Friday, April 10, 2009

Review: Supergirl Cosmic Adventures In The Eighth Grade #5

Supergirl Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade #5, the penultimate issue of the mini-series, was released and as usual I thought it was great.

Unlike the prior issues and their 'one and done' stories, this one is the first of a two part finale. As such, it does just what it is supposed to do, stir up all the lingering plot elements into a boiling mess. If this is the set-up, the final issue is going to be a doozy!
In fact, this issue was so dense with story elements moving at a lightning pace that this is going to be a long and 'scan heavy' review. How dense was the story? The caption box 'Meanwhile' is used 9 times in the book to flash back and forth to different scenes.

As a result, I am going to do my typical "Cosmic Adventures Easter Egg Hunt" as a seperate post, probably over the weekend. That will give me time to scour the collection for the right panels to show.

The issue starts out just prior to graduation day. Linda and Kara are lounging in their room chatting about the end of the school year. It is interesting to see how far their friendship has come and how they have grown.

This is a very different Linda than we saw earlier in the book. She is more confident, happier, and even able to poke fun and Lena's down-trodden personality. Gone are the slumped shoulders and near tears. Linda has grown up a lot.

This peaceful interlude in the dorm room is abruptly ended by the 'past and future Supergirl' we saw in Cosmic #3. This was the Linda who went into the future and then into the past to stop the meteor shower from striking Stanhope. She grabs Linda and flies off.

Now things are always tricky in time travel stories, so it is important to remember who this gloved Supergirl is. She is emotionally the Linda from several months back ... not this more mature Linda we see now. This comes into play a little bit later.

Unfortunately, her sudden arrival triggers Lena to remember that Linda and Supergirl are the same. Faced with those suppressed memories, the paranoid (and kind of evil) Lena fires off an email to her brother Lex saying that she is going to a 'code red'.

We cut to Belinda Zee who is pouring out her heart to Principal Pickelmeyer. While Lena has slowly become a very unsympathetic character, here we see Belinda in a somewhat sympathetic light.

She complains about how despite all the trappings of happiness (pretty, popular, awesomeness) that she is, in fact, miserable. The only times she feels happy is when she is doing mean things to others. This should have been the time for Pickelmeyer to talk to Belinda about transference of self-loathing and maybe help Belinda become someone better.

But Pickelmeyer is not that kind of man. Instead, he tells Belinda to embrace her feelings of anger, spite, and jealousy. And to help her actualize them, he gives her a chunk of what appears to be blue Kryptonite with the classic Bizarro #1 carved in it. Belinda has always been 'Bizarro-esque'. Now she seems to be embracing that role.

For some reason, I really like the Belinda character. If I ever meet Landry Walker and Eric Jones, I am going to beg for a sketch of Belinda.

While Belinda revels in her powers, the two Kara's start to compare notes. For ease in review, the time travelling Supergirl will be called 'gloved Kara'. The current timeline Supergirl will be called 'real Kara'. Hope you all can keep up!

Turns out the 'gloved Kara' has met 'real Kara' sometime in the future. When meeting there (a meeting that hs happened in the past for 'gloved Kara' but has not happened yet for 'real Kara'), 'real Kara' warned her that she needed to go back in time to help stop some universal calamity. 'Gloved Kara' even was loaned Comet the Super-horse by the future 'real Kara' to help.

I know, sort of confusing at first but as a fan of 'Back to the Future', 'Terminator', 'Planet of the Apes', and 'The City on the Edge of Forever', I am well versed in time travel story paradoxes. I actually understood what was happening. Guess that makes me something of a geek.

And a Comet the Super-horse sighting! Spectacular!

Before we actually hear what the warning is though, an explosion rocks the campus.

'Real Kara' springs immediately into action, something I don't know if she would have done so emphatically earlier in this series. Unfortunately, her powers are suddenly on the fritz because two Karas currently exist in this one timeline. This was explained to 'gloved Kara' by Brainy! Too awesome.

To help 'real Kara' with her flight problems, 'gloved Kara' gives her a spare Legion flight ring.

We next see that Streaky, now possessing powers of foresight, has also seen the dangers on Earth and is flying back to help as well.

The explosion is Belinda who now has 'Bizarro vision' and is turning the student body into mindless Bizarro slaves.

I love this next interaction.

Belinda, who you can see is actually jealous of Linda's life, rants to 'gloved Kara' about how Linda is an 'arrogant little angel prancing through the sky on a stupid magical fantasy horse!' Then we see 'real Kara' careening through the sky on Comet, hardly prancing!

I thought that exchange was hilarious especially when Belinda comments wryly that she didn't mean the insult literally.

Faced with the two Supergirls, Belinda dons a new costume and declares herself Superior Girl. She then orders her minion to 'do minion-type things!' That was another laugh out loud moment.
We had first read about Superior Girl in an interview with Walker back in December so it was good to finally see her in action, especially in the drab-colored 'Bizarro' costume.

Determined to 'Bizarro-fy' Supergirl, Belinda turns her eye beams on 'real Kara' only to have them intercepted by Streaky. Hmmmm, it seems that her 'superior vision' turns super-cats into super-sabre-toothed tigers.

Later on, Streaky is zapped again, this time with the desired result of turning him into a non-powered mewing kitten.

Of course, Lena isn't taking any of this lying down. She starts 'Stage one' of her revenge scheme, technologically enslaving the non-Bizarro students and dressing them in 'Luthor armor'.

Lena is just insane. Just as Linda isn't the shy clumsy girl from issue #1, Lena is not the bright cheery nerd we met in issue#2.

Finally 'gloved Kara' is able to tell 'real Kara' the warning. They must keep Belinda Zee from getting the communicator Kara has been using to talk to Alura. The communicator is 'the key to everything.'

Alas, the two Supergirl's are unable to keep the communicator from Belinda's grasp.

In the meantime, Lena has both freed Lex Luthor from jail and captured Superman. Both Luthors and a K-chained Superman arrive at the campus so the Luthors can have their ultimate revenge.

One thing I like about this scene is the way the two Supergirls react differently to the threat.

'Gloved Kara' is really the equivalent of the Supergirl from issue #3, a Linda from several months ago. She does not have a very long-standing relationship with Lena and is still trying hard to prove herself to Superman. As a result, she flies to Superman's aid.

'Real Kara', on the other hand, has been friends with Lena for the better part of a year and probably thinks Superman can handle himself. Her first reaction is to try to talk to her friend and save that relationship as well as stop the chaos Lena is causing. If I am reading that right (and I may be over-reading it), it is another small acknowledgement of how much Kara has grown over the title.

With the two Kara's flying off to the rescue, Belinda is left alone with the communicator. She turns it on and sees Alura.

Once again we see how there is some emotional vulnerability under Belinda's Superior shell. Hearing Alura's voice, she cries a little for her mother. When Alura tells Belinda that she is not her daughter, it seems to erase the last bit of restraint and sanity that Belinda has.

Everything comes to a roiling cliffhanger.

'Gloved Kara', immune to Kryptonite (more on that in the Easter egg post), struggles to free Superman from Lex's clutches. Superman seems to say that he never gave Kara the quasi-metal communicator (which we assumed he left in issue #1).

Belinda screams into the communicator only to be sucked into it.

And 'real Kara' tries to talk some sense into the unhinged Lena.

Meanwhile, the real bad guys who have been chuckling from the sidelines throughout the issue are finally revealed.

Turns out I was right when I guessed that Principal Pickelmeyer was Mr. Mxyzptlk! And now he has Belinda captured in a force globe of some sort.

The only thing left to say is 'To be continued ...' or is that 'To be concluded?'

Well, as I said before this was the most dense issue both from a plot viewpoint and an emotional viewpoint.

For one thing, we see how the events from earlier issues ... the creation of the time travelling Supergirl, Streaky, Lena's mind control devices and suppressed memories, Belinda trying to help out last issue, Pickelmeyer's subdued malevolence ... all these threads suddenly come together to form this issue's plot.

By having all those plotlines come to near fruition at the same time gave this issue a blistering pace. It was like watching a game of speed chess ... you are trying to keep up with all the manuveurs as they are happening so you have a grasp of the big scheme of things.

Now there is no doubt that seeing Lex and Lena Luthor, Superman, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Belinda Zee, Streaky, Comet, and two Supergirls all in one big scene was just phenomenal. And since the foundation of all these seperate stories was laid out, this climactic faceoff on campus between all of them did not seem forced in any way.

But for me the best thing about this issue was the emotional subtext that we see in all the characters. This is a book that is supposed to show just how bizarre and unforgiving and turbulent middle school is whether or not you have super powers. We see that in all the characters.

So first we see Belinda, the most popular student who oozes superiority and confidence, actually show herself to feel inferior, maybe unloved. We hear that all of her negativity is really spiteful feelings when she sees the happiness in others ... a happiness that, despite appearances, she doesn't have. I felt for her a little when she teared up at hearing Alura's voice. She never has felt the nurturing love of a mother.

Then we see that Lena, who is the shunned kid in the school and should have no feelings of superiority, actually thinks she is better than everyone. She sees betrayal in everyone and everything despite the fact that Linda has been her friend since they met. On the outside she always seems in control, but in reality she is pretty much a jumbled mess.

Lastly, we see Supergirl. It has been a whole school year since she was laughed out of every class. This was the first issue where we didn't see any day dreams of a better life. Instead we see her laughing with her friend about graduation and springing into action. Even her interaction with the 'gloved Kara' shows how much she has matured since issue #3 where that version of her split off.

So when you have an old-fashioned super-powered standoff, great characterization, Supergirl Easter eggs, and the promise of a Supergirl-centric 'threat to the multiverse' come together, you have another phenomenal issue.

As always, I read the issue with Primo Supergirl (age 10) at home. I had to walk her through the time travel stuff a bit and remind her about things that happened in the comic before, but she also thought it was great.

Two things she said to me were telling. One, when I reached the last page she said 'wait, that's it' in a shocked way. She wanted more story right then. Second, when I told her that next issue was the last issue she said 'why? That really stinks!'. Hopefully DC will recognize the statements from this demographic and order up a sequel. It's hard to believe that there is only one more issue.

Overall grade: A
Overall grade (Primo Supergirl): A-


Anonymous said...

Now THIS is a series I'm def. waiting for in hardcover!

Anonymous said...

This comic is like a good meal set before a starving satisfies on so many different levels.
Let me also say that in a perfect world, this would be an animated feature film, a TV series it would even work well within the "Wednesday Comics" format...hell it even has potential as a sunday comic!
I too will definitely buy this as harcover or TPB, it IS that good, BELIEVE the hype!

John Feer

Gene said...

Another great story. I certainly want some action figures from this series now!

I like how there will be a separate "Easter Egg" thread for this issue on Easter weekend...

Superior Girl talking to Alura reminded me of the scene in the JLU episode "Panic in the Sky" when Supergirl taunted Galatea by reminding her that her father was a petri dish.

I know this was probably coincidence but doesn't Lena in her battle suit remind you of Ursa in Action Comics?

I was a little concerned that we didn't have a preview for this particular issue like we did in the past. I hope that isn't an omen.

Any idea when we will know if there will be any more Cosmic Adventures for Supergirl after #6?

TalOs said...

God I truly hope so! :D I'll be saddened for a while if DC doesn't further this gem of a title.

As per this particular issue out itself all I can say is wow!!! There is SO much to take in and I love how Landry is trying to tie-up earlier plot threads as seen in this very issue and am eagerly awaiting in much anticipation for #6 to be out already as well as hoping that the issue will be double sized at that ah. :D

Can't wait to check that Easter Egg spotting review of yours at that, Anj! ;)

Anj said...

Now THIS is a series I'm def. waiting for in hardcover!

I think I read somewhere that the trade is scheduled for a December release.

I am definitely in for that.

Anj said...

This comic is like a good meal set before a starving satisfies on so many different levels.

I agree.

Unlike something like 'Super Friends', this is a pretty sophisticated 'All Ages' title.

It hits all the marks ... humor, action, characterization.

Anj said...

Another great story. I certainly want some action figures from this series now!

So that's a call for a hardcover and now action figures. I hope DC is listening and knows it has a hit on it's hands.

Superior Girl talking to Alura reminded me of the scene in the JLU episode "Panic in the Sky" when Supergirl taunted Galatea by reminding her that her father was a petri dish.

Yeah, you get the sense that Belinda knows that she isn't quite real, that she has missed out on so much even in her short life.

Any idea when we will know if there will be any more Cosmic Adventures for Supergirl after #6?

Nothing anywhere I have read. My hope would be Landry Walker would announce something like that on his blog if a sequel was booked.

Anonymous said...

Despite a enough information to give the Sliver Age Supergirl a headache, I give your review an A.

TalOs said...

Anj you forgot to include the most obvious one the poster of Peter David's Supergirl runs very own 'Buzz' character seen hanged up in 'Linda' and Lena's dorm. ;)

But hey, real great Easter Egg spotting come this issue regardless though. ;)

Happy Easter also. :D

Anj said...

Despite a enough information to give the Sliver Age Supergirl a headache, I give your review an A.

Thanks for the post.

I tend to be verbose when I really like the product. I usually warn when a post will be super long. Thanks for sticking with it.