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.