So it was with some joy that I bought Supergirl #50 this week, 2 copies no less. It has been 17 issues since the Gates/Igle reboot and Supergirl matters now. So all this pomp ... the extra-sized issue, the Turner cover, the variant cover, the Helen Slater/Jake Black back-up ... it was all icing on the cake. I am just happy this title is surviving and thriving.
I will review the main story here and the Slater/Black/Chiang back-up feature tomorrow.
One quick word about the cover. While I prefer Josh Middleton's and Jamal Igle's takes on Supergirl, there is no denying the splendor of this Michael Turner cover. Turner helped recreate Supergirl and I have always appreciated what he did for the character. Moreover, on a recent interview on iFanboy, Sterling Gates revealed that this cover art was originally a personal piece Turner did for Dan Didio. Didio took the framed piece off the wall to be made into this cover.
Here, I loved the frightened expression on Supergirl's face. That conveys so much emotion.
But I also like the more technical aspects of the art here. How the the three dimensional nature of the piece really pops. You can see some of Kara sticking out of amber, that hand almost lunging out of the cover. I also like the slight blurriness of the areas that are encased, giving the viewer a feel that she really is embedded. Slick!
This was a 1:10 variant and my local comic book store had 6 copies on the shelf. That's a good sign of a little sales bump.
As seen in the preview on Newsarama, the issue starts with the resurrection of As seen in the preview on Newsarama, the issue starts with the resurrection of Superwoman and her retrieval by the military. This story started in Supergirl Annual #1.
We don't yet know exactly how Lucy has come back. Mirabai (who we haven't seen recently) wonders if it is Lucy's desire to live.
One thing for sure, I don't think she has come back unscathed. Her body is wracked with pain. She seems invulnerable. She kills a soldier with heat vision. And she's doing it all without the suit from which she initially derived her powers. She's enraged ... scared ... it isn't pretty.
I find it fascinating that General Lane can completely shift the blame for Lucy's condition away from himself. He was the one who put Lucy in the suit, sent her on her missions, had her fight Supergirl. And yet, it's not his fault that Lucy has returned this way. It is the Kryptonians' fault. Talk about rationalization and prejudice.
Even more intriguing, Lane says Lucy is now Kryptonian. It looks like she has their powers, but what does that mean?
Back in Metropolis, Supergirl is shown to be encased in amber in a great hive like building. She is rescued by Gangbuster and when she gets out she isn't happy.
It seems that between the surprise of finding Lana cocooned last issue and the power of the Insect Queen, that Supergirl was captured. I'm not surprised. Remember, this Insect Queen kept Superman under her power for 3 issues back in the Busiek run. She's that powerful.
Now, for all of us who have been waiting to see Supergirl pound on someone, this is the issue. This isn't the usual super-villain fight after all. With Lana involved, this is personal. And the anger on her face here is evident. Supergirl is irate. It's a powerful image by Jamal Igle.
Angry or not, the hive has numbers. Despite taking out some bugs, Supergirl realizes that the best plan is to escape.
Look at the size of that hive! Back at STAR labs, Supergirl learns how 2 days earlier, the hospital was engulfed in this hive. Some SciPo officers and others went in but did not come back out. The hive seems to be biding its time. In fact, STAR only found out that Supergirl was in the hive because they had sent in a reconnaisance robot bug. Two days of a giant hive appearing in the middle of Metropolis and no other super-hero came to look other than Gangbuster and Dr. Light?
What I liked about this scene is that despite the necessary exposition, Supergirl's thoughts are on Lana and her condition. She talks with Dr. Light about Lana's condition in hopes of saving her.
And here is my favorite moment in the book.
Supergirl and Gangbuster decide the best course of action is a stealth mission to rescue Lana. Unfortunately the insects hear them. Gangbuster asks Supergirl if she's ready to get the crap kicked out of her in order to save the world. Supergirl simply replies 'always.'
She has such a cooly confident look on her face ... it's perfect. Perfect. This is a Supergirl who will do what's right regardless of the risks. And it shows how much she has matured over the last year.
However, despite getting a few good shots in against some insect infantry, Supergirl is overrun by a swarm and brought before the Insect Queen.
It's Lana ... but it's also not Lana.
The Queen explains how she left a piece of herself inside Lana during her recent run-in with Superman. Over the last year that piece has been slowly rebuilding Lana cell by cell. She remained in Lana to stay close to the Superman family so she could make super-drones to protect her, something she tried back in the Busiek arc.
The Queen also decides to add a layer of emotional anguish to her conversation with Supergirl saying it was the Queen's will that made Lana befriend Kara. Thankfully, Supergirl realizes this is a lie and shrugs it off. This is another recent example (along with the Black Lantern Zor-El) of an enemy trying to take advantage of Supergirl's emotional vulnerability and failing. Hurray!
With the Queen within striking distance, Supergirl frees herself from the amber and calls in a STAR labs bombing run. She then unloads on 'Lana'.
Calling herself a Lang, calling Lana family, Supergirl rips off one of the Queen's wings and gives her a right hook that sends her sprawling.
She ripped off one of her wings!! Fantastic!
It is perhaps the strongest ... the most physical ... the angriest we have seen Supergirl in a while. It rivals her fight with Superwoman.
But more than that, it is her confidence that shines here. She stands over the Queen saying she doesn't scare easily.
How wonderful to see Supergirl so self-assured as she doles out a thumping!
And best yet ... she's victorious!
Somehow Supergirl was able to help design a de-bugging device to strip Lana of her insect DNA.
When the Queen says she will make Supergirl's life hell, Kara quips that Alura does that enough. I loved that as well.
The device is turned on and cures Lana. And without their Queen, the other insects are defeated.
Okay, it was a bit too easy of an answer, a bit too deus ex machina to have this machine designed and built in so short a time ... with Kara having designed it too! But it is about time that Supergirl got to win one. This was a hard-fought and brutal win complete with bloody fists and quick thinking ... but that's what made it beautiful.
And then we take a bit of a left turn.
After all the 'Lana' family' and 'I'm a Lang' and 'Lana's my mentor' talk, Supergirl turns around and tells Lana she is leaving her life because she can't trust her. Kara is still stung by Lana keeping her illness secret.
It's a complete 'about face' emotionally. I suppose once the stress of rescuing Lana was over, once she knows that Lana is safe, Supergirl can reassess things ... that the pain of this secret can surge. With everything that has happened in her life, Kara needs to trust those closest to her. And she doesn't feel that with Lana right now.
It still read a little funny given all the prior dialogue in the book.
Lana tries to explain her secrecy in a way Supergirl can understand. All of New Krypton and all of Earth needed Supergirl. Supergirl was too important to get wrapped up in the problems of one person. Lana feels she did the heroic thing by keeping her illness to herself, to not distract Kara.
But Supergirl still thinks it was wrong and flies off saying she no longer wants to be a Lang or even human.
This response feels like a regression for Supergirl in her recent character growth. But all of this is happening right before The Last Stand of New Krypton and War of the Supermen. Is this Lana/Kara split just a way of setting up Supergirl's sympathies and fidelity in those books? An easy way to set up some conflict to be resolved between the super-cousins?
And speaking of not wanting to be human, back at Project 7734, we hear that Lucy is an amalgam of "all" the alien races whose powers were in the Superwoman suit ... all their powers and weaknesses.
Hmm .. all the aliens? Not just Kryptonian?
With that announcement, Lucy decides to fry the physician with an apparent electrical blast and declare herself ready for active duty. (I know lightning powers aren't inherent in the race, but maybe Lucy has some Winathian genes in her now?) Lucy seemed like a bit of a loose cannon before but I don't think she would have indiscriminantly killed a doctor like this. She seems insane to me right now.
Well what a great main story in this anniversary issue. Not perfect ... but memorable and worthy of an important issue like this.
First off, I absolutely love Supergirl's personality during the fight portion of the book ... determined, strong, unflappable. Kudos to Sterling Gates. In his time on the title, he has really solidified Kara's persona while having her mature into a competent young hero. It really is hard to believe that this is the 17th issue in his and Jamal Igle's run. It feels like just yesterday I was waiting for Supergirl #34 to hit the stands.
But more than that, it was good to see Supergirl unleash her powers on someone and outright win. This isn't a half-win ... like when Superwoman explodes in defeat or Reactron escapes ... this was victory.
On top of that, I also enjoyed the re-introduction of Superwoman as a viable and permanent member of Supergirl's rogues' gallery. An insane and powerful Superwoman is a terrifying opponent.
And, as usual, Jamal Igle's art wonderfully complements the story. Supergirl's expressions and body language bolster her dialogue perfectly. So whether it is that cocked eyebrow in the 'always' panel or the angry pose when she breaks free of the amber or her slumped shoulders when she is talking to Lana, the art just adds such volume to the scenes.
The one smudge in the issue is just that rapid decision to abandon Lana and Earth. It just felt off a bit.
But honestly, the rest of the book is so great I am willing to see where the story goes.
I mean Supergirl ripped off the Insect Queen's wing! It doesn't get much better than that.
Overall grade: A/B+