We are rounding the last turn and heading into the home stretch of the Sterling Gates/Jamal Igle run on Supergirl. Supergirl #58 is the penultimate issue of this great run but the team shows no signs of losing momentum here.
This was a very good issue, addressing the long-standing plot of Cat Grant's feud with Supergirl. It was the 'Why the world doesn't need Supergirl' editorial was really the catalyst of a lot of what Gates has accomplished here. So what better way to end this run than by proving to Cat that the world ... that Cat ... needs Supergirl.
But this issue also shows just how far Supergirl has come since Supergirl #34. The Supergirl in that issue bursts into tears when she read that editorial, questioning herself, wondering what she should do. In this issue, we see how decisive and confidant Kara is now ... even in the face of some withering criticism by Cat.
This issue had smart dialogue, great art, and a solid story. It looks like Gates and Igle will be ending their tenure on a high note.
I know I have shown it before when it was posted on the DC Source blog, but here is the DC75th variant cover of the issue by Amanda Conner. Based on Action Comics #252, this cover even includes the exact dialogue bubbles and issue banner that the original issue did, down to the font. This really was wonderful. I love Amanda Conner's work. I hope she gets a monthly title soon.
The opening scene of the issue has Supergirl and Cat entering Arkham, walking down the asylum's corridors, and sitting and talking to the Toyman.
That whole scene, from the worker pointing to the room Toyman is in to the room interview itself to the 'we came to talk' line echoes the opening scene of The Killing Joke. I am probably a bigger continuity nut and comic historian than many but I love when books acknowledge the past. I don't look at things like this as copying the past, more like recognizing it. Here it even set the tone of the scene. I know how dark The Killing Joke is so I felt some added dread to this scene here.
Now I am not saying that Supergirl #58 is like The Killing Joke. But I thought this was a very nice homage, adding to the impact of the scene.
Cat asks the Toyman why he is sending her dolls and what it has to do with the missing children around Metropolis. Toyman protests, saying he loves children and has done anything.
Supergirl has no patience for his talk, not when children are in peril. Even though just last issue she listed it as a problem she has, she 'thinks with her fists' here. She threatens Toyman, even wondering if she should check to see if he is a robot or not.
I had no problem with this response though. Kara is still working through her grief and the Toyman had a small part of the destruction of New Krypton (his Luthor-bot triggered Reactron's explosion) and might be harming children. Supergirl simply doesn't have the time to go back and forth with questions and answers. She acts decisively, trying to bring this problem to a close.
Toyman still says he hasn't done anything to the children and certainly hasn't sent Cat any dolls. With that, Cat actually shows him the dolls she received after each child disappeared.
Schott seems to recognize the handiwork of the doll, wondering where Cat got it from. But suddenly ... and shockingly ... the doll animates, attacking the Toyman, stabbing him in the chest and nearly killing him.
Since Supergirl #38 when the first doll was seen, I thought the Toyman was behind what was happening. So I loved this surprise. If it isn't the Toyman, who is it?
Supergirl is able to whisk the Toyman to the hospital where he undergoes emergency surgery.
As Cat and Kara await news, they lay out their problems with each other. I really wish we could have seen the scene where Cat asks Supergirl for help. That would have been great. Instead we only hear that Cat seemed to 'blackmail' Lana into getting Kara to help here. Luckily, there was no concern that Cat knew Linda Lang was Supergirl.
Despite the help Supergirl has given Cat, Cat still rips into her. She still thinks Supergirl is out of control, making bad situations worse. Supergirl realizes she doesn't need to sit there and take the abuse. When she hears that the Toyman is stable she leaves Cat alone. The Toyman lead was a dead end; Supergirl will try looking for the children on her own.
I am glad that the two characters aren't suddenly chummy, that their problems aren't simply water under the bridge. They shouldn't suddenly become friends because of this one time interaction. And again, the old Supergirl might have wondered if Cat was saying the truth here. Instead Supergirl knows that the best response is to simply leave.
As usual, Jamal Igle does a very nice job here, especially conveying the emotions the two are feeling in this heated discussion.
As she hunts down the children and whoever is kidnapping them, Supergirl takes out her frustrations on Riot. I love how she thrashes this C-list villain.
During this, Supergirl is talking to Lana about why Cat is the way she is. Lana talks about how one of the Toyman's robots killed Adam Grant. Again, here is a nice homage.
Lana remembers that death and how it effected everybody and her thoughts show Superman holding Adam's body just as it was represented by this great Dan Jurgens' cover on Superman #84. I think flourishes like this are great,
It turns out that Cat became angry in her heart after the death of Adam. And that anger became directed at teenagers who are out of control, who are ruining their lives.
How could those children waste their lives when her son lost his.
I always knew that Adam's death was part of her anger, her bitterness, her cold nature. But I thought this spelled it out nicely, especially when paired with her more traditional grief with this grave site scene.
Back at her apartment, Cat is attacked by a claw-wielding doll-like creature. Using a stun-gun, Cat is able to subdue her attacker only to have it turn out to be one of the missing children, albeit one who appears to have been surgically altered, turned into a cyborg assassin.
Things like this ... the creepy doll like exterior with the heavily seamed masks and outfits ... they are so eerie.
Cat isn't quite safe yet. The Dollmaker arrives at her apartment, with the other two missing children flanking him in their own weird doll outfits. He says he is Anton Schott. Who is that? Toyman's son? His brother? Another self-aware robot? And what is his problem with Cat? Why is he keying in on her. Could Anton be a robot Toyman was building to replace Adam for Cat?
At least we know that the 'Day of Dollmaker' adventure mentioned in Supergirl Annual #2 is an adventure we will see.
The book ends with the opening scene replayed except now it is Lois talking her way into STAR labs to talk to Superwoman. Again, the framework nature of the two scenes made the opening and closing of the book tight. And I am glad that Superwoman isn't being forgotten by Gates before he leaves the book.
So much happened in this issue and at an almost breakneck speed. I wonder if Sterling Gates felt rushed to get this story done in two issues. Could he have used another issue to flesh this story out?
For me, as usual, the best moments in this book are the character moments. Seeing Supergirl react to Toyman's responses was great. She doesn't waver in her actions; she is acting decisively and heroically. But even better than that was her getting up and walking out on Cat. Supergirl doesn't need to hear it, and she isn't going to shed any tears over nonsensical ravings. That shows confidence ... and pride. Supergirl has grown so much since she was hit in the face with a soda in Supergirl #34. She is a hero. And that really made this feel like a great ending to the Gates/Igle run.
When this creative team took over, they listed the things they were hoping to do while they were on the title.
First off, they wanted to add to Supergirl's rogue's gallery. We now have Superwoman, Satan Girl, Bizarro Girl, Insect Queen, Silver Banshee, and the Dollmaker. We had Reactron.
They wanted to add a supporting cast. We have Lana, Cat, Jimmy, Inspector Henderson, and even Dr. Light as a members of this book.
But foremost, they wanted to make Supergirl a respectable hero and a likeable character. And I think they succeeded. And this is what I appreciate the most from this run.
It makes these last two issues almost bittersweet.
Overall grade: B+