Let's see ... over three years, Supergirl has had the following writers.
First Michael Green and Mike Johnson.
Then Mike Johnson.
Then Frank Hannah.
Then Michael Alan Nelson.
Then Scott Lobdell, Justin Jordan, and Nelson.
Then Tony Bedard.
Over that time, this book and the New 52 Supergirl has had her ups and down. There were times in the first two years ... a time when she was 'angry, disaffected, a loner' ... a time when she was 'Hell on Wheels, as likely to fight her friends as her enemies', someone with no love of Earth ... that a glimmer of heroism shone through. Then H'el on Earth made her bitter and willing to sacrifice billions of people to get home a story where she fell in love too soon and was dupe. Then she was actually killed and disintegrated by her father. And then she reverted to being chilly and angry in Krypton Returns. And then, in the biggest shock, she was made a Red Lantern of rage and had her character actually rehabilitated and redeemed by Charles Soule and Tony Bedard.
I give all of this primer on the DCnU Supergirl to show just how tumultuous the life of our poor Kara has been. And here we begin yet another 'bold new direction' under the writing of K. Perkins and Mike Johnson.
When first announced, I was dismayed that things were changing yet again, especially when Tony Bedard had actually made Supergirl a likable hero once more, bringing her closer to the 'classic' Supergirl, a hero looking to help and learning on the way. How could DC derail this title yet again??
Then I began reading the publicity, listening to interviews, and hearing the plans the new writers had. And things seemed better. It felt like both Perkins and Johnson understood who Supergirl was. They were building on what came before, not blowing things up yet again. And there wasn't a mention of 'angry' or 'loner' or 'bitter' or 'Hell on Wheels'. Suddenly, I was optimistic!
Well, this week, Supergirl #36, written by Perkins and Johnson with art by Emanuela Lupacchino came out.
And I have to applaud it for being a great first issue, setting up the new direction of the book while acknowledging and respecting what came before. In that way it is akin to the setup for Daring New Adventures of Supergirl that we saw in Superman #376 and saw in Supergirl #34 by Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle. That is high praise.
It starts out with a great majestic picture of Supergirl flying in the sunlight, determined look on her face, cape billowing. It is a beautiful panel.
But the words are as important. "The past is the hardest thing to escape from." From the first line, we know that this team isn't going to ignore the troubling past of this incarnation of Supergirl. She can't escape what has happened before in her continuity.
Like I did with Sterling Gates, I applaud the team for acknowledging that there are some skeletons in the closet here. We'll be dealing with the history of this Supergirl, warts and all.
But then things get even better. This image is Kara lost in thought. That 'let go' is Kara's boss at a coffeehouse yelling at her to let go of the cappuchino steamer. We are brought back to reality where Kara is a flustered and pestered barista! And just like that we know that Kara has finally embraced Earth as her home. I mean, she is getting yelled at while working a blue collar job ... and accepting it! This is a far cry from the girl who wanted to be alone in her Sanctuary at the bottom of the ocean!
In one page I got two things that were important to me. One, we acknowledge the past. This was no hard reboot. And two, we are moving away from the rough earlier characterization and are building on Tony Bedard's foundation.
Now my absolute favorite part of this issue is a scene where Kara and Clark have a heart-to-heart conversation, talking about both the past and the future. It is, by no means, warm and fuzzy. But it feels like the way family sometimes talk to each other. And it amazes me that Kara comes off as the more mature one here, trying to shake Superman from the post-Doomed doldrums.
And Kara standing up to Superman for trying to get her to not act or use her powers is fantastic. I love how she throws Super-Doom up to him when he comments on her turn as a Red Lantern. He did way more damage than Kara did in Red Daughter. In fact, she was her most heroic in that arc.
There was also a whiff of Silver Age here when Kal tried to hold Supergirl back until she 'learned her powers'. This isn't the 50s. She isn't going to tolerate that.
And it is so awesome that Kal is the one who no longer wants to act while Kara is the one who wants to protect people and live among the people!
This thin panel, with those piercing eyes is perfect. How could Superman forget that it is a NEVER-ENDING battle??
And to hear Kara say she wants to embrace a 'normal life' on Earth. Hurrah! Bedard set this up. But this is cementing it!
And the ending of this scene really reminded me of Superman #376. Sure, she is part of the Super-family. But Supergirl has to live her own life, make her own decisions, and not blindly listen to Kal, especially when he is trying to make her take steps backwards.
Sure, they aren't hugging. But there is respect and I would say some love between them, even if they don't agree.
As I have said before, even within this review, one of the things I was looking for in this new direction was for it to build on the plots that have gone before, both the good and the bad.
So I had to show this panel where Kara hears (from across the city) Siobhan playing a song. Siobhan was one of the best parts of this book. To see Kara recognize that she has wronged Siobhan by pushing her away, is wonderful. The Banshee needs to be part of this book. But I hope it is as a friend and not an enemy.
The quiet walk home ends abruptly when Supergirl is transported away, to alien worlds and environments, where she has to battle opponents to prove how 'worthy' she is.
These are pretty straightforward action sequences where Supergirl prevails over all. I had to showcase this fight just because the new Maxima looks great. Kara also defeats a cat-man named Tsavo and Captain Comet.
These 'fights' were recruiting battles to see if Kara was worthy of Crucible. We knew all about this before the issue given the publicity. But it is great to finally hear about it from the characters.
This does sound a bit like the Warrior school on Okaara in a prior DC Universe. Supergirl will learn to better her skills to better defend her world.
I do wonder if Superman's sudden lack of interest in heroing as well as Supergirl deciding to have a life on Earth and protect people might be the impetus for Kara to agree to come here. Maybe she feels that she needs to insert herself into Superman's role if he continues this 'retirement'.
As if that wasn't enough, Perkins and Johnson throw in a delicious wrinkle.
Shay Veritas was a student at Crucible!
Now that is a great little hook. Maybe we will learn more about Shay, her origins, and what she did here.
And then, if all this great characterization wasn't enough, we get a killer cliffhanger.
Kon-El didn't sacrifice himself in Krypton Returns. He is trying to lead a quiet life until he figures things out. He is living as a monk! Phenomenal. Remember, I had problems with the narcissistic bank-robbing Kon. And I didn't like the angry weapon Kon. This is a big step forward for the character. One that makes sense.
In case you didn't get the vibe, I thought this was a great issue. Sure there was some great action of a powerful Supergirl. And yes, the art is just stunning. But it is the characterization of Kara that I loved the most. She is on Earth and accepting it. She is working a job. We see her food shopping and washing clothes. This is her home. And she is suddenly an eager hero, willing to stand up to Superman and tell him he needs to do what's right. Wonderful ...
This issue is 2 days old and I already want to read more. So congratulations to this new creative team. Thanks for accepting the past, making Supergirl great and heroic, and moving things forward! I couldn't ask for more from a 'bold new direction'.