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)?

The rocket's momentum unfortunately allows it to burrow through the Earth so that it ends up surfacing on the other side of the Earth in Siberia. The military people tracking her arrival send out an intercept force to bring her in.

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.

 I am going to try to concentrate on the story and the character but I again have to say that the lower costume is just going to distract. We saw a lot of half-butt this issue ... a lot of it. And the extra inguinal skin folds seen around the red crotch shield seem gratuitous. I suppose if the alternative is the treatment we saw of Selina in Catwoman or Kory in Red Hood, I should be thrilled.

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


Dante said...

I'd...give it an A.Perhaps because I wasn't as distracted by the lower half,as I should.Kara's expressions were lovely drawn,that's all I have to say...a nice change from the last volume.I'm looking forward to the next issue.

Very good review mr.Anj.Keep it up.

collectededitions said...

Agreed the last few years have been a high point for the character, and I shared your concern about the new direction. Your review -- that essentially things are so far, so good -- offers some hope. Eager to hear how you like the next issue.

Hal Jordan said...

As the first issue of Supergirl I've bought since about #33, this was excellent. All around, it did absolutely what a first issue should do. It introduced the character, her voice, her mysteries, and now we will get to see her grow from here.

I couldn't be happier. And that art! Goodness, me. That art was beautiful.

I really hope that this team will stay on Supergirl for a long, long time.

Martin Gray said...

I'll go with your B, Anj. It was all right, could have been a lot worse.

Your VR theory is inspired. Still, I hope it's wrong, as we already have Superboy having had VR experiences in last week's (better than this) Superboy #1, and I expect Bart will keep his computer upbringing when he shows up in Teen Titans #1.

And the Zod line had me groaning - I'm so tired of Zod.

Diabolu Frank said...

I dig the sci-fi vibe to the upper portion of Supergirl's costume, and while blowing through the Earth seems really silly, turning up in Siberia is kind of cool. I like Mahmud Asrar's art on this a lot better than his Atom serial in Adventure Comics. Seems like a decent enough start.

You might be pleased to know that when I showed up at the LCS that I've only been frequenting again since the New 52 started, both Supergirl and Wonder Woman were sold out. That was 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday. They still had a half dozen copies of Captain Atom, though...

Gene said...

I'd give it a B. The story is strong, Supergirl has a nice voice, but she should have enrolled somewhere with a better graduation uniform.

I wonder if that mysterious hooded woman is pre-crisis Kara from Christmas with the Superheroes #2?


Gear said...

I'm giving it an A, while realizing that I may be grading high based on my worries about what might happen. Nice review!

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.

Mahmud Asrar's art was fantastic, and he really does have the ability to capture small emotions in his faces. I was really liking everything I was seeing up to this point, but that one panel probably sold me on the story. Mr. Asrar, if you're "stealth reading" out there, good job here. I was really concerned that this Kara might not be sympathetic or likeable, the artwork helped seal the deal for this issue.

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.

Possible. But in the spirit of optimism this first issue has given me I'll also point out that she's a teenager in the El family (I think - do we really know that yet?) and may very well have overheard lots of talk from her family about the future. Combined with the obvious changes to the planet she mentioned earlier about there being no blizards since she was small it's possible that she was feeling unsure that there might even be a graduation for her to attend. Maybe she didn't know that Krypton was doomed, but did know it was in deep trouble. Having grown up in the 60's I remember thinking the same thing, particularly after weekly bomb shelter exercises at school or watching the "Duck and Cover" movies they showed us.

ANJ, like you I'm not necessarily sold yet on this iteration of Supergirl, but this issue has helped. Green and Johnson are off to a good start, and compared with what's happened to some of my other favorite characters I should feel thankful. Even the upcoming battle with Superman might be excused - Supergirl is already in "fight or flight" mode, confused about whether this is reality or a dream, and faced with someone who may shortly give her some horrible and life altering news. We'll see in a month, but I'm feeling a bit more hopeful.

Ayhe said...

I would give it a B or a B+, the story is great and the art is lovely.
I hope soon the outfit will be improved, at least subtle!
Clothes aside, this Supergirl is quite promissing!

Anonymous said...

Color me unimpressed, but then again I"ve had to suffer thru Don Heck as her prime penciler and RObert Kanigher as her writer, so I have a different perspective.
The whole "Graduation costume" thing reminded me of Supergirl's "Formal majorette costume" from "Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade" And the "Am I dreaming this?"meme came out of Mark Waid's version of the character in the Legion book.
BTW Did she kill that mecha operator with her heat vision, seems liked she'd burned him up good...
Oh and the whole "if I graduate" thing, seemed very provocative, at least to certain internet activists...or it would be if she wasn't back in a nice revealing thong, thanks to her new costume we'll hear no more cynical complaints that she is being depicted as unintelligent.
That at least is a blessing.
However the artwork was nice, and for all the hype there wasn't much here other than a lot of combat and beat I'm inclined to stay with the book for now and see where this all goes.
Oh and Superman's costume is hideous, very sexist, deliberately draws the readers eyes to his solar one is fooled here.


valerie21601 said...

There is a legit reason for Superman to wear his classic shorts. It helps keeps the size of his front package a mystery to the public.

Superman's new costume leaves nothing to the imagination.

Adam Smasher said...

Enjoyed the issue, it's one of the rare ones from this new DC that I actually have enjoyed.

Personally I like the costume, like the ways its drawn. I find it sexy and cool.

Also liked how SG was hearing dialog from other comics (I read Birds of Prey after this, and got a chuckle after recognizing a line)

Martin Gray said...

The 'dialogue from other comics' bit has been done previously, in a John Byrne Superman, I think. Can anyone remember where? I think this was it:

It was fun to see it again.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I have to say from a 'relaunch' point of view, this issue worked. This was an easy-to-read jumping on point.

Fingers crossed.

Anonymous said...

Oh and the S-Shield redesign looks more than a little fascistic, like some pathetic shirt movement in the Balkans circa 1936.
If DC needs a "trademark escape hatch" regarding Superman and Supergirl, then this one won't cut the mustard.


Anonymous said...

Well I thought that was an interesting start, but we've got more to see. How she and Kal get along in the next issue will probably be how we judge the future fate of the book.

Anonymous said...

Supergirl #1 was one of the best of week 3 along with Batman #1.

Good start and I hope the fight with Superman in the next issue is handled well.

Hal Jordan said...

Re-reading it, it struck me just how much I really loved Kara's voice in this issue. I think Greenson (yes, that's what I'm calling them -- deal with it! :) ) did a fabulous job of allowing the reader right into Kara's head, into her concerns, how she feels about things, how she reacts to what's going on around her -- all of it.

And, really, that sunrise scene was one of my favorite of the entire New 52. "Something's wrong with the sun!" Heh. :) Loved that.