Friday, April 20, 2012

Review: Supergirl #8

Supergirl #8, written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson with guest art by George Perez, came out this week. I will admit I had very high hopes for this issue and sometimes preconceived notions are a bad thing.

You see, last issue ended on such a high point. It was the thematic end of the 'origin' storyline and we had been given enough broad strokes of Kara's past to have some understanding of her. Supergirl had realized she needed to accept Earth as her home, rejected the temptations of Reign, and had emerged victorious, a somewhat reluctant hero.

It was a great ending and seemed to be the first step of this Supergirl's heroic journey. This issue should have built on that a bit. It already promised the introduction of a supporting cast member/rogue in Siobhan/Silver Banshee.

But, instead, this issue felt more like a step backwards, as Kara shrinks from the role of hero and the people of Earth seem to reject rather than embrace her. And this piece of the puzzle sits right next to the elephant in the room ... where is Superman in all this!! If you think you are alone in the universe, and you discover your cousin has landed on Earth, and you are SUPERMAN, wouldn't you continue to seek her out?? Instead, Kara remains somewhat lost.

The issue opens pretty much where the last issue left off, a triumphant Supergirl standing in New York after vanquishing the World Killers. But the subtle differences speak volumes. The ending splash page in Supergirl #7 had Kara looking up and out to the horizon, half-smiling, proud of her victory, and happy to have saved Earth. The background showed citizens, some injured, but basically it was a backdrop of the innocents rescued by Supergirl. It was uplifting.

This splash has Supergirl looking down, looking more defeated than optimistic, and surrounded by the military and police all of whom have their guns aimed at her. Didn't they just see her fighting the Worldkillers?

Instead, despite Kara yelling (in Kryptonian) that she isn't the enemy (at least I got that), despite her actions, the military promise to meet her with force. It is yet another incident of heroes fighting the army and the police ... and frankly I'm sick of it.

I do like that Supergirl seems winded here. Maybe her "corona wave" flare power takes a lot out of her?

Luckily, a silver-haired bystander not only understands Kryptonian but stands up to the army, pointing out the obvious that Supergirl just saved everyone.

I suppose this is another issue with this book. I know that having Supergirl feel alone and isolated is one of the main themes in this book. But we are 8 issues in and Supergirl still can't communicate with anyone. It must make it tough on Green and Johnson to have her be a part of her own stories, but I suppose that's the point.

And, as is all too often the case in comic standoffs like this, the military decides to fire on Supergirl and her mouthpiece forcing Kara to scoop her up and take off.

Landing on a nearby roof, Kara makes her first friend. Her name is Siobhan, recent immigrant from Ireland. They are both new to the states and alone ... why not become friends. Siobhan even offers Kara a place to stay.

I wonder if Siobhan is supposed to be another reflection of Kara (the way Reign was a dark doppelganger of power gone wrong). Maybe Siobhan is supposed to represent the human aspect of Kara's personality. After all Siobhan is also alone. We learn her parents are dead. She has powers that make her unique. It all sounds like Supergirl.

But rather than seem angry about this, or alienated, Siobhan seems to have embraced freedom. She stood up for Kara. She could almost be a role model for overcoming isolation. It will be interesting to see if that plays out.

Even here, she tells Supergirl to not harm the relentless military.

Yep, the army was buzzing around the city vowing 'lethal force', instigating a forceful response by Supergirl until Siobhan steps in.

Siobhan certainly seems like a free spirit. Her apartment is a disaster, a far cry from the sterile peeks we have seen of Krypton. This looks much like what my first apartment looked like.

But this is how Kara is learning about our world. And she learns more about Siobhan and her family. It is a nice touch that the first person Kara can communicate with has held out her hand and offered Supergirl shelter and friendship. And their conversation is great as Siobhan introduces Kara to Earth TV and clothes and empathizes with her predicament.

The news reports are buzzing with news about the now-named Supergirl. No mention of her fighting off the Worldkillers of course. Instead it is this image and a warning. It all seems to be piled on a little thick. And worst of all, it just destroys the positive momentum of last month's victory.

And, it again raised the question ... where is Superman? I am not saying he needs to play a huge part in this book. I'm not saying Supergirl has to defer to him. I am not asking for 'secret weapon' status. But I simply can't imagine that he would let her go off alone, especially after these reports. Frankly, after the revelations of the Worldkillers and the acceptance of Earth last month, I thought Kara might actually seek him out!

Kara puts on some Earth clothes and heads to the local coffeehouse to hear Siobhan play her music. It is interesting to see Kara responses to the assault on her senses. But just when it seems like Supergirl will actually relax and see some of the good Earth has to offer, Siobhan's supposedly dead father shows up.

As the Black Banshee, he seems to possess the crowd, demonizing them. And he asks Siobhan to embrace her destiny, whatever that is. I do wonder if that 'reflection' aspect of Siobhan and Kara extends to their relationships with their fathers. Zor-El has seemed a little iffy in this book.

Supergirl jumps to her friend's defense just as Siobhan did for her. But the Kryptonian vulnerabilty to magic seems all too intact in the DCnU.

Still, nice to see that Supergirl's heart is in the right place.

Just when all seems lost, Siobhan reveals that she cannot hide from who she is. She is the Silver Banshee. Okay, not a bad cliffhanger.

So overall this issue was something of a mixed bag. Supergirl has met a friend, has begun being immersed in Earth culture, and at least defends her new found friend. All of that worked well.

But that alientation and isolation angle felt a bit forced here. The relentless attack by the army, their ignoring the good that Kara had done, the lack of communicating with other characters, and the lack of Superman all detracted from the book. And perhaps worst of all for me, it really dimmed the brightness of the last issue.

I also will freely admit that I missed Mahmud Asrar on the book. It is amazing how different a feel this book had without him on it. I can't wait to see his take on the banshees.

Overall grade: B


Gear said...

Nice review ANJ. I think I may have liked this issue a bit more than you did, but I know what you're saying.

We know the history and background of everything that led to the battle in #7, but nobody else does. They don't know Supergirl, all of the dialogue between the combatants was in Kryptonian, and as far as they can tell it was a group of super-powered beings fighting and destroying everything. After it's all over and the adrenalin isn't flowing they might analyze the situation better and figure out more of what was happening, but right now everyone involved looks like they're to blame. I can fault how the military went about trying to take Supergirl into custody, but I can understand why they were trying to do it. They don't have the privileged position of the reader, we know Supergirl's intentions. They just know that a lot of real estate was just destroyed, lives endangered, and one of the combatants is still on the loose and may still be dangerous.

And, it again raised the question ... where is Superman?

Since Kara has had no time to do anything other than fight one battle after another this still has to be before Superman #6, which means he's floating unconscious in orbit while a nano-bot replacement is acting very un-Superman-like in Metropolis. And with Kara's down-cast look and comment of "It's... complicated" when Siobahn asks about him it felt like she's very conflicted about it too. She's still confused about how he could be an adult, and might even be wondering why he didn't show up too, while feeling a bit guilty that she didn't trust him when she had the chance.

I also will freely admit that I missed Mahmud Asrar on the book

I absolutely love Asrar's work on this book and want to see him back. But seeing Perez and his dense art style reminds me that Asrar's art includes 3 or 4 full-page splashes per issue, and all of the other pages are 3 to 5 panels at best. I think story with this much character and relationship building needed Perez and his detailed 7 to 9 panels per page. My question after seeing this issue is will we get more character building next issue, or will it be cover-to-cover mayhem again? And can Asrar tell a denser story?

Anonymous said...

I'm quite happy with the lack of Superman. I don't want him looking after her like a father figure nor do I want her seeking advice from him and blindly following in his footsteps. Let Supergirl be her own person and her own hero. There's a reason Peter David's was the best long run on a Supergirl character to date--she wasn't Superman in a skirt, nor was she a Robin figure to him.

Benwahbob said...

She also wasn't Kara Zor -El in Peter David's run. If you're going to ahve a Supergirl who is a blood relation then you need to explore it A and B capitalize on it. No matter what you do, she'll never be more popular than Superman as a character. You want her to not be "Superman in a skirt", Larry? Easily done, don't call her Supergirl, dress her in Blue, Red and Yellow with an S on her chest.

Gene said...

Supergirl talking to Siobhan's TV reminded me of Mr. Scott talking to the computer in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Martin Gray said...

I wonder if the disparity between the end of last issue and start of this one has to do with the writers keeping the coming collections in mind - presumably last issue ends one trade, this one begins another. Perhaps Messrs Johnson and Green wanted to end one on a high note, but opted to start the next with a bit of contrived action?

I also don't want too much of Superman in here. I'm pretty sure Gear (hi!) is spot on; otherwise, I'm happy to accept that Superman is busy. I mean, there'll be future times in Superman's book when it would make sense for him to call his cousin up for support, but I don't want Kara showing up - let their team-ups be special.

Anonymous said...

I´m missing superbreath in this new series.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments here!

Gear: great points about the military not hearing Kara's discussions and about Superman being nano-bot'd around the same time. I suppose that is why he hasn't been around.

Larry/Anonymous: If you read my review, I specifically say I don't need Superman to be a big part in this book. But he needs to be some part. It doesn't make sense otherwise.

Bob: Agree completely. Comparing Matrix to Kara is like comparing apples and oranges ... well maybe Granny Smith apples to MacIntosh.

Mart: I hope that the internal flow from issue to issue isn't dictated by trades. But in this age, who knows.

Thanks again. I love the discussion!

Dante said...

I´m missing superbreath in this new series.

Yeah,seems that the last two Supergirls don't use it that much anymore,neither did Power Girl.Maybe the writters don't wanna,yet they abuse Superman's and other Kryptonians.

Perhaps it's not one of the writters favourite.

valerie21601 said...

I was really hoping this issue would be having Kara learning about Earth life, customs. technology, etc and resting for awhile. It would be more believable to me if Siobhan and Kara had been friends for at least a month before her father the Black Banshee shows up.

If I have it right the series is only up to the third or fourth day since she first crashed on Earth and it only up to the #8 issue and still we hardly know her.

Anonymous said...

Yeah she just beat down her first beasties and an hour later she is moving into a Bronx Tenement?
And still she can't speak a word of english?
And an hour after that she is hitting the Coffee Houses?
And her mook of a cousin hasn't yet verified that Kara is on the right side?
There are a few persistent unresolved plot threads at play here and I hope they get resolved.
The one common factor in all of this is that Supergirl still can't speak English so she is literally a supporting character in her own book!
There is stuff to work on here IMHO.
As for Superman, he ought not to be much of a player in Kara's solo book, but the family connection ought not to be neglected either.
If you want a Super-Girl who is completely disconnected from Superman and his mythos, then I kindly invite all and sundry to start reading whatever book is featuring Power Girl these days.


TalOs said...

I honestly think that this is quite frankly the best issue out yet.

Why is Superman still not helping Kara assimilate to her new found life on Earth? Here you have another survivor of Krypton who just also happens to be your relative as well and you don't want to help her? That just really doesn't feel like a thing Superman (yes in know its a "whole new" Superman but still) would do.

I really don't like the fact that Supergirl is now seen by the U.S. government at large as "public enemy number 1" for she deserves much better then that. Superman should of long since taken her under his wing, taught her about their adoptive world culture and introduced her to U.S. as well as Earths world governments by now.

I absolutely love PĂ©rez's drop dead beautiful art though. =D

Anonymous said...

Yeah props to George Perez, he has still got it in spades.


mathematicscore said...

Gear nailed most of my feelings on the issue. I thought it was easily above the bar set by the rest of the new52.

While I agree it was heavy handed, I don't mind the temporary APB for Supergirl, or her lack of english; I think they're handling it pretty well.

Anj said...

Thanks for keeping the conversation going and nice to see you back here Talos!

Who doesn't like George Perez art! But I have come to appreciate Asrar's work and can't wait to see him back here.

I do think that this is a solid book in the 'new 52' and has a long term plan embedded in it. And this Supergirl has been likeable as she ultimately has done the right thing even when faced with adversity.

I just wonder if the long time setting Kara up to start the hero's journey will mean some readers jump off.