Saturday, July 25, 2009

Review: Supergirl #43


Supergirl #43 was released last week and had the tough task of being a sort of 'rest issue' between the 'Who Is Superwoman?' story arc and next months super-title crossover 'Codename:Patriot'.

With 'Patriot' around the corner, it was not as if Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle had the luxury of opening up any major can of worms for the future. Knowing this needed to be something of a done-in-one story, I didn't know what to expect.

What I got was a pretty good story that took a long hard look at the Alura/Kara dynamic. After seeing only snippets of Alura acting like an evil stepmother from a fairy tale for the last 9 months, I was glad to get a bigger glimpse of her, to get a better sense of her motivations.

This was a character driven issue through and through and sometimes those are the hardest ones to get right. Add to that some scenes detailing Kryptonian culture and a great scene with Superman and overall I was pretty happy with the outcome.

The issue takes place just before Kara's birthday and the upcoming celebration on New Kandor. This birthday will also mark the time when Kara will need to declare a guild to join. All along I thought she would choose the Artist's guild given her own predilection to painting as well as her close relationship to her father.

The issue is told via excerpts from a letter that Kara is writing to her dead father Zor-El. Now the 'letter to a dead loved one' motif has been used many many times. It can easily veer into schmaltz and saccharine. I worried this might become an 'after school special' issue. Luckily, my fears were unfounded. The letter excerpts are there more to frame the scenes we are shown albeit with some personal reflection by Kara.


One thing that has not changed is how icy and belligerent Alura is shown to be. When Kara comments on how prominent the House of El crest is on Alura's outfit, Alura responds that it is there as a warning to anyone who would harm any other El family members. Alura has a whole planet of Kryptonians that she can command to fight.

I had begun to wonder if Alura was going to become a one-note character. At least in this title, we haven't seen any other emotions from her other than bitterness and anger. Gates has really done a wonderful job making Kara and the other characters here 3-dimensional. I mean, no one can be bitter and angry *all* the time? Can they?
Seemingly upset at Supergirl's failure to capture either Reactron or Superwoman, Alura sends Kara to work with the labor guild for a couple of days.

I enjoy any look into Kryptonian culture as it fleshes out their world and customs. Here we see a Labor Guild unit repairing some machinery. They seem proud of their work as they toil away in the grime. I like the look of understanding on Kara's face in that last panel. Suddenly members of the Labor Guild have faces and names. They are people who are treated as slave labor. Kara seems to be looking at them with sympathy.


And then there is a wonderful scene were Supergirl and Kal's Red Shard unit discover the apartment that Lucy was hiding out in as Superwoman when on New Kandor.

I am so happy that Gates wrote this scene. Just like we needed to see Lois' response to the Lucy mystery, so too did we need to see Kal's. What I love most about this scene is how Kal completely supports Kara. In the Silver Age, this would have been the time that Superman would have chastised Superman. That doesn't happen now.

In fact he apologizes to Kara for Lois' behavior. Realizing that Lucy could not have put together the suit and acted as Superwoman alone, Kal vows to find out who is behind this threat to New Krypton.

This scene alone made the issue for me. Throughout Gates and Igle's run we have seen Superman support Supergirl. It would have been easy to have him be upset about the death of his sister-in-law, to question Kara's abilities ... but he didn't.

Lastly, a new name has been added to the Superwoman mystery. This apartment belonged to someone named Kryn Kel-Ur, a Kryptonian missing since the city was enlarged. Where is she? Did Lucy kill her?

But Alura has more duties for Kara to perform on New Krypton and so the mystery needs to wait.

Next Kara meets Zal-Tel the man commissioned to carve a statue in Zor-El's honor. He also happened to be Zor-El's mentor in the artist's guild.

Zal-Tel asks Kara about her own painting and wonders if she would like to be his next apprentice. Kara's expression sort of says it all. I assumed she would jump at the chance and be beaming. Instead this semi-confused look let me know that Kara was conflicted about this decision.

And that feeling was probably greater after some jumbled meetings with members of the Religious Guild and Science Guild.

As I said before, Alura's constant vitriol had started to feel a little stale with me.
But Gates does a good job of letting us know that Alura isn't all steel. Throughout the book we see Kara lying in bed at night listening to her mother cry. Alura always cries at the same time and always nears hysterical sobbing. Kara even worries if her mother might take her own life.

This suddenly humanizes Alura. She is still reeling with grief from Zor-El's death. Maybe that rigid exterior is a mask to hide the crumbling interior.

Finally, Kara confronts her mother who has flown to Zor-El's grave.

There is one new plot point here ... why is Alura always crying at the same time of night?

Once again though, this scene shows just how much Kara has matured over the last several months. There was a time when Kara wouldn't have confronted her mother like this.

It turns out that Alura has had Kara running all over New Krypton to expose Kara to all the different guilds. On Kara's birthday she'll need to choose a guild to join and Alura used her pull to give Supergirl some insider information.


Alura regards these trips as a gift ... a statement that flummoxes Kara.

I love the confused look on Kara's face, the slightly furroed brow, as she admits that she simply doesn't understand her mother.

There was no anger here, no angst. Supergirl is outright perplexed by her mother and her actions.

Which makes Supergirl's choice of the Science Guild intriguing.

I had really thought it was a foregone conclusion that Kara would pick the Artist Guild. It made sense.

Instead she joins the Science Guild in hopes of learning why Alura acts the way she does. I also thought this choice showed some maturity. Supergirl didn't choose the Science Guild to try to make Alura love her more or to try to 'buy' Alura's respect. She did it in hopes of coming to some understanding.

This was another very good issue by the Gates/Igle team. I have yet to be disappointed by any of their issues and there is always something noteworthy. In this issue, Kara's scene with Kal and their mutual respect for each other really stands out as the high point.

Overall grade: B+/B

18 comments:

TalOs said...

Hmm... I found myself enjoying some of this issue (the art being the some really) but not all though.

Anj said:

Next Kara meets Zal-Tel the man commissioned to carve a statue in Zor-El's honor. He also happened to be Zor-El's mentor in the artist's guild.

Zal-Tel my caboose! Seriously no disrespect intended to you by that Anj but being as familiar with the '84 Supergirl movie that I am I know that Sterling is using it's own Zaltar (founder and head artist of Argo City) here (hell he even has him apparently recalling Kara and their friendship back on Argo City and his questioning her about still painting as being the dead give away) and instead of referring to him by that name proper he chose to alter it to 'Zal-Tel' just like he did when Alura gave her eulogy about Zor-El and Sterling has her calling the Omegahedron an 'Alphahedron' too.

Since WB/DC own the rights to Supergirl and her movie they should just call Zal-Tel Zaltar (or Zal-Ta the proper Kryptonian way of naming him) as well as the Alphahedron being the Omegahedron really. They did this for Superman during "Last Son" for Superman II's Zod, Ursa and Non so why not allow the same for Supergirl's own movie here too? :/

Zal-Tel asks Kara about her own painting and wonders if she would like to be his next apprentice. Kara's expression sort of says it all. I assumed she would jump at the chance and be beaming. Instead this semi-confused look let me know that Kara was conflicted about this decision.

Which pretty much chucks what we learn't of her 'true calling' in Final Crisis (i.e. that of a born artist as her passion) completely out of the arena all together.

Gene said...

Kara in the Science Guild makes sense because she can fully utilize her intellect and apply what she has learned to be a better superhero. She might even discover something that could help Lana.

drth said...

I think after "New Krypton" mess is cover. She will use the Science Council as way to get back to Earth and her Linda Lang identity.

Nikki said...

What is most intruiging is that Alura doesn't share the same prejudice about the Labour guild that everyone else does. The fact she gives Kara the choice to join them says a lot considering it would be considered beneath her.


(by the way, speaking of the movie, the director's cut from the stupidly limited editon one is on you tube. I've seen 20 minutes of it and I think its miles better. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLyfoUWa1BI)

Nikki said...

Talos, they may not own Zaltar like they don't own Nuclear Man from Superman 4 but it definitely was a call back to that character. Another seed to send us in the wrong direction

Anonymous said...

Hey everybody-

Point of clarification: Warner Brothers doesn't own the rights to 'Zaltar' or the 'Omegahedron' (or 'Selena,' for that matter), so we can't use those exact names/items in Supergirl.

Trust me, I've asked. :)

Hope that helps,
Sterling

And-Ru said...

I noticed the Zoltar thing too. It was cool to have that reference in there.

I really liked this issue. It was a nice change of pace and really delivered some strong characterisation.

Here's what I thought!

http://bottlecityofkanga.blogspot.com/2009/07/supergirl-43-happy-guilding-day.html

I was happy to see another flying dog!

Nikki said...

damn, so does this mean black lantern Power Boy can't have a secret ID called Ethan?


on second thoughts just Black Lantern Power Boy is pure gold and needs to happen.The scariest black lantern of them all!!

TalOs said...

Sterling Gates said...

Hey everybody-

Point of clarification: Warner Brothers doesn't own the rights to 'Zaltar' or the 'Omegahedron' (or 'Selena,' for that matter), so we can't use those exact names/items in Supergirl.

Trust me, I've asked. :)

You're kidding!? Crap! Crap crap crap! I'm so annoyed by this and wonder why this is when WB/DC are clearly more then happy to go that extra mile in wanting to use Ursa and Non from first 2 Superman movies yet aren't willing to go the same extra mile for Supergirl's own though?

Ok so the Omegahedron is as of now the 'Alphahedron', Zaltar (or Zal-Ta) is now 'Zal-Tel', so Sterling for Selena couldn't you just refer to her as being simply 'Madam. S' (a nod to her calling herself 'Madam Selena' to Ethan upon first meeting him at the amusement park) instead?

Hope that helps,
Sterling


It does (at least for this fan of Supergirl's) and I have an all new found respect for you after being so kind to take time out of your schedule in wanting to address us fans about our gripes.

TalOs said...

P.S. Nikki, I tried that kindly supplied link (sincere thanks for it by the way :D) but I unfortunately get "The URL contained a malformed video ID." message instead. :/

Anj said...

What is most intruiging is that Alura doesn't share the same prejudice about the Labour guild that everyone else does. The fact she gives Kara the choice to join them says a lot considering it would be considered beneath her.

Thanks for the post.

That is a great point about Alura. I wonder if she would have forbid Kara to join the labor guild. But you are right that having her spend time with them is showing them some respect.

Anj said...

Hey everybody-

Point of clarification: Warner Brothers doesn't own the rights to 'Zaltar' or the 'Omegahedron' (or 'Selena,' for that matter), so we can't use those exact names/items in Supergirl.

Trust me, I've asked. :)

Hope that helps,
Sterling


Thanks so much for the post!

I am glad you cleared that up. I like that you are putting in these obvious homages to the film for us diehards.

Hope the SDCC is treating you well and thanks again for stopping by here!

Anonymous said...

Well sending Kara down to labor with the lowlies a'la "Metropolis" could also be a calculated attempt to win some political points with the Kryptonian working class. Alura has already been seen to have problems with her workers so assigning her daughter New Krypton's de-facto "Princess" to toilsome tasks below decks could be a subtle PR ploy.
It seems pretty clear to me that even though she has sympathy for their plight for a lot of reasons, Kara would never choose the laboring guild, here at least Alura's maternal insight into her daughter was accurate.
Me, I was hoping that Kara would defy the whole medieval concept of guilding on the basis of the way of life she'd seen on Earth...but I suppose that invites her mother's wrath and an arbitrary assignment to a guild and what good that does to the plotline I cannot say.
Otherwise though it was a wonderful issue broadened almost everyone's character and tossed in some props to the 1984 movie. I love this book I alibi for it ceaselessly.

John Feer

Saranga said...

Great charcater issue.
Nikki said: What is most intruiging is that Alura doesn't share the same prejudice about the Labour guild that everyone else does.
Mmm, reading the issue I was mostly focused on Kara's characterisation and hadn't thought of Alura's. But your comment makes total sense.

I noticed the Zaltar reference and was quietly pleased by it!

Gene said...

I am surprised that WB or DC doesn't have the rights to use the names from the Supergirl movie. I thought those rights were handed over from the Salkinds years ago. I wonder who owns them currently?

TalOs said...

Nikki, I finally found on YouTube Supergirl (1984) "Director's Cut" that you mentioned (which can be found here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLyfoUWa1BI&feature=channel_page)

and even it's unfortunately cut out some scenes (trust me I know this movie like the back of my hand) such as 1: when Selena is stroking Ethan's hair and after Nigel rings the doorbell on the last try Selena's meant to then say "if that's the God damn Jehovah witnesses again...", 2: after Nigel is kicked in the shin by Selena and he says "there's nothing wrong with my skin..." he's then meant to look in to one of the swinging doors round glass reflections and in anger says "the b****!", 3: when Lucy first spots Ethan stumbling on the streets she's meant to say "look at that dingle berry" where Linda asks "what is a 'dingle berry'?" and lastly: when Lucy confront Selena in the picket rally with Jimmy Selena is supposed to turn one of the rallying girls in to an ice sculpture then run her down... aside from those 4 omissions it was sincerely gratifying seeing the movie as it was intended to have been aired upon it's original release.

Thank you. :)

Gene said...

I am surprised that WB or DC doesn't have the rights to use the names from the Supergirl movie. I thought those rights were handed over from the Salkinds years ago. I wonder who owns them currently?

Me too at that. Hell, if I was in charge of writing the main Supergirl title I would've introduced Zal-Ta, the 'antimatter wand' (what Zaltar uses to make his artistic constructions with), Omegahedron, Selena, Bianca and Ethan regardless of what it would mean to my career and would be more then happy with coping any punishment from the law for it all wouldn't matter one single bit to me because I'd finally have achieved in debuting Supergirl's very own movies intended friends and rouges in to the main DCU continuity in the end! (That's just how pashionet and devoted of Supergirl fan I am at the end of the day y'see. ;-))

I just pray Sterling will find some how to achieve the same come at least Selena being finally introduced in to main comic continuity (again Sterling just call her 'Madam S' and you shouldn't have any probs about copyright infringement or use of Selena proper. ;-))

Gene said...

Interesting that you mention the girl being turned into ice Talos. Although it was never shown in any of the versions of the movie, you can tell that it was filmed because you can see a puddle in front of Selena's car while Jimmy and Lucy are being arrested and shoved into the paddy wagon.

Its a shame that Selena's name can not be used in the comics. It would have been cool if Sterling or Landry had Kara pass by a shopping mall with "Madame Selena Astrology & Tea Leaf Reading" as one of the tenants.

Thomas Soliva said...

I never read this comic. But I discovered it due to references to the Omegahedron. Anyone watch the new Supergirl series knows it was able to use it in multiple episodes. In the first season it specially named that. I wonder if DC/Warner finally did get the rights for stuff in the movie? They must of. Unless it only available to use on TV. I doubt. There is tie in comic which likely will use the Omegahedron in future issues as well.