Friday, May 23, 2014

Review: Supergirl #31

Supergirl #31 came out this week and continued the recent pattern of excellent issues on this book. I am amazed. As I have said for a while here, I was against the whole concept of Red Daughter. Making Supergirl a Red Lantern seemed like an affront to the decades of history she has. It also seemed like dragging her down even further into the miasma of anger, isolation, and angst that Scott Lobdell and Michael Alan Nelson had left her.  It shouldn't have come to this.

All that said, writer Tony Bedard ... from the very beginning ... said that this was going to be a transformative story, making Supergirl relatable, likeable, and heroic. And so far he (and Charles Soule on Red Lanterns) has done just that.

Maybe, like Elsa in Frozen, Kara just needed some distance to make everything seem small ... to get a handle on her issues. Because suddenly, despite the rage ring, we are finally seeing some glimpses of a young hero wanting to do what's right and figuring out how to accomplish it. There are a couple of fantastic moments in this issue that dramatically show us this.

The art here is primarily by Emanuela Lupachhino and she is growing into the character with each issue. But the winner art here is by Yildiray Cinar who does 3 amazing pages in this issue which simply sparkle.

Something that I have liked about Bedard's run is that we suddenly have the simple building blocks of a good comic title. Things like a supporting cast and subplots are vital for a book, to keep readers interested and add depth.

So while Kara is away on Primeen, dealing with the new Red Lantern The Judge, Bedard brings us back to Earth. Siobhan's roommate Alexa, a suspicious young woman who seems to be tracking the Banshee, decides to play with a Ouija board. The board summons Blaze who seems to want Supergirl.

There was something about this scene that felt like a classic B-horror movie. I actually liked it. I don't know why Blaze would need to be summoned since we saw her walking around Queens last issue. Unless she thinks that a dramatic entrance might lead to more info.

I also like that Siobhan walked out as soon as the Ouija board was brought out. Why fool around with demon-y stuff.

The bulk of this issue is on Primeen, picking up right where Red Lanterns left off. The Judge is wreaking havoc over the planet. Atrocitus is tracking her down to recruit. And Guy's group wants to intercept her before Atrocitus and Dex-Starr lure her to the dark side.

The good Reds split up to cover more land. Kara and new friend Bleez fly off. But Bleez is still recovering from her recent thrashing. She can't continue. Supergirl says she can search the place at super-speed and report back to Bleez. It would be more efficient.

But Bleez sees through it. This is Kara being NICE! This is a way to help Bleez to recover but not be insulting. And Bleez sees through it ... but appreciates it.

So Supergirl isn't angry, doesn't snap at Bleez. Instead she offers help in a way that isn't condescending. It is great.

As wonderful as that moment is, I think this is my favorite moment.

Supergirl is the first Red to run into The Judge.

Her words are fantastic. "My name is Kara. Just trust me. I am here to help you. We do not have to fight."

I am here to help?? We don't need to fight???

 That is pure classic Super-dialogue. And it is fantastic to hear Supergirl say those words. I don't know if I have ever heard Supergirl talk like that in the New 52. She is often punch first, ask questions later. If this is the sentiment that Bedard is bringing to the character, I will be thrilled!

I have to add that this is a great great splash page by Lupacchino. Just a wonderful iconic heroic position.

Okay, that last moment was great. But maybe this is my favorite moment of the issue.

The Judge actually psychically judges her victims, seeing their lives, their memories. She witnesses their pain ... and finds them wanting. She delves into Kara's mind and sees the horror - the destruction of Krypton, its re-destruction in Krypton Returns, stabbing H'El, fighting Superman - that this title has put on her. In fact, those are some of my least favorite moments in this title.

But then ... suddenly ... there is a ray of hope. We see a memory of Zor-El and Alura. And within that memory, Alura sees the judge and leaps to Kara's defense. There is this blinding power as she tells the Judge that she cannot trespass in Kara's mind.

And that mental defense breaks the judge's hold.

I love that Alura is this powerful part of Kara's life. That she is this role model of strength, someone who defended people. And that the memory is so strong that she somehow can deflect the Judge's probe. Incredible.

And Cinar's pages are gorgeous. The art seems more like pencil sketching, less defined - perfect for memories. And the fractured panels add to that dream-like state. But that last panel, a stellar strong Alura is simply fantastic!

Somehow that memory, that defense from Alura, is enough to have the Judge spare Supergirl! This Lantern has killed everyone she has run into, finding everyone wanting! And somehow she sees Supergirl as someone good ... someone who should not be killed. Now that is Supergirl!

And Alura is the brightest facet of Supergirl's identity. I think that is great. Certainly it is tough to like the current Zor-El.

This whole scene with the Judge ... Kara trying to help, not wanting to fight, being defended by Alura ... is pure gold.

And look how it comes to a close. Kara still wants to help the Judge. She remembers the blood lake sample on the ship. She asks the Judge to sit tight so she can help her.

She's smiling!!! She wants to help!!!

This whole scene ... heck this whole issue ... was a breath of fresh air. Why did it have to come to a rage-y Red Lantern arc to get Kara back where she belongs???

But there is more happening than just the action Primeen and Blaze.

Worldkiller-1 is on the hunt for Supergirl and that brings her and her troops to Earth's solar system. So another subplot simmers. And I'll remind people that Supergirl isn't Worldkiller-1, something hinted at by Mike Johnson and Michael Green. Tremendous.

Okay, I am gushing about this issue a bit too much. But the truth is this felt like a more classic take on Supergirl. Take off her Red Lantern togs and put her in a classic S-Shield and this would have been perfect. Tony Bedard, so far, has been keeping to his word and making this arc a redemption story. And, while a long time coming ... and sad that it had to come ... I have to say I am eating it up with a spoon.

Add to that Lupacchino's beautiful clean art and Cinar's more ethereal take on memories and you have a winning issue. Hurrah!

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Great review of a superior issue. I like your reading of the Alura moment especially. More and more, I think she's going to be alive - it'd be rather interesting to have her on Earth, powerless and adjusting to a new world*. I'd love to have Fredna around, but in the absence of the Danvers a widow Zor-El - well, so she thinks - could be great.

* It didn't get much coverage, but did you read 2010's Superman: Last Family of Krypton Elseworlds by Cary. Bates and Renato Arlem - I think you'd like it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know. Supergirl seemed pretty willing to help in Mike Johnson's run. I'll glad you're enjoying this, but saying that it "needed" to happen feels like degrading the Supergirl who came before. I honestly don't think Supergirl needed a redemption arc. She'd wrapped up most of her issues before this.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

Mart, I think I reviewed that book here. I did like it!

Alura in the Safety Zone! Amazing idea!

And Anon, I liked Johnson as a writer and have said that I think he wanted to bring Kara closer to a hero and less angry. But then his run was derailed by H'El on Earth. And Michael Alan Nelson didn't do her well either ... having her flee Earth alone and then killing her.

She needed to come around from such shabby treatment.

But I wish Johnson could have just done his thing.

iopy said...

Just read the book yesterday, so here are some random disjointed observations.

I think the Red Daughter arc is a great demonstration that it's the small bits that elevate a book, and the difference between good and mediocre writing is often found in the incidental character bits. The shelves are filled with adventures, the difference is in who is having them and if the reader has a reason to care. Bedard is making me start to care about Kara again.

Kara creates a search plan that allows Bleez to rest and save face. It's fairly transparent, and Bleez immediately recognizes what Kara is doing, but the important thing is that we see Kara taking the feelings of someone else into consideration. Character moments like this where we see her thinking of things in ways that aren't self centered have been almost entirely missing since the beginning of the H'El arc. It's made her seem terribly shallow and has contributed to that unlikeable, selfish image that's made the book almost unreadable for the last year and a half. This sort of interaction is just the right thing.

In the time Bedard has been on the book he's reintroduced Siobhan, given more depth to Shay Veritas than we've seen anywhere else, provided Siobhan a roomie with an agenda only hinted at, shown us Alura and why she's a positive influence on her daughter, and along with Soule is actually making her time with the Reds a positive experience and her interactions with each of them unique and believeable. All in just a very few issues. I guess we're through with decompression for awhile, hooray for that.

I like that Blaze needs to be summoned. Even though she's out in the world, one traditional trait of demons in many myths is that they can't enter a home uninvited. Using the Ouija board is the invitation and opens the door, emphasized here by her literally entering the room through the board.

So I'm very happy to see the direction Bedard is taking this book. I hope he can continue to define the direction in the future and doesn't get sidetracked by some cheesy editorially mandated storyline or event. And I hope that, even though her time as a Red Lantern is probably short, she'll maintain the new connections she's made with that crew. She needs connections and friends of her own.