Supergirl #20 came out this week, the first issue with writer Michael Alan Nelson. For me, I was glad to finally have this issue in my hands. Nelson is best known for a Cthulhu and his Supergirl was being touted by the DC higher-ups as being 'dark
What was this title going to be like with Nelson at the helm?
Well, if this first issue is any indication, I think Supergirl is in good hands. I liked this issue very very much and I felt that it hit upon a lot of the things that I think make Supergirl such a great character. We see her intelligence, her resilience, a sort of self-deprecating attitude about herself, and ... shockingly ... her humor. We haven't had too many laughs in this book so far to have some humor enter the story was heartily welcomed. This felt a bit more like a classic Kara to me, and that is a great thing.
The book also nicely sets up two things for the future, best discussed during the review.
The art on the book is done by Mahmud Asrar and is even a notch above his usual superior stuff. In particular, he seems to have an innate grasp on Power Girl, making me wonder what he would be like on Worlds' Finest (without ever wanting him to leave Supergirl). His ability to make the two Karas appear similar enough for them to be the same person but distinct enough to be different is amazing. And colorist Dave McCaig really shines here, steeping the Sanctuary scenes in orange and keeping the deep sea and space scenes dark but clear.
The cover by Emmanuela Lupacchino is lovely and updated from the original solicit to show the 'old school' Power Girl costume Karen is now sporting.
On to the book!
Last issue ended with Supergirl's Fortress AI, aka Sanctuary, declaring Power Girl a clone and stating that she would need to be killed. Kryptonians don't like their clones!
The math is a little off here as the computer has the odds as 93% clone, 44% doppelganger, 13% random imposter, and .0457% quantum anomaly. That's 150.0457%. Is that fuzzy math? Or maybe a sign that Sanctuary is somewhat compromised?
I love the fierceness of Power Girl here. And there is the orange hue of the Fortress, bathing everything. Just superior art.
Outside of just the art her, I love the dialogue between the 2 Kara's as they come to grips with talking to ... well .. themselves. It is snappy and funny and feels true. I can only imagine what the young Anj would say to this old one walking around.
I love how Supergirl thinks the Power Girl 'boob window' outfit is a bit much, even though it came from her closet. And I like how Power Girl defends the choice. It is nice characterization, so different from the usual Supergirl/Power Girl brawls we get.
One thing I still think DC doesn't have their editorial heads wrapped around is how much these two know of each other. Heck, I don't even have a good sense of just how much the world knows about Power Girl. Is she a known hero? I have had the feeling in Worlds' Finest that she is sort of a stealth hero and not out and about that much. And again, these two haven't met before this. So Supergirl saying she hopes she will be half the person Power Girl is felt just a tad off. Does Supergirl even know about her?
Still, the preceding conversation is right on the money where Power Girl says she remembers being as frustrated with life as Supergirl is. It humanizes Supergirl a bit, makes her relatable.
Unfortunately Sanctuary is still hunting them and in a decent turnabout, says that its scans prove Supergirl is the 'clone' not Power Girl.
The bulk of the issue is now spent with Sanctuary both verbally and physically attacking Supergirl. After jettisoning Power Girl outside, the AI begins reminding Supergirl of her short comings.
First it reminds her how she fell for H'El. I love the 'yeesh' semi-embarrassed look on Kara's face as she is forced to recall that debacle.
Then it says she isn't much of a thinker, relying on her fists, and thus her attacks are easily countered.
I do like the top panel where a determined Supergirl talks about how she never gives up fighting. There is a tenacity here that feels very classic for Supergirl.
And then, in a very nice montage page, Sanctuary shows Kara every reason why she should simply give up fighting - how she fell for the wrong man, is constantly being attacked, has been shunned by her cousin, has been poisoned. It does seem a bit odd that a computer would resort to such vile mental tactics. I have a theory ... seen at the end.
Despite this Supergirl continues to fight on.
I felt like Nelson was trying to show just who his Supergirl is going to be on these pages. He has said his Kara is going to search for joy in this world. It is as if he wanted to remind us of all the bad things that have happened to Supergirl over these last two years and show that she is moving beyond them. I thought it was wonderful.
And then add to that a nice little showing of how smart Supergirl is, another nod to the more classic scientist Kara, we see her defeat Sanctuary by 'oh you know ... thinking'. She has Power Girl freeze the place from the outside and then she releases her 'corona wave' sunburst inside, rupturing the mechanics from within, destroying the fortress.
We just got this fortress into the book and now it is gone. I think that having Kara lose one more link to Krypton has to force her to look at Earth more as a home now. She has to find an apartment, meet people, etc. instead of simply hiding away from everything.
I love the little physics formula she says in the middle. This isn't some child. This is a strong, intelligent, young woman who is able to use her powers effectively. The scientist Kara has been present in almost every incarnation.
As I said before, the interplay between the Kara's is really wonderful in this book. With Sanctuary defeated, the two head into the high atmosphere to see the sun rise, so similar to how it looked on Krypton.
The line by Supergirl that she is starting to forget the Krypton sunrise is such a loaded sentence. Is it that she is having a hard time remembering it? Is it that she wants to forget, put the pain behind her and embrace Earth as home? Or is it a little bit of both? Such a great little line. I love the small moments.
And then to have Power Girl acknowledge Supergirl's loss, when both come from similar tragedies, is fantastic. Even the look on Power Girl's face, so understanding, but with a twinge I think of sadness. She has literally been there.
It is great to see these two be so friendly. Supergirl even gets in one more zinger about Power Girl's costume.
Sanctuary doesn't seem to be done though. A robot drone vows to eradicate 'Not-Kara', what he called Supergirl throughout the book. The verb eradicate always carries extra weight when it comes from Kryptonian technology. Was Sanctuary somehow built with Eradicator technology, that fervent xenophobia we saw in the 90s, crazy enough to carry out psychological attacks.
Or is it that the Cyborg Superman, a known villain in upcoming issues, was somehow inside, trying to eliminate his enemies with their own tech? Maybe that explains his powers in this new universe, a merging with Kryptonian mechanisms.
I have to say, I was thoroughly impressed with this comic. We had a couple of years of watching Kara deal with her grief and learn about her past. Mike Johnson seemingly had her poised to turn the corner and embrace life. And new writer Michael Alan Nelson seamlessly picks up from that point and runs with it showing us an intelligent and strong and even funny Supergirl who now is forced to leave the comfortable trappings of Krypton on behind and learn to love Earth.
If the rest of Nelson's run has this feeling, I will be happy.
Add to that the continued stellar art by Mahmud Asrar and I was one happy Supergirl fan.
Overall grade: A