Saturday, November 24, 2012

Review: Supergirl #14

Supergirl #14 came out last week, a very satisfying read for this Supergirl fan and another opening chapter in the H'El on Earth story arc. Unlike Superman #13 which felt like a prologue, and Superboy #14 which seemed like just a brawl, this book felt like the true first part to this arc. It provides some back story for H'El himself. We see his powers and we hear his plan. I have to admit, his plan is different than what I expected.

But more importantly, this is simply a great issue for Supergirl as a character. Here we see her as a complex and sympathetic character. We see her struggle with her hopes and her reality, we see her interacting with Superman in a mature way, we see her say all the things I have been hoping she would say in this book.
Remember when someone (I think Matt Idelson) said Supergirl 'wouldn't rest until Superboy has been killed'?  When she was described as 'hell on wheels', more likely to fight with friends? Remember just last issue when Superman seemed to react to Supergirl like she was a brat? When Supergirl started yelling at Superman? And remember how worried I was when I read all these things?
None of that is here. None of it.
Writer Mike Johnson instead gives us a less bitter, less negative, more believable, and more hopeful Kara and ... and ... extended Superman Family! Add to that the typical spectacular Mahmud Asrar art, I was a very happy Anj.

Superman #13 ended with Supergirl and Superman arguing with each other. Superman was less than thrilled to see his cousin.
Supergirl #14 starts after that, after they have apparently worked together to carry the carcass of the Kryptonian dragon to Dr. Veritas' lab. While Veritas practically drools over being able to dissect the specimen, Kara wonders what it means that this thing was alive.
If she is alive ... if Kal is alive ... if Kon is alive ... if this thing is alive ... maybe there are more survivors of Krypton. It is understandable that Kara, who is still dealing with her new reality would latch onto that hope.
But Superman warns her about latching onto false hope. It is sensible ... and brotherly. And it is very much like Superman, to say that holding on to hope is never wrong. Fantastic.
As for Veritas, she seems a bit too excited about this, bragging about patents for new dissecting tools and all the new information she will gather. It almost seems Tycho-like.
But even better than that ... look at this!
When he is called away, Superman tells Supergirl to call his name whenever she wants to talk. He will hear her.
He is acting like family. He is looking to help, to be there for her. He isn't suffocating or domineering. He just wants to help. It is a wonderful reaching out by him to Kara. That is so different from the eye-rolling, 'look who showed up' Superman in Superman #13. This is what I have been looking for from him.

Supergirl doesn't stick around to let Veritas scan her as well. It is hard to trust an human after how Kara has been treated all this time. It isn't better when we discover that Siobhan, the one human Kara has trusted, is hiding a worsening compulsion. Siobhan is struggling to keep the Silver Banshee inside her. No big surprise, I suppose.
This is a very nice panel. The oddly blank expression on Siobhan's face as she looks at her glowing hand shows she has accepted, maybe enjoys the change. But I also love the little Banshee faces in her eyes. The art adds so much!

As great as Kal saying all Kara needs to do is call his name, this panel was even better. Back in Sanctuary Supergirl finally realizes that Superman is her only family and that she should reach out to him! It's about time! I have been saying she should be thinking that since the first issue. It makes sense! If she misses her home and family, she should be seeking out her family who can tell her about her home.
I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to see this panel.
Before she can act on that thought, she suddenly becomes exhausted and basically passes out.

She awakens on the sun with H'El. I have to believe that the sudden bout with sleepiness is somehow related to H'El.
After a brief fight in which H'El absorbs Supergirl's attacks, he tells his story.
He is loyal to the house of El. He was sent into space by Jor-El before the explosion. His travels have changed him. He seems to have telekinesis, teleportation, astral projection, maybe a force field. And the backwards S seems only intermittently visible. Hmmm ...
His mission? He wants to go back in time and stop Krypton from being destroyed! Maybe his powers include time travel? Maybe that's how the family were each on Krypton in the zero issues? It is a more interesting mission that what I thought it was going to be ... rewriting Earth in Krypton's image.
I'm not buying his origin though. I think he might be more obsessed with the house of El. I can't imagine Jor-El sending someone into space. And I certainly can't explain his powers. Maybe he self-lutilated himself, cutting the backwards S into his skin while looking in the mirror, all to be more like his hero Jor-El. Yeah, I am going with the obsessed angle.

I do think that Supergirl settles into a discussion with this guy pretty quickly. I suppose that a promise of saving Krypton is a good lure.
And he makes a good pitch about why she should even care about Earth, showing us at our worst, a war torn nation with factions firing on each other, endangering children who are fleeing for safety.
Earth is the 'opposite of Krypton'. That's the right pitch to make to Kara.

H'El shows he means business, bringing Kara back to Sanctuary where he has Superboy imprisoned. To show he understands Krypton and Kara, he will kill this clone at Kara's command.
And then there is another wonderful moment for Kara. She won't 'stop until Superboy is killed'. She could have killed him here. Instead, she calls him 'he' (not 'it'). She doesn't have H'El kill him (at least not yet). There is a sort of recognition and appreciation for the sanctity of life here.
It is again a nice moment for Kara here. She isn't blood thirsty or overly angry or unhinged. And yes, she did leave open the notion of killing him ... but I get the sense she never would. She stopped. And look at that expression in the first panel, this is someone who doesn't look like she could order an execution.

And I still don't understand H'El's powers. How is he holding Superboy here? How can he awaken him and render him unconscious with a thought. His power has a similar look to Superboy's TK. I wonder if there is a clone connection.

Is she too trusting to be considering this plan? I think it actually shows some restraint on her part that she wants to talk it over with Kal. The Kara from Supergirl #4 might jump at this chance. This one wants to mull it over; she knows more now. But I can also understand her being eager to see her home again. That's why it isn't an outright refusal. It is a sort of measured response.
To think of Kal at this moment, to discuss it with him (even if it is to try to convince him) again shows a new sort of acceptance of Kal being in her life.

To speed things along, H'El teleports Supergirl to Kal. Unfortunately, Kal is in Clark mode and sounds like he is about to confess his feelings to Lois when Kara bursts in. 

Amazingly, and probably with a nudge from H'El, she can suddenly understand English!! Hurrah!!!!! Now she can talk to people!

Kara, of course,  would have no concept about 'secret identities'. And it probably seems bizarre that Kal might be trying to have a relationship with one. In fact, these things might make Supergirl side more with H'El, that Kal hides his Kryptonian side. But the snippets of the Lois/Clark conversation are also very interesting.
It's a nice effective cliffhanger. And it is great to see Asrar's version of Lois.

So overall, a fantastic issue of Supergirl. She said all the right things here - hope for Krypton, acknowledging she should be close to Kal, sparing Superboy, and wanting to talk to Kal about saving Krypton. And Superman said all the right things - warning against false hope and saying he will always be there for Kara. It thankfully stands in sharp contrast to all the things we have read about Supergirl in this arc.

On this Thanksgiving week, I feel I need to thank Mike Johnson for realizing just who Supergirl is at her core, even if this Supergirl is having a rougher beginning than prior incarnations.

And great stuff, as always, by Mahmud Asrar.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

I thought you'd be pleased with this one too, Anj, I'm with you all the way. Great spot on the Banshee eyes!

I wouldn't be at all surprised if H'El is a clone who has indeed become unstable, just look at the white skin, and the dead eyes - he seems like a thematic descendant of Bizarro and Match, who's read Mon-El's original origin.

Kymeric said...

I liked this issue alot too. Glad she finally speaks english. Glad she didn't kill Superboy. Its funny she might have outed Clark to Lois.

I thought the art was off this issue, was there a different inker?

Anj said...

Thanks for the post Mart. Great review at your site too!

Physically he does look like Bizarro and somewhere way back I can remember that Lobdell may have started him out as that and then changed his mind about it.

Hmmm ... maybe a Jor-El clone?

Anj said...

Thanks for the post Kymeric.

The art is different because Asrar is inking rather than rendering in markers.

He talks about it on his blog here:

PRgirl1294 said...

Good review. And if you think that the supposed conversation between the cousins about "Clark Kent" is gonna be awkward, I can't imagine how difficult it's gonna be between them when Superman sees Superboy in that Fortress. Kara's gonna think of Superboy as an abomination, but Clark's probably gonna be thinking of Superboy as a brother or a son (really hoping for the latter). Either way, I can't wait for Superman #14 or for Superboy #15.

valerie21601 said...

From the clues shown in the #0 issues it looks like the H'el on Earth crossover may not be over until the time travel happens.

Superman and Superboy were shown on the eve of Krypton's destruction and Kara is shown further in Krypton's past during the Clone War.

Kim said...

"And yes, she did leave open the notion of killing him ... but I get the sense she never would."

I got the impression that the "No!" from her side was pure instinct. No killing! And then the "Not yet" was her stalling, not wanting H'el to think she's gone soft or something, because she thinks H'el would kill them both if that was the case.

And yeah. Goshdangit. Whenever Kara guest stars in other books (Except Superman 6, which Perez scripted), she is off. Mike gets her, most other writers seem to work against him, wanting her more unhinged and such. I don't think Mike was joking when he replied to Lobdell wanting Kara in the Teen Titans: "Only if I can write her".

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments from everyone.

PRGirl- it will be interesting to see if Superman has that response with Superboy. I wonder if he will be more curious than familial at first.

Val - I agree, the time travel bit has to be explained before the end of this arc

Kim - Interesting take on the 'not yet'. I didn't think about her not wanting to confront H'El fully yet.

And I agree, I don't want Lobdell writing Supergirl in any prolonged fashion.

Anonymous said...

Good cliffhanger....but she is now offically DC's answer to the Incredible Hulk right down to blundering into another hero's space so to speak.
Dunno if it does Kara any long range good to commence her first crossover event as a dupe of some zombie from Krypton...but that is par for the course for the Incredible Hulk.
Anyway she could never "kill Superboy" or even let H'El "kill Superboy", DC has time and money invested in that part of the Super Franchise...Kara just got left off the murder hook for once thats all.

PRgirl1294 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PRgirl1294 said...

@ Anj: Well, I agree that Superman's not going to immediately think of Superboy as family. What I kind of meant that he's definitely not gonna want Superboy to be killed. I'm pretty sure that at first, he'll be shocked that somebody took his DNA and created Superboy and curious about how it happened. But after thinking about it for a little bit, he'll start to consider Superboy as a brother or a son (again, really hoping for the latter).

Also, if you think that the ending of this issue was awkward, the preview for Superman #14 shows the whole conversation before Kara showed up. Here's the link: