Supergirl #12 came out this week, wrapping up the first year of this new Kara's story and the last issue before the 'Zero Month' event. We had been told that this issue would also introduce us to Supergirl's Fort of Solitude. So there was a lot to look forward to here. And yet, for me, the biggest draw and the best thing about this issue was the second meeting between Superman and Supergirl.
All along I have said that it doesn't make much sense for Superman to not be seeking out Supergirl. And, in many ways, I have felt that Supergirl should be seeking out Superman. To make me even more skittish, we have heard from DC's editorial staff that this will always be a tough relationship, that Superman is a loner unwilling to mentor.
I have been amazed how off some of those promotional or editorial comments have been when compared to the actual feel of the book and this is no different. The Superman/Supergirl scene in this book is the strongest part of the issue. It read right. It felt right. And while it ends with the two separating again, there is a feeling this is temporary. So kudos to writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson. It would be easy to play this at either extreme ... loving family living together or angry battling cousins. But this 'down the middle' approach is more difficult but also truer to real life.
Yes, there is an undersea fight, a new power revealed, the Fort, and the return of a rogue. But I will concentrate on that opening scene.
The art on the book is solid although it is important to note that while Mahmud Asrar penciled the issue, he only inked some pages with Cam Smith and Marc Deering chipping in. So some pages seem to lack the depth I have become used to on the book, the three-dimensional feel and lush environment I get from the totally Asrar pages. Amazing what Copic markers add to things!
The issue opens up with the cousins in Superman's arctic Fortress of Solitude. So I guess Supergirl approaching Superman and flying to the North Pole will be an untold tale. It's too bad because I would love to see that ... maybe a back-up story for a future Annual?
Still, this opening panel, shot from the angle of the bottle city of Kandor, the 2 cousins standing next to each other, not poised for battle, contemplating the loss of their world ... well let's just say that was a great way to open this book for me. But that sense of loss is so different. For Superman this is a look at an unknown world. For Kara, this is a look at a place she visited. Those are very different levels of grief.
One of the things that I like is that Superman, throughout this encounter, keeps returning to two points. One, he wants to help. Two, he cannot understand what Kara is going through. He had a different trip to Earth. She remembers everything and awoke her. He is understanding ... but not overwhelming, condescending, or authoritative. Basically, this was pitch perfect.
As for Supergirl, she also seems to have the right approach to this second meeting. She apologizes for that initial attack admitting she was scared to find herself in this crazy place.
No chip on her shoulder, no overwhelming angst, no nasty edge.
These are two people ... long lost relatives ... trying to form a relationship.
In fact, you get the sense that Kara is a strong and self-sufficient young woman. It is subtle but look at how she blushes when she asks Kal for help. She clearly isn't used to doing this. And yet, she swallows some of that pride and still asks. It shows an underlying maturity here.
But she also rejects Superman's offer to live in the Fortress. She still has that drive, that need to find out what happened to her family, to answer all the questions. She isn't going to be told what to do.
This panel is fantastic ... nuanced but powerful.
At least one question about her origins is answered here. Looking back at Brainiac/Collector's scans, Superman is able to discover that Supergirl's pod was in orbit around the sun for at least the last 5 years. That's why she emerged so powerful. She was guzzling up undiluted yellow sun energy.
So that one piece of information is interesting and explains her powers. But it is only one piece. She could have been in orbit and in stasis for decades if she was shot from Krypton when Kal was. But she could have been in stasis on Argo and shot only 5 years ago. I still have lots of questions.
When the pod entered Earth's atmosphere, a large chunk fell to the bottom of the ocean. So I guess my new question is was this a planned entry into Earth's atmosphere? Some pre-planned crash onto Earth after getting juiced? It has to be ... right?
As I said above, I couldn't imagine Kal not seeking out Kara before this. For one, she's family. But just as importantly, she hasn't exactly been quiet during her time on Earth, brawling in New York, driving away the World Killers, and corona-waving Greenwich Village while fighting the Banshee. He had to see this destruction.
Thankfully, Green and Johnson recognize that Superman would notice. But listen to Superman's words. He listened to Supergirl's initial demands, he left her alone. But he can't have her endangering lives. But he always, always comes back to the point that he just wants to help. He'll help her find the piece of her pod; he'll help her get used to Earth and her powers. He wants to help!
Of course, Kara has been attacked and imprisoned at every turn. Despite saying he wants to help, she feels he is trying to control/corral her. And she isn't happy, threatening to fight. She's young and been through a lot ... I suppose this makes sense.
I love ... love ... Superman's response. He isn't going to fight his family. He isn't going to force her to stay. He tells her to leave and prove to him that her days of destruction are behind her. There is some implication that if they aren't behind her, this time he will find her.
But more importantly, it seems like he is sad that she doesn't want to stay. By inking him with his face in shadows, you get that sense he is unhappy by this ... not angry unhappy. Sad.
Maybe I am transferring my take on this here. Maybe I am over-reading this. But I think he wants to get to know Kara. He wants her to be in his life. But he won't force her to be in it.
As much as I love that interaction, I love Supergirl's response just as much. As she flies away, trying to find the pod-piece on her own, she is completely conflicted.
Should she go back or not? Is Kal right or not? She knows that Superman has a point, that he can help, and maybe she wants him in her life too (or am I over-reading this too).
This internal conversation again adds depth to Kara's character. She isn't completely isolated and angsty.
Okay, that was a lot of analysis on the Superman/Supergirl conversation. But I think it warranted it. No fists were thrown. They had a conversation. They asked and offered help. They respected each other. Solid stuff.
Over the ocean, Supergirl hears a computer voice calling her, much like Superman's ship talking to him in Action.
Diving into the ocean and cruising to the sea floor, Kara discovers she doesn't need to breathe. She also discovers a new power ... being able to create a force field out of her stored energy.
Okay ... enough new powers!
And after fighting some mutated fish, she discovers her Fort calling to her.
Was this also pre-planned by whoever shot her here? Was a self-growing home part of what came with her? Was this some way of filling her in on what happened.
Nice design here!
Inside the computer voice fades away to be replaced by the evil tones of Simon Tycho.
Of course, this makes perfect sense. We learned in Supergirl #1 that Tycho's technology surveyed all items from space that land on Earth and that he had 'first dibs'. So he would know all about this place.
There is so much to see even on these few panels - red knowledge crystals and input devices. All the answers are probably here! And just in time for Supergirl #0.
So great cliffhanger here, probably one not dealt with for a couple of months. The art was still very good. I know Sam Basri is drawing Supergirl #13. I wonder if that was to give Mahmud Asrar time to do all the art on the upcoming issues.
But for me, the best thing about this issue was that opening scene. You can see Superman and Supergirl struggling to form a familial relationship when they are basically strangers. But there wasn't animosity. There weren't impenetrable walls. I get the sense that eventually these two will become friends. And that's really all I want.