Thursday, February 5, 2009

Review: Supergirl:Cosmic Adventures In The Eighth Grade #3

Supergirl:Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade #3 came out yesterday and continues to be a fun read. The more I read this series, the more I understand that we are truly reading the origin of this Supergirl's heroism.

This Kara is struggling so hard to fit in, to have friends, to feel good about herself ... and it isn't easy. So of course when she finally has her powers under control she is going to want to help the the underserved, the marginalized, the down-trodden. She feels she was one of them herself!

As we saw in the preview, the issue starts with Linda sitting alone with Lena in the cafeteria. Lena bemoans the fact that they have been 'banished' but Linda notes that they usually pick the table farthest from everyone. In some ways they are self-banishing themselves rather than reaching out and trying to make new friends.

No sooner has Lena noted this than the sly Belinda Zee comes up and declares Linda her new BFF. I have seen enough of Belinda in just one issue to know that she doesn't mean it. Instead she is simply causing trouble by making Lena jealous. And I have seen enough of Lena in a short period of time to know that she is unhinged enough to take the bait.

Before Linda can say anything, she sees something even more disastrous than this exchange, something she needs to deal with as Supergirl.

A red meteor is streaking towards the school! And only Supergirl can save everyone.

As I have said before, the thought bubbles in this series are one of my favorite parts. We get to see the inner thoughts of this Kara in a very concrete way. Here we see her plan to deal with the meteor ... use a giant tennis racket to smack it back into space. I think that is precious. For one, where the heck is she going to find a giant tennis racket? Second, won't the meteor just smash through it? But that is probably what a 12 year old would think of as a solution.

Alas, before Supergirl can find a giant Wilson racket, the meteor smashes into her, breaking into tiny pieces and missing the school. So she successfully saved the school but in a rather sloppy way.
Kara crash lands into a dumpster where she remains unconscious for several hours. Careful inspection on the panel shows some interesting pieces.

First off, piles of the red rocks seem to be all over town.

But also (thanks to poster Nikki for pointing this out), I think we see our first glimpse of Streaky hiding behind the nearby trash can. I always say ... I can't get enough Streaky.

After awakening, she uses super-vision to check on the school and sees that it is safe. However, a rally is happening on the school grounds and she is being called to the dais by Prinicipal Picklemeyer.
Using super-speed to return to Stanhope, Linda is shocked when the Principal asks her to show him her super-powers.


Here is another great thought balloon. Linda is so worried about how Superman will react if people discover her powers. Her first thought when the principal asks her about powers is an image of Superman banishing her to a black hole.

For us old-timers, this fear was very prevalent in Kara's early adventures in Action Comics and even her early solo adventures in Adventure Comics. And if you read those stories, these were not unfounded fears. Superman used to punish Supergirl for the slightest indiscretion. Landry Walker talked about the 'specter of Superman' looming over Supergirl in this series and I knew just what he was talking about. He was talking about this.

And you feel for Supergirl. She is trying to please Superman (a beloved hero on Argo), trying to eke out a decent life in Stanhope, and trying to be a super-hero. There is absolutely no way that all those hopes and dreams can be realized together. In fact, they might be at odds with each other.
Luckily, the Principal is not asking this because Linda has been discovered. He is asking this because the red meteor's radiation has given everyone, students included, super-powers. Well almost everyone. Seems Lena was not given any.

Lena seems pretty rigid in her beliefs. She strongly states that she doesn't need powers to measure her self-worth (just like she doesn't needs popularity or friends either). And she drags Linda into the mix with her. And Linda, not wanting to jeopardize her friendship with Lena by isolating her, goes along with her. Linda hides the fact that she has powers.

This is such a nice scene. First off, it definitely shows Lena's Luthor roots of hating super-powered beings and wanting to put mankind first.

More importantly, Linda could actually show her powers and suddenly fit in ... suddenly be part of the crowd. But she is too nice to do that knowing it will hurt Lena and so she denies herself that which she probably wants. That is being a hero.

Unfortunately, it means that she lands in the lowest rung of the school's new caste system. Those without powers are exiled to classes in the basement (almost looks like a prison) where they are taught that the powerless are worthless, put on Earth to worship those with powers, wallow in their own mediocrity, or be a pawn in the schemes of those with powers.

Linda already knows this isn't right and asks about equality and fairness only to have the teacher try to crush those feelings from her.

I know how much relatively small events from junior high and high school helped turn me into the person I still am today. That's why I think scenes like this, where Linda has the strength to question injustice, are helping to build the foundation for Supergirl's ethics and drive for justice in the future.
While in the class however, Supergirl hears cries for help and sees that the powers granted by the red meteor seems to be wearing off. People are literally falling from the sky as their flying power wears off.

Thinking quickly to get out of class, Linda uses her powers to be apparently thrown around the room by an 'invisible superhero'. That's actually pretty savvy.


After saving everyone in the town, she returns to her room exhausted. Unfortunately, cries for help ring out again from all over town.

It turns out that Lena has created a machine to siphon off the red meteor's energies thus depowering people. However, Belinda keeps re-exposing people to the rock's energies granting them new powers. The cycle keeps repeating and the results are near-cataclysmic with building falling and fires spreading.

Why would Belinda do this? Either she likes the chaos that super-powers are causing in the high school hierarchy or she likes the chaos they are causing around town. Either way, she is an agent of chaos. Slowly but surely, Belinda is becoming my favorite character in this series. It's sort of like how I liked the 'Serena' episodes of Bewitched best.

Hmmm ... that is the second Bewitched reference I have made regarding this comic. Weird.

Showing some ingenuity again, Linda realizes she needs to stop this whole episode from happening to begin with. She decides to mix the red meteor's energy with Kryptonite energy as a way to grant herself new powers. She knows that the results might be unexpected such as turning her into cheese but she still risks it. 'I'm too delicious to live!' ... that's pure gold.

After several attempts which grant her useless powers (stretching toes, waffle burning, talking to fish - nice jab at Aquaman), she finally gets the power she is looking for ... time travel.

Supergirl travels back in time and actually stops the meteor from ever making it to Earth. I wonder if she used a giant tennis racket!

But there are too many goodies in the panels to just gloss over. It looks like Supergirl used those powers to do more than thwart the meteor. A new costume? A crown? A small scimitar? A Legion belt and flight ring? Nice touches.

And we still see the hole in the chalkboard from last issue's accident, a nifty little piece of serie's continuity.

Since the meteor timeline has now never happened, this red meteor-powered Supergirl cannot exist. She fades away, but not before revealing that Principal Picklemeyer is not who he appears to be. More on this later.
Since Linda never had to leave the cafeteria to save the school, we see the Belinda/Lena conversation again. This time Linda has the opportunity to stand up for herself a little.

It's actually a pretty powerful moment. It shows that Linda is growing a bit. She isn't sitting there passively.

Too bad it seems to backfire. Both Belinda and Lena storm off leaving Linda alone. This should have been a great moment for Linda where she grabs some control of her life at Stanhope. Instead it leaves her sort of worse off than before.

And then we see Principal Picklemeyer gloating over Supergirl's misery and promising that the worst is yet to come. And look at what we see! We knew that Streaky was coming next issue. And we have seen the more Bizarro-garbed Belinda on the cover previews of issue #5. But a head-band wearing Supergirl! Now I am intrigued.

And we also get a little mystery. If Gates and Igle can have 'who is Superwoman?' then Walker and Jones can have 'who is Principal Picklemeyer?'

I already know. Picklemeyer is Mr. Mxyzptlk. Who else could he be? Any other guesses?

We are halfway through this mini-series and we have seen a Supergirl pretty much put through the wringer. Despite that, she continues to strive to be a hero and do what's right. And now we are seeing some glimpses of her applying her powers in creative and productive ways as well as seeing her inner fortitude and resolve grow. My guesses is the Supergirl at the end of issue #6 is going to be different person than the one we first saw in issue #1.

As a result, I am really enjoying this series. It continues to have the perfect blend humor, history, heroics, and tweener angst all revolving around an adorably struggling Supergirl who is slowly growing into her role of hero.

Interestingly, when I read the issue to the primo Supergirl at home, she seemed just a smidge disappointed. She certainly laughed at the funny parts (especially the cheese bit). But I think she is still at a point in her life (age 10) where she wants to see the hero win easily. After three issues of a somewhat crest-fallen Linda, I think my Supergirl is looking for an outright victory for good soon.

My overall grade: A
Primo Supergirl's overall grade: pretty good

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else notice that everyone at Stanhope Academy gained super-powers except Lena, Linda and small coterie of misfits banished to a basement schoolroom?
So maybe the reason Lena didn't get powers is because she isn't human, she is robot and immune to the meteor's effect...

BTW this ish was also a sweet put down on of Smallville's "meteor freak of the week" meme....

Words fail to express how much I love this title!

John Feer

Gene said...

I believe one of the strongest assets of this series are the facial expressions. Look at Kara on the cover, for all of us who remember junior high, there were a lot more grimaces than grins back then.

One of my favorites is the look on Lena's face when she is operating her depowering machine.

drth said...

I already know. Picklemeyer is Mr. Mxyzptlk. Who else could he be? Any other guesses?

It would fit in this chaos-itic homage to the Sliver Age.

Anj said...

So maybe the reason Lena didn't get powers is because she isn't human, she is robot and immune to the meteor's effect...

Thanks for the post. I don't know if I agree with your Lex-bot theory but you continue to build a nice case for it.

And I agree, I love this title.

Anj said...

I believe one of the strongest assets of this series are the facial expressions. Look at Kara on the cover, for all of us who remember junior high, there were a lot more grimaces than grins back then.

For a 'cartoony' style, I think Jones has really done a great job. And you are right that you can read the characters' emotions on their faces and posture. Wonderful stuff.

Anj said...

It would fit in this chaos-itic homage to the Sliver Age.

Thanks for the post.

It fits most everything that has happened in the school. Only 5th dimensional magic can make things this loony.

TalOs said...

Man once again Landry manages to floor us all and knocks this here family intended line Supergirl title out of the stratosphere all the same! Just LURVED it!!! 8D

[b]Anj said...[/b]
[i]She knows that the results might be unexpected such as turning her into cheese but she still risks it. 'I'm too delicious to live!' ... that's pure gold.[/i]

Dude I absolutely laughed out loud when I saw that scene!

[b]Anj said...[/b]
[i]Supergirl travels back in time and actually stops the meteor from ever making it to Earth.

But there are too many goodies in the panels to just gloss over. It looks like Supergirl used those powers to do more than thwart the meteor. A new costume? A crown? A small scimitar? A Legion belt and flight ring? Nice touches.[/i]

I absolutely adored seeing those Easter eggs! (Especially the Legion flight ring and belt at that!!! :D)

[b]Anj said...[/b]
[i]And then we see Principal Picklemeyer gloating over Supergirl's misery and promising that the worst is yet to come. And look at what we see! We knew that Streaky was coming next issue. And we have seen the more Bizarro-garbed Belinda on the cover previews of issue #5. But a head-band wearing Supergirl! Now I am intrigued.[/i]

YES! Red colored head-band wearing Supergirl AND Streaky at that!!! W00T! Seriously pray that this all comes to pass! :D

[b]Anj said...[/b]
[i]And we also get a little mystery. If Gates and Igle can have 'who is Superwoman?' then Walker and Jones can have 'who is Principal Picklemeyer?'

I already know. Picklemeyer is Mr. Mxyzptlk. Who else could he be? Any other guesses?[/i]

Oh Mxyzptlk, definitely ah! ;)

P.S. do you recon now that Supergirl is seen donning a Legion flight ring and belt at that this means she's officially a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes? :)