Supergirl #38 came out this week and is another great issue in this new direction by creative team K. Perkins, Mike Johnson, Emanuela Lupacchino, Ray McCarthy, and Hi-Fi.
I have had issues with characterization of both Supergirl and Superboy in the New 52. Kara was petty, angry brat. Kon was a bank-robbing, overly violent, immature punk. And while there were moments in the early issues where both characters seemed to be more heroic, for the most part they were treated pretty shabbily.
Over the last year, Supergirl has been rehabilitated by Tony Bedard, Charles Soule, and the current team. Superboy has been presumed dead and unseen. And yet, here, we see how much things have changed. It was wonderful to read an issue where I can root unabashedly for Supergirl and to be impressed with her as a young hero, striving to help people and asking the tough questions. Add to this characterization a ton of high octane action and you have a very entertaining issue.
The art on this book is just spectacular. There is something clean and vibrant about the work that my eyes just drink in. Lupacchino, McCarthy, and Hi-Fi are really hitting home runs here. And there is one little thing that I saw in this issue from Lupacchino that is so fantastic that I smiled for a long time. More on that later.
The variant cover for this month celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Flash character. Michael Avon Oeming does a nice job riffing on Action Comics #252. I especially like Supergirl saying a version of Superman's classic line from the cover.
I suppose at some point I might need to do another 'Action Comics #252 homage covers' post.
The book starts in Italy as Kon, seen in a monastery last issue, is hanging out at a comic convention. Surrounded by cos-players, he can walk about freely.
After reading 2 years worth of Superboy declaring himself a 'living weapon', being violent and angsty, robbing banks and living the gangsta life, and then being replaced by the mass murdering potential future hybrid of Clark, Lois, Clark/Lois, I needed a break. I left the book and shook my head how Kon was a good representation of all that was wrong with the New 52.
So there was something refreshing about seeing Kon leading a quiet life as a monk and finding himself. And I also liked seeing him walking amongst the people, smiling, and buying comics. Hurray!
But then we head back to Tsavo's planet Ngo where Supergirl and her Crucible crew are fighting Roho and his insurgents.
Last issue, we learned that maybe Crucible is more than a school and maybe more akin to a Military Training facility. It is clear that the professors and leaders have an agenda that may not be apparent to the students.
And while Supergirl seems to have embraced the setting, becoming fast friends with her classmates and immersing herself in classes, we see her start to question things. It starts here where she learns that Roho and his Ngoian rebels were all students at Crucible. They were expelled for not following the rules ... but what does that mean? I think that there is more to this place than it being a magnanimous institution to raise heroes.
This skirmish ends with Supergirl and her friends paralyzed by a stasis-stare by Roho's soldier. Even though he has the upper hand, Roho teleports to a 'backwater world', leaving the Crucible gang alive so they can witness his ultimate victory. That is a classic comic villain mistake. Roho was just about to kill his parents ... why wouldn't he kill these kids?
I have glossed over the action but it is well done!
Comet quickly picks up a telepathic trail that the team can follow. But Supergirl pauses. Tsavo is physically and emotionally injured. His family is injured.
She feels she needs to stay to help her friend. She wants to protect him. It is more important for her to be here for Tsavo than it is to follow these rebels. It is only at Tsavo's insistence that she moves on.
But this is a major change in Supergirl's character that we have seen evolve over the last year. Gone is the petulant girl who wants to be all alone at the bottom of the ocean. Now, maybe after befriending Bleez, maybe after embracing Earth, maybe after meeting Michael and being inspired by him, she understands the importance of friends ... how she can't be alone.
No big surprise but the 'backwater planet' that Roho teleported to is Earth.
You know what I love here ... Kara's expression and body language. Looking at the sky, hand on her heart, the other hand held open! She looks like she is happy to be back here. She is happy to be back home!
I always wonder if I read into these things too much. But this looks different from the Supergirl who would let Earth be destroyed by H'El to bring Krypton back.
And I also had to include this panel because I thought it was funny.
Here Supergirl runs into someone who is cos-playing her ... but in the costume of the last incarnation of Supergirl. And that is early last Supergirl given by the small size of the top and the skirt. I suppose somewhere Michael Turner is smiling.
But I love this Supergirl's surprise that someone would dress like her!
Roho is there to capture Superboy for some reason.
Now is the time for the Crucible crew to fight again and save Kon.
I love that Supergirl jumps into the role of the leader, telling Comet to fight with the alien with the paralyzing stare and Maxima to protect the patrons.
Again, seeing Supergirl growing as a hero, being an inspiration and leader for her generation, while still being fresh on the hero's journey is what I am looking for in Supergirl. This is fantastic, especially given that Maxima doesn't fight her about who is in charge.
But that questioning of what Crucible is all about becomes a bigger part of this story.
For one, Comet and Maxima aren't exactly nice people on closer look.
Maxima throws her psychic knives into the throat of one of Roho's allies, killing her. And Comet uses his telekinetic powers to explode this one's head Scanner-style.
That doesn't sound like what heroes would necessarily do. I certainly don't want Supergirl to be pulping people. Those tactics should get Supergirl's attention.
Finally Kara starts to wonder if she has been too trusting. Why should she trust Comet more than Roho? Why should she fall in line when she doesn't know much about Crucible to begin with? And why do these rebels need Kon?
My guess is that Crucible isn't all bad. But there are elements within that aren't on the up and up, like Professor Korstus trying to form an army.
And then to make the trust issue flare up, Maxima let's Supergirl know that she has her own secret mission. She has been told to bring Kon-El to Crucible. And this time she isn't going to back down to Kara. Maxima *is* going to complete that mission.
Not knowing what is right and wrong, what is truth and lie, and wanting to protect Kon, Supergirl flies in front of Maxima. Completing that mission won't be easy.
Nice cliffhanger. But tremendous splash page.
First off, look at how determined and fierce Kara looks. Again, the expression and body language here speaks volumes (just as the earlier panel did). But look at Supergirl's costume right now. I love long pointy sleeves on Supergirl so hurrah for that. But the big change is the lower part of the uniform, the part that I had the most problems with. Gone are the fussy angles of the edge. Gone is the 'panty shield' of the narrow red panel. Instead, the red panel is widened to look almost like shorts. Just lovely ... minor tweaks that improve this look 1000%.
I tweeted the team and asked how this came about and Emanuela Lupacchino responded.
I love it!
So great action and great story progression and great art.
I have to say that I am enjoying this new direction immensely so far. They have picked up all the character improvements of the year before and run with them, creating a very entertaining book chronicling a young hero. And, most importantly, they have kept a likeable and strong Supergirl in the book. Gone is all the negativity. Instead we have a smart, powerful, inquisitive hero who wants to help. But she has that little bit of a passionate streak in her, that edge that makes her very reactive when she thinks someone she cares for is endangered.