Thursday, March 20, 2014

Review: Supergirl #18 - Supergirl Meets Supergirl??

I am concluding my look back at time 'Supergirl met Supergirl' with Supergirl #18, the penultimate issue of the uneven Joe Kelly run on the book. I have been dreading this review because I have pretty strong feelings about this back issue. As a long time Supergirl fan, I felt that Joe Kelly was deriding me. But I also felt that Kelly got the whole thing wrong, so his derision, his scornful look at Supergirl fans was off the mark ... making it that much worse.

You see, many many people who drop in on this site and read my problems with a dark Supergirl seem to think that I want a super-sweet, super-innocent, super-perfect Kara smiling her way through life and never having a care. 

And that is simply not true. In fact, as I have said a million times before, it is Supergirl's youth and inexperience, her growing into the role of a hero, her failing and picking herself up and trying again that made me fall in love with the character to begin with. She is striving to be something more. And she has passion and drive. She will do whatever she needs to do to help. But she is an optimist ... and a young hero. She wants to do as much good as she can.

I could not say that about Kelly's Supergirl. This was someone who was trained to kill Kal-El, who gunned down her high school with her father, who came to Earth and began hitting the bars and clubs, sold Kryptonian tech to Batman to set herself up for an easy life, and tried to not be a hero at all. And that was simply unacceptable in my mind.

Many Supergirl fans complained about this direction of a dark, jaded, petulant Supergirl. Those few who liked the direction said that the complainers were 'old fans' who wanted stories similar to the early 60s Supergirl ... the saccharin adventures of a young girl helping orphans and quaking in Superman's shadows. But that wasn't true. We simply wanted a heroic Supergirl.

It amazes me how history repeats itself. Because now we are having the same argument about the new Supergirl. . DC wants a dark Supergirl. Supergirl fans want a heroic Supergirl. And again, we fans are looked at scornfully as being anachronisms.

Okay ... on to the issue - titled 'Little Miss Perfect' by writer Joe Kelly and artists Adam Archer and Ale Garza.

We'll start with the cover, a riff of the other time 'Supergirl met Supergirl' in this book, when Kara met the Dark Supergirl made by exposing Supergirl to Black Kryptonite.

At this point in the book, Zor-El was on Earth. He and Kara were dealing with Phantom Zone spirits possessing people. Supergirl was bleeding crystals, fighting normal people, and generally confused about what was happening. And now she was faced with another Supergirl, dressed in a more classic costume.

It isn't surprising that Kelly calls the story 'Little Miss Perfect.' I think this other Supergirl is his perception of what Supergirl fans wanted to see in the book. So we get this vapid, ever-smiling, overly optimistic, overly sweet, caricature of Supergirl.

I can't think it is a good idea to taunt the fans of your character. I was pretty angry after this issue.

This smiling mockery laughs her way through a fight with the 'real' Kara. But she does point out some of the problems with this version of Supergirl. She did try to kill Superman for a chunk of time in the book.

But ... again ... this other Supergirl is so over-the-top in the other direction. Did Kelly think people really wanted that?

The battle heads through the city and the current Supergirl keeps trying to deal with the possessed humans. But things seems off. She sees people who aren't there.

Here we see Kelly's misinterpretation again. This Supergirl 'does the right thing all the time and does it with a smile'. Yes, I want my Supergirl to *try* to do the right thing all the time. I would rather her try to save people instead of complaining that a disaster interrupted her rave. I don't want Supergirl using a 'tight t-shirt' to get herself into a bar. I don't want her leaning over a pool table, teasing guys in their 20's about her 'nice 'S''.

Look at two of the more popular runs on Supergirl - Peter David's and Sterling Gates'. Were those Supergirl's constantly smiling? Always getting everything right?

This venom about Supergirl fans wanting a perfect Supergirl is wrong ... but Kelly keeps jabbing.

We get a two page layout looking at the problems of ordinary girls. Being teased, in a dysfunctional family, being harassed by a stranger at a bus station, drinking and in an abusive relationship....

Crying alone in bed.

And then Kelly drops the boom. This has to be sarcasm. The fake sweet Supergirl says 'Supergirl is happy. I'm fiery! I'm inspirational! People look to Supergirl to FORGET their problems,  to see someone who can teach them to do it better. Who wants a Supergirl with the same problems they have? It just doesn't make sense."

Kelly is saying that a young woman striving to be better, trying to inspire ... is unrelatable, a joke.

Does that mean he is saying that girls reading this Supergirl should act like her? Avoid her problem? Sneak into bars? Not be a hero?

Is he saying that the PAD Linda Danvers didn't have problems?
Didn't we see Gates and Igle show us a Supergirl dealing with adolescent problems but still trying to do what was right?

These pages irked me. If being a hero is so disconnected from reality, why write these books?

And it amazes me that this is the guy involved with Ben10!

And more perfection talk. More misunderstanding of what Supergirl is.

This phony Supergirl says she is 'perfect, not ugly, not frightened, not selfish ... a good girl blessed with the same disposition as her cousin.'

The Supergirl I want isn't selfish ... that is true. But I don't want a perfect Supergirl, I want a girl with a different take on justice than Superman ... but striving to be as heroic as her cousin. And she is an optimist, seeing the best in people.

If this 'phony Supergirl' is Kelly's response to the complaints, what does he want? Does he want a frightened, selfish, ugly bad girl??

Isn't there a Supergirl in the middle of these two extremes??

After the verbal beatdown, the perfect Supergirl asks the 'real' Supergirl to step aside.

And amazingly, she does, allowing the good girl Supergirl to 'absorb' her.

But it is a fake out. Once 'inside' the 'perfect' Supergirl, the current Supergirl shatters her way out.

Supergirl calls herself a crazy chick! Ugh.

And then she says all the things I like about Supergirl. 'I make mistakes all the time. But I get myself up. I try to do better. I always try again.' Hey ... that sounds like the Supergirl I would read.

But I want that attitude in a different person. I want her to be striving to do good, to be a hero, to help. This Supergirl rarely did that. What did she fail at? Underage drinking and angst?

This was in the Countdown era of the DC Universe. The 'perfect Supergirl' was the Dark Angel, an emissary of the Monitors (and I believe Donna Troy) who is supposed to root out universal anomalies. She was testing this Supergirl to see if she didn't belong. But this Supergirl passed the test.

The Monitor shows up, chastises his herald, and tells Supergirl she does belong. Amazingly, this could have been a reset card for Kelly. He could have made everything ... the crystal blood, the kill Kal-El memories, the Phantom Zone ghosts ... all of it could have been Monitor hijinks. Instead, Kelly says that all that stuff is indeed true. Supergirl still has to deal with it.

Thankfully, Kelly's run only had one more issue. This issue made me think he had absolutely no understanding of the Supergirl character or her fandom. He basically ridiculed her fans with this empty shell of Kara this whole issue, not understanding what it was we wanted to see and mocking us anyways.

And so ends my look back at issues where 'Supergirl met Supergirl'. Sorry to end on a sour note.

Overall grade: D-


Anonymous said...

All your comments on this particular run seem very valid. (Disclaimer: I have never read it, nor any Supergirl title before the New 52.) Contrasting a "saccharine" Supergirl with a "angst" Supergirl is a false comparison, to be sure, and doesn't get to the heart of what it means to be a super-hero or a member of the House of El. I guess, reading the new DC universe, I really like the seeming middle ground Kara is in right now. She's trying, over and over again, to battle her personal demons, haunted by a world and a life she was supposed to live (unlike Kal). Her current personal failure/transitional period in the Red Lanterns, if played right, can and should be transformative. We'll have to wait and see, I guess.


Anonymous said...

DC sure likes to Bait and Taunt and Bully SG's core Aud don't they?


Mela said...

"And it amazes me that this is the guy involved with Ben10!"

Actually, I can. Man of Action can only write two kinds of female characters, bland ciphers & joyless scolds. So the casual sexism towards an aspirational Supergirl is no surprise, really. Also, the majority of that series/character is about a kid who's a superhero because it's fun, not because he has any sense of moral responsibility or obligation (well, he did under McDuffie, but everyone hated those seasons but me). So yeah, outside of two graphic novels, not a Man of Action creator fan.

Worth noting - I was willing to try & see if there was a reasons to continue with Supergirl up until this issue for all the reasons you listed. I feel bad I missed the Gates/Igle run as result.

Gear said...

I read this book when it came out and it left me gob smacked. It was like I had just seen a creator throw a public hissy fit in his own book, angry at the rabble for not understanding his genius. He set up a strawman argument using a pseudo-Supergirl that was nothing like any previous version or what the readers wanted, then used it to prove his point. It was a strange, childish act, and it took Gates/Igle a long time to wash that bad taste out of the book.

Kelly gave us a petulant brat throwing tantrums. Nobody liked it. Now we have a similar situation. I wonder if DC will ever pick up on the fact that the grimdark crowd doesn't buy Supergirl books. And that Supergirl readers want to read stories about a character maintaining a core of hope while overcoming adversity. It's as if they want to jam a square peg into a round hole and when it doesn't work they get angry and go get a bigger hammer. Sad, really.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

It amazes me the argument that Kelly put forward here, that past versions of Supergirl were squeaky clean Stepford Wife-like princesses.

And to say that the murderous brat he was writing was clearly superior and more relatable is insanity.

Anonymous said...

Completely spot-on.

Honestly, I can't read this issue and to not think that it was a middle finger aimed at all fans who had a trouble with the way Supergirl was being written in the time: a whiny, self-absorbed, dumb, irresponsible jerkass.

So, what did Kelly do when he hears of our criticism? He doesn't listen to one single of our complains. He thinks that we want a perfect, flawless Supergirl who makes no mistakes. And then he claims that Silver Age Kara Zor-El was a vapid, dumb, unrelatable Mary Sue, "his" Supergirl is way better, and we are stupid.

And he does this by pitching a public hissy fit.

Why he thought that this hateful issue would change our minds and make the criticism go is beyond me. It only proved two things: he never listened to Supergirl fans; and he has no idea of who Supergirl is.

Pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El wasn't perfect. She NEVER was. And her fans never thought she was. She had flaws. She made mistakes. But she was a real hero. She was a gentle, innocent fifteen-year-old with a mischievous side who developed into a mature, confident woman. She wasn't perfect but she was "good".

But apparently we have to prefer a selfish, finicky, fickle asshole because she is more relatable than a nice, kind and heroic woman.