Friday, January 25, 2013

Review: Supergirl #16


Supergirl #16 came out this week and was another chapter in the H'El on Earth storyline. I have complained in the past that Supergirl is being treated pretty shabbily in this arc, falling for everything the villain is saying just a bit too easily and sliding a bit too close to the Jeph Loeb/Joe Kelly bad girl who stands alone, hates everyone and is hated by everyone. Sadly, not only does this issue continue that trend but adds another low for the character, making her fight a hero in a rather inane and inefficient manner.

Now this issue isn't all bad for Kara as there are a couple of nice moments where you can see that Mike Johnson has a grasp of who he wants Kara to be. But I fear that there is an edict from above to make Supergirl the patsy here, isolating her further from the DCnU while Superboy gets closer and closer to Superman. 

Supergirl characterization aside, I also have to say that I am getting a bit tuckered out with the H'El story. We are now 7 issues in, 2+ months of chapters, and while there has been a lot of bluster and some grains of backstory we still don't know much of what is happening here. Who is H'El? What is his plan? Besides going back in time, how does he plan to save Krypton? Why the El connection? I know we still have a whole other month to go in this arc and that revealing too much too soon is just as troublesome as a reader. But it seems all we are seeing here is fights and bickering and not much progression.

As for the art here, Mahmud Asrar continues to do a superb job here. In particular, some of the super-speed scenes are well constructed. And the quieter moments with Kara always seem to shine. On to the review.


The issue starts with a flashback, the arrival of H'El on Earth, staggering bloody from his ship. I still don't quite know what to make of the backwards S on H'El's chest. At times it is there, at times it isn't. Here, it looks like it was scratched in, maybe by H'El itself.

As if things aren't nutty enough in this story, as if the writers and editors don't have enough to explain and wrap up in a satisfactory way, now we have added the Stormfront Horn-Blower and his announcing/signaling the Oracle to arrive as well.

Is H'El part of the Oracle's plan? Or is this coincidence?


As we saw in Superboy #16, the Flash has been sent into the Fortress to try to 'rescue' Kara, to get her out of there and away from H'El. Of course, the heroes don't know that Supergirl is there of her free will, having bought into H'El's plans to go back in time and save Krypton. Now I have lots of questions about this, but they are better asked later.

Right now, Supergirl just wants to toss the Flash out. At the very least, Mike Johnson has her realize the seriousness of her situation. Supergirl says that if she attacks the Flash there is no turning back. Unfortunately, despite realizing that, she attacks anyways.

As for the Flash, too much of his dialogue in this issue starts with 'Superman said' or 'Superman told me'. Still, I liked how he brings his power set to bear against Supergirl.


Here is Asrar at his best, a nice splash page showing Supergirl and Flash sparring. Nice composition all around.

Now I do think it is a bit odd that Kara would decide to fight the Flash on the ground in a test of speed, a fight on his terms with the advantage all his. You would think she might fly above, bathe him with heat vision, solar flare him, or use any other of the powers she has. Perhaps she doesn't want to win here?


In the end she does win, by kneeing the Flash in the face.

Again, Kara says the right thing here, says she doesn't want to hurt anyone. But it is just words since she follows it up with an emphatic 'I will do anything to stop you'. I just think it is a shame that this bright intelligent and strong Supergirl has become such a pawn here.

Realizing that Supergirl won't go willingly, the Flash resorts to Plan B, remove her by force.


That initially takes the two into Superman's intergalactic zoo.

There is something endearing about the Flash being surprised about this.

Again, Kara actually helps the Flash here, zooming him out of the pens before he can be hurt. There is this underlying belief in the sanctity of life in Supergirl, a desire to do no harm. And that makes it all the more frustrating that she is in so deep with H'El.


Here was my favorite moment in the book.

While stomping through the Fortress, Supergirl and the Flash get the attention of Krypto. He initially runs in to defend but that all changes when he sees Kara. What a great reunion, maybe even more meaningful than his reunion with Kal. After all, Kara was old enough to pet him, play with him, cuddle with him back on Krypton.  Look at how happy he looks in that first panel.

But this makes matters worse. Reminded of more things she has lost, Supergirl seems more determined than ever to get back Krypton.


I told you there was a lot of 'Superman told me' dialogue here.

Krypto or no, the Flash is going to bring her in. Even if that means using a super-weapon from the Fortress armory. But before he can use it to any great effect, the Flash is teleported away by H'El.

A bit too easy of an out.


And so here is my big problem with this Supergirl characterization. Not once has she asked H'El exactly what his plan is. How is he getting the energy for this thing? (We know it is by imploding our solar system.) What is he going to do to save Krypton once he gets there?

Don't you think after everything we have heard that Kara would stop this plan if she knew the price was everyone's life on Earth? Shouldn't she be asking this stuff?

Moreover, maybe one of the things Superman should have told the Flash was to tell Kara about H'El's plans. Maybe that would sway here more than being shot at.

And H'El's romantic lines, slathering on stuff about being in awe of Kara, knowing he won't be alone ... all that stuff ... seems a little bit too much too soon. I can't believe she is buying that stuff so easily either.

Still, before attacking her cousin and his friends, a line she knows is a big one to cross, you would think she might want some details.


Oh yeah, and the Oracle is heading our way.

I think I have already said everything I need to say. I just can't stomach Supergirl being played as the patsy here.  Regardless of her love of Krypton, of her grief, I just can't believe she hasn't demanded more from H'El. And I can't believe that Superman told the Flash to rescue her, to use force to remove her, and even where a special gun is hidden, but didn't tell the Flash to clue her in about exploding the sun.

If DC was hoping for that alienated, isolated, angry young Supergirl, this story arc will get her there. And it is a shame because I don't think that is how Mike Johnson sees her. I keep wondering if Johnson has her saying the right thing while the powers make her keep doing the wrong thing.

Just where will this Supergirl be after H'El on Earth? I get the sense in a worse place than she was before.

Overall grade: C

29 comments:

Martin Gray said...

Nice one Anj, you've nailed the problems once more. Awful cliche as it is, at this stage I'd be OK with Kara being revealed to be being mind-controlled - it's that or accept that she really has left her brains at home.

valerie21601 said...

I finally figured out last night why I don't like this version of Kara.

It takes itself too DAMN SERIOUS! There is no fun with this Supergirl. Outside of a couple of tiny moments like the pizzeria scene there is no joy in it.

As I recall it was revealed as far back as the SD Comic Con 2012 Superman panel. One of the super teens would grow closer to Superman and the other will push themselves as far as possible from Kal. Clearly it is Superboy who will accept Superman as his mentor. While Supergirl keep her distance from him.

In one of the three interviews Lobdell recently gave he heavily hinted that H'el might have a plan B if the time travel. To rebuild Krypton the "old fashion way". I am fairly sure that means use Kara as his Eve and rebuild a new Krypton together. Kara is the only full blooded Kryptonain female alive. So far as we know it.

Then Lobdell might have planted a red herring in his interview.

Supergirl takes itself too seriously and isn't a fun read because of it.

Martin Gray said...

PS Talking of H'el's reverse-S, did you notice a panel in the Superboy Annual with Kara's skew-whiff too? A mistake?

Anonymous said...

I've been reading all the issues in this H'El crossover and really trying to give it the benefit of the doubt. But we're seven issues in and nothing makes sense. Characters are not acting or thinking like they were just a couple issues back. Supergirl is suddenly not a smart girl from planet Krypton lost on an alien world, she's a dumb blonde stereotype from Planet Hollywood. And we're this many issues into the story and still don't really know anything. We have no clues to the villains actual motives, we don't know why Supergirl is suddenly acting like a ditz, we've got nothing but issue after issue of pointless fights. I'm worn out trying to turn this mishegoss into something worthwhile in my head.

For mr it's official. This is some of the worst Supergirl I've ever read, including the goofiest and sillyest Silver Age stuff, and this Crossover is now tied with Grounded as the worst continued story. At least Grounded only ruined one book.

Kim said...

"Not once has she asked H'El exactly what his plan is. How is he getting the energy for this thing? (We know it is by imploding our solar system.)"

The power source from Argon. And the thing that bothered me most about this issue was the stupidity of Flash.

You know... He *could* have tried saying something like "H'els plan will destroy earth!"

Instead all he says "H'el bad. We good." Without offering any real evidence other than... What? Wanting to stop him from rebuilding Krypton. He COULD say why that's a bad idea, but apparantly Superman forgot to tell him to tell Kara that...

Also, I hate how this crossover stopped the proper storyline short. The one with Siobhan, her fortress and all. That stuff was going places.

PRgirl1294 said...

Here's something that is probably gonna make Supergirl look a little more stupid. I'm thinking that the reason why the Flash isn't telling her that going back in time requires destroying Earth's solar system is because he thinks that she had already figured that out for herself. And that would make sense, considering that she was raised by scientists on a scientifically advanced planet and thus, she should have already figured it out for herself. This makes this all the more tragic how she's being portrayed in this crossover. Hopefully, the rest of the JL will fill her in on that part of H'el's plan soon.

Kim said...

"Here's something that is probably gonna make Supergirl look a little more stupid. I'm thinking that the reason why the Flash isn't telling her that going back in time requires destroying Earth's solar system is because he thinks that she had already figured that out for herself."

I'd say that's really trying too hard. If Flash thought Kara was evil enough to wanna destroy earth, he would have fought a LOT harder. Your theory seems incredibly implausible to me. I think it is just lazy writing; if Flash tells her, it'd mean Kara would confront H'el. And they don't want that just quite yet. Hence, they made Flash too stupid to mention it.

arw1985 said...

My only complaint about the issue was that Flash didn't say anything about the solar system getting destroyed. He had a lot of chances to do that. I doubt that Kara would have believed him, but he was there at the briefing when Superman mentioned it.

PRgirl1294 said...

@ Kim: I'm not saying that the Flash thought that Kara was evil. I'm just saying that he probably thought that H'el had manipulated her enough to disregard the risk. H'el did get her to remove the crystal from Kandor, saying that when his plan was complete, everything that they did would be undone.

Jay said...

I've defending Kara's characeterization here and her trusting of H'El due to the argument that his feelings for her and for Krytpon appear genuine, however, now that we're getting closer to the plan coming to fruition, now that she's seen the device, all I'm asking for is a simple "So how does it work?" That's all. Let H'El lie from there, or whatever, but at least have her ask now.

Anj said...

Awful cliche as it is, at this stage I'd be OK with Kara being revealed to be being mind-controlled - it's that or accept that she really has left her brains at home.

Thanks for the comment Mart.

I agree. We need a sort of 'Kryptonite poisoning' explanation for this behavior. Mind control would work ... even if cliche as you mention.

Anj said...

One of the super teens would grow closer to Superman and the other will push themselves as far as possible from Kal. Clearly it is Superboy who will accept Superman as his mentor. While Supergirl keep her distance from him.

Thanks Val.

I remember this too. It just seems to me that both of them could grow closer.

As for no fun, I think the foundation of this book is Kara learning to deal with grief and that made scenes like the pizzeria and the victory over the World Killers that much sweeter. I keep waiting for Kara to emerge from her sadness. But this arc seems to want her to be buried in it.

Anj said...

And we're this many issues into the story and still don't really know anything. We have no clues to the villains actual motives, we don't know why Supergirl is suddenly acting like a ditz, we've got nothing but issue after issue of pointless fights

Agreed. I worry there won't be any satisfactory answers about this, no easy conclusions.

And this Supergirl is very different from the one who so smartly defeated Tycho in her Sanctuary.

Anj said...

The power source from Argon. And the thing that bothered me most about this issue was the stupidity of Flash.

You know... He *could* have tried saying something like "H'els plan will destroy earth!"


I know about the Kandor crystal, but that isn't enough and Supergirl should realize that.

But yes, sending the Flash inside without having him tell Supergirl their concerns seems silly.

Anj said...

I'm thinking that the reason why the Flash isn't telling her that going back in time requires destroying Earth's solar system is because he thinks that she had already figured that out for herself.

Thanks for the comment PRGirl.

Boy, if DC really wants a universe where the Flash thinks Supergirl would be part a world-destroying plan then something is really wrong.

But you are right, her background should let her figure it out and react.

Anj said...

now that we're getting closer to the plan coming to fruition, now that she's seen the device, all I'm asking for is a simple "So how does it work?" That's all. Let H'El lie from there, or whatever, but at least have her ask now.

Thanks for the comment Jay.

It seems this is a common problem we have all seen. Supergirl should be asking more questions at this point.

And yes, I almost wish H'El would lie about it ... it would mean she asked.

Anonymous said...

I am afraid we all have front row seats at Supergirl's Waterloo.
I don't think Supergirl has been written quite as credulous and stupid since the days of Matrix and her affair with Lex Luthor.
Oh and the subtle hint of Kara's "breeding potential" with H'el?
Class All the Way DC, been waitin' fer that one all winter.
BTW anyone else get an unwelcome whiff of sexism off that trope?
The bronze age Kara is a much mocked woman for her emotionalism, passivity and overshadowment...but she'd a seen thru H'El four issues ago and beaten him like a rented government mule.
WHERE is the Girl who once beat up Darkseid?
She is being jobbed out to the Threat D' Jour in a way that makes Kal El look like a Demigod Thanks DC!
Sheer genius.

JF

Gear said...

I'm just hoping that we can emerge out of the other end of this poorly conceived and nasty little potboiler with the Supergirl character reasonably intact as a hero and not having suffered Hal Jordon "Parallax" level damage. I really don't understand what DC is thinking here, they're actively damaging this character's viability as a marketable hero unless they're looking for a new character to add to a revival of "Secret Six". It's like we're seeing the origin story for a villain. Why would anyone want to read a book about such a person? I'm really hoping that there's a "turn" moment, where what's happening finally becomes apparent to Supergirl and she is able to be become the hero of the story rather than the pawn and dupe, and that her actions are known and recognized by the other characters. Otherwise they've destroyed the character, and it's time for a reboot. Wow, I just realized I might be ready for a reboot.

BTW anyone else get an unwelcome whiff of sexism off that trope?
There's more than a whiff of sexism in all of this. Supergirl is portrayed as ridiculously credulous, ruled by emotion, hysterical, and frankly rather stupid. Not to mention that a major driver for her actions in the story are the man she's suddenly decided to be infatuated with, and because of that she's lost all of her critical faculties (because I guess that's what "chicks are like", or something.) I'd like to say that sexism isn't the case, but Martha Kent is dead, Lois seems to have been tossed on the trash heap, Lana has disappeared, Cat Grant got a page in Superman recently to act like an airhead... women in the Superman books who had agency and strength of their own seem to be gone. Even the one new female character (Doctor Veritas) and one that's been around as long as him (Wonder Woman) seem to be in Superman's world primarily to moon over him. It's like the worst of pre-1950's pulp fiction, but without the fun. I can't even mock it as hopelessly out-of-touch because it's being published today. DC right now is beginning to get a reputation as being sexist and hostile to women in general, and this stuff adds weight to those comments.

By the way, I find it really odd that we suddenly aren't seeing any interviews with Mike Johnson or Mahmud Asrar. They were all over the place with articles and interviews during the year before this crossover, discussing their plans and views, then just before this crossover starts Green quits the book and the other two have suddenly disappeared off the face of the planet. No interviews, no comments, it's like they've either lost interest or don't want to say anything.

I can't believe DC can't see what they're doing here, so I'm holding out hope that they're going to pull this one out somehow. But the window is rapidly closing.

Anonymous said...

"I can't believe DC can't see what they're doing here, so I'm holding out hope that they're going to pull this one out somehow."

Sadly, I think DC knows exactly what it is doing. I have no faith that DC will pull this out, and I don't think it is MJ's fault. This smacks of editorial directive. Supergirl is the dupe. Period, end of story and everything must be consistent with that so no obvious questioning of H'el or his plan. For me, the window has closed. I hate the way SG is portrayed in this crossover. Even worse, my supergirl at home hates her even more. After reading the last few issues, she is done. She hates SG being written as a dumb character, and has no desire to continue reading such a char/book. Saves me money on my sub list, but it is too bad that DC has ruined such a great char.

Anj said...

I don't think Supergirl has been written quite as credulous and stupid since the days of Matrix and her affair with Lex Luthor.

I agree John. Even as Gear later says, this Kara has suddenly become so emotional she is almost hysterical.

Seems like such a set back.

Anj said...

I find it really odd that we suddenly aren't seeing any interviews with Mike Johnson or Mahmud Asrar. They were all over the place with articles and interviews during the year before this crossover, discussing their plans and views, then just before this crossover starts Green quits the book and the other two have suddenly disappeared off the face of the planet.

I also noticed this and have been wondering why.

Maybe post-H'El JOhnson will do some interviews about the future.

Anj said...

She hates SG being written as a dumb character, and has no desire to continue reading such a char/book. Saves me money on my sub list, but it is too bad that DC has ruined such a great char.

Yeesh. A lost future fan. And one less person buying the book.

That is a bad sign.

Gonzalo Ruben Cachi said...

Well Mahmud A. Asrar put it in his tumblr

http://mahmudasrar.com/post/35575442127/we-are-each-our-own-devil-and-we-make-this-world

Maybe supergirl still love h el after crossover

Ayhe said...

I agree with most of your views Anj and as always, I enjoyed reading your reviews.
Certainly, Kara´s behaviour is very strange and I´d love to slap some sense in her.

But there´s something that caught my attention in a previous issue. It was a phrase, one of Kara´s thoughts.

"I was always good at lying" (I am not sure if I wrote it the exact words)

From my perspective, Supergirl might not be following H´ell´s words and be so captivated by his "charm". She would do anything to bring back Krypton, yes, but I highly doubt she would sacrifice Earth and countless of innocent lives for it. She would never be able to forgive herself. No, I think she´s buying time until she figures how to defeat H´ell.
At the moment he´s invincible.
To fool H´ell, she needs to lie to her friends first. And the readers ;)

Well, that´s my take. I want to read the whole crossover first before judging the way Supergirl is written. Meanwhile, I am enjoying the read :)

Anonymous said...

This is what Asrar said on his tumblr:


"We Are Each Our Own Devil, And We Make This World Our H’El"


Here is what a fan posted in Asrar's comment section and many people liked it:

"I’m trade-waiting Supergirl because it’s moving too slow, but damn if following his tumblr doesn’t tempt me to catch up."

valerie21601 said...

I sincerely hope Kara isn't going the lying route in the H'el story. I haven't seen any hints in it coming close to suggesting it.

I suspect mind control because of the way H'el "gifted" her with instant ability to understand English and the images he shows her to stir up her emotions a great deal. How do we know for sure that H'el cast a image of her best friend to shake her up? If it ever goes back to it.

Either way would be a cope out to me. Surely Johnson could have found a much better way to do it.

Anonymous said...

We are not in a good place if the best we can hope for is either mind control (if true it makes SG look weak and credulous) or outright mendacity (which doesn't make her weak and won't make the character many friends either).
I am hard pressed to see how the H'El storyline ends with any credits in Supergirl's column.

JF

Anj said...

I agree, it would feel like a cop-out and a sure sign of weakness if it is mind control.

Lying might be a better option except she knee'd the Flash pretty viciously. So I don't think it is that.

So what is left is her actually falling for this blindly and that isn't a good thing either!

Ugh.

valerie21601 said...

@Anj I worry about the next 18 months for Kara especially since Lobdell revealed there will be a another H'el sequel crossover around issues 20-24 and past it.

As it will take it that long for all of the consequences of the H'el story lines are worked out between all the Super Family.

The Lobdell interview really have me worried about it.