Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review: Supergirl #59


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.)" 

The End.

Perfect!

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+

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a great read with this one! I just hope the new guy does the same with this run. -ealperin

Dave Mullen said...

Yeah A very good capstone to a fine run. But how odd is it there is no 'signing off' note from the writer/artist and we are still none the wiser to where these two will be moving to next - wasnt Ingle said to be heading for Birds of Prey?
Sterling Gates is a particular loss as I think he really wrote well for the Superman family, he knew how to give us an inspirational Superman and when I think back on the last year nearly every exciting Suprman moment came from his pen - Worlds Finest, War of the Supermen for two examples... he'd be a fine custodian and lead writer for the Superman office to restore the characters to prominence once again and rebuild confidence in the readership.

Who knows, maybe we'll be surprised in the next few months, (well, you can dream!).

Back to the issue itself I had no major dislikes or criticisms but I did feel a little let down by the banality of the Dollmaker, just a watered down Toyman and I'd expected something more sinister and calculating. I'd even wondered if he'd be revealed as being one of Toymans stand-in creations, a parallell to the one that apparently killed Adam Grant, and another of the Toymans twisted mind games to torment Cat and create more plausible deniability that he'd been the one directly responsible for Adams murder.
As it is however The Dollmaker was a bit inadeuate, reliant entirely on the Toymans cast-offs, I think that helped to really diminished his potential as a credible villain and take on the Toyman motif.

Anonymous said...

"I don't really have time to date." Poor Kara, and great characterization. Throughout the whole book, for everyone involved. These last couple of issues are the reason I still buy comics, in spite of the swamp there's still enough gold to be found here and there to justify the effort. Even Krypto, tail wagging, with clip-on reindeer ears, having his head scratched by Conner. Just the sort of background detail that makes the book worth reading carefully. Perfect.

We were really pretty lucky to have had such a great run of issues. I had dropped out during the Candor storyline, only picking up issues here and there just to see what was happening to one of my long-time favorite characters. The store owner of the shop I was buying from convinced me to pick it back up again around issue 39, he knew what I liked and I trust his judgment. He then helped me find the back-issues to fill our the Gates/Ingle run. He's getting something nice for Christmas from me this year.

Stirling and Jamal, thanks again for everything. I'll be keeping my eyes open for wherever you pop up next, you've both earned the "buy it sight unseen" star from me because I know you'll give me my money's worth and more.

Dr. Thinker said...

Let's hope DC Comics return Starling Gates to the Supergirl books or make Gates the editor of all "Super" books. The second one would have my choice for DC Comics -- if was the chairman of DC Comics.

gearym said...

A story where a bereaved mother whose child was murdered teams up with a super-powered orphan to save kidnapped children at Christmas. So it was just right that the villain's driving motivation is his anger and resentment over being abandoned by his parents instead of something of multiverse shattering significance. For everyone it was about connection to family, even the villain of the piece.

We each deal with loss in our own ways, and part of our success or failure comes from the support we have from family and friends. Supergirl has had a rough life up to this point, but her character has been strengthened immensely throughout this run. There's some steel in her now, and not just because she's Kryptonian.

Excellent story, fantastic run, and a nice ending tied up properly with symmetry. We hear a lot about "story arcs", the last couple years was a true character arc that turned a lost and resentful teenager into a hero. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

I agree Dr. Thinker. Make Sterling head editor of Supergirl or have him return for and issue or two. -ealperin

Anonymous said...

A+?!? AWESOME!!!

Thanks for that wonderful review, Anj. I've appreciated all you've had to say about our work on the book.

I also wanted to send out a huge thank you to all of the Supergirl fans who have commented and contributed to this site the last few years. You guys made this gig a lot of fun. I've appreciated all of your comments, from positive to negative.

Outside of Twitter, I don't interact online very much. When I have stuck my head in here to say hello, though, you guys have been very cool, and I can't thank you enough.

To answer Dave's question, I didn't want to do a "signing off" note on the last page as I felt it would detract from the impact of Cat's article and SG's captions. There was already an air of in-story finality to that page and I didn't want to knock you out of the feeling with a note from me. You know what I mean?

Again, thanks for all the support, everyone. I hope you all have a great holiday season and a Happy New Year!!

See you around the comic shop,
Sterling


PS - I hope to be able to announce what I'm working on now fairly soon.

PPS - How cute is Krypto in reindeer ears?!!? I love that super-dog. :)

Anonymous said...

Every single character in this storyline has some major emotional damage, usually in the form of a loved one who has left this mortal coil.
Now, that is just good symmetry to the storytelling...kudos to Jamal and Sterling for taking a character that was on the ropes and restoring purpose and honor to the title.
They made me glad to be a Supergirl fan again, I owe them both a great debt of gratitude. And if is their last story on SG, they went out in high style. And if we can't keep them on Supergirl then let me add my voice to the chorus that one of the other super titles ought to be handed over to Igles-Gates at the earliest opportunity. What was done for Supergirl can be done for Superman....
As for James Peaty, I know nothing about the man, but then I knew nothing about Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle when they marched into the ruins...So I want to extend to Mr. Peaty a hearty welcome and good wishes for a successful run with the Maid of Might.

Thanks again to all, haven't enjoyed a Supergirl run this much since the Empire Days of Mike Sekowsky, Bob Oksner and Steve Skeates.

John Feer

Saranga said...

Great last issue. The batman/santa composite was very welcome (we should have more of those!) and Cat screaming for Supergirl made me smile. I nearly cried when Cat was talking about her dead son and then again when she talked to the rescued kids.

I have 1 question relating to Cat's newspaper article. To me it looked more like an editorial piece than a factual front page story. Is it common to have an editorial on the front page in America?

If it was a UK newspaper the cover story wouldn't have talked about the reporter's feelings towards the subject, but would have detailed a more factual story about the sequence of events surrounding the kidnapping and rescue. Probably with an editorial inside the newspaper.

I'm wondering if this is a cultural difference or if Gates was employing artistic licence.

It's not a criticism - I liked the ending and it's message of acceptance.

Lisa said...

Minor nitpick. You wrote: "She isn't Lucy ... she's Supergirl." I think you mean Superwoman.

Great review. Great issue. I'm hovering between hope and dread when it comes to future issues.

Gene said...

This issue felt like the ending of an enjoyable movie, one that makes you feel an inch taller after reading it.

The conclusion reminded me of a Desperate Housewives episode where the narrator at the end would sum up the story so far with cut scenes. I could not help but hear Sterling Gates speaking Kara's internal monologue in describing how he and Jamal Igle did the best they could to make the Supergirl book better than before they found it.

If a Supergirl movie is ever made, the plot would be well served if it was based off of the entire Gates/Igle run.

Jason said...

A fitting end to the Gates/Igle run. Thank you both. You will be missed!!

Anj said...

Sterling Gates is a particular loss as I think he really wrote well for the Superman family, he knew how to give us an inspirational Superman and when I think back on the last year nearly every exciting Suprman moment came from his pen - Worlds Finest, War of the Supermen for two examples... he'd be a fine custodian and lead writer for the Superman office to restore the characters to prominence once again and rebuild confidence in the readership.

Still no word on Gates' next project. But I agree he would rock on Superman. We can hope.

Anj said...

Stirling and Jamal, thanks again for everything. I'll be keeping my eyes open for wherever you pop up next, you've both earned the "buy it sight unseen" star from me because I know you'll give me my money's worth and more.

Agreed.

I will be following these guys whereever they go.

Anj said...

We each deal with loss in our own ways, and part of our success or failure comes from the support we have from family and friends. Supergirl has had a rough life up to this point, but her character has been strengthened immensely throughout this run. There's some steel in her now, and not just because she's Kryptonian.

It's that depth or second layer of story-telling that really made this run so special.

So BizarroGirl being a reflection of Kara, and Dollmaker reeling from familial loss like everyone, just makes these stories special.

And Supergirl has come so far in this run. It is just fantastic.

Anj said...

I also wanted to send out a huge thank you to all of the Supergirl fans who have commented and contributed to this site the last few years. You guys made this gig a lot of fun. I've appreciated all of your comments, from positive to negative.

Outside of Twitter, I don't interact online very much. When I have stuck my head in here to say hello, though, you guys have been very cool, and I can't thank you enough.


Thanks so much for stopping by from time to time and answering questions.

It is clear that you have as much love for Supergirl as we do and that was so appreciated. And it is sad to see you go but this run will simply stand out in the history of the character.

Hope you still stop by and comment from time and time and can't wait to hear where you are going next.

Anj said...

They made me glad to be a Supergirl fan again, I owe them both a great debt of gratitude. And if is their last story on SG, they went out in high style. And if we can't keep them on Supergirl then let me add my voice to the chorus that one of the other super titles ought to be handed over to Igles-Gates at the earliest opportunity. What was done for Supergirl can be done for Superman....

More and more votes for Sterling to write Superman. I'd be there in a heartbeat!

As for James Peaty, I know nothing about the man, but then I knew nothing about Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle when they marched into the ruins...So I want to extend to Mr. Peaty a hearty welcome and good wishes for a successful run with the Maid of Might.

You are so right. Gates was a relative unknown when he signed on. I am eager to welcome Peaty and see what his Kara is like.

Anj said...

I have 1 question relating to Cat's newspaper article. To me it looked more like an editorial piece than a factual front page story. Is it common to have an editorial on the front page in America?

Usually the editorial stuff is in the back of the newspapers here. Sometimes an editorial will accompany the news story on the front page (news article about State of the Union and 'analysis piece' nearby). So it is a bit of artistic license.

I think it is even mentioned in #34 and Perry responds that it will sell papers.

Anj said...

Minor nitpick. You wrote: "She isn't Lucy ... she's Supergirl." I think you mean Superwoman.

Great review. Great issue. I'm hovering between hope and dread when it comes to future issues.


Thanks ... I will edit.

Hope and dread sounds just about right.

Anonymous said...

"A+?!? AWESOME!!!

Thanks for that wonderful review, Anj. I've appreciated all you've had to say about our work on the book." Anj, Is a great guy! He's doing what he does best. Reviewing great comics.

"...I also wanted to send out a huge thank you to all of the Supergirl fans who have commented and contributed to this site the last few years. You guys made this gig a lot of fun. I've appreciated all of your comments, from positive to negative.

Outside of Twitter, I don't interact online very much. When I have stuck my head in here to say hello, though, you guys have been very cool, and I can't thank you enough."

You're welcome. Glad to put our opinions out there and you replying to 'em. It made my day when you did.

"...To answer Dave's question, I didn't want to do a "signing off" note on the last page as I felt it would detract from the impact of Cat's article and SG's captions. There was already an air of in-story finality to that page and I didn't want to knock you out of the feeling with a note from me. You know what I mean?"

Yeah, I do. But I'll miss you. You brought heart to a character that needed it-desperately.


"...Again, thanks for all the support, everyone. I hope you all have a great holiday season and a Happy New Year!!

See you around the comic shop,
Sterling" Same to you. Hopefully I'll get to go to a Comic-con later on in the year so I can congradulate you and Igle, personally. P.s. Don't get tipsy on eggnog or the champagne. We don't want a tipsy writer coming in and messsing up the place ;)


"...PS - I hope to be able to announce what I'm working on now fairly soon."
Sounds good. Can't wait to see what you're on.

"...PPS - How cute is Krypto in reindeer ears?!!? I love that super-dog. :)" I know! he's ADORABLE.... How about Streaky with a red nose?! ^_^

-ealperin

TalOs said...

Sterling,

aside from you deciding on having Kara tying more closely into her cousin's world (eg Kara living with Lana & even adopting Lana's sirname rather then "Linda Lee") i sincerely enjoyed your and Jamal's truly kick ass run, & i thank you as well as Jamal for all the hard work poured into these 2 years, & i have my fingers crossed that the project you're next working on is actualy "Earth One Supergirl". ;-)

Anonymous said...

I also wanted to thank Sterling and Jamal. I was more of a casual fan of Supergirl prior to their run, but the quality of the writing and art drew me in and kept me a fan for the entire run. Best of luck on your new ventures.
-scott

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