Friday, September 24, 2010

Review: Supergirl #56


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.

Overall grade: A

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, she needs Superman's help, by Kara's own addmission but that doesn't necessarily mean that she is gonna solicit Kal El's help.
I'm in agreement with Anj, SG needs to resolve this on on her own...So maybe her plan is to create a double imperfect clone of Bizarro #1 one that'll be a bit closer to Superman than Bizarro and use that as her "back up".
They've already shown us how Bizarro #1 creates his "progeny"...What if Supergirl tried to create her own private Superman?
This works because it reads like the sort of "good but impetuous" decision we associate with a adolescenet heroine saddled with limited experience.
Anyhow just a guess, great ish, clearly Kara has MAJOR post traumatic stress issues in play.

John Feer

Anonymous said...

Great character development of BizarroGirl here. Makes me wonder if the series is hinting at a 90's comeback with the whole Matrix/Luthor lovefest...

*Still makes me cringe when I think about it*

-ealperin

valerie21601 said...

I sometimes wonder how many adults stay away from Supergirl because of the Supergirl/Matrix and Lex Luthor relationship even to this day?

I know it kept me away from Supergirl for years because of it.

TalOs said...

Gates and Igle's debut arc, Insect Queen and now THIS arc have to be my all time faves from both writer and artist to date! B-D

Jamal - if reading this (and please believe me when i say that i mean no disrespect by the following) can you please not depict Supergirl's costume's yellow/gold hem colored sleeves looking more that of arm bracers (it unfortunately makes her overall top look off in doing visual wise) and please please please give Kara her longer lengthed hair back too. Thanks. :-)

Anj said...

This works because it reads like the sort of "good but impetuous" decision we associate with a adolescenet heroine saddled with limited experience.
Anyhow just a guess, great ish, clearly Kara has MAJOR post traumatic stress issues in play.


Great idea about her bringing in another Superman! Although more Bizarro's might not make perfect sense.

I agree that Kara has some PTSD but I think this adventure is a very physical version of therapy as she works her way through her personal demons.

Anj said...

ealperin said:
Great character development of BizarroGirl here. Makes me wonder if the series is hinting at a 90's comeback with the whole Matrix/Luthor lovefest...


valerie said:
I sometimes wonder how many adults stay away from Supergirl because of the Supergirl/Matrix and Lex Luthor relationship even to this day?


I really can't believe that a Luthor/Kara romance is being hinted at here.

I think it was Gates way of commenting on how ludicrous it was to begin with. It was Bizarro.

Anj said...

Gates and Igle's debut arc, Insect Queen and now THIS arc have to be my all time faves from both writer and artist to date! B-D

Great to hear from you Talos!

I also think this is a great arc. It works on both levels ... emotional and physical, characterization and action. Spectacular!

Anonymous said...

I really can't believe that a Luthor/Kara romance is being hinted at here.

I think it was Gates way of commenting on how ludicrous it was to begin with. It was Bizarro.


That's probably the best idea that I could think of, too. It's like the whole "Women In Refrigerator Syndrome"... I'll give you an example, but I'm using a male Superhero:

...
I'm speaking in general down here:

Superpowered people like Superman, got depowered every 10 years or so; Then when he died, came back to life in the 90's (I was a tween when this came out. So, I read the novel over the year to catch up.)

... and did one of the wierdest things (that I know of)in modern times-most notably, the Blue/Red Superman phase, things are "back to normal" in comic book terms. i.e. he got his powers back and retraced his origins.


-ealperin

Mart said...

Splendid review as ever, Anj. This is the finest of a long run of excellent issues. And well done to Sterling for the bit about Bizarro dialects - what a great 'get out of jail' free card for writers who can't write Bizarro.

And John, I love your double-clone idea ... a Bizarro-Superman cloned with a ray created by Bizarro-Luthor could indeed create a sorta regular Superman. It makes excellent sense.

I'm delighted to see Kara decide she wants Superman's help - yes, this is her book, but lack of ego and hubris is a sign of her growing maturity. And of course, given the Grounded storyline, Sterling can show us Kara's willingness to seek help, without having to follow through.

Anonymous said...

I think it was Gates way of commenting on how ludicrous it was to begin with. It was Bizarro.

Ha. No, no, no, I just wanted to hear someone say that bald men am--err, are sexy. Even if it was a Bizarro.

What? I was having a Very Bad Bald Day that day. Us hairless guys need all the ego boosts we can get, y'know? :D

Thanks for the kind review, Anj. Really appreciate it. And wait'll you see the opening of next issue (and what Supergirl means by "Superman's help."). I guarantee that none of you will see it coming...

:)
-Sterling

Anonymous said...

And sorry, Talos, but we're liking the shorter hair on SG right now.

Not to worry, though, it can always grow back!

(Do Kryptonians experience super-fast hair growth under the yellow sun? Hmm...)
-Sterling

Mart said...

Super-fast hair growth? No wonder Kara wears shorts ...

... on a similar note, I never understood the idea that Supers would be immortal, given that we've always followed the adventures of a Superman and Supergirl who grow at a normal rate.

Here's a Bizarro question which you may never get to answer, Sterling, but it does concern an old pal of Supergirl's (well, in the olden days).

Would Zatanna's commanding spells work on a Bizarro? Depends on the dialect?

Gene said...

"Super-fast hair growth? No wonder Kara wears shorts ..."

GOOD NIGHT EVERYONE!

valerie21601 said...

Nope, I didn't believe for one moment Sterling/Gates would bring back the Supergirl/Lex Luthor romance angle at all.

I have "fallen" for bald guys in my past, one guy looked a lot like Robin Hood's Friar Tuck with red hair and lots of freckles on him too. Alas even though we got along beautifully and we were close to the same age, by 2 years.
He thought I was way too old for him. As his ideal woman was between 18-24 years old and built like a supermodel. I got the last laugh because he found his 21 yr old supermodel look alike and she cleaned him out of every penny he had and got him into serious legal trouble to boot.

valerie21601 said...

Though I do have a question for Sterling. Maybe I missed something but when and how did Kara find the time to study Kryptonian science? I know she joined the Science Guild to better understand her mother but how was she taught? Did she read and study hours of holograms, interactive computer programs, take classroom lessons, did they attach something to her head and downloaded it into her or some combination of it?

I really liked how Kara spoke like a scientist but has no personal problem at all simplifying it for the Bizzaros.

It's almost as if this Kara is becoming a lot more compatible companion for Brainiac 5 as her character grows.

She has parents who were a opposites attracts couple. Zor-El was the passionate artist type in touch with his heart and Alura was the distant, emotionally cool one, who felt she had to keep in control of herself almost all of the time.
The only one she could emotionally connect with was Zor-El.

It echoes what is developing with the current Kara and Querl.

I can easily see B5 saying something real complicated to his fellow Legionnaires. They turn and look at Kara and she "translate" it for them.