Friday, January 15, 2021

Review: Future State Kara Zor-El Superwoman #1

Future State: Kara Zor-El Superwoman #1 came out this week and it took me a while to work out my feelings for this book. I suppose any book that has me thinking about it should be looked at as a win these days. Any book that has me re-read it the very day of purchase also should be looked upon as a success. It takes more and more to really hook me in these days.

In the end, I have conflicted feelings. I want a good Supergirl story. But I also, desperately, don't want a bad Supergirl story. And while this book is definitely not the latter, I am not sure it is the former.

Writer Marguerite Bennett at the very least doesn't make Supergirl angry or evil. This isn't the infected Goth Queen. It isn't even the Nirhodium-addled Kara from the FS Superman of Metropolis book. So hooray for that. And this is a Supergirl that seems to know who she is and what she wants. That gives her some agency. So you might think that I liked this book. And, as I said, at the very least it is far removed from takes on Supergirl we have seen too much of and which I definitely don't like. 

But then you realize that instead of angry angsty Supergirl, we have got sad, isolated Kara instead. This is a Kara that feels rejected or even hated by her family and the people of Earth. She is someone who has flown to a safe haven which hasn't exactly embraced her. She is someone who's emotional compass is a dog. And ultimately, she is someone who falls back into rage as a default. 

And all of that flies in the face of everything Brian Michael Bendis gave us in his books. A Kara respected by Kal and Jon. A smart strategic Kara who was a leader. The President of Earth in the future.

So better than her solo book? Yes. A good Supergirl story? Not quite yet.

The art by Marguerite Sauvage is very good. It fits the tone of this story nicely, an issue mostly of Supergirl talking with a new character. The muted color palette also works very well with the art as we get this almost idyllic feel to this haven. 

On to the book.

We start with Supergirl at Krypto's grave and she talks of the lessons he taught Kara.

Help others. Be kind. No one is born wise.

I'm not sure what to say. These aren't lessons from Zor and Alura. Not lessons from Kal. Not even lessons from the Danvers. 

From Krypto.

We have seen Krypto as savior dog, stopping Kryptonians from killing and turning evil, way too much these days.

But moreover, Sauvage shows that maybe these lessons and Kara isolating on the moon with the displaced isn't her truly finding peace. She seems to be crying at the end. She certainly isn't happy.

But this contemplation is broken by a spaceship crashing on the moon. Lynari Lili'Alo bursts from the ship akin to Kara on Action Comics #252. Given the unclear reason she is there, Kara initially attacks.

Lynari has powers, speed, strength, shape-shifting, and a Rogue-like temporary draining power.. She quickly overpowers Kara leading our hero to pull out a grenade and threaten to kill both of them. That doesn't sound like Supergirl or Superwoman at all.

 But it is soon clear, Lynari is there for sanctuary.

I do like Lynari's design, a sort of elven look. And her shape shifts mostly appear to be sort of Chinese dragon like.

This begins a friendship between the two. We get some back story as we get a montage of the friends cooking, gardening, and exercising.

We get some needed backstory of Lynari. She gets her powers by the Starfall Jewel, some giant diamond in her body which, if removed, will kill her.

But you also get by her stammering through details of her history that maybe everything isn't on the up and up. Her family gets mentioned. Maybe she didn't get this appropriately? Maybe people will come to reclaim it? 

The answer is yes. We learn later that Lynari's father found this jewel and stuck it in her head and now 'ancestral enemies' are hunting her down. This explains why she came to this haven.

These pages actually show Supergirl smiling (hey ... she has a friend!) and mentoring! I was thinking maybe we'll finally get the Kara that I want!

But then we also see that Kara's backstory here ignores a lot of the Rebirth era book and especially the Bendis run. 

She talks about resenting Clark and Jon for having family.

Again we hear how her life was one of rage and pain.

And frankly, that isn't the Supergirl I want to read.

Once again, Kara begins to tell Lynari about how her life was completely filled with rage. Her 'fight' with Jon on Earth was the last straw. She couldn't live like that anymore.

But she was so filled with anger that she wanted 'revenge' against Jon.

I'll comment more about so much of this at the end. But let's get through this.

But just how much of a paradise is this safe haven.

It doesn't look like these people like having Superwoman around. Lynari thinks they view Kara as a 'super-powered watchdog-mom', not exactly a beloved hero. 

So is she happy here?

Sure there is no rage. But there doesn't seem to be happiness. And what she does here seems more out of duty than passion.

Reminds me of the Robert Frost poem 'Fire and Ice'. Some say the world will end in fire; some say in ice.

I talk about how conflicted I am about this book. 

Here Kara really is a mentor to Lynari. The two begin to construct a dam as a community project. While doing this, Superwoman really pushes Lynari to make decisions about her own life. She shouldn't be thinking about what her family wants or would want. Not what her enemies want. This is Lynari's life and she needs to decide.

Even forgetting the nonsense Future State Jon fight, this is good advice from a Supergirl who has seen things. She didn't need to do what Zor-El wanted. She struggled sometimes with the DEO. She probably wanted to just be in school and hang with her friends at times. She probably felt the weight of the S-Shield and what it stood for. But somehow, she found her own way.

Kara being a role model for young heroes makes great sense.

The emoji things are a little twee ... but that's okay. It hits home the age and maturity of Lynari.

But then we get this page. The people of the safe haven actually look annoyed that our heroes built this dam to help them.  Or at least bored.

We again here how, according to Kara, she was rejected by her blood family and hated by the people of Earth. I'll say again ... this should never be the backstory for Supergirl. This never works for Supergirl. This simply isn't Supergirl.

But even Lynari knows that Superwoman running to this domed city is isolating her and probably compounding her sadness.

Are we really at a place where the default emotions for Supergirl are rage and sadness??

Nice page here especially how the coloring adds to the mood.

As expected, the ancestral enemies arrive on the moon and attack Lynari.

This triggers Supergirl. We see her memories.

She remembers dislike and distrust, fighting Jon,  thinking she was twice as good as her cousins but treated second best, wondering why everyone hated her ... 

And unleashes all her pent in rage.

Her key memories are painful ones. That is sad. And her response is fury. That is infuriating.

So overall, even though this seems like a less angsty Kara, we have simply switched from hate to ennui, from anger to sadness. She has just put up walls, acting but interacting. And it just seems to reinforce all the wrong points.

It doesn't help that we know so little about this haven. Who is there? How are they there? Did Kara found this? Why don't they like her? Why does she stay?

Let's put this another way. If this mini-series had Kara as a beloved hero, defending this haven, and happy, you could still have her mentoring Lynari. You could still have her discuss the low parts of her life and how she got through. You can still have this message.

But instead, again, DC makes her sad and angry. Not happy and optimistic.

So we're close to a good Supergirl story, certainly far closer that the last issues of her own title. But we are still building off of a history that just needs to be cast off. And if this is how Bennett views Kara, I don't think I want her writing any new version of a Supergirl book.

Overall grade: C


Martin Gray said...

Thanks for a fine review, I see how this could have you conflicted. I went pretty much straight to ‘dislike’. What a mope-fest! Is this seriously who Marguerite Bennett believes Supergirl is? Or is this her writing a YA story and slotting Kara in there?

All a writer needs to know about Supergirl to give us a story that’s true to her is in her debut appearance in Action Comics #252 - yes, she’s lost her world, but she has the vitality of youth, optimism is her default, hope is her energy. In Kara’s solo strip she always found joy in helping others and people respond to her caring, fun nature. Occasionally her heart was broken, but she picked herself and moved on - she didn’t need lessons from a pet, no matter how super.

I really, really hope we get a different creative team when Kara gets her own series again.

Anonymous said...

As a story I think it could have been good. Art is fun for one issue but I wouldn't want a run or even a mini with the style. But the reason for her being on the moon was terrible and hangs above each page like an ominous cloud ultimately making it a dreadful read. For me it goes into the pile of Supergirl comics that shouldn't have been.

Anonymous said...

Clearly, the best "Future State" title is Superman Family #200, but back on topic...

Overall, there a couple of potentially good ideas if given time to develop, and one really awful idea that really sours the entire book (as well as this version of "Kara") for me.

I could understand a pacifist version of Kara. (Isn't that what pre-reveal Silver Age Kara was, anyway?) In the Bronze Age, Kara did become a student counsellor. Then she went into psychology in the hopes of better understanding (and perhaps helping) her antagonists. She did admit to feeling some fatigue with regards to being a superhero (although it's always worth noting that she always came through regardless of her feelings).

I could understand people being wary of superheroes in this version of the DC universe, where Earth is on the brink of destruction all the time and superheroes and supervillains could appear to be duelling gods with little concern for others. (Heck, it could even build on that "Superman Theory" paranoia.) However, it doesn't really make sense in this context because wouldn't people need to ask to get into this haven on the Moon?

I'm pretty sure the "twice as good but second best" was here feelings toward Jon, and that's when it crystallized for me what this version of "Kara" was. She's being written as a Kryptonian supremacist. Jon isn't *pure-blooded*, so he's naturally inferior to "Kara". (The human half is worth exactly zero to "Kara", apparently.) Unlike Zod, instead of pure conquest, "Kara" carries out the duty of helping out those lesser than her. She's unhappy because it's a *burden* to her. (Rudyard Kipling and "white man's burden" comes to mind.) It's possible that I'm reading too much into it, but that line does bug me a lot.

TL;DR: This isn't the Moon Supergirl that I was hoping to read.

Martin Gray said...

I read - great thoughts!

Anonymous said...

"She quickly overpowers Kara leading our hero to pull out a grenade and threaten to kill both of them. That doesn't sound like Supergirl or Superwoman at all." If you look closely, said grenade closely resembles the baseball left atop Krypto's grave, a symbol of happier times with the Dog of Steel, playing "Fetch". So I think, Supergirl was just spoofing her new friend looking to defuse the situation. It was a lushly, beautifully drawn book in every way, closer to a well drawn underground book than anything currently glimpsed in the DC Line. However, Kara's outfit is ghastly "A Tragic Amish Prom Gown", it seethes someone who is harboring anger or some deep sense of hurt. Its neither interesting or practical. So Supergirl resents her family, but can find no peace on the moon, standing guard over an indifferent population? I mean as a plot line where to do you go with that, somewhere dark inevitably.
Same old, same old from DC...


Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

MIssed out on the Krypto ball, so thanks for that.

And great ideas comments all around.

kenkraly2004 said...

This is what I can not understand with Supergirl comics at DC all you have to do to write a Supergirl story is use The CW Supergirl show as a template to write a bright hopeful and optimistic Supergirl Kara Zor-EL comic. But no they are like we have to have her angry. What the heck DC have you not learned anything from The New 52 / Post Rebirth on how to write a good Supergirl comics story? I guess not. Hopefully we will get an official announcement soon of who takes over the ongoing Supergirl title but I hope it's not this creative team from Future State.

Anonymous said...

I doubt there is even going to be an ongoing Supergirl comic, if there is, it'll be more of the sad/mad Kara we all know isn't viable.


Professor Feetlebaum said...

Well at least they're keeping up tradition with Lynari Lili'ano, another in a LLong LLine of LLs in the Super FamiLLy comics.

This story would have been just fine as an Elseworlds tale, but as a potential mainline Supergirl title, no. If this was the plan for Kara in 5G, I'm happy it didn't work out. I wonder about this "rejected by her blood family and hated by the people of Earth". Was that the reality or the way Kara has come to perceive things?

And Kara's relationship with Krypto seems a mite unhealthy: "Is this how you felt, Krypto, the first time you met me? Never realizing until that moment how much the grown-up you had to be, beside someone so young and so clearly lost."

Maybe DC should publish a Krypto the Superdog comic, with Supergirl as his sidekick.

The artwork and unusual colors look like something you might find in a children's story book-very fairy tale-ish, like it's all taking place in a dreamworld. Not bad, just not right for a superhero comic. But you have to give Marguerite Sauvage credit for trying something different.

I wonder about the credit box, though. "Supergirl created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster". Siegel and Shuster naturally deserve some credit for Supergirl, as creators of Superman, but they had nothing to do with her creation directly. I guess it's a legal thing, but it would be nice if Otto Binder and Al Plastino and even Mort Weisinger were included.

Jim said...

Not a huge fan either and knew the RAGE Kara was going to upset you, Anj! There are some things to like, but man you have to get through layers of nonsense that, like you said, ignores the recent Rebirth stuff and even her own parents. I guess Bennett thought people would think it’s cute or neat to have Krypton as her big mentor but it through me right out of the issue.

Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

When, i saw the first preview with the tomb of Krypto. I wondererd why there was this unnecessary drama ? supergirl is not a fairy tale.

Reading the chapter, this is the impression i read : a fairy tale. Nice design, a "fallen"heros, the stupid inhabitants, a new student who helps his mentor, family problems etc ...

C'est cliché and i keep the expression in french.

After, i have nothing against a well-written fairy tale. SO i am waiting for follows to confirm my judgment.

Anonymous said...

Feels like the author only has a basic knowledge of who Supergirl is, and judging by her characterization we can pretty much guess what issues were read. All in all its yet another Future State Super book that feels like an afterthought, and I highly doubt it will go anywhere from here and stay in its Elseworld like state. On the bright side it could have been a lot worse. If DC still demands an angsty moody Kara and this is the compromise, I'd take it over completely rage fueled Kara.

Nikolas Torres said...

I agree with Martin Gray, and the author of this article, this is not Supergirl, and if Supergirl could have lather a new ongoing series, I hope Margueritte don't write that. I really don't like her vision of this character. :(

In any case Marc Andreyko, he write a better story with Kara.

Nikolas Torres said...

And thank Rao that's this plan for Kara in 5G, that't didn't work. If they gonna do a new ongoing series I hope is not relate to this elseworld. I hope will be something with the hopeful Kara, who everyone loves. And maybe with the Legion of Superheroes.

Anj said...

Thanks for continued comments and critique.

Yes, the fairy tale feel of it is evident now that it has been pointed out.

Waiting for news on any upcoming Supergirl properties.

Anonymous said...

AT&T has to be periodically reminded that they own a comic book publisher, Warner Brothers is doing all it can to screw up the DCU cinematic universe amidst persistent rumors that they wanna get out of the floppy business entirely.
We need to think outside the box here.
Lets crowd fund a proposal to "lease"Supergirl away from DC, for a five year period, with the express goal of publishing an all-up Supergirl comic. DC/WB/AT&T can keep their TV & Movie right, but let someone somewhere who likes the character publish the comic. If they are only interested in doing the job badly if at all, then I suspect there is an opportunity here on both sides.