So where do I begin with this review?
Supergirl #59 is the last issue of the Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle run on the title, a run that I feel righted the ship for the character of Supergirl. I think everyone can agree that there wasn't a coherent and consistent characterization for Kara from issues 1-33. Whether you like those issues more than this run, certainly we can agree that the Supergirl in issue 1 was different than the one in issue 6 which was different than the one in issue 12 which was different than the one in issues 19, 23, or 30.
Gates and Igle decided upon one vision of the character ... a young hero, striving to do good, making some mistakes, learning from them, and continuing the good fight. I am a long time fan and their characterization felt right to me. As some have said, this was sort of a golden time to be a Supergirl fan given the high quality of this title and her other recent appearances.
I think it is relatively rare for a creative team to know far enough in advance that they are leaving a title that they can wrap things up perfectly. I think about Alan Moore on Swamp Thing #64, Grant Morrison on Animal Man #26, Doom Patrol #63, and JLA # 41, or even Paul Levitz on Legion of Superheroes #63. Those ending scenes ... Abby walking off into the sunset with Alec, Buddy reuniting with his family, Cliff saving Crazy Jane ... those scenes resonate as a 'happily ever after'. While I am still a bit depressed that this team is leaving the title, I am glad that they had the opportunity to do their capstone on the title. In many ways, this issue is such a wonderful bookend when you contrast it to their first issue Supergirl #34.
Last issue ended with Cat Grant in the clutches of the Dollmaker. It turns out that The Dollmaker is the Toyman's son! When Winslow became more doting on younger kids, Schott's wife took off with their son. Why stay in this loveless relationship. But then, in an odd twist, she later abandons him on the corner. With no where else to go, he wandered back to his father's abandoned lab and picked some of his dad's old tricks. Unfortunately he also has some of his dad's compulsions. He begins kidnapping other children he feels has been abandoned.
And then he asks Cat if she will be his mommy!It seems a perfect fit. He has been abandoned The Toyman. Her child has been taken by him. Why not become a family. That is some skewed logic.
In the mean time, Supergirl is trying to get information in a more Batman sort of way, leaning on some criminals in hopes of learning something. One thing I like about the characterization here is that Supergirl is actually slightly conflicted about helping Cat. There is no doubt she needs to help these missing kids; there is no doubt that she needs to be the hero. But the part about helping Cat isn't so easy. And that just seems natural. One cry for help shouldn't erase months of psychological warfare by Cat against Kara.
And we get to see Supergirl work out some of her frustrations on a variety of super-villains. We see her fight Shrapnel and Baroness Blitzkrieg. And we even see some sort of riff on Composite-Superman-Batman, although here it looks like Composite-Batman-Santa.
But my favorite panel has Supergirl beating up on The Gang! The Gang! I have talked about this group from the Daring New Adventures of Supergirl book several times here. Heck, they won a poll for classic Supergirl villain we would want to see re-imagined in the book! Nice arm-bar by Supergirl on Kong! Great to see The Gang back in the Supergirl mythos!
This is one of the many things I am going to miss about the Gates on the book. There was really a clear appreciation of the history of Supergirl, with homages to prior incarnations embedded into the stories.
In the middle of the book there is a great scene where Lois confronts Superwoman. It really is a heated discussion where Lois talks about how much Lucy changed from a bright optimistic young woman who dealt with life's obstacles like temporary blindness and a dead-end career with a smile.
But trying to gain her father's love twisted her into some type of monster. Given that she exploded once, is she even Lucy? Lois sums it up nicely. She isn't Lucy ... she's Superwoman.
I have talked a lot about how Supergirl was the only book that really dealt with the emotional fallout of the destruction of New Krypton. Kara really struggled with the tragedy of the War of the Supermen in a very visceral way, working her way through her issues.
But frankly, we haven't seen Superman or Lois dealing with it at all. Superman is out on his walk but isn't dealing with the Krypton side of things. And Lois is out following him. She found out her father was a destroyer of planets, a xenophobic murderer. She saw him blow his brains out. Her sister has been warped into a super-villain. So I was glad to see someone show us that Lois is dealing with her loss as well. In both a psychological and literal way, she closes the door on this chapter of her life, leaving Lucy alone. But is clear that Lois is mourning. She has lost her sister.
This scene needed to happen. And it was pretty clear it wasn't going to happen in Superman.
I really like the addition of Superwoman to the DCU and Supergirl's rogue's gallery. So I hope she doesn't remain trapped in STAR Labs forever.
This idea of mourning sort of permeates through the issue.
It is clear that Cat still mourns for her son, still is reeling from his loss. So the idea that she will take Anton on as her 'son' is ludicrous. Adam was her perfect child. Of course she spurns him, telling him she wouldn't love him if he was the last child in the city.
You should never speak in hyperbole around super-villains. They don't understand it. Here, Schott decides to test Cat's theory saying that he will kill all the children in the city to see if Cat really means it. That is one weird kid.
Nice panel composition here. I like how Schott's dreams are shown in a crude crayon like manner; he even thinks like a kid ... but that further cements just how psychotic he is.
It's a small panel but I had to show it.
How great is it to see Cat screaming for Supergirl's help? At least Cat knows that she can't let a killing spree happen because she is too proud to call for Kara.
Supergirl hears Cat's call and crashes into the Dollmaker's lair. There is something fantastic about seeing Supergirl taking apart his doll soldiers.
But the best part of this is Anton calling for a 'doll-pile' on Supergirl. Is that like a dog-pile? Small touch, but appreciated.
With the robot army destroyed, there isn't much left to do except take out the Doll-Maker.
Supergirl gives Cat the honor. And Cat uses a nice right hook to knock Anton. I love how Cat says she needs to know how to fight given the men she dates. Even better is Supergirl stammering a bit that she doesn't have time to date.
But look at how happy Supergirl is! She is on a little bit of a run here. She has saved Bizarro World. She took out some super-villains on Christmas Eve. Here she helps Cat and ends a potential threat from a deluded villain, saving kids at the same time. She should be happy! And frankly she hasn't always had the opportunity to be happy. So to see her, hands on hip, beaming ... it is a great image.
And then we see behind the chilly veneer that Cat shows the public. When one of the kidnapped children calls for his mommy, Cat helps calm him. Suddenly she isn't the ferocious gossip columnist. She is a mother, helping this young boy. She even has tears in her eyes ... she isn't all bloodless barracuda.
The book ends with a nice Christmas gathering at the Kent farm. Clark, Lois, Lana, Conner, Krypto, and Linda are all there. And Supergirl gets a nice surprise from Lois, a preview of the Planet's front page. That's right, Cat has another front page story about Supergirl, this one much more flattering.
We hear Kara's internal monologue: "Lives can be boiled down to a few things: our families ... the people who hate us ... the ones who love is ... and the work we leave behind. Some of us try hard to make the world a better place than it was when we found it. I know that's what I try to do. I won't always be successful. But that's life. I'm Supergirl. This is my life ... and y'know what? I'm pretty happy with it. (For now at least.)"
What a great ending to this great run. We have gone from a Supergirl doused with soda at a ball game, crying on rooftop, suffering from Kryptonite poisoning and considered a loose cannon to one who is respected, committed to being a hero, and happy with who she is. These last two years have been a character-defining run for Sterling Gates, streamlining the character, dealing with the mess he was handed, and making her likeable.
In particular, the last several month's issues, with the New Krypton story over, have been such great story-telling as Supergirl coming to grips with who she is. So this ending just encapsulated all of that.
Jamal Igle just shined in this issue. As usual, he does such a great job conveying the emotion the character's are feeling. We feel Cat's pain. We feel Supergirl's happiness. We feel Lois' anger. Igle has been as big a part of this run as Gates, creating the look for Kara that other artists are using as a template.
I talked before about how wonderful it was that this team knew far enough in advance that they were off the title that they could wrap things up and put a bow on it. It isn't a coincidence that their run begins and ends with a Cat Grant paper. It bookends their run. You can contrast everything here to see just how far they have taken the character. The headline, the text of the article, the pictures ... it is almost a before and after of the run.
I have gone on and on about how much I have appreciated Gates and Igle's work on Supergirl, how they made her a character I could love again, made her a prominent character in the DCU, made her a hero again. Nothing I could say could express it better than looking at these two images. The first picture is where Supergirl was before they came on board. The ending image is where they have left her.
Now that Nick Spencer is off the book, I hope James Peaty picks up the ball and runs with it. He and Bernard Chang have huge shoes to fill.
All good things must come to an end I suppose. Thanks Sterling and Jamal. It has been a couple of great years to be a Supergirl fan and your work was the biggest reason.
Overall grade (issue): A+
Overall grade (run from 34-59, 2 annuals, War of the Supermen, World's Finest, Secret Files): A+