'Who is Supergirl?'
I think it is a question that Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle were planning to answer starting way back in Supergirl #34 when they first took over the title. And while great strides have been made during the last couple of years to her character, the massive New Krypton storyline occasionally took over the title.
With New Krypton behind us and a guarantee from Gates to stay away from massive crossovers for the near future, Supergirl as a book seems to have regained its center. And with the sad events of War of the Supermen behind Kara, she needs to do some soul searching. She needs to re-define herself. She needs to figure out who she is.
Supergirl #53 kicks off this new period for the character. While this issue's title is 'Fallout', the arc is called 'Who is Supergirl?' Frankly, I have been looking forward to this for a while. I said before that New Krypton was a double edged sword for Supergirl, exposing her to new readers but also holding her back in the undertow of such a massive storyline.
The book starts off with a recap of Supergirl's assault on the Project 7734 headquarters located under the Pentagon as hinted at in War of the Supermen #4. Since this fight with Superwoman was only hinted at back in that book, I really appreciated seeing it fleshed out a bit.
For one thing, it was fantastic to see Supergirl really lay into Superwoman. You can feel that right hook she lands on Superwoman's jaw, the villain's heat vision bending from the blow as her head snaps back.
But as good as that was, I also liked the dialogue between the two combatants. When Supergirl screams at Lucy that it was General Lane who started the war, Lucy retorts that Zod and Alura aren't exactly innocent either. The more I think about that war, the clearer it is to see that it was the result of two madmen playing an interplanetary game of brinkmanship. Neither side was truly innocent (although Lane may be more despicable having successfully crossed the line into genocide). So it must be hard for Kara to reconcile her people's role in this war ... especially Alura's part.
But what starts out as a flashback quickly deteriorates into a nightmare with family, friends, and foes alike reminding Supergirl that she hurts everyone she touches, bringing pain and destruction.
I like how Jamal Igle pulls back from the earlier close-ups, showing the extent of Kara's horrific dreamscape here. This truly is a vision of hell, the upside-down 7734 wall looking over the fiery landscape littered with the animated corpses of the war.
We know that Supergirl is carrying a lot of guilt over the destruction of New Krypton. She brought Reactron to the planet; she can rationalize that she is the cause of her people's demise. But this really shows the weight of that. While we see that guilt over those close to her (most deliciously in Alura telling Kara that she lets the ones she love die), we also see how she is shouldering the guilt over the death of countless nameless Kryptonians.
This vision of the abyss shakes Supergirl from her sleep where she sees that she has scorched her ceiling with her heat vision, a physical response to the mental anguish she is feeling (and reminiscent of the beginning of the 'Fearful Symmetry' episode of JLU).
It is a recurring nightmare. It can't be easy to go through that nightly. I think what Supergirl is feeling is more than survivor's guilt. It is survivor's guilt compounded by feeling responsible for the very act she survived.
It turns out that Kara has moved back in with Lana, their initial reconciliation not shown ... just played out as a matter of fact. Lana thinks of Kara as a family member and that means letting her back into her life. I don't feel cheated by not seeing that scene ... they often come off as maudlin or saccharine. It works so much better with it just having happened.
With everything that has happened in the past, Kara wants to simply start fresh, to make her history ... well ... history.
In a key exchange, Kara says she is no longer going to use the name Kara Zor-El, instead becoming Linda Lang permanently. To get past everything she has lost, she needs to start fresh. That means expunging her Kryptonian past entirely. While I don't show it here, the most visible way Supergirl shows this is by turning off the hologram of Zor-El. Her father was someone good, a shining light in the darkness of everything New Krypton ... and yet Kara even wants to forget him. In many ways that is disheartening. I think Supergirl is going to learn that you can't just remove your past, excise it like a tumor. It is part of you. You get the sense that Lana doesn't think it's the best idea either.
But it isn't just Kara Zor-El that is going away, she declares that Supergirl is going away too.
We then are taken to S.T.A.R. labs where Dr. Light is doing her best to cure Lucy Lane. In what appears to be a very painful process, Lucy's body contorted and stretched like taffy, Light is using Kryptonian technology to re-write Lucy's DNA cell by cell. I did like that the technology being used is the same device that Kara and Light designed to rid Lana of the Insect Queen genome. The machine definitely has the crystal look of Kryptonian tech.
Unfortunately, while the machine is doing it's job, something crashes right through the lab.
Dr. Light and Gangbuster go to investigate what caused the crash, satisfied that Superwoman's containment field is intact.
Ohhh ... but there is a small crack in one of the gauntlets.
My feelings for Superwoman have waxed and waned. But right now I am loving her. She really has so much potential, so much power, and is poised to be Supergirl's arch-enemy. Their animosity towards each other has a solid personal foundation, each thinking the other is responsible for her father's death. I can't wait to see the two of them go at it again.
While Light and Gangbuster are off inspecting the crash site, Linda and Lana enjoy a cup of coffee in the city and continue to catch up.
Lana asks Linda where she was between the end of the war and when she moved back in ... a 6 week gap. 6 weeks!? Hmmm .... more on this later.
It is clear that Linda is trying to 'find herself' and Lana wonders if Metropolis University might not be the best place to do that. Personally, I love this idea. College as a background opens up a lot of possibilities for the book and should offer opportunities to show Linda maturing.
On a side note, I love scenes like this where something dramatic is happening in the background while unsuspecting people are seated inside a glass walled building. Look at the people next to Linda catching sight of something and then the next panel where we see cars being tossed through the air ... all while Lana blissfully talks about college.
A resulting explosion and shockwave rock the city as the object crashes in Centennial Park.
Dr. Light and Gangbuster go to the crash site and come across a Kryptonian ship at the epicenter, a ship exactly like the one Kara crashed to Earth in. With the recent events, they wonder if it could be an escape pod or a refugee transport from the remains of New Krypton.
With injured people and property damage surrounding them, Lana urges Linda to become Supergirl and help. There might be someone hurt or dying that needs Linda to rescue them now. Whatever crashed into the park might be an even bigger threat.
Despite her pleas, Linda refuses. Those haunting words from her nightmares are still with her. She fears she might do more harm than good ... that she is dangerous.
It infuriates Lana who pulls no punches in berating Linda.
This was the only part of the issue that felt a bit rushed, although I can understand it a little. The prior interactions between Lana and Kara this issue have all been supportive and caring, dripping with patience. So to have Lana turn 180 degrees and scream at Linda ... to the point of storming off ... felt a little rushed, just as Kara's outburst at Lana in Supergirl #50 also felt rushed.
That said, it may be that Lana wanted to slowly reveal how she felt about Linda's decision to abandon her Supergirl persona and convince Kara that the world needs Supergirl. The timetable to slowly persuade Linda to continue being a hero was probably pushed up when this disaster happened. So even though it felt rushed, I guess circumstances dictated it.
While Linda stands there contemplating here next move, Dr. Light discovers what was in that ship. Bizarro-Girl! And this isn't some funny lummox saying goodbye instead of hello. This is a scary, George Romero-esque, 'let me strip the flesh from your bones', zombie-looking thing. Brrrrr ...
This was a very good opening chapter to this new era in the title. While this story clearly built on the events of New Krypton, it was a pure Supergirl story. All of these emotions that Supergirl feels make perfect sense given the horror that unfolded before her in the War of the Supermen. I am glad that those feelings are being dealt with rather than being ignored by the creative team. You can't just sweep everything under the rug; there needed to be some emotional fallout (hence the title of the book I suppose).
But I have to say, I don't think Linda's approach of trying to ignore/forget the problem is going to work in the long run. She needs to work through these feelings.
And what about that 6 week gap? Well, it was interesting enough to make me formulate a new theory about Bizarro-Girl. (I know ... another theory.) Let's say you are Supergirl, an intelligent Science Guild member with access to Kryptonian technology, and you feel as though you are responsible for the death of your people. Wouldn't you try to rectify the process? Wouldn't you see if you could somehow resurrect your race ... even through cloning? Maybe during those 6 weeks Supergirl was trying to perfect a cloning process to bring back her people and used her own DNA as a template. And maybe she was unsuccessful but the result of those experiments created this Bizarro-Girl?
The art work here is spot on. I like the look that Jamal has created for Linda Lang with the hair tied back and glasses.
And while I like the idea of a supporting cast, I have never really been a Gangbuster fan. I hope he isn't around too long.
This was just the first round of 'Who is Supergirl?'. I get the sense this arc is going to be something special, defining Supergirl for the near future.
Overall grade: B+
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