability of betrayal/humiliation.

John Feer

PS
Where is Comet, the Super-pony??

TalOs said...

Er, coming in later on maybe? :/

Mike Z. said...

I actually was made uncomfortable during some of this. I have a strong aversion to even fictional humiliation. Even in a light-hearted comic book. I still loved it, of course. "Moon Supergirl" for the win!

I haven't been able to get any customers at my store to buy this book yet. It's very frustrating.

Anj said...

"Moon Supergirl" for the win!

I haven't been able to get any customers at my store to buy this book yet. It's very frustrating.


Thanks for the post.

It's funny how everyone seemed to like the Moon Supergirl bit.

As for pushing the book, I think it is hard to push an all ages book like this sometimes. Hopefully the tremendous 'word of mouth' it is getting on the web will reach buyers. My store just put a little index card in front of it on the shelves saying something like 'an great all ages book truly for all ages'.

Landry Walker said...

I just have to ask - Did you pick up on the re-freezing ice cream reference to classic Supergirl?

I'm glad everyone seems to like Moon Supergirl. The poor Moon Gang. Nowhere is safe for them.

@Mike Z

I think there will be some type of Cosmic Adventures appearance during Free Comic Book day. That's what I read on a message board anyway. So, if that is the case, maybe that could help push the book a little at your store.

Thanks for the kind words everybody. Just a few weeks until issue 3!

Gene said...

The introduction of Belinda poses an interesting question: Must one become evil not only to thrive, but also survive in 8th Grade?

Thank you Mr. Walker for an excellent series!

Anj said...

I just have to ask - Did you pick up on the re-freezing ice cream reference to classic Supergirl?

Thanks so much for the post! I love the book!

You know the ice cream panel seemed sooo familiar but I couldn't find the 'original' panel to scan for comparison so I didn't want to just assume.

Now I will have to dig a bit deeper into my collection. Those early SG stories were full of moments like that ... helping kids with golf games and magic shows.

I think there will be some type of Cosmic Adventures appearance during Free Comic Book day. That's what I read on a message board anyway. So, if that is the case, maybe that could help push the book a little at your store.

That's great news. It is a perfect book for FCBD!

Landry Walker said...

"You know the ice cream panel seemed sooo familiar but I couldn't find the 'original' panel to scan for comparison so I didn't want to just assume."

If you have the first Showcase collection, check page 43. The story is "The Secret of the Super Orphan!"