Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Review: Adventures of Supergirl #6

Adventures of Supergirl Chapter 6 was just released and continues to impress as writer Sterling Gates keeps the pedal down on plot progression. This was a dense book looking into Kara's psyche and showing us some lingering fears and desires she has. While there are the usual number of Easter Eggs and comic history mentions to keep an old-timer like me tickled pink, it was the emotion of Kara that made me happy here. Remember, Supergirl is truly a newcomer right now as this story takes place early in the season. So seeing some doubt in her as she faces her fears makes sense.

Now whether intentional or not, this story also seems to impact some of what comes in the future in the show. The Rampage chapter riffed on the idea of aliens, imprisonment, and justice, topics which were covered in the 'Truth, Justice, and American Way' episode. Last month, Vril Dox tried to attack Supergirl via computers which definitely riffed on the 'Indigo' episode. Now this month seems to resonate with the 'For the Girl Who Has Everything' episode (more on that later). It is as if this series is enriching the show's themes that much more.

The art in this arc sparkles. The cover by Cat Staggs is a visual delight as we see several incarnation of Supergirl in one, including the K-Armor we saw in the Crucible arc of the comic and what looks to be an 'Iron Munro' sort of white pants/black t-shirt look. We see an armored cat (Streaky?) and a zombified Alex as well. Grabbing.

Internal art is by Emanuela Lupacchino and Ray McCarthy. I love her art both on the old Supergirl title as well as on Starfire. Lupacchino seems to be perfect for Supergirl so I am glad we are getting some extra pages of the Girl of Steel by her. This is really dazzling.

The issue seemingly picks up right where the last one left off. Vril Dox has been captured and is now a prisoner in the DEO. Supergirl is trying to get some information out of him with some old school interrogation. After all, how did Vril know to attack Supergirl through Win? Kara wants to protect her friends and family. So, as disgusting as Vril is, Supergirl interacts with him.

Kara describes it like Clarice talking to Hannibal Lechter in the 'old movie' Silence of the Lamb. The 'old movie'. That makes me feel very very old.

I do like that Supergirl didn't like the movie, finding it offputting. Not her 'thoni tea' (I am assuming that is a Kryptonian brewed beverage.)

But things become nightmarish.

Vril mutates into something more skrullish in appearance. The DEO agents also transform into monsters who turn their weapons onto Kara. They will kill Kara and her family.

I love that Vril remains this totally creepy lech, licking his eyebrows and leering. But he also hints that there is someone new behind this conspiracy against Kara, something Kara has heard before.

I also like that this concern for her friends' and family's safety is so primary in Kara's mind. She is new to this agent business. She was probably nervous about endangering those around her.

Things were nightmarish because it was a nightmare. Kara awakens in her bed complaining that this is her fourth recent nightmare.

Gates shows us some of Kara's thoughts by showing us the books she is reading. We see books about computer threats and nightmares by Kupperberg and Infantino. But we also see 'Diamonds are Forever'. Given the crystalline villain seen on later issues of this book, that has to be a hint.

The news shows a 'secret government installation' which has been consumed in an explosion. But oddly, the announcer announces that "everyone Kara loves" is dead. It is a rather specific comment.

Then oddly, Kara suddenly finds herself at the demolished DEO. Her sister and Hank (oddly and presciently tinted green) are monstrous zombies. They deride Kara for being a failure for not saving them.

Again, this seems to be preying on the Kara's early fears of not being a good hero, not being able to use her powers effectively, and not helping people. Some of those early episodes really focused on that fear.

Kara knows her sister would never chastise her so viciously. Kara's pajamas morph into her costume and she blasts "Alex" with her heat vision.

Again, so much of this issue is about Kara's fears being used against her and Kara's inner strength being called upon to overcome it. So I love that Kara knows her sister would never be so cruel.

The Alex/Kara relationship is a huge part of this book and the show. So I loved this.

The DEO was a dream within a dream. This is all a psychic attack and we see two eyes watching down on Kara in this nightmare.

Lupacchino/McCarthy are just incredible, bringing some surreal elements, having the pajamas switch over in a couple of panels, and then bringing us this dynamic Supergirl. Your eyes will just drink in this art. It is dreamy in all meanings of the word.

When fear doesn't seem to work, the dream switches to a calming place. Suddenly Kara is young again, on Krypton, enjoying a meal with her parents. We hear Kara relay a lesson from Tanth Zal-Tel (a character Gates introduced early in his run on the main title) about a thought beast (perhaps Kara's psyche telling her that this is a hallucination or dream?). We learn she likes roasted babootch (another throwback Kryptonian term). It shows us the nurturing life Kara had at home.

But Kara recognizes this as being wrong. She rejects this reality. This is a dream within a dream within a dream!

Now why is Kara able to shake of this dream world but unable to do it in 'For the Girl who has Everything'? Well, I believe it has to do with the timing of these attacks. In this story, Kara is finally acting as a hero, something she has always wanted to do. She is closer with her sister now. And she is happy. So she would want to reject this paradise to go back to her current life.

In 'For the Girl ...', Kara has had several painful experiences on Earth which has made her feel defeated and lost. A comfortable life on Krypton is more of a lure for her then. She would be more apt to accept being back with her parents and happy.

After shrugging off that phony reality, Kara tells her attacker that her time in the pod gave her the ability to control her dreams. Again, her clothes (this time the white Kryptonian robes) transform into her costume. In this battle of wills, this is Supergirl's costume, her battle garb.

Angry at being manipulated like this, Kara says she is done being on the defensive. It's time for some offense. She streaks up towards the giant eyes saying whoever they belong to had better run.

This is such a great turn for the character. After having her fears and childish wants waved in her face, Kara stands strong and confident. That 'you better run' line reminded me of the more quippy and very self-assured Supergirl from Kupperberg and Infantino in Daring New Adventures of Supergirl.

And that makes sense given the villain here is Psi. Even if we didn't know it from interviews, those pink energy eyes is a dead giveaway.

We saw those eyes in all of Psi's appearances in DNAoS. So there is a sense of legacy here. Psi in both Adventures of Supergirl books that have hit the shelves.

After these dream sequences, I suspect we are going to get a trippy, chaotic, hallucinogenic couple of chapters. I can't wait to see what an updated Psi by Emanuela Lupacchino looks like.

And after a physical attack by Rampage, I look forward to a more mental attack.

I hope everyone is talking up this series. This chapter is an energized ride through Kara's mind, compelling and entertaining.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Wasn't it fabulous? I wish the Thought Beast would make a proper return to continuity – it was one of my favourites of the Kryptonian animals Please let there be one in the Kryptonian zoo in the fortress!

I like that Gates is playing off the idea of Supergirl and Brainiac 5 together in the prison scene. That tongue, eek.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review, Anj. Glad things are still firing on all cylinders on this series.
Special KUDOS to the creative team that keep making this happen!


Uncle Screensaver said...

I guess it was just me thinking her college roomie "Donna," would be Sg's Super BFF Donna Troy.
This series is so much fun, especially for such an old Sgirl fan. (Yeah, how sad is it that "Silence of the Lambs" is an "old" movie.
I'm excited that Psi is back. I still miss original Kara's personality, but I'm so happy she's still around, and this series really adds to that.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments!

Yes, Mart, that tongue was cringe worthy!

Donna Troy as roommate is brilliant!