Supergirl Being Super #2 came out last week and was a very moving chapter in this Elseworlds take on Kara Zor-El. Mariko Tamaki is known for her coming of age stories and this seems to fall into that mold. There are super-powers and Kryptonite and S-shields on blankets. But really this is a story about life changes for this Kara.
Last issue seemed to concentrate on the awkward feeling of 'otherness' that most teens feel. People are defined in few words. The jock. The feminist lesbian. But Kara doesn't seem to know who she is. Add the layer of otherworldliness to her and you definitely have someone trying to figure out their place in the world and where they are going. But even the characters who seem to have it figured out, like 'Jen the Jock' still have all these insecurities and questions. What if they aren't who they think they are? I don't know any teenager who didn't have these questions. Heck, I still ask myself some of them.
This issue seems to be all about grief. We start with a tragedy. And then we see the emotional fallout. How do people respond? Do they reach out? Or retract from the world? Do they openly weep? Or become withdrawn and seemingly numb to the world? It is Kara who we see struggling with her feelings and we see her interact with everyone else.
Toss in the superheroics and it is a heavy and well conceived book.
The art on the book is brilliant stuff by illustrator Joelle Jones with vibrant colors by Kely Fitzpatrick. Jones continues to shine, bringing in kinetic panels of action with some slightly warped anatomy and perspective to accentuate matters. But the quiet sad scenes also really explode of the page as well. Wonderful stuff.
On to the book.
This issue picks up just where the last one ended. An earthquake has ripped apart the high school track meet. Everyone is endangered. And Kara is on the track, trying to save her friends.
She has to reveal her powers to Dolly, catching a lightpole before it crushes her friend.
This art by Jones here is slick. You can feel the strain on Kara as she holds this weight up awkwardly. There is the feel of momentum that she needs to stop.
And I love how everyone else is wearing running shorts but Kara has a skort. This really evokes the belly shirt Supergirl costume.
With Dolly safe, Kara dives into the crevice to try and save her friend Jen.
But right in the midst of it, that yellow glow which disrupts Kara's powers kick in. Suddenly human, she cannot hold onto her friend. Jen plummets to her death.
Again, just stellar art in these panels. The reversal of light/dark makes the action pop. The second panel showing Jen in silhouette adds to the dark proceedings. And you can feel Kara leaping to try to rescue her friend again. Incredible.
But you would think that Kara might notice that the yellow glow always starts in her right hand, the one cuffed with the mysterious fitbit bracelet.
We readers know a villain in hiding when we see one. The coach clearly isn't all she says she is.
Kara then needs saving herself, hoisted up from the crack by recuers.
This panel, showing her wrapped in the silver EMS blanket, suffocating on the sadness of her friend's death is powerful.
But I love how the memories of Kara's birth parents are reflected in the wrinkles of the blanket. I could stare at this for hours. Jones is just a superstar.
There is this immediate sense of numbness by Kara. We see her sitting in the same chair, eating cereal, almost oblivious of what is happening around her. Tamaki phrases it well 'everything is far away, even me.'
She is moving through time, doing these everyday acts. But she isn't living. How many of us have felt that same disconnection when faced with a sudden tragedy?
But even as we see this play out, we hear there is no clear reason why the earthquake happened. Was it triggered some how to force a reveal of who is an alien?
Finally, Kara gets the energy to go out for a run. It is a 'normal' activity. But even this is filled with sadness. As she runs, the memories of Jen flood back. She sees her friend running with her on the same road. She listens to Jen's running mix. She'll never see Jen again and that is painful. The tears come again.
But there is some survivor's guilt as well. Perhaps to help he blow off some steam, Kara cuts loose with her powers on this run. Speeding down the road at Kryptonian speed, she laments that her powers cut out on her when she needed them most.
Who hasn't questioned themselves about things like this? Questioning every minute decision that happened before something terrible happened, replaying every decision, wondering why we couldn't do more.
But like many things, it is all magnified in adolescence.
But inside all this, is the tiny 'help me'. That's not memory. That's something ... someone ...else.
But Kara's own mind is the first stop on this mental train. The earthquake and the deaths have effected the whole town.
At Jen's funeral, Kara has to face that her friend is gone again. Once more, tears. The brief, sweet eulogy is a gut punch for sure.
Kara's coach seems extremely supportive in all this. But there is also something too close about this. I was never an athlete so I don't know if this is encroaching on boundaries or if this is just what good coaches do.
As a reader, my spidey sense is tingling here. This isn't a good thing.
But then, some life.
Kara and Dolly haven't hung out since the disaster. They decide to head to the diner where they used to hang out with Jen.
It is both a session to grieve and celebrate Jen. They laugh ...
It is a chance to finally exhale.
And then, maybe realizing their own mortality, the hug and promise to be there for each other.
I really loved this scene. It felt so natural. It shows that moment when you need to step back into life after being struck an emotional blow. The cliche is 'life goes in'. But Jen isn't forgotten.
And it really cemented Kara and Dolly' friendship. But here even Dolly knows something is weird with the coach.
Throughout this issue, we see the Danvers trying to help Kara. But everyone deals with grief the same way.
Mr. Danvers is one of those guys who seems to shut things inside. He tells Kara to work in the barn. He has this classic, quiet 'I don't know what to say' demeanor. She knows he doesn't want to talk about Jen. It reminds Kara of when, as a very young girl, he told her to hide her powers. Her powers aren't magic. He wasn't up to talking much about those either.
Instead it is Mrs. Danvers who steps up.
Armed with hot food, she tells Kara that people aren't just who they are, they are also what happened to them. They are formed by events. But they can survive. And Mrs. Danvers knows she'll survive. Kara is strong.
There are a lot of great scenes in this book. But this was my favorite. That this woman is a rock that Kara can hold onto, a shoulder for Kara to cry on, was wonderful. Last issue, they were portrayed as simple folk. But here, the mother is loving, nurturing, caring.
These are small real life moments sneaked into a superhero story.
All cried out or consoled, Kara sleeps.
In her dreams, she once again snatches glimpses of her parents sending her to Earth.
Beautiful piece by Jones.
But Alura is saying 'Be sage, Kara Zor-El, my daughter.'
Now maybe Alura wants her daughter to be wise. But I have to think this was supposed to be 'be safe'.
Perhaps all this sadness over Jen has made Kara's own tragedy bubble back up to the surface?
Just lush, haunting art here.
Spurred to head to her rocket, Kara discovers her red blanket with the S-shield.
She once again hears a voice crying out for help.
And we see a glimpse of hands in kryptonite cuffs. Another hand fiddles with knobs, causing shooting pains to course into Kara.
Nice hook to keep,us wanting.
I have to assume the 'help' voice is Kal, chained to this machine. Whoever the coach is working for are trying to ferret out Kara, to find another alien.
So yes, this superhero,origin took a couple of steps forward. But truly this was an issue devoted to the greving process. I thought Tamaki showed it very well in all the scenes. This was a touching issue, an honest look at bereavement.
Things like this have to be done right or they feel forced or clumsy. This was done right.
Overall grade: A