Monday, December 2, 2019

Review: Supergirl Annual #2

Supergirl Annual #2 came out this week, a clear tie in to the Batman Who Laughs and the Year of the Villain but without sporting any of the usual trade dress. Between the lack of 'crossover' buzz and no publicity in last week's main title issue, I wonder if this whole thing will fly under the radar. And that would be something of a shame.

Writer Robert Venditti comes on board to show us Kara Zor-El's last day on Krypton. It is overall a great day (hence the title 'The Best Day of Her Life') with fun times and great occasions. Of course, it could also easily be called the worst day of her life. Still, there is a sweetness in this young Kara, unscathed by all of the tragedy in her life as well as all the super-heroics. Intermixed in these moments are the Batman Who Laughs trying to lure her to the dark side. We know how that ends.

In the end, there are a couple of things which irk me. One, we have already seen the last day on Krypton for this Supergirl. Remember her father drugging her? Her mother shooting her father? This is still that New 52 Kara. I suppose Rebirth could have wrinkled the timeline. But this is all new. Secondly, all of this survivor guilt and weighed down by sadness stuff that Kara deals with here has already been dealt with by this Kara ... ad nauseum! I don't need to see this anymore. No more Dark Kara redeemed! Please!

But the overall story is a fine one. And Laura Braga brings a definite youthful look to this Supergirl, appropriate for the time it occurs. Honestly, there are times here where she looks more like the Cosmic Adventures Kara than the Rebirth Supergirl. That's high praise.

On to the book.

We start with Kara playing Quidditch ... I mean playing in the Youth Continental Championship of some team sport. Her Argo City squad are underdogs against perennial favorite Kryptonopolis. And there are some other familiar names on the field beside Kara Zor-El.

She and Rix Zod trade vicious body checks. But Kara gets the last laugh, leveling Zod before running in for the winning goal as time runs out.

Love that last panel. That is a palpable hit, a very palpable hit.

And to see that even in high school sports, the Els and Zods don't like each other was a fun idea.

But that's that.

Kara is picked up by her teammates and carried off the field.

That tunic and leggings look has a little Cosmic feel.

And we have never really seen an athlete Kara on Krypton. She has always been more of a science nerd. So this also feels very new.

It turns out that Zod is more than a rival athlete. Judging by this tween flirting, he might be a potential love interest.

But even Kara knows that she can't easily bring Zod over to meet the parents. Els and Zods don't get along.

I kind of like this shy awkward Kara.

After the game, some fateful quakes strike the city.

Zor-El is appropriately curt given he knows what they portend. In fact, that night is the famous meeting with the Science Council. He and Jor will try to convince the council to leave the planet.

That means Kara will need to babysit Kal overnight. She seems intrigued by the idea. But Zor, a little too angrily, tells her she needs to be responsible. Thankfully, Alura pulls in the reins and reminds her husband this Kara is growing into a young adult. And Kara seems more happy about the all night affair than annoyed. Hmmm ...

Remember, this is the Zor who becomes the Cyborg Superman. He seems less creepy malevolent and more honorable than we have seen him before here.

At home, Kara hears from her professor Catar-Ol. Without her knowing, he submitted an application for her to the Society of Historical Science and she has been accepted. This is a very high honor.

I love seeing smart Supergirl, an aspect of her character we have seen since the Silver Age. And the idea that she also has an interest in the history of Krypton is even more poignant given her legacy.

So this is another new sort of wrinkle but one that I like.

Again, Zor-El isn't 100% supportive. He doesn't want her looking back at science; he wants her looking forward.  She seems crestfallen.

This seems more like the man who would be twisted into the Cyborg.

She then starts her night of babysitting Kal.

There are several pages showing her care for and obviously love her little cousin.

While we know she is older and she took care of Kal when he was a baby, we really haven't seen enough of it in flashbacks. So seeing it played out like this was truly wonderful.

And then we find out why she was happy it was an all-nighter. Rix Zod shows up once Kal is in bed.

Funny warping of the famous Mary Jane Watson line. And I love Kara making fun of it.

And young love is sweet.

They finally admit that they are a couple and share a first kiss.

All of it is so pure and sweet and adolescent. It reminds me just how young this Kara was when she was rocketed away.

Now throughout the story, in pages I haven't shown yet, Kara's memories or life is interrupted by corrupted versions of those around her. And they talk about how futile and sad her life has been. So we have seen corpse-like Alura, Zor, and Rix all lay into Kara and erode her optimism. The visions are brief but powerful.

Here, Rix screams at her about how lucky Kara is to become the hero while everyone else dies.

Still, you would think she would have conquered this particular emotional demon by now.

It turns out that this truly is the last night on Krypton. The Rix vision ends. Her parents come home. And it is time for her to jump into her rocket.

I love how Alura says 'you are Krypton' to her daughter. It's true. She is going to be the only one to truly remember Krypton as it was. This is why making her a history buff is such a nice little new curve to her origin.

I really loved that panel.

And then we get to the heart of the matter.

Kara, now in her infected form, laments the emotional pain in her life. She remembers everything. She is weighed down by those memories. She is weighed down by the guilt of surviving. She wishes she stayed and died.

This is becoming something of well-trod soil for this character. As I have said, we have already seen this Kara go dark and be redeemed.

And, even though it is a prior incarnation, we have seen Kara deal with survivor's guilt before.

But this time she doesn't stay strong and realize her own resolve and work out her emotions.

Instead the Batman Who Laughs tells her that a life of evil, a life tainted by him, is one completely free. She's free of all the sadness and guilt. And she is going to enjoy that freedom.

So what can I say.

I love this flashback story of Supergirl's last day on Krypton. I like the new wrinkles that Robert Venditti throws in. I can easily ignore the more unsavory New 52 last day. And the art perfectly fits the story. All that I love.

But all this darkness? And Supergirl again giving in to the temptation of evil as a way to harden herself? I am kind of sick of it.

Still, maybe I just have to skip those pages.

Overall grade: B


Martin Gray said...

I loved this, I'm happy to ignore the conflicts with previously established New 52 stuff because, yeah, Rebirth. And I hate the other stuff.

The babysitter bit was great, and thank goodness she never put Kal in the microwave.

You could say Kara was being tormented by demons she's already overcome, or maybe it's a case of The batman Who Bored poking away to see what he could use. since she's infected by Magic Plot Point Boomerang, anything is possible.

Is it three more issues of Clown Supergirl? Ye gods!

Anonymous said...

This was a great team. Good read!
I would love them on the title sans the bdsm-clown some time.

Three more issues? It's like being on the elliptical trainer at the gym - you keep watching the timer, desperately waiting for the suffering to be over.

Anonymous said...

" One, we have already seen the last day on Krypton for this Supergirl. Remember her father drugging her? Her mother shooting her father? This is still that New 52 Kara. I suppose Rebirth could have wrinkled the timeline. But this is all new."

90% of Supergirl writers: "Continuity? What's that?"

"And we have never really seen an athlete Kara on Krypton. She has always been more of a science nerd. So this also feels very new."

Well... Sort of. I remember she was seen playing some Kryptonian sport in a flashback in the first issue of Volume 7. Of course, it was only a single panel.

And, of course, Pre-Crisis Kara was a football fan.

"At home, Kara hears from her professor Catar-Ol."

I thought I had heard that name somewhere, so I looked him up. I was partially right. He isn't a new character, but he's younger than I thought. He showed up in the Hawkman 2018 book. Non-coincidentally, he was created by Venditti.

"And the idea that she also has an interest in the history of Krypton is even more poignant given her legacy."

Byrne's Jor-El interested in history, too. Hmm... Sneaky reference?

"She then starts her night of babysitting Kal."


"Funny warping of the famous Mary Jane Watson line."

And it's stated by another redhead!

"This is becoming something of well-trod soil for this character. As I have said, we have already seen this Kara go dark and be redeemed."

Over and over and over and over and over again. Dark Kara with survivor guilt is one of their go-to Supergirl storylines.

Honestly, The Batman Who Laughs "Join the Dark Side" pitch is ridiculously predictable: find out your victim's inner demons and their -justified or not- reasons to be unhappy, feign sympathy and suggest she will not need to struggle with being a good person if she goes bad.

I can imagine how his pitch to Donna Troy was: "Why are you siding with the heroes? What did they ever do for you and your best friends? Dick, Wally, Roy, yourself... Why are you protecting them when they were supposed to protect YOU?"

Anonymous said...

I think early in the Andreyko run, Maguire drew the Supergirl rocket landing in the wrong place at the wrong hour (not near dawn, and I want to say at the North Pole, but maybe it was just somewhere cold and snowy). Since she's not presently in her right mind, these current memories might be corrupted. But you'd think if they were badly distorted, her dad would come off worse - not better. Maybe he'd even be the criminally insane murderer Zor-El she falsely remembered back in the 2005-2007 time frame.

If it's a real memory - well, where is Rix-Zod now? Not with his dad? Makes for an interesting complication in her relationship to General Zod -- unless this is just an editorial glitch.

There was a short story which I've managed to dig up, "Blood Sisters" in "Superman Secret Files 2009," which contains a delightful flashback to Krypton, where Kara is at least athletic enough to go on a "thirteen sesat" hike with her friend Thara. (And, Kara was dressed in an homage to Linda Danvers/Kara In-Ze, which was a nice choice. That was just six years after the Peter David run so it might have been familiar-looking at the time, but not any longer.)

On a practical note, I wonder why DC printed this Annual on the old tissue-thin, wrinkled wavy glossy paper. While DC does still use glossy paper on occasion, like for Young Animal books and Black Label, it's been higher quality. I haven't seen this really low quality of paper since they made the mostly line-wide switch to matte paper.

Laura Braga is also drawing a short story that will appear in the "Batwoman/Supergirl: World's Finest Giant" that is coming out this very week. It's raining Supergirls suddenly. (It looks like the book will also be starting reprints of the first Rebirth arc.)


Ben said...

TBWL using some twisted variation of feminism to taunt Kara near the end really pissed me off. I mean...seriously? Kara is taking the word of ANOTHER man (not to mention a man who looks like a failed concept design for the Mouth of Sauron) about how she really feels toward Kal? TBWL's manipulations are so painfully obvious here, Kara should have socked him in his grinning gob just on principle. Even an "evil" person should know when they're being played for a sucker.

But, nope. Not only has she become TBWL's tool, she's become a willing tool. And that's incredibly painful for any fan of this character to watch.

Martin Gray said...

TN, General Zod is Rix’s uncle, Kara mentions that at one point... Gen’s first name is Dru, yeah?

Anonymous said...

It was a beautifully drawn book, the babysitting sequences were long overdue, some of the writing worked but...we've seen it all before. At least three times in ten years wasn't "survivor's guilt" at the core of her dalliance with H'El?? Except this time they've taken it to it's logical extreme, she wishes she'd been vaporized with Zor & Allura, which kind of implies Kara Zor El, Supergirl Last Daughter of Krypton is essentially Suicidal. There are ways to explore that particular issue in a comic book in a sensitive way that promotes dialogue & compassion, or you can just fling it into the creative pot heat it all with cheap heat and out of this mess leaps "BDSM Clown Supergirl"....
And we'll be stuck with this junk until DC Editorial gets sick of it...and they don't seem to get sick of very much lately.


Anonymous said...

Martin, thanks for clearing that up for me. Yup, he's Uncle Dru. Vaporized, one presumes, with the rest of the extended Zod family.


Gerry Beritela said...

About the "New 52" last day, that whole drugging Kara and Alura shooting Zor because she disagreed with him sending Kara to earth was indeed retconned out when "Rebirth" happened.

In Supergirl issue #1 after Rebirth, in a flashback, Alura tells Kara: ". . .the SOL system, Karanizu. You will go FIRST. Your father and I will follow."