Thursday, September 22, 2011
Review: Supergirl #1
Well, Supergirl #1 finally arrived yesterday, re-introducing Kara Zor-El to the DCnU. There has been a ton of promotional information about the book, much of which I found disheartening. And I think I have covered much of that uneasy feeling here.
But one thing I promised myself about this book was that I would read it with an open mind. The last three years of Supergirl has been one of the creative high water marks for her character in my mind. I am sad to see that Supergirl erased from continuity. But I owe it to the character and the writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson as well as artist Mahmud Asrar to judge the book on its own merits.
And, I have to admit, for a first issue, Supergirl #1 was a decent introduction to this version of the character, starting right at the beginning, with Kara crash landing on Earth. We get a lot of hints about her background and who she is. And I didn't see any of the 'edgy' Supergirl that we have heard a lot about, the character with no affection for humanity.
We don't see that characterization because this issue really has a confused Supergirl reacting to what is happening around her. So the true make-up of who this Kara is will happen in future issues when she has a second to breathe and be herself.
Still, my template for a first issue- decent action, some piece of an origin story, some future plot threads teased at, and a good cliffhanger to hook me in - were all met here. And for that, I have to be happy.
The book opens with Supergirl falling to earth. Much like the last version of her origin, it appears that her rocket has somehow been embedded within some of the planetary residue of Krypton. It looks more like a meteor than a sleek alien rocket ship.
But the more interesting part of this initial fall is that she starts out landing in Kansas, not far from (I presume) Superman's landing site. That can't be coincidence. Whoever rocketed her there, presumably Zor-El, wanted her to end up where Superman ended up.
The bigger question that still needs to be answered is when was she rocketed. Was she supposed to land when Superman landed, sent from the planet Krypton as it exploded (as in the Loeb version). Or was she sent from Argo City (like the original origin and Geoff Johns' New Krypton revision)?
In the meantime, Supergirl awakens and crawls from the wreckage. She is immediately confused and wonders if she is still in a dream. I have some theories on this.
Allow me to start complimenting Mahmud Asrar's art here. This is just a great splash page, a nice first reveal of the character. You can feel her confusion and sense of disconnect from her expression.
That is ... nice except for that awful lower portion of the costume with its crazy corners and ludicrously high cut.
We learn a bit more about her background as she acclimates herself.
We learn that, at least in her mind, her mother and father are alive, alive enough for Supergirl to be talking about them in the present tense.
And the costume is something she shouldn't be wearing now. It is some sort of ceremonial garb only fitting to be worn after some graduation ceremony, something a year away by Kara's calculations.
And snow hasn't fallen on Krypton in over a decade, a small but subtle reference to the planet's instability.
My guess is that this is some sort of citizenship uniform, some way of recognizing the transition to an adult, upon graduating lower school and picking a guild. The 'if I graduate' line is worrisome because I don't think Green/Johnson would make it because she isn't intelligent. My guess is it is more misbehavior that has graduation in jeopardy.
Still uncertain if she is in a dream, Supergirl is confronted by some military mecha, battle suits armed and ready. If this is a dream, Zor-El would like it.
Okay ... here is my guess and I might be stretching it a bit.
Part of Kryptonian education is some in virtual reality, 'dreams' where students encounter things and learn from them. Some of those 'dreams' are also self-defense or game like scenarios (like this military encounter).
Knowing that their planet (or Argo City) is doomed, Zor-El and Alura put Kara into an extended VR/suspended animation where she continues to live life as she normally would. That's why Kara thinks that her folks are alive, that she was just on Krypton, that she shouldn't be feeling snow the way she is. That's why she is in the uniform. He parents had written enough VR to take her to that point of graduation, knowing when Supergirl awoke she would have thought enough time had passed that she had earned the costume.
Unlike other versions of Supergirl's origins where she has always known her planet/city is doomed, always awake to witness the destruction, this one appears oblivious. And that is going to make learning about that tragedy tougher to swallow, more difficult to comprehend.
Luckily, before the battlesuits can apprehend her, the yellow sun rises and Kara's powers kick in. She can barely control them and doesn't quite know how to use them. She blasts one with heat vision and pummels another, punching it miles away.
Again though, Supergirl thinks she was just with her friends. I suppose that suspended animation would also make time feel off. But my guess is some 'education' was happening during that ride.
Still, this will only pull people out of the story. Some people will love it, I am sure. But I don't think it adds anything to the story.
Supergirl's powers continues to manifest themselves including super-hearing. Overwhelmed by the cacophony of Earth (including some lines from other DC books - nice touch), Supergirl collapses.
And there is the mysterious glowing Flashpoint woman, rearing her head again.
I think the whole scene works well in showing just how disorienting this whole situation would be. Is it a dream? Is it real? Is it snow? Why is she wearing what she is? Why powers? Confused, Supergirl continues to lash out against the people attacking her.
I always say that when the words and art mesh that comics are at their best. Here is an example of that. In the midst of fighting the soldiers, Kara wonders just where her parents are, where she is. But that forlorn expression, by softening her here for that moment, you know that maybe the realization that her life as she knew it was over is hitting her.
This panel could just as easily shown an angry appearing Supergirl, teeth grit, eyes clenched or smoking. That would have been in line with the angry, 'Hell on Wheels', alienated character we heard in all the publicity blurbs. But we didn't see that. And more than anything, this panel gave me hope.
I also have to add that the warning about Zod is a nice little hook for the entire super-family in the DCnU.
And then the battle is over with a red and blue blur. Superman has arrived. We know by the solicit for next month that the two fight which takes a smidge of the previously earned hope away.
So we have been introduced to Supergirl but I don't know if I would say we have met her. We have scratched the surface of who she is and how she got here. And while we don't know her personality yet, nothing about this issue added to my worries, nothing felt wrong. And there are mysteries here to solve, things to learn. I am not saying I am sold on this new version yet. But I was worried that I was going to hate this issue and I didn't. I want to read more of this reboot in hopes that it will be a Supergirl that I can like.
And as I thought all along, Mahmud Asrar's work is very good here. It is rougher in some places that I thought it would be but it works in giving the action scenes a kinetic feel. I do wish that the lower portion of the costume gets some minor revamping. It can be as subtle as when Jamal Igle lengthened the skirt and belly shirt.
I put a poll up to see what grade you all give the issue. Here is mine.
Overall grade: B