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.)
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+