Friday, February 16, 2018

Review: Supergirl #18

Supergirl #18 came out this week, a crackling issue which moved the current storyline along nicely while also building the foundation of the supporting characters and environment. I don't know if I can say this is my favorite issue of the run but if it isn't, it is near the top.

One of the things that I have bemoaned a bit about comics in general has been the lack of interest in giving books a cast of supporting characters. I also feel that these days, at times, comics forgets to give us scenes with characters out of their costume, showing us the human side, something which allows me as a reader to relate more. In Supergirl, it felt like at the beginning of this run, the character was so busy in various circles that there was barely any breathing room. Whether it was acting as Supergirl or interning at CatCo or going to school or being at the DEO or living at the Danvers, Kara was running around. It felt like maybe the book was being too ambitious.

Writers Steve Orlando and Jody Houser have, in the last several issues, tightened things up a bit. The CatCo stuff is in the background a bit. Cat herself is gone. Supergirl is on the run from the DEO. That leaves just the Danvers and school as locales. Frankly, I have loved the new focus. We really have got to learn more about Kara Danvers, the shy, semi-awkward school girl trying to do what's right. And we get more in depth looks at Eliza and Jeremiah, at Belinda Zee and Ben Rubel, at Agent Ocampo. It all gives me as the reader a deeper feel of who these characters are.

That doesn't mean the action is lessened. The DEO is present as an antagonist. Villains are being sent to stop Supergirl. So you get characterization and super-heroics. It is just the perfect mix.

The art here sizzles too. First off, we get the Robson Rocha cover which has the feel of a 1940's horror movie or murder mystery. Then you get the Artgerm variant riffing on the cover of Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #1. And on inside art, you get Carmen Carnero. Carnero drew some of my favorite chapters of the Adventures of Supergirl digital series and seems very comfortable with the character. Everything is spot on, from the battles to the slow dances.

All in all a very satisfying read. On to the book!

The finale of the 'Plain Sight' arc opens up right where the last issue left off. The Evolutionist has been sent by the DEO to the National City Tech Homecoming Dance in hopes of forcing Supergirl to reveal herself. Once again we hear the new mantra of Supergirl. She chooses Earth so all can save each other. But how to do that without revealing her secret identity.

The DEO's Agent Ocampo must not be aware that the Evolutionist has been sent there by her superiors. All she sees are kids in danger. She leaps to action to provide some cover for the kids to run off. But more interesting, she beseeches Belinda Zee to turn into Supergirl and save the day.

This mistaking Zee for Supergirl is an interesting wrinkle. I keep wondering if/when Belinda will turn nefarious, based solely on her namesake in Cosmic Adventures. For some reason, Ocampo thinking she's Supergirl makes me wonder if Zee will respond oddly or angrily.

There are no more phone booths to run into to change. But at a prom-like event there are photo booths. Supergirl dashes inside and makes the quick change.

I love this. Silly and wonderful and perfect.

This is a Kara that believes violence is a last resort. Even though troops arrive to help stop the Evolutionist, she melts their weapons. No need for gunfire. Interesting.

 The Evolutionist has a sort of Luthor-vibe to her sentiments. She feels that Supergirl's presence is holding back people from helping themselves. She is halting evolution.

And then we get the Evolutionist's tragic origin, telepathically transmitted right into Kara's brain. The Evolutionist's planet was advanced and peaceful. A benevolent race called the Zergo landed on her planet to 'help' them. But the Zergo brought germs to the world which ultimately killed off the entire population. Only the Evolutionist was able to survive, converting an exploration ship for space into armor.

Much like Starshame, the Evolutionist's origin is Supergirl's written sideways. Strange visitors from another planet land to help the natives. A planet is dying and so a sole survivor uses a ship to escape. All the elements are there ... just shuffled. It is a fascinating little theme Orlando and Houser are bringing in. How small elements or changes could have made Kara a villain instead of the inspiration she is.

The Evolutionist also has tech-based gravity powers. Using them, she is able to thwart Kara's counter-attacks almost effortlessly. It looks like the villain might win, using gravitational fields to behead Supergirl, when the Girl of Steel pulls out an old favorite. The super-sonic clap.

Great energy on this panel as you feel the shockwave strike the Evolutionist, tossing debris aside. And that sound effect! Awesome!

 It is the second time in recent months we have seen the clap used with excellent effect!

 With the armor damaged by the sonics, Supergirl is able to approach the Evolutionist. Once again a connection is made. But this time the Evolutionist sees Kara's memories. We get a flashback to Supergirl #6 where Kara confronts her father. This concept of Kara being inspired by humanity (as much if not moreso than the reverse) is thrust into the Evolutionist's mind.

This isn't what the villain was expecting. Supergirl isn't forcing change (for good or bad) on humans. It's the opposite. With that to mull over, the villain flies off.

I actually like this ending tremendously. Unlike Starshame, the Evolutionist doesn't seem to be evil at all. She's been traumatized. This non-fight ending works here just like the slugfest with Starshame worked there.

 With the battle over, Kara is able to sneak back into the gym in her civvies. No one noticed she was gone.

As for Belinda? She is gone.

Ben was happy and shocked to see Kara at the dance and offers to give her a ride home. They stop at the beach to walk and talk. They have one of those wonderful heart-to-hearts that give characters depth. Ben admits that he is awed by Kara, someone strong enough to do all that she does.

They share one of those sappy dances where there is no music. And then they kiss.

It all unfolds naturally. We knew Ben liked Kara before this. I am glad she can admit her feelings too.

The two must have enjoyed the moment until the wee hours of the morning because Kara wakes up with Ben on the beach. She hears an alarm and thinks she needs to run off as Supergirl to help. But before speeding off, she hears that officers have it under control.

Kara Danvers can have as much of a life as Supergirl it seems. She can slow down a little now and then.


As someone who loved the original Linda Danvers' subplots as a student and a reporter, as someone who loved the PAD's Linda's subplots of dealing with her family and her love life, I welcome this new approach. I want to see Kara the student and daughter. I want to know her. I like she'll give herself a break now and then.

And Carnero shines in these quieter moments, showing us great expressive work as we see the two stammer through the conversations.

Of course, I wonder how Belinda will take this. Her date left with her best friend. Her date kissed her best friend. And her date spent a night on the beach with her best friend. Is this what will cause a wedge between them and make Zee turn into a villain??

That would have been a fine ending. But Orlando and Houser know how to set up a cliffhanger.

Shay Veritas has been digging and now knows that it is Mokkari who is helping Mr. Bones. Somehow she knows his origins on Apokolips. But before she can send out a warning message, Mokkari booms in!

I know when a book has succeeded when I want the read the next issue immediately after finishing the current one. I want Supergirl #19 in my hands now.

Everything about this book, from the origin of the villain to the end of that battle to the teenage romance on the beach to the cliffhanger all worked for me, all beautifully depicted.

Nothing but praise.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

Yeah, wonderful story, two instances of hologlasses hair color change (what happens if Kara ever drops them? Does she turn blonde in front of everyone?), and terrific artwork.

- "There are no more photo booths to run into to change."

Maybe you meant phone booths?

Last time Kara was feeling more human, she was working in a coffee shop and then disappeared for a year. Let's hope she isn't evolving herself right out of another book!

Gear said...

Yeah, let’s not think about the last time her comic just vanished.

I’m liking this run a lot more now than I did originally, it feels a lot more focused in this arc than the last one. The DEO works much better as a shades-of-gray antagonist than an ally given their anti-alien role, and I seem to like the Shay Veritas I’ve see since in Supergirl since the beginning of the New 52 much better than when she’s been in the Superman books.

Great review Anj, this book seems to be hitting its stride now.

Anonymous said...

Pretty good, although the fight felt nearly pointless. The Evolutionist -who has apparently watched too many Star Trek episodes- charges into the place, assails Kara, realizes she isn't so bad, and just flies off. Huh.

The next scenes were good, although I can't get out of my head the idea that Ben is a lame love interest who will not be seen again after this run when Supergirl Supporting Cast Curse strikes again.

So Ocampo thinks Belinda is Supergirl. Bwahahahahah.

Mokkari is becoming more important than I initially thought. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

The photo-booth switcheroo is a cute homage to the opening sequence in "Superman III" a film I will otherwise pass over in silence.
I will always mark out hard for "Altruist Supergirl", she sets the example for empathy with an intensity unseen since the Bronze Age.
BTW where did Linda get that ballgown..."The Little House on the Prairie Collection"?
Ocampo thinking Belinda is Supergirl could be...misdirection, maybe she suspects Linda and is actively throwing the DEO off the track, with consequences for Belinda I am sure. Agree with our host, great cliffhanger.


John (somewhere in England) said...

The Evolutionist obviously has some knowledge of the self-destructive arrogance of Krypton's culture, the culture Director Chase called "toxic" a while back and which was prominently featured in the New Krypton stories.

Kara is a victim of her own planet's reputation and both Director Chase and the Evolutionist see her as a potentially dangerous presence on Earth. Whereas Chase is willing to give Kara a chance to prove her good intentions, the Evolutionist urgently wants to tear her away from her
adopted planet forever until she realises that "You're letting them change you".

Suddenly all the pieces fall into place. I immediately thought back to the end of issue #14 where Kara says "... what my people's teaching couldn't solve, humans had figured out centuries ago." Kara fully understands that there are advantages for both herself and the human beings around her if she becomes more human and less Kryptonian. The formerly ambiguous phrase "I choose Earth, every day, so we can save each other's lives" suddenly makes complete sense. Supergirl is literally saving the
people of Earth from various disasters but they are saving Kara Zor-el from her malign cultural and psychological inheritance.

Let me put in a good word for whoever thought up the dialogue. Ben's comment "In my experience alien attacks usually kill the party" had me chuckling.

Great issue.

Uncle Screensaver said...

While a bit on the nose, I did like the analogy of The Evolutionist's world, which brings to light the horrors of colonialism, even if it's not all ill-intentioned. While there may not be as much backstory given to this character, as with Starshame, it's not dissimilar to comic book stories of the past which introduced super-villains to expand the hero's own character, or showcase why they are a super hero. Not to mention, just have some fun!

Kara learning to step back was also not unlike TDNAOS' Kara, who had, herself, decided to the same. Not every emergency required Supergirl.

This volume of Supergirl has been/ is a love letter to the character and what makes her super, with her hope and compassion center-stage, but not eliminating her righteous indignation and fury. While this was addressed previously in storylines prior to this series, it seems as if we have been given a true rebirth, pun intended, to the character after the many lows since Kara's re-introduction. (The little to

However, this, like almost every volume before it, does seem like we are setting up for a farewell. If Bendis doesn't flat out erase her - which one would seem detrimental when Kara Zor-El is starring in a hit TV series, DC Super Hero Girls' media, and a key character in a popular video game (which allows her right now to fight the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hellboy, and Mortal Kombat characters!) - I can see that if sales continue to decline that she may just be resigned to DC Limbo (outside of major marketing). While, obviously, not what I would want, I'd take that over to having Kara erased from continuity again.

I don't like being such a pessimest, but, sadly, DC Comics has built a foundation on building up and destroying characters, especially Supergirls. However, not unlike a Phoenix (or Jean Grey) - though not always better -, Supergirl does keep coming back, and her message is one of always HOPE.

Martin Gray said...

Great evidence as ever, and yes, this was a wonderful issue. One thing, though, do we definitely know the Evolutionist was another DEO puppet? I thought I’d read something along the lines that Deceilia (‘You’re breaking my heart...’) was Bones’ last card in the deck? I just assumed Evie was a random alien nut

Anj said...

Thanks for great comments. Cool insights from all!

Mart, I thought someone said the DEO had someone that they didn’t need Mokkari to program because they hated Supergirl on their own. I’ll have to look back.

Great issue. I agree that Supergirl being everywhere makes her erasure much less likely. It still .. Bendis might demand.

Uncle Screensaver said...

Do you think Bendis would confirm if he plans on erasing Kara?

KET said...

Seems to me that Bendis will be too preoccupied with revamping Superman comics and launching his own custom imprint (not to mention a Kitty Pryde movie in development) to be doing much messing around with Supergirl (if at all). She's pretty much spun off into her own separate thing now, and the IP is doing just fine without him. Also, have seen this kind of hype from him and so-called 'superstar' writers of his ilk before; their ambitious plans usually get dashed on the rocks of reality, once the revenues come up short (as they always do). That said, time will tell what he is really going to do, other than drumming up potential drama and possible interest.

As far as Supergirl #18 however, lots of great moments throughout. Enjoyed the photo booth gag, and the bout with The Evolutionist took a Star trek twist that I hadn't expected. Best part of the issue for me was the scenes at the beach with Ben and Kara comparing notes on how their unintended dance went off....and Kara gaining some inspiration from humanity as a result.


Anonymous said...

Well, Superman III shoutouts aren't unique at least in this run with Supergirl in print and TV. If one remembers the "Falling" episode from Season 1 of Supergirl...the peanut flicking scene...Now if only the TV show could try the photo booth scene. They are available for rent.

I would imagine two go would be the serious where in frame 1..Kara full...2..Kara removes glasses...3...SHIRT RIP...4...Supergirl full with fists on hip.

The perhaps fit Melissa Benoist's sometimes silly persona
1 and 2 remain the same...3...SHIRT RIP WITH TONGUE STICKING OUT...4..add in a wink.

In either case when Supergirl returns, she meets with some stranger at the booth, who is looking at the pictures and she with a smile says..."I think these are mine."

Too bad the closest comic shop to me in Greenwich, CT closed. Have to go all the way to Norwalk to get there.

But this issue has what the Supergirl show has been missing this season...F-U-N FUN.

KET said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KET said...

"Now if only the TV show could try the photo booth scene...."

Well, since the TV show has been mostly driving the character's representation in comics and other media, and not the other way around...we'll have to wait and see if they want to adapt that idea.

"But this issue has what the Supergirl show has been missing this season...F-U-N FUN."

Seems to me that The Flash and Legends are doing enough throwaway lightweight nostalgia this season. Supergirl is hitting harder with the drama instead, although it still finds time to include some funny bits (Winn outsmarting Brainy, Livewire as a diner waitress, M'yrnn J'onzz looking for a bathroom, and commenting about 'brown water').


Anonymous said...

Read some Bendis comments where he talks about throwing total a giant wrench into the Superman origin tale, which he says will have major ramifications on the whole "Superman family." Hmmm.

But maybe he doesn't even think of Supergirl when he thinks of his family. Superman barely does.

Looking back at the mention of Kara in Superman #40, feh. Maybe that there was even any reference at all is thanks to Jessica Chen, who is credited there as associate editor and is editing Supergirl.

Consider: Jon thinks of Krypto first, and he can be forgiven. He spends more time with him.

But what about Superman's reaction?

Jon: But not forgotten. Not while we're alive, right?
Superman: Right, son.
Jon: And Krypto too,
Superman: Yes, and Krypto.
Jon: And cousin Kara, and --
Superman: Hold on... What's this?

Oh well.

Martin Gray said...

Oh honestly, Anonymous, what’s Superman supposed to do, ignore the alarm while he runs off to get a picture of Kara for Jon to admire while he extols her virtues? Give the creative team a break!

Anonymous said...

Ok I will cut them some slack 😎

Aaron said...

Brilliant review, Anj. I can't wait for next month's issue, which Steve Orlando has been plugging as his personal favourite so far.
KET and Martin Gray, you're both awesome.
Thank you for the platform, Anj; you're freaking awesome, too.

Anonymous said...

"Oh honestly, Anonymous, what’s Superman supposed to do, ignore the alarm while he runs off to get a picture of Kara for Jon to admire while he extols her virtues? Give the creative team a break!"

Maybe it'd be irrelevant if it wasn't the first time Kara Zor-El is mentioned in the whole forty-issue-long run. The above anonymous can be willing to take his words back, but I'm not cutting them some slack.

Gear said...

Going to agree with this to some extent, Martin.

That we can get this far into a Superman run, particularly one with a focus on familial relationships and obligations via Lois and Jon, and still have such a dearth of presence for the protagonist’s only living relative, is a writing and editorial choice. The creative team literally made the choice to frame the events and flow of conversation in that manner. Perhaps even as subtle commentary. Jon and Kal have a solemn moment about family and legacy, Jon brings up Kara, suddenly there’s a distraction and off we go in a new direction before Kal can say anything.

I took it as the creators looking sidelong at the readers and saying quite explicitly “Yep, we’re not going there, so don’t expect it.”

Martin Gray said...

Thanks Aaron, and thanks calm Anon!

Anonymous said...

I'm the slack-giver. I'm going to reel in most the slack because I have not recovered from the Revenge arc.

There was indeed a very warm family gathering in Supergirl #8.

But there was what I'd call deplorable treatment of Supergirl in "Revenge" (Action 979-984), and I might have posted my objections on this blog once before.

#982: Lois suggests getting help from Diana, the League, or "everyone". Ultimately it is Kelex who signals the alarm that Kara gets. We all like that one page where the alarm comes in, but I observe(d) Kara is drawn poorly, like a linebacker, in 2 (or 3) of the panels, and I now also notice she is talking aloud to herself in 5 of the 6 panels. Why aren't those "narration rectangles" or whatever modern-era thought bubbles are called? Subtle problem - but does anyone talk to themselves like this in comics?

#983: Zod wallops her unconscious with a single blow. and she lies in a heap for the rest of #983 and a good part of #984. No one else is laid low!

#984: Starts off with Zod's boot on the unconscious Supergirl, and then a second panel has a closeup of that boot on her. He continues to treat her like a rag doll in several panels. Later, Supergirl attacks him hard twice, but no effect is seen on Zod AT ALL. In each case he just reappears uninjured in action a few panels later. Near the very end Supergirl makes a suggestion to go after them, which Superman instantly overrules. So Jurgens had the bad idea come out of her mouth.

Jurgens wrote a physically and mentally ineffectual Kara. She may be less experienced, true, but she didn't have to be this totally useless. I am open to other interpretations.

Now, that was in Action. Perhaps some of the objections here are to the lack of appearances in the Superman family-oriented title.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the above anon, the way Kara is written is a deliberate choice of jurgens and tomasi, so her absence and physical and mental ineffectiveness speaks volumes about their perception of the character. I for one am hoping that bendis changes that honestly anything he includes Kara in will be an upward tick.
I wish I was as vocal to jurgens and tomasi as the Diana fans were to Tom king in the recent issue of detective comics so that I could give them a piece of my mind.

KET said...

"I can't wait for next month's issue, which Steve Orlando has been plugging as his personal favourite so far."

Same here. Orlando's enthusiasm for the story in #19 has me very intrigued about how things may wrap up for the series.

However, it does appear that this Supergirl run is being cancelled with #20. Seems more like it's a line-wide move to 'clear the decks' for Bendis' hyped Superman relaunch, but it's too soon to tell what this will mean for Supergirl herself....although I suspect it's merely a temporary sidelining. Her TV show itself isn't going to get rebooted, and it's been the primary driving force for the character's renaissance all along.


Unknown said...

fandango - Why do I watch the show? I thought it was about superheroes and super villains. But no, I'm not sure what it is about anymore. This show continues to go downhill. The plot lines are simple and easy to determine within a couple minutes of the start of the show. I find myself shaking my head at the ridiculousness of the story line. The show has become all about relationship interactions that are on again and off again within a matter of minutes. The show used to be funny but now has turned into a lame drama. I don't usually write reviews but I have been very disappointed about where the show has gone. I don't think I'll be watching anymore.
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