Supergirl #56 came out this week and was a really wonderful comic. It sometimes is as simple as that.
This issue continues the BizarroGirl storyline with Kara winging her way to the Bizarro World to both bring BizarroGirl to justice as well as help save the planet from whatever threat it is facing. And sure there is some nice action sequences here and one of the better 2 page spreads I have seen in recent time.
But for me, the juice of this whole storyline has been the comparisons we have seen between Supergirl and BizarroGirl. BizarroGirl isn't the exact opposite of Supergirl, far from it. Sterling Gates instead makes BizarroGirl a sort of dark reflection of the character. We see many many similarities between the two, played out in outrageous ways (it is Bizarro World after all). And every time Supergirl sees something that strikes a chord in her, reminding her of what she is going through and where she has been, it helps her grow as a hero. By seeing so much of Kara's life echoed here, it even helped me as a fan recall all of what has happened since Supergirl #34. Sometimes those echoes are personal events in Kara's life. Other times it is events she has witnessed (like last issue where BizarroGirl's plight reminded Supergirl of Reactron's fate). Supergirl has really been put through the wringer. No wonder she is occasionally filled with self-doubt, wondering what she should be. Rather than being simply a comic element (although there are some funny moments), BizarroGirl is a powerful plot element. Nice stuff.
Inside the Bizarro rocket, Supergirl talks to the unconscious BizarroGirl, putting into words how she saw so much of herself in this warped version of herself. Doubts, anger, confusion ... it was all there. Supergirl still blames herself for the destruction of New Krypton at the hands of Reactron as if she was the only domino in the chain of events.
Supergirl also recognized that Dr. Light would basically go 'all Alura' on BizarroGirl, poking and prodding the imperfect duplicate at STAR Labs. Supergirl couldn't be part of that either.
All of this shows just how much Supergirl has grown in the last year. She isn't going to be a part of injustice any more. She isn't going to let events unfurl in front of her that she doesn't agree with and not intercede.
While under the effects of hibernation gas during the trip, Supergirl has a very unsettling dream showing just how she is suffering from some post-traumatic stress. In the dream, she is on New Krypton, she knows it is about to explode, but she can't speak to warn anyone. It is a feeling of absolute helplessness as she once again sees her people die before her eyes, their flesh stripped from their bones.
But the dialogue in the dream shows even more emotional pain. Supergirl still thinks her people would look at her as Alura's spoiled brat daughter.
Her self-image is as a belittled helpless person; you can understand why she was near catatonic in the early issues of this arc.
I have to say it again. At least this book is taking a good hard look at how the catastrophic end of New Krypton would effect the super-family. You can't simply sweep that story under the rug, simply move away from it. Unlike Grounded, this book realizes that the super-cousins would be emotionally reeling.
Here is another example of how I have enjoyed Gates take on the Bizarros. Yes, sometimes they are warped versions of the Super-family. Sometimes they are the exact opposite of them.
That's why I loved this splash page. It is the exact opposite of the standard Kryptonian origin story. The Kryptonian rocket is speeding it's way to a doomed planet rather than away from it.
The issue's title is 'Mad World' and it is apt given the insanity we see on the Bizarro World. As for me, I am more of a Gary Jules' version of the song Mad World rather than Tears For Fears original rendition. Of course, I also think Donnie Darko is a tremendous movie and Jules' version was on that soundtrack so maybe I am biased.
When the two arrive on the planet, Supergirl is not welcomed home as a hero. Instead, she is labeled an enemy of the people and pelted with fruit.
I don't know if it was intentional but this very much reminded me of the baseball stadium scene in Supergirl #34. The most prominent Bizarro in the initial crowd shot is wearing a baseball cap. I always wonder if I read to much into these things.
More importantly, Supergirl flies down and defends BizarroGirl, screaming at the crowd. If only Kara had someone to defend her so closely early in her career. It felt like Supergirl was righting the wrongs done to her by defending her duplicate.
Supergirl finally realizes that all Bizarros don't speak in strict opposite speak. Bizarro Luthor explains that there are different dialects on Bizarro World, different levels of imperfectness I guess. I'm glad someone finally explained it!
In another tip of the cap of Supergirl history, BizarroGirl thinks BizarroLuthor is dreamy. That could only happen on the Bizarro World ... except it actually happened when Matrix was Lex's lover in the Superman comics of the 90's. That really was bizarre ... and as a Supergirl fan it was absolutely cringe-worthy.
This Luthor explains that he accidentally lured the 'Godship' to the BizarroWorld when he was looking for a way to hurt Bizarro#1. Before he can explain more, he is devoured by a Godship probe.
It seems that these brainless drones eat anything and everything ... people, objects, the planet itself ... and then return to the ship to have the matter converted to energy. What an ugly creature, mostly mouth!
The probe dispatches BizarroGirl with a quick tail swipe, knocking her out of her other boot. It was a light moment in an otherwise dense issue.
Bizarro #1 arrives to help thwart the probe and is thrilled to see BizarroGirl. He showers his cousin with love, reminding Supergirl of just how much Kal has supported her recently. It is another way that BizarroGirl's life mirrors her own, maybe helping Supergirl realize that she has a lot in her to be thankful for.
Bizarro tells Supergirl of how he tried to fight the Godship but was unsuccessful, how he created BizarroGirl for backup but loved her too much to have her die and so sent her too Earth.
Confidently, Supergirl says she will fly to the Godship, look inside, and get some information about the aliens driving it. Bizarro tells her it is a bad idea which she assumes means it is a good idea; she is on Bizarro World.
As she flies off, Bizarro says that isn't exactly how it works. She is heading into danger.
Still, I love how Supergirl is pro-active here, flying into danger to save this world.
What is supposed to be a quick reconnaissance mission turns into something much scarier.
I probably have 80% of this two page spread scanned here; it is magnificent in it's entirety. It works because we see just how much this thing dwarfs Supergirl. It is the exact opposite of the typical double page spread. Usually in those, the hero is the major element, dominating the art. Here, Supergirl is a tiny part of the spread. I suppose that also makes sense given the Bizarro nature of this issue.
In a great twist, it turns out the Godship isn't a ship at all, it is a massive organism.
The being slams Supergirl into the planet, throwing her literally through the world and back into the Bizarro's Fortress.
Undeterred, Supergirl knows she is going to need help defeating this world-destroyer. She is going to need Superman.
Hmmm. I think it is great that Supergirl is dedicated to helping the Bizarros, risking it all to save their planet. Again, it makes sense from where she is coming from that she would be so ardent in her desire to save them. BizarroWorld is the stand-in New Krypton. If she couldn't save her world, she will save this one. All of these contrasts and comparisons, so many elements of Kara's life played out here as demons she can finally overcome, really makes this a great great issue.
I really think she needs to do this herself. She needs this so she can move beyond everything. But it needs to be her internal strength that gets her through the fire. I don't want Superman's help here. So that ending deflated this issue a bit. Since Superman isn't mentioned in next issue's solicit, maybe it doesn't happen.
But there is no denying how wonderful this issue was ... allowing Supergirl to think through all of the emotional trauma she is dealing with, process it, and maybe finally rid herself of it in a very physical cathartic way.
And having BizarroGirl be more than a simple brutish enemy, by having her be a skewed version of Supergirl, is the perfect vessel for this story.
So lots of action and lots of characterization in this arc.
And great art as well. I had to include this panel of the Bizarro Sterling Gates inserted into the book by Jamal Igle. Igle has such a handle on the character. I don't have it here, but the panel where we first see BizarroGirl, happily saying 'goodbye' to Bizarro #1 was perfectly playful. On a side note, I don't see any bike shorts on BizarroGirl. Purposeful omission?
We still don't know if Igle will remain on the book as no official word (as far as I know) has leaked about that. But, as I have said before, if he is leaving I'll be disappointed. His stuff is just perfect for this book.