I have been singing the praises of Tony Bedard's recent work on Supergirl, rehabilitating her character and making her more heroic, more inspirational. I also have been bemoaning the fact that his tenure on the book is all too brief.
I also know that I was not looking forward to reading Supergirl Futures End #1. Crossovers have not been nice to this incarnation of Supergirl. And just when the character was turning the corner, was being 'good', she is thrust into a dystopian future five years hence. The cover displays her as a bladed cyborg, working with the Cyborg Superman, her twisted father. And the solicit talks about her reconciling with her father in the most horrific way.
I thought we were moving away from this!
Amazingly, and perhaps not surprisingly given what we have read, Tony Bedard is able to make lemonade out of the lemons of Futures End, crafting a story which shows ... eventually ... Supergirl's strength both mental and physical. This isn't a perfect story ... how could it be given the overall circumstances ... but it at least ends with a heroic Kara. And I have to be happy with that.
Art is by Emanuela Lupacchino and it shines. I feel like over the last couple of months, Lupacchino has really grown comfortable with Supergirl. The book flows beautifully. And it is a style which fits the character very nicely.
The book starts with Cyborg Superman (Herald One) and Cyborg Supergirl (Herald Two) floating above Earth. The two initially worked for the Collector but broke free of his control and started their own mission, to find a world where the inhabitants could be genetically manipulated to become neo-Kryptonians, recreating that 'perfect' world. Earth seems to be the right place. Humanity 'looks' like Kryptonians. And there are Metans ... called neo-Sapiens ... that could be the building blocks of a new race.
Any book whose title is a quote from Voltaire at least has some potential.
Immediately there are some funny details about this opening scene. Supergirl speaks of how 4 years ago the Cyborg made her perfect, erasing her memories. She only knows she was miserable and hated Earth. The truth is that if this was done after the first year of the title, I would believe that sentiment. But recently Kara hasn't been miserable and seemed to embrace Earth. Odd ...
What is missing is any fact of her willingly joining the Cyborg.
Kara's presence on Earth is detected by Shay Veritas who sends someone after her.
What I like about this is that Veritas clearly cares about Kara, as does this unknown plane pilot.
But here is what really grabbed me. Veritas says that Kara hasn't been on Earth for nearly a year.
So was she fighting with the Cyborg 4 years ago? Or was she on Earth one year ago? Something isn't right here.
I hope this isn't just an editorial flub.
The pilot turns out the be one of the 'neo-Sapiens', Captain Comet. Comet is able to repel Cyborg Superman briefly so he can enter Supergirl's mind.
I love this semi-splash page. Kara's memories and psyche are laid out nicely here. I love how Comet's eyes are huge, peeking into Kara's mind. I love how the internal Kara is wearing a completely white costume. It makes me think that Kara thinks she is better than what her body is doing. She is pure, in white, even if her Cyborg form is blasting other planets, trying to genomorph them.
And I love that Supergirl, at some point, joins a version of the Wanderers. You can see versions of the 30th century group here - Photine instead of Quantum Queen, Quiller instead of Dartalon, some bird person like Ornitho. And this team of super-heroes are 'in awe' of her.
No I am biased but I always thought that Supergirl would be the leader of the next generation of heroes. Remember when James Peaty had her impressing Damian and M'Gann? So having her be the inspiration within her own group makes me happy. She was their role model.
But there is more to this story. The group went out to try and stop the Cyborg's reign of terror. But during one of these battles, he grabbed Supergirl and left. Was this only a year ago? Does the Cyborg know he is Zor-El??
Now there is something else a little odd here. We learn that Kara and Captain Comet are romantically involved. Maybe this was the love interest that Bedard hinted about in interviews, and not Michael from last issue.
But wasn't Comet born the night Superman's rocket landed, Kal's rocket blasting over Adam's delivery is what triggered his mutation ... that is if Grant Morrison's story is still in continuity. I don't know if I like Supergirl dating someone 15 years older than her. To be fair, I don't know if that origin is still intact for Comet. And Lupacchino draws him looking as young as Kara.
Comet's mind-meld with Kara opens up her mind. She suddenly remembers who she is and is horrified by what she has become and what she has done.
This set of panels is depressing. She still doesn't know this is her father. But she is curious. I wonder if part of her knows. But that second panel, where she looks at her robot hand, revolted by what she is, is sad.
At least we learn through all of this that Kara didn't willingly join the Cyborg on his genocidal strikes. Rebelling against him, the Cyborg Superman tries to take control of her robot parts. Supergirl is literally fighting herself.
And then we get this great panel. It is a very visceral image as Kara rids herself of the evil in her body, ripping off the purely mechanical limb.
Somehow this sequence of Kara fighting herself seems to sum up a lot of her problems in the New 52. I have always sensed that this Kara is a good person, someone who cares and wants to help, but she was so overwhelmed by anger that she couldn't act.
Unfortunately the Cyborg is still pretty strong and overpowers Supergirl. Just as it looks like he might kill her (his own daughter!!), the rest of the Wanderers show up.
You want proof that Supergirl can be an inspiration, a role model, an example of self-sacrifice? Read their words. Every one of them would die for her. She must have been tremendous in this group. Too bad we'll never read those adventures (unless this is a peek at some of the student body in the upcoming Crucible Academy).
And then we get a nice ending panel. Kara strips her body of the cybernetics. But scars and all, Captain Comet loves her and is happy she is back. She might have tried to force perfection on races with the Cyborg but that way doesn't work. And something as simple as a kiss can be perfection.
So how should I regard this story?
Should I dwell on Cyborg Superman somehow defeating and brainwashing Supergirl? That she destroyed races with him? That she still seemed to harbor some anger?
Or should I look at how she was a hero with the Wanderers? That she was their leader. Should I look at how hard she fought once she was in her right mind?
In the end, I looked at both equally. And in some ways I am tired of stories where Supergirl realizes she can be happy and a hero and will put her past behind her. What I really really really want is that past behind her, a dot in the rear view mirror, and her acting like a hero. These stories of redemption for her are great. It is great that she decides to be an inspiration and a hero.
But it is time ... let's have a long long run of Supergirl being the inspiration and hero.
Still, for a Futures End crossover, this was one of the better issues. And Lupacchino's art is just fantastic.
Overall grade: B+/B