Settle in. This is a long long post.
You would think that putting together the 'Best of Supergirl' post would be a joyous blog entry. After all, it is looking at the past year and picking out the finest representations of my favorite character. In past years (I ave been doing 'Year in Review' posts since 2008), I have loved doing this, poring over the issues and picking out the pieces that I loved. In fact, many years I needed two entries - an honorable mentions column for almost top ten moments and the top ten themselves. In rereading those posts, I could sense that things were going almost too well for the character.
This 2013 'Best of' was my toughest one yet ... because it was hard for me to pick 10 moments that warranted mention. This has been a depressing year for me regarding Supergirl with her character being dragged down even further and a transformation into a Red Lantern right around the corner. In fact, the 'Worst Of' entry (up tomorrow) was easier to fill (I had many choices but limited myself to 5).
But before we get to the comics, let's review the 'outside' comics high points of the year. From that point of view, things continued to look up for Supergirl. From a merchandising point of view, Supergirl was immortalized in many DC Collectible statues including a new cover girls piece, a Bombshell statue, and both a SDCC exclusive and a more widely released Super Best Friends Forever figurine. She was a white pawn in the DC Comics chess set. She was featured in both the Superman: The Legend card series and the Women of Legend card series, garnering multiple cards and 'artist sketch cards' in both sets.
Perhaps most importantly, she was prominently featured in the Superman:Unbound movie. I very much enjoyed that movie and thought it did Kara justice, showing how determined she is to do what's right even in the face of great peril. Actress Molly Quinn did the voice of Supergirl in the movie and has become a great ambassador for the character, talking about her glowingly, representing Supergirl on the Superman 75th panel at the NYCC, and wearing the colors proudly.
On to the comics.
The year started with H'El on Earth and ended with H'El's plot in Krypton Returns. What a lousy set of bookends. Mike Johnson was the writer and seemed poised to bring Supergirl around to a more heroic place in the DCU. He was let go and horror comic writer Michael Alan Nelson was brought on board. He talked about slowly bring Kara to a place of happiness and started off with a great story with Power Girl. Around this time, fan favorite artist Mahmud Asrar left the book and the art on the title since then has been variable. Unfortunately, things went darker and then Nelson was one of the writing team on Krypton Returns. After a couple of very depressing turns on the Supergirl book, Nelson was replaced by Tony Bedard. Bedard has a decent history with Kara and also promised making Supergirl likable only to have the Red Lantern announcement tarnish my optimism.
And so ... the Best of Supergirl 2013.
Honorable Mention: Superman Family Adventures by Art Baltazar and Franco
There was no one particular moment in the excellent Superman Family Adventures that stuck out to me. But I loved that title. Much like Tiny Titans, the team of Baltazar and Franco were able to put together a truly all ages book. It is silly enough for grade schoolers. It was fun enough for middle schoolers. And old timers like me loved all the Easter Eggs stuffed in.
The team also treated Supergirl very well. She was a young hero who wanted to be the best she could be. She loved her family. And she even had a secret identity!
I miss this title.
Number ten: Dark Matters - Supergirl #21
She is dying of Kryptonite poisoning. She has abandoned Earth and any ties she has to anything in her life. And in deep space, she picks up a distress signal and rushes to the rescue. I love this panel where Supergirl struggles under the weight of a falling building, hoisting it to save the innocents below.
But it was that sentiment, that despite trying to escape from everything she bolts to be the hero. She might want to escape but in her heart, I think she knows what she needs to be.
Number nine: Chatting With Dad - Action Comics #23.1 Cyborg Superman
This comic was basically a Zor-El story explaining how far he would go to save his people and his family. Yes, there are overtones of an overzealous competitiveness with his brother. And yes, he was a bit too private for his own good, dabbling in the forbidden sciences of Brainiac and World Killers and secretly experimenting on his daughter. But he never struck me as pure evil. More desperate and willing to compromise some ethics if the ends were justified.
One thing that comes out of all of the flashback scenes (both here and in the main title) is that Kara seems to have an easier relationship with her father than with her mother Alura. I thought this scene was nice in showing how open and trusting that relationship was. Here Kara, despite being a young teen, comes to her father, asking him to patch things up with Jor-El. She is worried about her father and she knows her mother is worried about him as well.
It shows a maturity in Supergirl.
Number 8: Kissing Krypto - Supergirl #16
There wasn't much about H'El on Earth that is worth remembering. Remember that story arc? Where Supergirl is duped, falls quickly into love, brawls with her cousins and the Justice League, then tries to become a killer. I can't believe this was part of 2013. I had put it far in my rear view mirror.
Anyways, I did like this moment in Supergirl #16 written by Mike Johnson and drawn by Mahmud Asrar. While fighting the Flash in the Fortress of Solitude, Supergirl is reunited with Krypto! She knew the dog from Krypton and clearly loved the pooch! There is a clear look of joy on Krypto's face and Supergirl is smiling while being licked! It was a rare moment of joy in Supergirl's life this year.
Number seven: Wardrobe Malfunction - Supergirl #20
Supergirl #20, the first issue written by Michael Alan Nelson, was a fabulous issue. Contrasting Supergirl and Power Girl, Nelson was able to show just how similar and different the two women are. Despite leading very different lives (Power Girl embraced her role as hero, loved her brother, felt Lois was a mother), the two actually get along very well, teasing and joking their way through this misadventure with Sanctuary.
There were several 'laugh out loud' moments but this might be the best. Power Girl slips into a more classic PG costume when her New 52 version was destroyed for the umpteenth time. I love the banter when Supergirl first sees her in it. "It's a bit much." And then Power Girl's defense that it came from Supergirl's closet. Of course Supergirl never wore it.
Asrar really shines here as well, the look of defensive surprise on Karen's face in response to the shocked and semi-disgusted look on Kara's.
More from this issue later.
Number six: Young Knight - Batman/Superman #3.1 Doomsday
As I said, this was a rough year for Supergirl. One more layer of the torment of her life was revealed in the Doomsday issue during villain's month, written by Greg Pak and drawn by Brett Booth.
As a very young girl, Kara's nights are haunted by psychological warfare from Zod, communicating from beyond the veil of the Phantom Zone. In the issue we hear the myth of Doomsday and the story of the death of a 'Knight' who is replaced by others wearing his symbol (the briefest recap of Reign of the Supermen I have ever read). Zod focuses on the negative, that the Knight dies.
Sick of hearing his taunts, this young Kara stands up to him, her blanket draped on her like a cape, a look of fierce determination, as she rebukes him. I love this, probably the earliest time she shows the hero inside her, mustering strength to stand up to a ghost.
Number five: We Are Me - Supergirl #19
I touch on this in number seven, that comparison of Supergirl and Power Girl in early 2013 was a great story. Those similarities and differences were best shown in this page of Supergirl #19, written by Mike Johnson and drawn by Mahmud Asrar.
On Earth 2, Supergirl was the 'secret weapon', trained and loved by Superman, embraced by family and friends, and willing to fly into hell to avenge her cousin. On Prime Earth, Supergirl is isolated, leery of Superman, and wanting to be left alone.
And yet, they both were rocketed to Earth, both raised by Zor-El and Alura (I would love to see an E2 version of them at some point), and both feel alone (Power Girl marooned away from her home Earth, Kara adjusting to Earth). They are alike as they are different.
This splash page, vertically splicing the two Kara's, is great.
Number four: Thanks - Action Comics Annual #2
I have been harsh to Scott Lobdell on this blog, picking at his stories as I try to follow the leaps and twists of the plot. In particular, I think he has been brutal to Supergirl in his stories making her gullible, irate, overly emotional, and icy. So I was pretty surprised to see a Lobdell moment so high on this list.
Just prior to heading back in time on the Oracles mission to stop H'El, Kara has an epiphany. She recognizes she hasn't been the best family member, she hasn't gotten close to Kal like she should have, and that she has complicated things since arriving. She actually thanks Superman for giving her some room to breathe but you can see she regrets being so distant. Everything about these two panels is right, even her shushing him so she can finish her thought. And they hug!
I was hoping this would be the pivot point as she turns the corner but instead one step forward, two steps back.
Number three: Long Live the Legion - Smallville Season Eleven #15
I love the Smallville comic, my 'go to' book for a more classic Superman and Lois. So imagine how thrilled I was to hear that the book was going to go into the future for a Supergirl & the Legion of Super-Heroes adventure.
The story is a bit uneven in spots but it does a nice job of showing how Supergirl is adjusting. While she is a true hero, part of the Legion, and willing to do what it takes for justice, she is still struggling to find a place she can truly call home. In this book she is torn between a New Krypton and Earth in the future. Neither are really an easy place to fit in.
In the end though, how could I not love this moment ... a classic Long Live the Legion splash with all the Legionnaires flying into space, ready to take on the universe's worst. And smack there in the middle is a smiling Supergirl, holding hands with her cousin, leading the charge.
In a mainstream DCnU that is without a Legion, without a happy Supergirl, without a 'super-cousin' healthy relationship, this was comfort food!
Number two: Scientist Kara - Supergirl #20
If only all of 2013 was a good as Supergirl #20. If only all of Michael Alan Nelson's run was as solid as that issue with Power Girl! This was a fantastic moment which echoed the best of prior incarnations of Supergirl, showcased one of the newer aspects of the new Supergirl, and showed just how intelligent Kara is.
With Sanctuary doing its best to kill her, Supergirl pulls out a very complicated physics question, figuring out how strong a frozen material is. She is thinking! And then realizing how strong frozen Kryptonian crystal is, she has Power Girl freeze the place from the outside while she Corona Wave sunbursts from the inside, shattering the fortress.
Kara as a very intelligent scientist has been a constant in the character from the earliest Silver Age stories to the Sterling Gates era to here. I loved this moment. And that was a rare feeling this year too. Great stuff!
Number one: Now That's Kara - Man of Steel Prequel Comic
I find it ironic that the best example of Supergirl for the year was in a Man of Steel prequel comic that was only available on-line. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised given that Sterling Gates was the writer of this comic. And it sports beautiful art by legend Jerry Ordway.
There isn't one moment that stands out in the book that is a moment. Throughout the story you see the things that make me a Supergirl fan. She is strong and smart, leading team of soldiers through a field test. She knows what's right, stopping a traitor from killing another corpsman and turning him in. She is smart and dedicated winning the highest honor available on Krypton (see above), and she ends up stopping the same traitor from commandeering a scout ship. During that last fight, she crashes the ship on Earth (hence the ship at the North Pole in the movie ... and the open life pod in the background as Clark explores).
I loved this book when it came out. It was everything I look for in Supergirl. Smart, funny, loving, fierce in her pursuit of justice, and heroic. It was a constellation we hadn't seen much in the main book. Thanks to Sterling Gates!
At the time it seemed to be a hint at the Man of Steel sequel, complete with Supergirl. But I guess with Batman, Wonder Woman, and who knows what other Leaguers, she won't be part of that film.
And those are my top ten moments. Thanks to everyone who is still reading! Let me know if there were any moments I forgot!