Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: Supergirl #2

It has been something of a slow news week for the Super-comics and it also is the 5th Wednesday of the month which means only a few comics are coming out. So I figured I would look at more 'Supergirl meets Superboy' moments.

I reviewed the Silver Age meeting here. And I just reviewed the Matrix/Metropolis Kid meeting here. And so I thought I would look at the first meeting of the last incarnations of the characters. And that means a  closer review of  2005's Supergirl #2 written by Jeph Loeb and penciled by Ian Churchill.

I have a lot of issues with Loeb and his initial run and this issue showcases a lot of what I didn't like. Loeb certainly did do his best to make Supergirl powerful which is a good thing. But he may have made her too powerful for me. This is when there was some debate that she might be more powerful than Superman (who I just think needs to be the yardstick for the DC universe). But when Loeb has Kara effortlessly bash her way through everyone, it eliminates any concern for her, any feeling of conflict.

But more than her power level, I didn't like the personality of Kara here. She is moody, emotionally labile, but with a default mode of anger. She rarely acted heroic and was constantly fighting heroes. There was no sense of goodness or hope or compassion in this Supergirl. And that just didn't feel right.

As for Ian Churchill's art, I am of two minds. I think he really draws faces extremely well. But his sense of body composition veers to the impossible. And there is way to much cheesecake in these issues for me as well.

At this point in her life, Supergirl had barely met Superboy, just a one panel introduction in the last issue of her origin story in  Superman/Batman #13. After fighting Power Girl in Supergirl #1,Kara flies to Smallville to seek out Superboy. At this point, Superboy has gone into self-exile and simply wants to be left alone. So what will happen when 2 angry and isolated young 'heroes' meet for the first time?

Well, if you are a seasoned comic reader, you will know that they will fight.

As I said, Superboy wants to be left alone and doesn't take kindly to Supergirl's arrival, flying up to meet her before she can even land.

This being the Loeb Supergirl, rather than try to talk to him and figure out why he is so angry,  Supergirl antagonizes him, prompting a fight.

Now that top panel is great linework by Ian Churchill, very expressive.

After an exchange of punches and heat vision, Superboy grabs Supergirl. But she tosses him off  like a rag doll. And here is where all that buried anger Loeb had Supergirl have surges. She "will not be bound again!" It was this underlying attitude that bothered me most with this Supergirl. She doesn't even want the name Supergirl, implying it was forced on her by Superman.

And here is one of many examples of my problem with Churchill. Supergirl's skirt looks the size of a napkin, riding so low on her hips it should simply fall off, her torso elongated.

And remember, Loeb has made her extremely powerful. Without breaking a sweat, she defeats Conner, smashing him in the face and dislocating his jaw. In the prior issue she took out Solomon Grundy with one punch while the JSA as a team couldn't touch him. She beat up Power Girl. In 2 issues, she'll take out most of the Justice League.  There is little feeling of threat or conflict here. I don't mind a powerful Supergirl, she should be in the top tier of the DC pantheon. But I need some to think that things could go wrong to become invested in the character.

I say that big moments deserve big art in comics, but not here. We already had the double splash of her escaping Superboy. Did we really need a splash here.

Now here is a redeeming moment of this character. It isn't all bad in the Loeb issues. After this initial brawl, Supergirl extends the olive branch, relocating Conner's jaw and asking if the two can start over. 

This is an example of the frenetic personality Kara had in these issues. I mean she went from fury to happy in a couple of panels.

But this is also an example of a hero on the journey, making a mistake and trying to correct it.  That's okay.And remember, Conner did initiate this.

Unfortunately, the Titans suddenly arrive and a new fight opens up. The Titans attack both Kara and Conner.

Now I have talked about how this Supergirl was too angry and too powerful. Here is a great example.  She shrugs off Wonder Girl's magic lasso attack (despite it being magical). And Kara is filled with so much anger, she is able to usurp control of Cassie's god-given magic lasso. Just like that she sends painful feedback into Wonder Girl. It is sort of ludicrous. This was a lasso given to Cassie because of her heritage and magical. It simply shouldn't work for Supergirl.

And I don't know if this moment needs a splash page.

The skirt is drawn so short that it is distracting. But my big pet peeve on the artowork here is how Churchill draws legs. Look at those taffy like calves, stretched to pencil thinness. Look at those ankles ... or lack thereof. Impossible.

So she batters Conner. She shrugs off Wonder Girl's end move.

And then Supergirl's inner darkness is so great that she cannot be contained by Raven's soul self. In fact, Raven seems more shaken by Supergirl being in her than Supergirl is for having been enveloped by Raven. So everyone's end move is useless. You would think that Raven should have some effect.

But someone whose father is a demon, who has battled with evil herself is repulsed and shaken by Kara's soul. What a horrible way to portray Supergirl. This 'is she evil' stuff wore thin pretty quickly.

So why did Titans come?

Cyborg says that they detected something heading to Kent Farm at high speed. They had to investigate.

But isn't there a better way to protect their lives and anonymity than by brawling in their corn field. Wouldn't this attract more attention?

With everyone arguing about Conner's self-exile and Supergirl's arrival, Kara suddenly become morose. Look at the glum Supergirl sulk away because 'everybody wants her to go away'. So we have even more labile emotions.And no nuance her ... she goes from full fury to full happiness to full fury to full despondence.

It was hard to figure this Supergirl when all this was happening. She had wild swings in her responses. But anger and hate seemed to be her fallback mood. Who wants to read that book?

Thank goodness these mood swings were explained away by Kryptonite poisoning.

I will say there is one nice moment here when Conner calls Kara his cousin for the first time. Kara seems touched by the sentiment, like maybe someone does care.

But before, she can leave Starfire arrives ... even more fun over the Kent crops! She wants Supergirl to go with her to the Outsiders. She has some answers for Supergirl. This, of course, allowed Loeb to let Supergirl beat up on that hero team in the next issue (even if while sparring). But that was the theme of these early issues, angry Supergirl looking for answers and beating up heroes. It just didn't work.

And we get another splash page, this one a pin-up shot of Kory.

Now this issue embodied a Supergirl that you didn't want to piss off, that didn't love humanity, that was hell on wheels. And this is despite having acclimated to Earth.

Frankly after rereading this issue, I realized that this Supergirl better fits the pre-release DCnU description of the Green/Johnson Supergirl. The current Supergirl is light years away from this. Even when confused and lost, the current Kara just seems to have more depth, more goodness, stopping when she thinks she is endangering innocents.

Since this was one of the first issues of the last incarnation of Supergirl, I suppose they are of medium importance to a Supergirl collection. They really set the tone for the first 20 or so issues. It is probably available for under $5.

But reviewing this reminded me that I didn't like this book very much back then.

Overall grade: C-


Anonymous said...

I liked Kara better that way. I think she should be that powerful-- basically on par with Superman (gender and age shouldn't be crutches, and I don't like SUperman as the White Alpha Male) and certainly much more powerful than the fake Kryptonian. I also liked her personality better than than in issues 20-end. Superboy and Power Girl were very much the character's responsible for those fights, not Supergirl. I really think Loeb was having fun with the small, organized groups throwing fits. He basically made the entire DCU attack her and dislike her for no reason, the same as some people were doing at the time (rather loudly).

The art was great too. Much better than when Supergirl had to play under different rules and restrictions than everyone else. This was the last time Supergirl looked like the character I grew up enjoying in the 80's and 90's.

I think Loeb's take was great, Kelly's wasn't that good in Candor and issue 19, but good in other issues.

Anonymous said... wasn't her power I objected to, it was the fact she never used it for any constructive purpose except beating up jobbers like Kon el and Wonder Girl.
Hardly the profile of a heroine...and then came the "Supergirl maybe kinda sorta killed some schoolkids" plotline.
All indicative of serious creative bloat behind the scenes.

John Feer

mathematicscore said...

John Feer is right.

Anonymous said...

Now if she had tumbled to Earth the inheritor of Goddess like Power and immediately came up against some equally powerful menace, so that there was some friction between her infinite powerset and her level of experience, then you'd a had something.
But beating down the Teen Titans...beneath her.

Y'know it just occured to me, that in the initial Loeb run Supergirl careened around the Earth in a disassociated state getting into fights galore with future allies, EVERYONE was obsessed with her welfare.
The current incarnation careens around the Earth and beyond in a disassociated state and no one seems to give it two thoughts, not the JLA nor even the Inferior Five.
Alienation indeed.


Anj said...

The early issues are such a mess. Superman, at least, took her in in S/B. It is implied she spent some time in the Fortress learning about Earth.

But you are right, everyone seemed to worry about her in these early issues ... but more it seemed out of fear than anything else.

And this was followed by Dark Supergirl and the Candor. Rough start.

Anonymous said...

Those issues were awful. practically unreadable.

Anonymous said...

I didn't have a problem with Kara's power level in those issues. Loeb had a running sub-plot that she was supposedly stronger than Superman. Now, look back at how he portrayed Superman's power level. Under Loeb, he was moving planets, moving at superluminal speeds, and trouncing Imperiex probes that wiped out the JL and nearly killed Wonder Woman.

So, it makes sense that Kara would be able to take on the majority of the members of the JL, TT, and Outsiders without breaking a sweat. Power Girl didn't have full access to her Kryptonian abilities until Infinite Crisis and Superboy was too busy moping around and not using his TK.

Consequently, that's why it never made sense to me why DC shoehorned Kara and Kon-El into the Titans. They're simply too powerful and the Titans regular villains are a joke. Members of the Super Family belong in the Legion. Otherwise, you have to depower them to the point where lame Batman villains can hurt them or use stupid plot devices like red flashlights for dramatic tension.

Back to the point. The problem with those issues was always the lack of characterization and character development. Kara was essentially a blank slate in her main title until Kelly left. I enjoyed Puckett's run and Gates tried, but there wasn't much to be done when the title got hijacked by a blasted two-year, interconnected crossover.

At the end of the day, Kara Zor-El's reinsertion into the DCU was a mess. In 67 issues, the character had 4 different origins(Loeb/Kelly, Puckett, Piefer, and Gates), no damned consistency, lack of a supporting cast until issue 31, and editorial dropping the ball left and right.

Contrast that with 80 issues of Supergirl vol. 4 of which the majority were written by Peter David and edited by Mike McVennie. One origin, solid characterization from the get go, supporting cast established in the first few issues, and the character actually develops organically with no retcons required.

Maybe the new 52 Kara will have a better chance if the writing team sticks around long enough and they stop with the friggin' decompressed storytelling.