Friday, January 18, 2019

Review: Supergirl #26

Supergirl #26 came out this week and feels like something of a tipping point for me and my patience with this new direction. You know what that's like, right? When you are reading a comic and you just think 'what am I reading?' Or more importantly 'why am I reading this?' Or even worse 'who chose this direction for this book to go in?'

I keep going back to the last issue of the Steve Orlando/Jody Houser run. A young Supergirl trying to figure out teenage life and super-heroing. A Kara Danvers who is feeling awkward at school and maybe having romantic feelings for the first time. A Supergirl who is stepping out from her cousin's shadow as a young hero. An optimistic young woman learning on the job, embracing Earth as home, and appropriately headstrong.

That all worked.

Now we have an edgy, vengeance-fueled Kara, alone in space, spitting on enemies, toting a Liefeld-ian gun, and being casually threatened with rape. This doesn't even feel like a Supergirl book. She is a part of an Omega Men story. Replace her with Maxima or Donna Troy or Starfire and there is no major change to the plot.

This doesn't work.

Now I know. I don't 'own' Supergirl. I have a version of Supergirl I like and that history seems to think is the default. I don't think I like this story or this Kara right now. I have sort of gone along with this direction for now seeing maybe some glimpses of things which could work. But this issue seemed to tip me towards the 'not working' side of the scale.

And perhaps the biggest shame is that the art on the book is so gorgeous. Kevin Maguire's stuff is beautiful. As always, his expressive work is top notch. The covers by Yanick Paquette and Artgerm are eye-catching. It is just such a mismatch with the material.

On to the book.

Last issue, Supergirl fought a Frankenstein-ian amalgamation of super-powered races in the form of Splyce.

She awakens this issue in the clutches of Harry Hokum. Strapped up in his lab, she hears how her genetic material has been extracted. Hokum, a sort of mad scientist with a Vermin Vundabar look, is pleased to be able to play with Kryptonian DNA.

It is interesting that Supergirl knows all about him. I suppose it makes the story-telling easier that she can give us a little exposition dump. But I wonder how much studying of Who's Who she's done. Should she know about him and the ongoing political dram of the Vega system?

She says she'll tell him why she is here if he'll free her. When he approaches, she spits in his eye.

Oooohhh ... edgy.

This just feels off.

It does give us the icky moment of Hokum gathering the spit/blood mixture off his face with his finger and licking it clean. He's disgusting.

Now in a moment I did like, Supergirl realizes her only access to solar energy is to goad Splyce. After a couple of insults, Kara induces a Tamaranean starbolt, energy she can convert to super-powers.

There is some nice irony to Splyce saying respect for the super-family is unearned when in fact she was just played.

Thank goodness Splyce didn't gut Kara with her claws instead. I guess high risk, high reward.

Kara decides to play possum even though she has regained some powers. She allows these Citadel warriors to drag her to the prison cells.

Here is where Andreyko slips in the implied rape threat aimed at our teenage lead hero.

It is gross. But I also don't need that here ... at all.

As for Z'nder Kol, he is following closely to Hokum's ship but isn't sure how he can intercede. We don't really know his intentions here, do we? Does he like her? If he only needed her ship to get away, why keep following her. He seems like a rogue. So does he have other plots?

Before he can make a move, Kara's ship is boarded by men working for Circle boss Gandelo.

Most interesting is that Kol knows this guy. Do they have a personal history? Or is Gandelo a public figure?

Meanwhile, in the prison section of Hokum's ship, Supergirl breaks free of her bonds.

Realizing she is being kept in a pen with other females who are innocents being starved to death, she decides to lead a prison break.

Again, this is a nice Supergirl moment, helping the helpless. But any heroic character would do the same. Remove Supergirl and replace her with Big Barda and you don't even need to change to dialogue. That's the problem.

As for Hokum, he is pushing forward with his genetic experiments with Kara's DNA. Despite the chance of instability, he is rapidly growing his clones.

I do love his smug look as he crows about poems being written about him.

But even this doesn't need to be Supergirl. Apokoliptian DNA, Amazonian DNA, Thanagarian DNA ... they all would fit the story bill.

After a skirmish with guards and realizing that she probably only has a limited reserve of power, Kara tries to lead the other prisoners to freedom.

Yep. You didn't see incorrectly. That's Supergirl with a big old gun. What is she going to do? Shoot people? Does that sound like Kara?

The story dictates that she be powerless and therefore this makes some sense. But is that the story I want to read?

Erase Supergirl and draw in Kendra. Doesn't that image make more sense now?

Remember, right now Supergirl is in the Vega System, dealing with the Citadel and Harry Hokum.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that the Omega Men show up.

The team is on their own mission to stop Hokum from using an unknown immensely powerful energy source. Luckily, their attack just happens to occur when Supergirl is there. And their blasting into the ship just so happens to be exactly where Supergirl is at that time. Hooray for plot coincidences.

We get re-introduced to the team. I didn't read Tom King's series but my guess is this picks up from there. Primus lets his troops loose, including Tigorr who seems intent on killing as many Citadel warriors as he can.

Supergirl initially doesn't join in, more concerned with getting the innocents she just freed to safety. But then Primus gives us another info dump, telling us about what Hokum has been up to. I don't know if this is the King plot or something new. But this convinces Kara to join in.

I love this image, pure Maguire. You get the sense, just from that half expression that this is an almost painful incursion into Kara's mind. And the flood of images above her head gives us the sense that she is almost flooded with the backstory.

Now part of this crew, Kara breaks into the site of the energy source only to find the three 'dead' Omega Men somehow alive. But now Hokum, Splyce, and the Citadel army have caught up with our rebels.

You know what we didn't hear about this issue? Rogol Zaar. His axe. Kara's true mission.
Instead we get this side story about the Omega Men which Kara has thrust upon her. But I'll say it again, you could replace Supergirl with another space-based superhero and it would probably read just the same way.

I have talked about the 'wash, rinse, repeat' nature of Supergirl books since Loeb brought her back.
Edgy Supergirl arc.
Edgy Supergirl book fails.
New team comes on. Redeems Supergirl, bring back a classic feel.
Supergirl finally in a place of decent sales and solid stories.
DC reboots to an edgy Supergirl arc.

This feels like we are approaching that part of the direction where it doesn't feel like it is working. Unforunately, we are probably looking at a while before editorial pulls the plug and sends her back to Earth.

Maybe I am being too harsh? What did you guys think?

Overall grade: C-


Martin Gray said...

You're right about spitting being something Kara shouldn't be doing. And carrying a gun isn't an image I like, but as you pretty much say, circumstances - so long as she's not killing anyone with it.

I did, though, enjoy this issue lots. Yes, I want Kara back on Earth, with her own villains and supporting characters, but this is the direction DC have gone in and it's obvious we're getting a good few months of it. So meanwhile, I'm OK to enjoy a star-spanning side story with the Omega Men, so long as it's not more than a couple of issues (incidentally, this has nothing much to do with the recent maxi-series).

It's funny, we're going in opposite directions on the Coluan chap, I started off assuming him to be a Big Ol' Traitor, but he seems to be acting decently... and wouldn't good dog Krypto sniff out an out and out bad lad?

Anonymous said...

I have some issues with this issue, but at no time I thought Supergirl was being depicted as edgy.

Whens she spat on Hokum I didn't think it was an edgy scene or Andreyko was trying make her "edgy". I mean, whoever wrote Blue Bettle telling Max Lord "Go to Hell" before getting shot was trying to show how edgy Ted was? Or he was merely showing BB was a hero who remained brave and defiant in the face of imminent death?

I don't know... when I read that panel I thought Kara was deliberately trying to make him mad so she was taken away instead of tortured for answers. And I thought the next scene with Splyce confirmed my guess. I thought she was being crafty and smarh, knowing an angry enemy is prone to make mistakes.

Random minions talking casually about raping a female prisoner is gross... but then again they ARE the bad guys and they were quickly punched out later. I don't know how I feel about that panel.

"But even this doesn't need to be Supergirl. Apokoliptian DNA, Amazonian DNA, Thanagarian DNA ... they all would fit the story bill."

... I'm sorry, but I don't get this criticism.

Peter David wanted to tell a story featuring an angel fighting demons and vampires as seeking redemption. It didn't need to be Supergirl at all. He could have got Matrix merge with Bette Kane and calling herself Flamebird and he hardly would need change anything, not even rename characters like Dick or Comet.

Kupperberg wrote a story where Supergirl ran a bunch of neo-nazis out of her town. Nothing about it needs specifically Supergirl. He could have used other character. Still I liked that story.

I don't know, it's like putting down "Crucible" by telling it could have been any other hero instead of Supergirl. And when someone points out that the big guy planned to clone Superboy, retorting that he didn't need Kryptonian DNA to create an army of super-powerful clones.

Most of comic-book storylines aren't tailored to a specific hero, I suspect, and some good stories have been written when a writter got a character out of their comfort zone.

It looks like a weird thing to complain about.

"That's the problem."

I'm afraid I don't see what the trouble is. Are we going to complain about Kara being compassionate and caring every time she isn't showing compassion in a way that can only be done by Kara?

"Yep. You didn't see incorrectly. That's Supergirl with a big old gun. What is she going to do? Shoot people? Does that sound like Kara?"

To be honest, I didn't even notice the gun when I read the panel.

I don't like the idea of Supers wearing guns, but since she hasn't shot anybody as of yet, as far as we know she doesn't intend to kill anybody but merely disable attackers, and maybe she will not even use that gun, I'll wait to read the next issues before judging.

Don't think I disagree with all of your criticism, though:

"You know what we didn't hear about this issue? Rogol Zaar. His axe. Kara's true mission."

This is my biggest trouble with this issue. It feels like filler. How is it related to the main plot? What does it have to do with Kara's mission?

Anj said...

Let me explain the 'Thanagar' argument.

In Peter David's first issue we met Linda Danvers, Fred and Sylvia, Maddie and Cutter, and set in Midvale. You could not drop Flamebird into that story ... she isn't connected to those places and people.

By issue #26, Linda/Supergirl had a distinct voice, a supporting cast, a history about chaos streams, and direction. You definitely couldn't drop Flamebird into that story either.

In the last issue by Orlando/Houser, we are in national city, at Tech's prom, fighting the DEO. Specifics that you couldn't drop another character into.

Here, in this issue, we are in deep space (no specific location). The supporting cast (Krypto,Kol) aren't really involved. The plot (Zaar's axe, investigating Krypton's destruction) isn't mentioned. Instead we have a lone hero involved in a plot that isn't hers. Outside of needing solar energy for power, almost any other character could be slipped into Supergirl's role. It isn't specific enough to Kara, this Kara.

Hope that makes better sense.

Anonymous said...

The "rape threat" was over the line, tasteless in extremis. On The Other Hand, Supergirl did take control of her own destiny, self-rescued and freed other captives, that much ought to be a core aspect of Kara's Kharacter...:) Agree with Our Host that grafting The Omega Men into the storyline is dead tip off the writer has run out of stuff for Supergirl to do and needs guest stars to goose the narrative. Its also an indicator that whatever finale is envisioned for this arc, it'll be pretty underwhelming and or anticlimactic....


Anonymous said...

I think it was a pretty good issue overall. It had some flaws though.

The biggest flaw by far I think concerns the whole arc. After OA, the journey has made little sense. Kara was told to go the space bar so she could meet Z'ndr? Kara went to Krypton so she could be taken to Vega? Splyce was sitting in Krypton space for Shitz and giggles? Everything seems so forced to move the story to new places. It's just poorly told.

The next bad thing is Kara's demeanor. I forgive the weapon when she is powerless, but spitting on someone? Nooo.

The last thing that grinds my gear is Z'ndr. The way he is used makes it feel like he isn't around because the story required him, he is there because Andreyko is using the Supergirl book as a vehicle to introduce this new character, much like Orlando did with the Viking Judge and friends. Or maybe he's integral to the story but the story has been poor at conveying it.

I reacted to that implied threat in this issue like eveyone else. I also think many people overreacted. I get where the shock is coming from, but the reaction is not rational, it's emotional. I'm sorry, rape isn't worse than mass murder and genocide. I'm not going to string a writer up because he doesn't join the rest of society in our culturally evolved delusion that it is. It's truly awful yes, but not as awful as the average bad guys masterplan.

What was good about the issue then? I think that it was a well told adventure story in a villains lair. Taken just as a separate issue it was a really entertaining read. It's just poorly connected to the arc.

I also enjoyed being introduced to the Omega men. It made me curious to pick up some back issues to learn more about the Vega war.

We had some great Supergirl moments too. If this had been a one off with a good reason putting Kara in the Vega system I might have given it a B+. In the context of the Rogol arc that currently just has Supergirl randomly hopping around space I concur with the C.

Anonymous said...

You all make some good points. There is a randomness to the overall story development.

I'm looking at this as a Supergirl-flavored "adventures in space anthology." Adventures on a journey. A serial. And I have a feeling it will last about a year.

Some of this issue is generically heroic, like all of the "stay back, let me handle this" lines. But some does seem specific to the Supergirl character:

"My name is Kara ... and I'm here to to help you."

"And what about all of them? They're just innocents..."

"So much destruction.. all murdered.. like Krypton. Oh. how can I help?"

That last one makes the bridge between her quest and with the death and destruction happening in the Vega system.

With super-hearing barely working, she has to conserve the limited energy she found a way to absorb - hence, the value of a gun - a gun which we already know from the solicitation of #27 she will be firing, though possibly just to blast down a door. (I think we've discussed that upcoming cover previously.) And this Omega Men tie-in is going on until at least #28, and maybe longer.

Let's hope there is a more organic connection from this setting to the next one.

I didn't care either for the rougher edges you all cite. The journey in space and the frequent loss of powers seems to be getting to Kara, who was already very angry when she set out on her mission and is now getting jaded perhaps. She has to deal with the rigors of space travel (it's hard on me too) and with running out of solar energy (I just hate when that happens!). She's being kicked around, from the frying pan to the fire. What won't kill her will make her stronger.

The book looks very good, and at least one thing we get from this kind of peripatetic story is the potential for a look at a lot of different settings.

Meanwhile Ben Rubel is practically turning into Oracle over in Titans. Will they be friends again when she returns to earth? Kara Danvers is going to have some 'splaining to do.


Anonymous said...

"Hope that makes better sense."

... Okay. Thank you. I think I get it now. It's true there's nothing specifically related to Supergirl in this issue.

Not that it is necessarily a bad thing. Supergirl being introduced to new places and characters she had previously never interacted with should enrich the mythos. Supergirl being almost utterly isolated, to the point that Hal Jordan didn't even know about Superman having a cousin, was one of the worst things of the New 52 run.

Unfortunately it is being done in a haphazard way here. She wandered into this plot literally by accident. Why is she in this place, exactly? Wasn't she supposed to be investigating Krypton's death? I had already forgotten she was supposed to be collecting several data stones. What did happen with it?

I think the Anonymous above me was right. It might be a more entertaining adventure story if it was a separate issue. Unfortunately, since we're in the middle of an arc, it comes across as filler. So

"Agree with Our Host that grafting The Omega Men into the storyline is dead tip off the writer has run out of stuff for Supergirl to do and needs guest stars to goose the narrative."

Ugh. That was exactly what happened to Power Girl's last book. Winick dumped the previous established supporting cast, turned the book into a "Justice League: Lost Generation" tie-in for ten issues and then introduced guest star after guest star.

And then it got cancelled. Maybe because of the reboot, but yet.


OFf-topic: Anj, did you see the "Super Sleeper" short? Can we expect a review the next week?

Stephen M said...

Fun fact: the Artgerm variant cover is going to be an $1100.00 statue? Start saving now!

William Ashley Vaughan said...

I'm not so sure that Harry Hokum taking Supergirl captive is a coincidence. We know that the Circle knows about her quest and is keeping tabs on her. I suspect that we'll find that they tipped off Hokum to Supergirl's location as a way of getting rid of her while assuring themselves of an army of obedient Supergirl clones. I would be surprised if the Citadel didn't have some connection to the Circle.

I am enjoying this as a fun Supergirl in space story. I have no problem with the spitting as an understandable response to Hokum's threats of torture and leering remark/come on about her "pretty frame." He is clearly a creep and she is defying him. I liked her tricking Splice into giving her a charge of solar energy and her determination to help the Citadel's victims.

Anonymous said...

>> OFf-topic: Anj, did you see the "Super Sleeper" short? Can we expect a review the next week?

I'm not Anj, but since you brought this up, I just checked the last few shorts.

I have so many observations that I'll hold them back until Anj does a review. But maybe he won't review it, since so far this is really a Batgirl cartoon, with everyone else in something less than a supporting role.

Let me just say this: I have a dozen negative thoughts and no positive thoughts about it. Grrrr.


Professor Feetlebaum said...

This issue will probably sell like Gangbusters with that ArtGerm cover.

Hopefully, this little interlude with Harry Hokum and the Omega Men will wind up advancing Kara's mission in some way. If it doesn't, it will just seem like a way to pad out the story to fill another trade paperback. We'll see. Andreyko MUST have an overall plan in mind, so Supergirl isn't just stumbling helter skelter from one unrelated incident to another.

I assume Kara's space mission will be successful in the end. I'd hate to think she's off on a wild goose chase. I figure a 12 issue arc, with Kara back on good ol' Earth by issue 33. I hope Krypto sticks around when it's over.

That ArtGerm statue is too expensive. Maybe DC will come out with their own, more affordable version some day.

Anonymous said...

The connection to the next story once this interlude concludes might simply be that she discovers something which we already know: that some combination of her ship, Krypto and/or Z'ndr Kol are missing. She definitely has to track down two of those three, and may also feel an obligation to Kol.

But, perhaps there will be some additional connection between Hokum and the story. Why was Splyce lurking around that corner of space in the first place? In #25 she calls herself the caretaker of Krypton; and Hokum calls her his pet. Was she just hanging around hoping some stray Kryptonian would show up to help him do his cloning experiment? (Seems unlikely.) Or were they tipped off she was on her way, in a sabotaged spacecraft? (Seems more likely.)


Anj said...

Thanks for great comments everyone
Time for me to reread and process.

Wondering if this will seem better and more cohesive when read in trade.

Anonymous said...

I think I forgot to praise immoderately Maguire's artwork, it is largely redeeming a lackluster plot line from mediocrity...


Anonymous said...

This feels like a super generic space story that could star anyone, with only a few Kara-specific beats/lines thrown in, bolstered solely by strong art. More than one person has said you could plunk in any heroine with only minor dialogue tweaks, and it'd be the same story.

I wish DC was helmed by people who don't see positive heroes like Supergirl as a liability or a temporary sales campaign to be dropped abruptly for more dour Batman-esque nonsense.