I was unsure what to expect in Supergirl #19 which came out a couple of days ago. Let's face it, the book is in the midst of some turmoil. We are just out of H'El on Earth and the terrible characterization of Kara there (and I won't mention the relatively inscrutable plot). We had a guest scripter in Frank Hannah last issue who handled things decently if misunderstanding that Power Girl would know who Supergirl is. This was Mike Johnson's last issue before Michael Alan Nelson comes on board.
And as if all that creative upheaval wasn't crazy enough, it appeared we were going to have another fight between Supergirl and Power Girl.
Suffice it to say, I would not have been surprised if this issue was something of a mess, a placeholder until Nelson took over.
Instead, I got a very entertaining issue, an issue that was respectful of Supergirl, an issue that seemed to regrasp all the movement in Kara's character that happened before H'El on Earth, and began a friendship between the two Supergirls as opposed to going for the cheap thrill of a cat-fight.
Fare thee well Mike Johnson. I would have liked to see what was planned next.
Also back on the issue is Mahmud Asrar and does he ever deliver with this issue, drawing not only Supergirl in his usual superlative manner, but Power Girl as well. It is clear by his art that Karen is an older Kara. She looks like it!
On to the review.
Last issue, Kara collapsed from Kryptonite poisoning and (I assumed) a military troop came to scoop her up and run. I mean, it is an easy mistake to make. The US military has been portrayed like Hydra in DC Comics for a while. But know I don't know if it is the military or a Luthor sent squad.
Anyways, it think it is a 'Team Luthor' wetworks team, there to bring Supergirl in. I do like the idea of Lex trying to take advantage of Kara's apparent illness to further study Kryptonians. While I don't think this will make Lex a steady rogue of Supergirl's, I bet his tentacled female assistant does grow in prominence.
I did like one of the trooper's comment wondering how strong a fully grown Supergirl would be, a slick way for Johnson to bring Power Girl into the action.
Karen makes short work of the soldiers and whisks Supergirl away.
Johnson immediately rectifies the problem from last issue where Power Girl seems unclear of who Supergirl is. He has Karen say that she has been aware of Kara since the 'Great Wall' incident way back in Supergirl #2. She has been avoiding her not out disgust or being uncomfortable. She didn't know what would happen if they met, maybe universal destruction. It shows a lighter and more likeable feeling to Power Girl.
But when the K-Poisoning began effecting her/them she sought out Supergirl. The two finally touch and origins and memories flood into each other. This is a great page by Asrar showing that, making Kara/Karen one person. Suddenly the two understand each other, know each other. Unlike Jeph Loeb who had them 'short circuit' and fight each other, Johnson has the two of them grow closer. Just wonderful stuff.
But before there can be much small talk, Team Luthor shows up to try to recapture them. I love how the two fight together! And not only that, they seem to enjoy working with each other saying it feels 'so right' to be battling as a team.
This is 1000% better than the standard 'Power Girl vs. Supergirl' battles we have seen recently.
When the soldiers cannot slow them down, Luthor sends in Apexx, his muscle-bound lieutenant, to battle. We here both from Apexx and Lex that this is simply a test of strength, can the two hold out against him.
To continue a trend, Power Girl's uniform get shredded in battle. But even she seems to recognize the pattern saying 'another frickin' outfit bites the dust'.
Now one thing I don't understand is why Apexx talks about how this is supposed to be a test against both Kara's. How could either he or Lex anticipate Power Girl showing up? And how do they even know she is Kryptonian?
Again though, the two Supergirls act like a finely trained unit, working together to bash Apexx soundly. I love it.
I also love how the fights in this issue shows the sort of ferocity in battle we have seen from all the incarnations of Supergirl, that determination and viciousness that manifests when she is fighting evil. Here it is even better because it is a double dose.
Unfrotunately, the Kryptonite poisoning cure is temporary and Supergirl collapses in a greenish heap again. She tells Power Girl to take her to Sanctuary and since they share memories now, Karen knows just where to go.
The computer recognizes both as Kara and allows them in. In a sort of humorous conversation, it refers to both as Kara in a way that could be confusing. The medical systems begin working on Supergirl to stabilize her.
And when Karen says she is underdressed, the computer creates new clothes for her, an outfit that Power Girl thinks will work just fine.
Meet the new Power Girl, same as the old Power Girl. I have to admit, there is something right about seeing Karen back in this costume. And how interesting that Sanctuary knew to make this outfit for her!
I love Asrar's take on her. Everything about this, from the costume to her body language to the look of confidence on her face just works perfectly.
When Supergirl arrives, improved but still poisoned, the two share a brief moment. Supergirl tells Karen she's beautiful. Power Girl promises that they will work together to find a cure for Kara. It is a powerful panel, again showing Supergirl what she can become if she easily opens up and allows others in.
But again, before any more conversation can happen, Sanctuary must finally realize there shouldn't be two Karas. One must be a clone. And we know what Kryptonians typically think of clones. Defense systems come on line in a nice cliffhanger.
What a great issue. Without H'El to muck things up, Mike Johnson is able to pick up where he left off. We saw how Supergirl was slowly realizing Earth was her home, making friends, and accepting her life here. Now, by encountering Power Girl, by sharing those memories, she knows that triumph over grief can happen. Even that moment at the end when Power Girl says they will work together speaks volumes.
But best of all, is that Power Girl and Supergirl don't fight each other. They fight together. The interplay between the two is easy and feels natural. I really really hope that when this poisoning plot is over, we see the two sharing a cup of coffee somewhere and just chatting about the turns their lives have taken. These two should be friends, the same way that Kal should be part of both their lives.
Of course, this is something of a bittersweet issue. Because as great a Mike Johnson's characterization is here, he is moving on. While I think it took a while for this Supergirl title to find its compass, I think it was pointed in the right direction with Kara heading towards optimism and heroism.
And it is always good to see Mahmud Asrar on art. His stuff sings this issue.
Overall grade: A