Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: Supergirl Rebirth #1

Supergirl Rebirth #1 came out this week, the first solo Supergirl comic in over a year. It also has been one of the books I have been highly anticipating. Since the first Rebirth press conference, writer Steve Orlando has been saying all the right things about the character. He wants her to be optimistic and compassionate. He wants her to be young and bright. He wants her to be finding her way in the world. He wants her to be a hero. He wants to lean on her history, bringing everything that has been great with the character. It has all sounded perfect.

And this issue is a fantastic first issue for this new series. Orlando sets the stage nicely. We get a sense of where Supergirl is in her life. We meet the supporting cast. We definitely see who Kara is both in her actions and her words. And it is refreshingly on point.

But we also get some homages to the past. We get some deep DCU cuts. We get a healthy dollop of the show's surroundings. Despite the mentions of some past events in her life, this honestly felt like a soft reboot rather than a tonal rebirth. The thing it reminded me most of was the last sort of soft reboot, Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle's Supergirl #34. Trust me, that comparison is high praise.

The art in the book is by Supergirl veteran Emanuela Lupacchino. Lupacchino brings a beautiful look to the entire book. The action is well paced. The villain is monstrous. Kara looks healthy and strong. Lupacchino never lets me down.

The scene opens on Argo City. This is after Krypton's destruction, while the city was floating in space. It definitely is consistent with the look of the New 52 Krypton and the characterization of Zor-El. We see him banish a citizen named Lar-On to the phantom zone. Lar-On undergoes horrible transformations which endanger the city. And Zor can't have that. He has tried to cure Lar-On to no avail. And so, to save many he must sacrifice this one.

The New 52 Zor-El has never been a squeaky clean, pure scientist. He invented the World Killers. He experimented on Kara. He did these things behind Alura's back. Here he seems even more weary, maybe more callous. He has failed in so many things, he's lost his daughter and become so hardened that maybe he has lost his humanity a bit. Sending Lar-On to an eternity of ghostly imprisonment seems a bit excessive.

Of course, we know that he indeed does end up losing his humanity. That is shown visually well by Lupacchino by having Zor's face covered in shadows.

Back on Earth, at DEO's secret base #252 (nice nod to Action Comics #252), we see Cameron Chase and the Danvers trying one last time to reignite Supergirl's lost powers. The last hope is to use a Kryptonian pod, fueled by a Phantom Drive, to send Supergirl into the sun. The hope is an intense charge of solar energy mixed with a regeneration Matrix will jump start Kara's cells. (I do wonder if we will ever learn why Supergirl lost her powers or if that will be swept under the rug.)

There is a lot to digest in this one panel, let alone this whole scene. Immediately we get the sense of how the show's makeup is shaping the book. Supergirl is at the DEO. Eliza and Jeremiah Danvers are her scientist foster parents. They are clearly a loving couple. That's straight Monday night 8PM fare.

The addition of a Phantom Drive also in interesting as it loops in some of the cinematic DCU. That is lifted right from Man of Steel.

But I did like how this scene plays out like Kara being rocketed from Krypton. This is a last hope journey. This is the start of a new life ... a rebirth. Riffing of the origin gives it that flavor.

The Phantom Drive unfortunately opens up a rift to the Phantom Zone (also similar to Man of Steel) and Lar-On falls through the breach. This accidental opening of a Zone portal is reminiscent of Lar-On's first appearance in World's Finest #256.

Exposed to Earth's full moon, Lar-On transforms into a Kryptonian werewolf. Angry, under attack by the DEO, and animalistic, Lar-On goes on a rampage. Luckily, the flight to the sun has cured Supergirl and she is able to return and battle.

Lar-On recognizes the El family crest and let's Kara know that Zor-El ruined his life. Kara says Zor-El also saved Lar-On's life by sending him away from Argo. The parallels are unmistakable. Both of these character's lives have been irrevocably altered by Zor, for both good and bad.

But then Supergirl's compassion really becomes evident. She asks Lar-On if killing humans will honor the memory of his family. The fight eventually takes the two to the sunny side of the planet (again, reminding me of Lar-On's earlier stories). Once in human form, she tells Lar-On that while Zor-El abandoned him, she never will.

This is the Supergirl that Orlando has been talking about. The one that will punch you and put you in prison but will also visit you. The compassionate hero who wants to help first, help always. She is different than her father.

Back at the DEO, Lar-On is sedated and safe. We learn that the bedrock of Argo had become red Kryptonite. His transformations are due to genetic changes brought on by Red K. He is barely Kryptonian. Now that is a new wrinkle to the origin. It plays off Argo's bedrock being green K, a big part of the Silver Age origin. I like it.

But I like how Kara has to admit that Zor-El became something different when marooned on Argo. She is going to have to start deconstructing him in her mind, understanding him more and not putting him on a pedestal. It reminds me Kara's relationship with Alura in both the Gates/Igle book and the show.

With the action sequence finished and the hook of Zor-El cast, the book finishes by establishing Kara on Earth.

First we see her bantering with her new foster parents. Much of Base #252 has been demolished by the Lar-On fight. The agents begin the slow process of rebuilding. The Danvers tell Kara that while she could clean things up quickly, she need to understand humanity more. Time to do things their way, to understand Earth with her feet on the ground. There is a patina of Pa Kent here, 'an honest day's work for an honest day's wage' sort of ethos.

I have to admit, having Kara living with the Danvers is very much part of her comic history. I'll enjoy seeing it again, even if these DEO agents are a far cry from Fred and Edna (and Fred and Sylvia). But we now have a supporting cast and someone Kara can turn to in crisis.

And Kara's pose and smile say so much of her playfulness here.

As for Cameron Chase, she is the Director Henshaw of the book. She is no nonsense. She doesn't trust Supergirl ... at least not yet. After all, the early days of this Supergirl were rough going. But the two made a deal. If Chase restored Kara's powers then Supergirl would help out the DEO. And that means living with the Danvers, adopting the identity of Kara Danvers, living as a normal teenager, but helping out when needed.

I did like that Kara's motivation here was to pick up Superman's mantle and continue his good work. That is very Silver Age. I liked the concept of Chase/Henshaw wanting a super-powered agent on their side.

And the revelation of a suddenly bespectacled secret identity? Well, it reminded me very much of the introduction of Linda Lang in Supergirl #34, again high praise.

Now as a brunette (!!), we see Kara attending the Technical High School in National City. National City! Another nod to the show.

Lupacchino clearly shows us that Kara is a sort of awkward teen, no mistaking that body language. I love it. But there is more here. That goth-esque girl in the background has to be Belinda Zee. And a brunette Kara? Does she have a comb that changes her hair color??

Once more, there is a lot of in this panel which plays off the best parts of Supergirl's history and the show. Belinda Zee in a mainstream book? Incredible (if true).

I thought that would be a great page to end on but Orlando gives us one more. We see the Cyborg Superman lumbering around the wrecked Argo. And it looks like he is trying to resurrect the dead there. If he brings Alura back to life as some automaton ... well ... I'll cry. (I have to look back though, I thought Argo City plummeted into a blue star in the early New 52. Not that a detail like that matters in a reboot.)

So overall, I have to say this was a superb first issue of the new take on Supergirl. For fans of the show, there is enough overlap for this to feel comfortable. For new readers, this is a perfect jumping on point as it showcases Supergirl and her personality wonderfully, introduces us to a portion of the supporting cast, sets the stage for her secret identity, and ends on a cliffhanger.

For us old timers though, this felt like a sort of greatest hits album. Yes, we get the show. And we get some New 52. But we get some Silver Age nods. We get a lot of Gates here (getting a secret identity, immersing herself into humanity, throwing on glasses, trying to improve herself, having to prove herself to someone who doesn't trust her). We get some Man if Steel. We might get some Daring New. We might get some Cosmic Adventures.

This is not a complaint or critique!!!

Kara was due for someone to distill the best parts of her character into a book. This does just what a first issue should do. I do hope that Orlando also acknowledges the last year of the prior book. Tony Bedard, K. Perkins, and Mike Johnson also rehabilitated Kara and gave us some plot hooks. I hope that part of her history is touched on as much as the more angsty early New 52.

And it was gorgeous. Lupacchino just shines when she draws Supergirl. From the fights to the scenes with the Danvers to last pages showcasing Kara Danvers, Lupacchino gives us a ton of information from expressions and body language.

Hello Supergirl! Nice to see you again!

Overall grade: A+


Martin Gray said...

Nice review, sir! I echo your enthusiasm, this is a wonderful issue, Orlando and Lupacchino are a team I'm keen to see more of.

And I wonder if we'll get an Alex Danvers in this book, if DC can have Eliza and Jezza, why not their daughter?

A bit fat 'amen' to your wish for closure of plotlines from the last run, namely Siobhan and Blaze, and new boyfriend Michael.

What did you think of Kara's stated age?

Anonymous said...

Loved the Rebirth issue overall. I nice reintroduction to Supergirl and you can never go wrong with Emanuela Lupacchino on interior and cover art duties. Would love for her to be one of the rotating artists on this title, but I think she's going to be one of the rotating artists on Superwoman. We'll see what Brian Ching brings to art of Supergirl in a few weeks time.

Only a few minor quibbles in regards to some of the dialog and what the actual time frame of the Rebirth story is supposed to be. The dialogue states that Supergirl has only been around for a few months but if we take everything into account on what has happened in the New 52 on Supergirl title (including her stint as a Red Lantern), the various crossovers on the other Super books and her brief time in Justice League United, surely it's been more then a year at the very least. Still comic time isn't realtime, so I guess it could be argued that in terms of the overall story so far, only a few months have passed as they said.

In regards to the Regeneration Matrix, I wonder if this is the very device Pre-Flashpoint Superman was looking for and could not find in the Fortress during Superman Rebirth. There is mention of Kryptonian files by Director Chase, which I assume was given over to her by Kara from the Fortress after it was handed over to her from New 52 Superman during the Last Days of Superman arc. I thought about Sanctuary, but that was destroyed a while back.

Anyhow, looking forward to next month and what story they kick off issue #1 with.

Dr. Thinker said...

Over at "TOO DANGEROUS FOR A GIRL", I stated that I would eat a bowl of Kryptonite, if you didn't give this comic an A+.

Looks like that bowl of Kryptonite is safe for now.

Anonymous said...

I liked it too...but just for continuity's sake I'd love to know how her powers got compromised to begin with. Eliza and Jeremiah were pretty seamlessly injected into the storyline in a "makes sense" sort of a way, I guess including Alex would have cluttered the narrative and possibly put her into the "deux et machina girl saves Kara" slot that she inhabits on TV for the most part.
Yeah Cyborg Allura is just....wrong but then Cyborg Zor El is wrong as well, and as we all know "Two Wrong Make A DC Storyline..."


I dunno how much I'm gonna like "Supergirl Agent of the DEO" as the core premise, I can see that set up getting awfully tired over time....


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I liked the issue, but think the idea of her being back in HS is dumb. College, maybe. But this negates all of the other storylines from theN52 as everything here is different. Which is mostly great.

This is just one of the books where we just have to roll with it, like we are seeing in the Batman related titles. By the way, the LEGENDS OF TOMORROW that came out this week (the last of the series)has an appearance by the Legion.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back Kara! As Anj and others have pointed out, there's a few rough spots,
but I'm just happy that there's a monthly Supergirl title back on shelves again,
and so far the rough spots don't seem to be a major detraction from the overall
story. Can only see where things go from here, but I've definately positive
thoughts on this! Can't wait till issue #2, and can't wait till Oct 10th!


Anonymous said...

As for Supergirl's lost powers, a possible cause was hinted at in Superman #51. This story shoehorns the New 52 past into the current story line.It glosses over much of that period but for those who didn't care for New 52, that isn't a problem. Also it was mentioned that this comic book wouldn't completely follow the TV series, only use some of its themes as background. Looks like Supergirl is off to a good start!

Anj said...

Thanks for comments!

I think the slight de-aging is okay with me. No different than Paul Kupperberg making Kara a grad student after years of her roaming from job to job.

I do hope the latter part of the last series is commented on.

And I'll have to reread Superman 51.

All in all, nice start.

TransformerMan said...

"By the way, the LEGENDS OF TOMORROW that came out this week (the last of the series)has an appearance by the Legion."

Now, that's a massive undersell if I ever saw one! Let's just say that Anj will want to pick up this issue!

TransformerMan said...

As for Supergirl #1... Well, it's hard not to love a new Supergirl series, but A+ is a stretch.

I absolutely lover the cover! Powerful! Pretty! Dynamic! Super! (The Hughes cover is great too!) The interior art is good-to-great. Dynamic and colorful, but occasionally stiff. And everyone looks to be the same age (and have the same hair!). The story is a bit rushed (and supervampire? yawn..), but I guess that can be expected in an issue that attempts to set the stage, while also having a drama and a villain-of-the-month. Like JF said, I hope the story doesn't center itself too much around the D.E.O. It works as a reason for her to suddenly get adoptive parents within the current continuity, but I'm not too fond of her being an agent of a government agency.. which Orlando seems to perhaps saying she isn't, just that she's expected/welcome to "help".

I love that the brunette alter ego is back! I don't care how they explain the color change. I do wish they would have called her Linda Danvers, but I guess someone thought the gap to the TV show continuity might become too large. Adoptive sister Alex is perhaps the TV show addition I like the best. Almost sad she doesn't appear to be in the comic.

The elephant in the room is dead Superman. I don't even know where to start about that..


Anj said...

Thanks for continued comments.

I definitely will be reviewing the LoT book here next week.

And yes, the issue isn't perfect. But it does just what a first issue should do and set the stage for a heroic Kara. I was thrilled.

John (somewhere in England) said...

This issue richly deserves an A+. I'd like to add a few additional observations if I may.

It does seem harsh to send Lar-On to the Phantom Zone. Was there nowhere in Argo City where he could have been safely confined? Given Argo City's precarious position floating in space, doing further research towards finding a cure for Lar-On would hardly have been a priority. No doubt Lar-On was aware of that and understood that his exile in the Phantom Zone was going to be a long one.

There is a supernatural theme here. Following a phantom radiation spike a werewolf drops out of the Phantom Zone onto a ghost site where an experimental phantom drive is being tested.

If the attempt to restore Kara's powers had not succeeded Kara would have been roasted alive in the Sun and there would be no issue to look forward to in September! So the DEO and Kara must have been very confident of the mission's success, desperate, or both.

A great comic nevertheless.

Anonymous said...

Well there might be one continuity problem with what happened in Supergirl Rebirth. Cameron Chase says Kara's ship is retrofitted with a Kryptonian regeneration matrix but Superman Rebirth had the Fortress tell Pre Flashpoint Superman that there was no Kryptonian regeneration matrix so New 52 Superman couldn't be brought back to life. That might create some odd ends for keen eyed readers. Still, it's a good sign that this series is for the fans if you and the comments give it high praises. Hopefully Orlando will prove to be a good fit for Supergirl.


Anonymous said...

> The elephant in the room is dead Superman. I don't even know where to start about that..

I hear you on that. Does (this) pre-Flashpoint Superman even have any memories of pre-COIE Cousin Kara?
Never mind how awkward the scene is going to be of pre-Flashpoint Superman and post-Rebirth Supergirl
can be... "we're cousins, but not of this timeline/continuity."

Oh the mind boggles at the possibilities.


Martin Gray said...

I think it'd be fine, post-Crisis Superman certainly had warm feelings towards Power Girl.

Mind, by the time they meet, various versions will likely be merged.