Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Review: Adventures of Supergirl #1

Well the wait is finally over.

With the cancellation of the main title and the onset of the television show, plenty of fans (myself included) were wondering when DC would pull the trigger on a new Supergirl book.

Finally, DC announced a digital first book, Adventures of Supergirl, written by Sterling Gates with a bevy of great artists, and Cat Staggs on covers. What a complete win!

Now, after waiting what has felt like an eternity, Adventures of Supergirl Chapter 1 was digitally sent to my computer. And thankfully, it lived up to my high expectations.

Gates immediately shows that he still has a sense of Kara's voice, even if this is a different version of Supergirl than the one he wrote years ago. He drops us right into the middle of a battle which also is a nice hook to keep the reader turning the pages ... umm ... scrolling the screen. We get exposition and back story all while a tremendous super-powered brawl is happening. It is the best of all worlds.

Bengal's art is brilliant here. The action sequences are well done with blurring or movement lines to really add to the impact of the brawls. But the quiet panels of a smiling Kara, her body language, really adds a lot to the feel of the story.

Lastly, Staggs' cover is poster worthy and tremendous.

One thing I always like in comics is when creators take some risks.

In this case, I love that the first panel is Supergirl getting her face pushed into a wall. You barely get the sense it is Supergirl, just the clue of that blue eye between the fingers of the opponent that let me figure out what is happening here.

So for me that is a fun risk, opening up this comic with the image of your hero being crushed.

There is some nice internal monologue cluing in the reader that Supergirl was raised with the belief that violence is a last resort. That communication should always be tried first to defuse a situation. And we have seen this in the show with Kara trying to talk to all her opponents, offering them help, before battling.

But this beginning ... I almost expected her to say 'this is my life', the tag line of Gates' prior run.

The villain is Rampage. In the comics, this is a sort of Hulk character. Kitty Faulkner, a STAR scientist, becomes this super-strong, enraged monster when upset. So this is a nice match-up for an opening battle. I do love how Rampage only seems to be able to say her name 'Rampage'. Sort of silly. Rampage has a sort of Dragon Ball Z feel to here (Android 16 maybe?). But this page, with this angle, plays up the size differential here.

Gates riffs back to his first issue, Supergirl #34, by putting the fight in a sports arena. In that prior issue, Supergirl is lambasted by the fans as a bad hero. Here, she seems to be recognized more as a force of good.

 While the battle rages on, Kara thinks back to her 'origin'. These pages really lean heavily on the television show, which I think probably works nicely for people who are fans of the show and don't usually read comics. It sort of tightly links the book to the show.

So we see Kara say goodbye to Alura. We see the rocket. And we see Kara's plane rescue which leads her to become Supergirl, the protector of National City.

You get a sense of Bengal's style here. Kara's mouth is exaggerated as she saves the plane, but it works to convey the effort behind this rescue.

 The battle rages on, ending up in the parking lot. Away from cameras, Hank Henshaw calls in saying he is sending in DEO troops. But Kara doesn't want those men endangered, so she asks Hank to hold back.

And then we get this nice sequence where the fight picks up. The use of small panels, with the perspective getting tighter and tighter, the colors getting darker and darker, adds to the energy of the sequence.

But the thing I really liked about this was that last panel, the close up of a smile, the second such panel in the book. This is a Supergirl who is happy ... happy to be doing good, happy with her life.

She thinks she ends the fight with the 'surprise uppercut', the signature move of Belinda, the bully from Midvale High. That has to be a call out to Belinda Z, the 'bully' of Landry Walker and Eric Jones Supergirl Cosmic Adventures. And a Midvale High reference? Awesome.

Again, Bengal really gives us a great panel. The energy circles do have a sort of anime feel to them, a Goku vs. Vegata flavor. The angle, really looking up through the punch, adds some power as well. This whole fight sequence has been very kinetic.

With the battle over, the DEO chopper begins to descend to grab Rampage. (Hmmm, is Rampage a Fort Rozz prisoner or an Earth supervillain?) We finally get a shot of Alex! Hurrah!

I think my favorite panel of the story is Supergirl standing triumphantly over Rampage, looking up to her sister, beaming a big smile! That just screams 'Supergirl' to me.

But the fight isn't truly over. Rampage is awake and throws Supergirl through the tail of the helicopter. It is going to crash.

Nice cliffhanger.

Great book.

I felt this was akin to the opening scene of a James Bond movie. We are dropped into a conflict which may or may not have anything to do with the big plot. We get a chance to see what Supergirl can do. Plus we get her origin and some supporting cast. All beautifully rendered.

I suppose I am biased but this was all win for me.

Looking forward to the next chapter already!

Overall grade: A+


Anonymous said...

Hey Anj, thanks for the review, and TOTALLY agree, the first thing I was struck by was how much Gates still
has the "voice" of Kara, even after all these years, and even though it's a different one from his run.

The "recap" pages / panels I thought were superfluous, but the art and interior monologue was so beautiful
it seemed to enrich rather than detract from those that have seen the TV pilot. And the text box of "went
to high school (didn't go so great, thank you, Belinda-the-bully), went to college (much better)" SOOOO put
a smile on my face. Can't help but think Gates put the former line to riff on previous attempts to put Supergirl
in high school, and the latter to hint at "what-may-have-been" if he'd stayed on the 2004 title.

...and now I'd LOVE for Berlani and Co to do a flashback to Supergirl's highschool experience based on these
panels! :) There was one of the pre-pilot / screentest scenes where Alex was talking about how Supergirl walked
around for a couple weeks in a cast, just to fit in as human. Still one of those scenes I love but hasn't been
shown onscreen yet.

Minor niggling point is Supergirl's line "Belinda-The-Bully's surprise uppercut" and how it's from a video game...
exactly HOW she knows Belinda well enough to play video games on her but get bullied by her... well...

Otherwise, one HECKUVA cliffhanger to leave us wanting and waiting for more! Can't believe we'll have to wait
another 30days for the next one...


Gene said...

"That has to be a call out to Belinda Z, the 'bully' of Landry Walker and Eric Jones Supergirl Cosmic Adventures."

Sterling Gates paying homage to Cosmic Adventures? The awesomeness level just went off the scale...


SG Fan said...

I loved this!

It's a great companion piece to the show. Gates wrote this version of Kara beautifully and I loved her attitude throughout. Not wanting the DEO troops to get hurt, remembering her past (and yes some great shout outs there), and loved the little bit of banter we got with Alex and Kara. The artwork was beautiful, probably my favorite of any book I've seen in a bit.

This was a great start, can't wait for my next download!

Martin Gray said...

What a delightful read, I'm so pleased DC Digital sorted something out for us.

So, what will you download next?

Anonymous said...

My only complaint is that it ended too quickly. I half expected the TV Supergirl logo to fly out at me like at the end of an episode's teaser. XD

Also, yes, I'm very happy that Belinda is still a thing.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

Such a great beginning. As you have all said, the art, the dialogue, the action ... All great.

But Belinda? That was the cherry on the sundae!

Anonymous said...

"I think my favorite panel of the story is Supergirl standing triumphantly over Rampage, looking up to her sister, beaming a big smile! That just screams 'Supergirl' to me."

This is the Supergirl we know and love...someone who is upbeat, happy, positive looking to have fun. Which is why I guess Berlanti and co chose Melissa Benoist to play our heroine on TV

I don't know if Rampage will ever make it to TV, but if so, I know of only one female who could pull this off...MMA superstar and former UFC champion Ronda Rousey. She comes off as a badass in the arena, but also can glam it up. Although reading about her SNL performance that might give me a second thought!

The writing looks to be very fast paced and full of pop. Looks like the Supergirl comics I remember from Superman Family, Daring New Adventures...all from the 1970's and 80's.

I think Melissa would approve of this effort wholeheartedly.