Friday, August 22, 2014

Review: Supergirl #34

The timing couldn't have been worse, more ironic, more strange.

On Monday, DC released there November solicits including the reveal that there was going to be a new writing team on Supergirl.

On Wednesday, Supergirl #34 was released, the first glimpse at what Tony Bedard had in store for Supergirl. Gone is the red ring. Gone is a reliance on rage. After 33 issues of an often angry and isolated Kara, this issue turned the corner. Instead we see a heroic Supergirl, helping people, and gaining a friend ... maybe a love interest. It felt like a new beginning. Instead, it turns out to be an ending. Ironic.

Despite being labeled a Superman:Doomed crossover, this is a Supergirl story. The events spurring the story along are linked to Doomed but don't overwhelm the narrative. I am glad that DC linked the book to Doomed if only to bring in some completists who might not read the issue otherwise.

The art on the book is done by Karl Moline who brings a nice style to the issue. It is close enough to Emanuela Lupacchino to keep the feel of the book intact. It really showcases a young and fresh-faced Kara. The cover is done by Cam Stewart. I don't know what I like less - an angry Supergirl or a gloomy Supergirl. Here we see the latter, Kara in a rain-soaked, Kryptonite drenched world.

The bottom line is that I loved this issue. But it is a bittersweet experience. Frankly, I want to read more of this Supergirl, finally acting like the Kara I have loved. And just like that it is gone.

 The last issue of Supergirl had her rid herself of the ring, destroy World Killer 1, and swear to make Earth her home. Unfortunately, the Earth isn't too hospitable right now. It is swaddled in a Kryptonite cloud making it literally toxic to Kara.

Now I could comment on how strange it is that the military had a K-Bomb this powerful waiting in the wings. Given the lack of trust in Superman just about everyone has in the New 52, I'm surprised it hasn't been used before! And just how much Kryptonite did they have that they could envelop the planet??

Instead I might comment on how prior to this K-cloud, Supergirl acted like Earth was poisonous to her. Now, just she is ready to embrace the world, it truly is poisonous.

And I am old enough to like the title of The Girl Who Fell To Earth, a nice riff on the Bowie movie. Here Kara has fallen into a building in Queens NY, where a wheelchair bound boy named Michael has been trying to reach his parents in Metropolis.

Seeing Kara incapacitated, Michael realizes the Kryptonite is hurting her. He takes her into the old bomb shelter in his building's basement and covers her in lead blankets. With the Kryptonite effects blunted, Kara awakens. Bedard takes the time to give us a quick recap of Doomed, first from Kara and then from Michael.

I loved this panel. Knowing he needs to leave Earth, Superman tells Supergirl that the world needs her. Earth needs her help. It shows how much he trusts her. It shows how much he believes she can become a hero. And, for a long time Supergirl fan, it sort of harkened back to her role as an 'emergency secret weapon' for Superman, when he wanted her in reserve to protect the world if something happened to him.

Supergirl seems shocked that Michael didn't call the police or army to come scoop her up. She even is surprised that Michael isn't frightened of her.

In a great moment, Michael brings up one of my favorite moments of the New 52 Supergirl - her victory over the World Killers in Supergirl #7. He knows she saved everyone that day. And that he doesn't need to be scared of her.

The follow-up to this panel is Supergirl with a stunned expression saying that is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to her.

I applaud Bedard for incorporating the past of this book and dealing with it rather than just sweeping it all under the rug.

 We get a little back story of Michael as he talks to Supergirl. He injured his spine when he was involved in a car wreck. He actually was briefly dead until he was medically revived.  He has been in the wheelchair since then. But he didn't let that event, that pain, that loss mire him down into anger or despair. Instead he has decided to dedicate his remaining life to make the most of things.

It is, of course, a reflection of Supergirl's life. She has lost everything. She is in pain. Maybe it is time to shed all the emotional weight and instead embrace life. Maybe it is time to make the most of things.

This isn't a ground-breaking literary trick. But it works. And it is the perfect follow-up to Kara's decision to shed the ring. This was the biggest moment in the book.

 Now here is where things unfortunately get a bit fuzzy from a continuity point of view. Remember that this is a Doomed crossover. Right now Brainiac is making the people in Metropolis comatose, draining them of their energy. And Michael's parents are there now. Supergirl decides to find them.

In the Doomed main issues, Brainiac has kept everyone alive even if comatose. The cars simply stop. The planes stay aflight. In this issue, when suddenly comatose, people have crashed their cars. Planes have slammed into the ground. Subways have derailed. As a result, this seems out of synch with the rest of the story. This continuity gaffe will probably knock the book review down half a grade.

But it does give Supergirl an opportunity to show just how much she has changed. After a solar recharge, she flies to Metropolis and tells the police that she is there to help. It again smacks back to classic Superman. A simple declaration of being around to help people. It sways the police who are there.

 And Supergirl is able to help out. Some of the crashes have landed outside the 'coma zone'. And so she is able to help the rescue parties and find survivors.

It is a simple montage of panels but it is wonderful. Hoisting a crashed jet. Ripping the doors of the twisted subway. The police and fire fighters beside her.

These are classic images of what super-heroes do.


And as a bonus, Kara is able to find Michael's parents alive and relatively unharmed. She flies back to tell him the good news and ... ahhhh ... l'amour.

Can I say that Supergirl falling for an 'ordinary' person, a non-super being, is also classic and wonderful. Now I might call Michael extraordinary. But if this was the romance that Bedard was going to bring to the book, I am said to see it go.

It definitely cements an embrace of the planet, to love one of its people.

We know that Brainiac eventually forces all of Earth into a suspended animation state. Kara watches helplessly as Michael and those around her succumb. It makes her look skyward where she sees the Brainiac ship and the Cyborg.

She has a history with both. But I like how Bedard makes Brainiac a historical bogeyman for Kara. It resonates with how Johns' treated them in his run. And I think that Supergirl would have a feeling of fear and anger for the collector.

And she also has some outright anger for the Cyborg given that he killed her in the Michael Alan Nelson issues.

But this Doomed cliffhanger didn't have the impact that the first part of the issue did. It is Kara, her interacting with Michael, her drive to help, that kiss ... all of that is what I loved in this issue. For the first time, in a long time, this book read like Supergirl. And that made me smile.

I can only hope that Kate Perkins and Mike Johnson don't take the character backwards in characterization. This is the Supergirl most fans of the character want to read.

Overall grade: A- (nudged up)


Martin Gray said...

Hear hear, Anj, this was a wonderful issue. And given Bedard's track record, I'd give him back that half grade - I expect he wrote to the brief he was given. Whoever's running the show is letting everyone down on the consistency front, Bedard is 'simply' an extremely talented player.

Go on, it's his last issue. Make it A-!

Count Drunkula said...

So all of the plans and promises Tony Bedard made a year ago when he was announced on the book amounted to basically one issue before he's taken off for a new direction? DC either needs to change its heavy-handed editorial style or just not let their talent do any press events or interviews.

Here's hoping the new writing team will push Kara in a more youthful, adventurous direction, like the new Batgirl team.

Thomas Hayes said...

Bedard and Moline are back for #35 in October, remember. He's not quite done yet!

But yeah I place the blame for the continuity error on the editors' shoulders. They're supposed to keep Pak, Soule and Bedard in sync but clearly they're not.

Anonymous said...

Just my opinion, but the Supergirl of Tony Bedard was the most interesting and never more so than in the Red Lantern series. I looked forward to her forming a bigger family. I thought Mike Johnson's stories were more superficial. The Supergirl I emotionally invested in may have died.

Jay said...

I like the character of Michael already, and would like to see him stay. Again I thought Johnson had the vastly superior run so I'm hopefully he'll bring back some of the concepts dropped when he left, but this is one I hope he himself holds over.

JT SG FAN said...

Anj, I too continued to see the SG I want to read about in this issue. Its such a shame Tony Bedard is leaving just as things are going right. Ugh, DC what the hell is wrong with you? I think they actively take crazy pills.

Excellent review dude

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

Again, hoping all good things to the new creators and that direction. But this was such a great issue.

And Michael is a great addition to the book.

I suppose I should blame editors for the continuity gaffe. Doomed has been all over the map within its own issues. I shouldn't be surprised.

Jay said...

I know its cliché internet-fan reaction, but I really do think this is a case of editorial as well. Things were scattershot and gimmick-based like this the last time Berganza was group editor as well. I look at the creative things the Bat line is trying with Mark Doyle at the helm and am jealous. The Superman line deserves something like this. Tired of the same old Idelson and Berganza formulas.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. Who exactly is telling DC to portray an isolated, angry Supergirl? Wouldn't it make sense for DC to actually listen to Supergirl's fans? They need to read more things like this blog.