Friday, January 9, 2009

Review: Superman/Supergirl:Maelstrom #5

Superman/Supergirl:Maelstrom #5 came out this week and ended an 'up and down' mini-series that had both good moments and bad. One thing that has been consistent throughout the series has been the absolutely stunning art by Phil Noto. In fact, there are lots of scans in this post simply to showcase the delicious art.

The mini-series started out at a low point with a dedicated Supergirl getting soundly thrashed by a no-name Apokoliptian woman named Maelstrom. One thing that went right with that first issue was the fact that Supergirl acted heroic and always had the welfare of the people around her in mind. After Superman saves the day, he takes Kara away to a red sun planet to better train her to use her powers.

The middle 3 issues improved from this opening chapter a bit. Somewhere along the way, and in no way hinted at or justified in that first issue, the training shifted significantly from mere physical training to Superman preaching self-sufficiency, telling Kara she needs to open her heart to humanity and stop being so distant. While the dialogue in these issues was crisp, I still could not wrap my head around why Superman felt he needed to preach this to Supergirl. It is not as if Supergirl was partying or not paying attention during Maelstrom's first attack. Indeed, when Kara struggles to rise after that first battle, her first words are about saving people.

But for some reason, the plot took a left turn and became Superman trying to convince Supergirl that she needs to act like a hero. I didn't quite understand why that left turn happened ... but it did.

All of this recap is important as I try to review both this finale and the series as a whole. Because the story simply doesn't flow easily from point A to point B.

But on to issue #5.

The cousins arrive back in our solar system and take a quick yellow sun bath to regain their powers and heal up. But while they are energizing, Superman hears cries from Earth. The Female Furies have been tearing up Metropolis.

Now let's say that the Furies were in Metropolis for a couple of days and killed the Daily Planet staff ... would Superman have still thought a trip to the red sun planet was worth it? We already have seen them off some nameless citizens. Could those deaths have been avoided if Superman was around? I mean does it make sense for Superman to be telling Kara that she needs to be a hero and protect people from extraordinary threats when he has taken her away from Earth to a dangerous place? Okay ... okay ... I won't harp on that point again.


Returning to Earth, Superman and Supergirl rescue Lois and Jimmy respectively and confront the Furies. Supergirl seems eager to square off with Maelstrom again.

There is no honor among thieves however. The Furies, despite purportedly being on Earth to help Maelstrom fight Superman unhindered, press the attack wanting a piece of the glory. There are a couple of pages of street level brawling including this nice 2 page spread by Noto.

To Kara, this seems to be mirroring the first battle too much ... too many casualties, too much property damage, too clustered a battlefield.

She says she needs a plan!

I guess that time on the red sun planet has taught her that she can't simply rely on her powers. But for some reason that line didn't sound quite right to me. Does that mean Kara wasn't thinking about the people around her when she engaged Maelstrom the first time?



The plan is a rather simple one ... appear like she is running away when actually she is circling the globe and grabbing the Furies from behind at super-speed. Here is another nice splash page by Noto. That is one ticked off Kara.


And look at this panel of Supergirl. Man oh man ... I love Noto art. That is one strong healthy beautiful looking Kara.

That said ... she knocks out three Furies by throwing them into a rock wall? In the first issue, Maelstrom shrugs off a right cross to the jaw by Kara. In this issue, Stompa gets sandwiched between halves of a car. Doesn't this seem a bit too easy of a defeat of the Furies? Isn't it the polar opposite of the ease with which Maelstrom defeated Kara?


That said, maybe Maelstrom is more powerful than we surmise. In the issue she gives Superman a kick to the gut which completely incapacitates him. (Huh?) Maelstrom approaches him with a Apokoliptian buzzsaw with plans to decapitate him when she is suddenly scooped up from behind and flown into space by Kara.

While there is a nice symmetry to Kal's rescue of Kara from issue #1 (including the bear hug ending move), doesn't this also seem a bit too easy? And this is the one piece of Noto's art that I think is sub-par. Doesn't Maelstrom seem a bit too passive in her body language as she is being carried? Shouldn't she be doing everything in her power to break the hold? Shouldn't Kara look like she is struggling more to hold this hellion still?

The bottom line is Maelstrom needs to breathe and so falls unconscious in the vacuum of space.

Unfortunately, I felt this brawl was a bit too brief and neat for me.

And now that I have read the end of the Maelstrom storyline, I don't know if I necessarily needed to have so much of her backstory. She is, in the end, a rather static character. I thought this series would end with growth by both Kara and Maelstrom.

Instead, Kara puts the Furies and Maelstrom on the spaceship she and Superman used and sends them to the very red sun planet she was just on.


Despite being reminded by Superman that they have Boom Tube technology and will be able to leave that planet shortly, Kara think they might learn something while there the way she did.

Hmmm ... what did she learn?

Superman applauds Supergirl on her fight with the Furies and Maelstrom. He tries to contrast Kara to Maelstrom by saying "people like Maelstrom cannot begin to comprehend the impact they have on other people's lives and the danger of being so devoid of these emotions." I guess that means that Superman is trying to say that Kara was sort of like that prior to their little camping trip.

Huh?


In this very series (as seen above), Kara is seen crying on the moon because she failed to save people!! Doesn't that show she has never been like Maelstrom? Doesn't that mean she is not 'emotionally bulletproof' as Superman calls her? (Maybe Palmiotti and Gray are channeling the angry angsty rave-dancing Supergirl from their story in Supergirl #12?)

Anyways ..... (sighs) ....

Superman tells Kara that she should do something fun; she deserves it for her victory.



In a scene which thematically mirrored a similar scene from the film 'Superman Returns', Kara floats above Earth and listens to all the terrible things happening. Most of the blurbs she hears are about political unrest resonating around the globe. This isn't the police band she is listening to.


When Superman catches up with her again, Kara says she couldn't have fun with everything that is going on.

Superman tries to tell her that she shouldn't interfere with the political issues on the planet. That her role as a hero is to save people from the unexpected (I suppose like alien invasions). He tells her that political problems aren't their business.

I like this ending though ... Supergirl teaching Superman something. She tells him that today political issues are their business.


She tells Superman that they should go do some good. He agrees and they fly off together.

So what is left to say?

Well, the first thing is that it is hard to reconcile the last 4 issues with the set-up established in the first. As a result, the mini-series seems somewhat disjointed. As I have said before, the lesson Superman taught Supergirl was that she should open herself up to her emotions and to her place in humanity. But it did not appear she needed that lesson. And the locale of that lesson, given the inherent danger there, seems unwise.

The second is that there were some intriguing possibilities that could have been done with Maelstrom, a slave wanting to advance on Apokolips, but none were explored. As a result, all the scenes on Apokolips showing her torture, etc. don't seem warranted now. I don't know why we needed multiple scenes of her being imprisoned and tortured; what did they add to the story that could not have been said in just one scene.

And some parts of this story seem to have been wrapped up a bit too easily. Things like Supergirl obtaining the cure for the poison, the defeat of the Furies.

All that negativity aside, there were some nice parts here. The conversations between the cousins did snap a little bit. Certainly the 'big' talk had some nice exchanges. But I also liked the lighter conversations ... Aquaman's diet, Earth idioms Superman doesn't know.

The Noto art is just spectacular throughout the series. In particular this issue had some very very nice panels and splash pages. I cannot gush enough.

And if I just tell myself that this is an early adventure in Supergirl's career which isn't even in continuity, I guess this mini-series was fine.

Overall grade (issue #5): C

Overall grade (mini-series): C

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Agreed, the c-grade is justified, the mini wanders all over the map...five issues devoted to a story that couldn't been wrapped up easily in two. And in the end, Kara has her wits about her enough to put down Maelstrom the jobber down hard.
Can't really see what she LEARNED from her camping trip with Kal El that necessarily made the difference...
The artwork was interesting though...

John Feer

TalOs said...

Anj said...
So what is left to say?

Well, the first thing is that it is hard to reconcile the last 4 issues with the set-up established in the first. As a result, the mini-series seems somewhat disjointed. As I have said before, the lesson Superman taught Supergirl was that she should open herself up to her emotions and to her place in humanity. But it did not appear she needed that lesson. And the locale of that lesson, given the inherent danger there, seems unwise.

The second is that there were some intriguing possibilities that could have been done with Maelstrom, a slave wanting to advance on Apokolips, but none were explored. As a result, all the scenes on Apokolips showing her torture, etc. don't seem warranted now.


Great! Not only was I unfortunately unable to get a copy of this title's concluding issue from my lcs this week around (they were still unloading even to closing time and during that whole time that I was there they still couldn't even find the specific shipping box that had this was stored in) but it seems the whole mini went out on whimper rather then a bang.

Aside form the top notch art what a complete and utter let down all in all. *Sighs*

Anyone think this'll be included in the next Supergirl trade due out sometime this year? :/

Saranga said...

I also found this a very odd mini series. I've just read the last two issues, and lots of stuff just didn't make sense.

Anj said...

John Feer said:
Agreed, the c-grade is justified, the mini wanders all over the map...five issues devoted to a story that couldn't been wrapped up easily in two.

Saranga said:
I also found this a very odd mini series. I've just read the last two issues, and lots of stuff just didn't make sense.

Thanks for the posts.

I guess 'up and down' is an appropriate term for this. Too many things just seemed disjointed.

Gene said...

Where was Power Girl during all of this? I thought Superman told Supergirl that she would watch the shop while they were away.

If DC was smart, they would sell that last image you scanned Anj as a poster.

TalOs said...

Gene said...

Where was Power Girl during all of this? I thought Superman told Supergirl that she would watch the shop while they were away.

Asleep on the job apparently. :P

If DC was smart, they would sell that last image you scanned Anj as a poster.

Agreed! :D