Friday, July 23, 2010

Review: Supergirl #54


Supergirl #54, the second part of the ‘Who is Supergirl?’ arc, came out this week and continued the new direction of this title after the events of War of the Supermen.

The cover of the book in no ways mirrors the contents or tone of the book itself. Brightly colored and featuring a smiling confident Supergirl, this Shane Davis cover is certainly beautiful and really shined on the rack. But this has to be an inventory piece, put on the book while Amy Reeder catches up with cover chores. The Supergirl on the inside doesn’t feel that way; she is still reeling from the death of her family, the destruction of her people, and her perceived role in all that devastation.

The story is titled ‘Looking Glass’ and that works on a couple of levels here. For one, Supergirl is facing her mirror image, the backwards BizarroGirl … the reverse of all she is. But also, this issue shows how Kara has to look in the mirror, look at herself, and deal with what she is feeling, move on from her grief and self-pity.


Despite BizarroGirl ripping apart Metropolis, Supergirl remains out of action, convinced she can only do more harm than good. That means it is up to ordinary folks to play the part of the hero.

Here Jimmy Olsen channels his old ‘Mr. Action’ moniker, riding his motorcycle straight into the combat zone and saving a young child while he is at it. After nearly being killed by Agent Assassin, everything seems to be going well for Olsen. He has a job, a great girlfriend (who is it anyways?), and kids think he is cool.
It looks like Jimmy is going to be a part of this book’s supporting cast and I like this take on him. It reminded me of his stories in Superman Family when he was taking down the mob while dodging bullets.

Unfortunately, even Olsen can’t escape the clutches of BizarroGirl. Luckily he is able to snap a picture of her before he is subdued by her and send it off to the Planet.


At the Planet, Lana sees the picture of BizarroGirl and sneaks away to call Supergirl and convince her to fly into action. It is a nice little exchange as Lana implores her to shake the ashes off and do what’s right. What would her family want her to do? And a bit more cutting, Lana tells her she can’t be a Lang if she is going to lock herself up in her soundproofed room.

It seems a bit more direct and less abrasive than Lana’s plea from last issue.


Despite thinking she is alone when she makes the call, Lana is mistaken. Cat Grant is there and overheard the whole thing. Now luckily Lana only used the name Kara during the conversation so hopefully Cat doesn’t figure out that Linda is Supergirl. But it does show Cat that Lana and Supergirl have a close relationship.

I have to agree with Cat … it is very interesting. How will Cat use that information in her war against Supergirl? How will she manipulate Lana? I can’t wait to see.


Lana’s speech stirs Linda into action. There is a very nice page of small panels and no dialogue that shows just how much Supergirl is struggling with her next move. She clearly is torn.

I loved the whole page but these were my favorite panels. First she turns the hologram picture of her parents back on, a very physical sign that she understands she cannot simply deny that part of herself.

And then this great panel of her remembering watching Reactron explode, watching Alura be vaporized, that silent scream behind the force field wall. Remember, Supergirl already witnessed the ‘death’ of her parents when Brainiac swarmed Argo City. Then Zor-El died in her arms. And then she had to bear witness to Alura’s death again. That has to affect her. That has to weigh on her.

But she realizes she needs to move on; she needs to be a hero. She needs to do what’s right.


At last we see the preview page from Superman #700.

It is time for Linda to realize she cannot deny her heritage, she cannot deny she is Supergirl anymore. It's almost like she is looking at herself, realizing this is who she is. Sort of like a looking glass ... right?

I love this page if only because it shows how much the creative team loves this character.


And then it seems like she has been freed emotionally from all that pain. I am sure Linda still has a heavy heart, still has to work all this out. But that half-smile on her face shows that that first step of embracing her heroic destiny was probably the most important. We haven't seen Supergirl smile in several months.

And what a splash page … recognize the pose?


It’s the mirror image of this iconic pose her cousin struck waayyyy back on Superman #1.

I thought this was a nice homage. And I wonder if the reversal of the pose was because of the ‘looking glass’ theme here.


She streaks towards BizarroGirl’s last location.

But there is more than just BizarroGirl that Metropolis needs to worry about. The young boy Jimmy saved early on is led into a negative realm by a Metropolis ‘police man’.

So first off, this has to be the Toyman right? Kidnapping children and taking them to the Ghost Zone or some such place?

Secondly, the police officer is ‘Officer Kruptky’. Hmmm … maybe the Toyman is 'depraved on account of being deprived'? Ugh. I just realized I made a West Side Story joke.


But the major threat in this issue is BizarroGirl. I don’t quite understand her behavior as she has captured and restrained a number of people. Many are tied to the Supergirl character: Jimmy, Dr. Light, Gangbuster. But there are unnamed others too. Are these random people? Or somehow linked to who BizarroGirl thinks she is?
Regardless, Supergirl shows up and the fight is on.

Another small thing I like here is that BizarroGirl calls Supergirl ‘Bizarro me’. To her, Supergirl is the bizarre imperfect duplicate.


With similar if opposite powers (heat vision vs. ice vision, flame breath vs. super breath), the fight seems to be a stalemate until Supergirl potentially discovers BizarroGirl’s psychological weakness. BizarroGirl gets very upset when her rocket is damaged; she even calls it her home.

Now what does that mean? Could it mean that BizarroGirl was in her ship as long as Kara was in hers, but rather than being in suspended animation she was awake? Maybe she thinks her ship is her home? Maybe that is the only place she remembers?

It seems to be a clue to BizarroGirl’s origins? Or maybe it is just the ramblings of an addled mind.

Regardless, Supergirl plans to use this to her advantage and threatens to destroy the ship unless BizarroGirl releases her captives.


Even more enraged by this threat on her ‘home’, BizarroGirl unleashes a new power. Although the logic is somewhat twisted (isn’t everything with Bizarros?), her reverse X-Ray vision somehow solidifies … petrifies … Supergirl. Nice cliffhanger!

What a great issue!

I am glad that the ‘down in the dumps, inactive’ Linda period was relatively short. I don’t know if I could deal with multiple issues of Linda just drowning in her sadness. So I was happy to see her don the costume again, even if it is reluctantly.

And the BizarroGirl storyline is a nice mystery. It also allows Sterling Gates the perfect foil to show Linda just who she is. This is an arc where Supergirl is struggling to define herself … what better way than to look into a mirror darkly?

And what are BizaaroGirl's origins? I am going to say my ‘hate so powerful it gained consciousness’ theory is out. My theory of ‘Kara trying to clone herself so she could resurrect her people’ theory also seems wrong because I figure she would realize that is who BizarroGirl is. I guess my first theory ‘failed experiment by Alura’ is still a possibility. Any other guesses?

Add to that the Cat subplot and the (presumed) Toyman subplot and you have a nice set-up for the next year.

As usual, Jamal Igle’s stuff here is top notch. For a story so charged with psychological overtones of grief and insecurity, you need an artist who can convey character’s emotions via their expressions and body language. Igle can do that so unbelievably well. That half-smile on the splash page speaks volumes. And BizarroGirl is just a frightening monster.

Very nice all around!

Overall grade: A

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

(Cue comic book guy voice)
BEST
CLIFFHANGER
E-VERRRRR!!

Honestly this little predicament rivals what Gail Simone is throwing at Barbara Gordon over in "Birds of Prey", which puts Sterling up in Gail's rarified orbit IMHO.
All I ask is that Supergirl escape all on her own, she has always been largely self rescuing from back in the Silver Age, that tradition should continue.
Oh and the "Girly Closet of Solitude" classic!
This is the Supergirl book I dreamt of back when the character was officially proscribed by DC and derided by the fan community.
Better times are clearly here.

John Feer

Mart said...

Oh, fantastic call on the Superman #1 homage, THAT'S why the pose is so different from Kara's norms.

I don't think Bizarrogirl needs an origin other than her coming from Bizarro World, which we know exists.

I don't think that's Toyman, too skinny, unless he's another robot. I can't see DC revisiting the childkilling version, even with poor Cat in the book. The chap looks more like Prankster.

valerie21601 said...

A multi-layered story going on with the main character and multiple story lines at the same time. Just like a well written novel level story. I love it!

Saranga said...

upon opening the book, i was not impressed to see Olsen in the first few pages, hogging the limelight. I do not know about his mr action days, maybe i'd be more appreciative if I did?

His girlfriend is Natasha Irons.

I have to say that the explanation for Bizzarrogirl's solid vision was rubbish. the opposite of x-ray vision is not making things solid, it's not being able to see through things.

a silver age reference it may be, but it's rubbish!

Mart said...

'What do you think of it so far ...'

I loved the Olsen appearance on page two, it subverted my expectations that Kara would have 'pulled herself together'. Definitely check out some old Superman Family or late Jimmy Olsen comics, Saranga, you might enjoy them.

Gene said...

John Feer wrote:
"Oh and the "Girly Closet of Solitude" classic!"

Indeed. It was a nice way for us to take "historical inventory" of Kara ever since she was reintroduced into the DCU.

Anj said...

All I ask is that Supergirl escape all on her own, she has always been largely self rescuing from back in the Silver Age, that tradition should continue.
Oh and the "Girly Closet of Solitude" classic!


I think she does escape herself. My guess is this is just a skin of stone or steel.

I agree with you though ... great stuff here.

Anj said...

Oh, fantastic call on the Superman #1 homage, THAT'S why the pose is so different from Kara's norms.

Thanks!

I don't think Bizarrogirl needs an origin other than her coming from Bizarro World, which we know exists.

Well, we know the action heads there in a couple of issues so that makes sense. I tend to see complicated plots in all things.

I don't think that's Toyman, too skinny, unless he's another robot. I can't see DC revisiting the childkilling version, even with poor Cat in the book. The chap looks more like Prankster.

Yeah ... I think robot flunky.

Anj said...

His girlfriend is Natasha Irons.

I have to say that the explanation for Bizzarrogirl's solid vision was rubbish. the opposite of x-ray vision is not making things solid, it's not being able to see through things.


Thanks for reminding about Natasha. I knew I was forgetting something.

And I agree, the logic of 'solidifying vision' is a bit twisted ... but I'll roll with it.

Anj said...

A multi-layered story going on with the main character and multiple story lines at the same time. Just like a well written novel level story. I love it!

I think that being freed from crossovers is going to really help the book. Now we can get these character driven stories.

Anj said...

Indeed. It was a nice way for us to take "historical inventory" of Kara ever since she was reintroduced into the DCU.

Yeah ... it shows how much Gates/Igle care about the character and her history that all these past elements are shown.

Jason said...

Yeah...I don't get the "solidifying vision." So...if this is the opposite of "x-ray vision," does this mean "x-ray vision" can un-do it? If Superman were to come along and stare at her stone form with x-ray vision, would that undo the solidifying? You have to admit that the logic of this solidifying vision would tend to lead in that direction.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't care less about the "logic" of solidvision....Just Luv Da Cliffhanger...

***
Meanwhile it would like Alura to leave behind one last entirely avoidable problem to bedevil her true daughter so I vote for Clone-gone-wrong from Mommie Dumbest...

John Feer

Adam Smasher said...

Finally got to read this and really enjoyed it. Kara bounces back and forth again, but I'm glad she didn't wallow on this long and was back in action.

Bizaro girl was creeeeepy! Those red eyes, her expressions... scary and cool.