Friday, May 22, 2009

Review: Supergirl #41



Supergirl #41, released this week, was labeled the finale to the 'Who is Superwoman?' arc but in some ways it didn't feel like an ending. After last month's Lucy Lane reveal I was hoping that this issue would answer the myriad of questions that I had. What was Lucy's motivations? How did she get her powers? Why go through all this deception?

Some questions were left unanswered; some answers were hinted at. Now I don't need to be spoon-fed my comic stories. Heck, I read Grant Morrison and sort of liked Final Crisis. Still, when an arc is built around a mystery, I think readers deserve the answers.

Now next month's issue is listed as 'Questions and Answers, Epilogues and Homecomings' so maybe more information is going to be revealed there. Maybe this was the 'action' issue and next month is the 'exposition'.

Still ... I really was hoping for more information here. I went into this issue with some expectations that weren't met. Maybe I am just a month early.



As we saw in the Newsarama preview, General Lane had a front row seat for the battle between Supergirl and Superwoman.



And Supergirl asked the question that I have been asking since last issue's big reveal. 'Why?'

'Why' would Lucy put on an S-shield and do the things all the things she has done?

When I reviewed the clues after the Lucy reveal, I wondered if one of her motivations might be besmirching the S-shield and the House of El. I also think that Lucy is trying to earn the love of General Lane and Sam Lane hates Superman. So Lucy acting as Superwoman and doing evil would accomplish both goals.

Here she hints that I might be right. She tells Kara that the Superwoman charade really had little to do with Supergirl specifically but more about the House of El in general. She points to the S-shield and says 'it's about this'.

But it is a hint of motivation ... not a straight forward answer. And even Supergirl recognizes that. She tells Lucy that isn't an answer. Lucy responds that all mysteries aren't easily solved. In a metatextual way, it felt like Supergirl was acting the part of the reader and Superwoman was acting the part of Sterling Gates in a Q&A session. We as readers want cut-and-dried answers and they aren't coming yet.

One thing that is also revealed is that somehow Lucy's DNA now appears to be Kryptonian. So at least part of how she has her powers is known. By being organically derived we have an explanation for her heat vision and strength. Of course, this seems to contradict her immunity to Gold K. Of course, when I thought Superwoman was a Kara clone I explained it away with the suit.


Lucy does reveal that she still wants to be flying under the radar. The discovery of her killing Agent Liberty forced her hand a bit. So she flew to Metropolis to destroy the evidence, kill Henderson and then kill Supergirl, in essence implicating Kara for the Liberty murder. Sure sounds like she wants to tarnish the El family's reputation.

One thing that was good about this issue was that we actually got to see Supergirl cut loose. Superwoman had a hand in Zor-El's death, has deceived Supergirl with friendship, and has murdered Agent Liberty and possibly Inspector Henderson. Superwoman is evil and so deserves to be beaten to a pulp.

In fact, Supergirl is soooo mad she calls Superwoman a murderous 'babootch' a monkey-like animal from Krypton. Hee hee ... I love obscure Silver Age Superman references.



Supergirl actually gets the upper hand smashing Superwoman through the walls of the Police Station and temporarily incapacitating Lucy.

Again, we see Supergirl asking all the questions that I want answered. Why was Lucy on New Krypton? How did she get there? At least Sterling Gates understands what the readers want to know.
In the meantime, Lana has recovered from her nosebleed/fainting spell enough to be released from the Emergency Room with the plan for outpatient testing.

I don't know if I like that look from Cat Grant. I think she is intrigued enough about the night's events to start digging into Lana's life. Can some investigation into Linda Lang be far behind?

Before Supergirl can figure out exactly what to do with Superwoman, Reactron rejoins the fight. There is a great and humorous moment earlier where a couple of kids on the street mistake him for the Atomic Skull.

Reactron wades into the precinct, quickly depowers Supergirl with his Gold K, and slaughters a few police officers. One thing that was slick in this fight sequence was Kara actually counting down the fifteen seconds until her powers kick back in. As we read her mentally counting down the time, it added a nice layer of suspense to the scene. We are counting along, hoping the villains are stalled enough for Supergirl to get back into the fray.

Luckily ... amazingly, Inspector Henderson is able to recover from his heat vision chest wounds. (As a doc myself, I wonder how that's possible ... but anyways.) Noting wryly that lead stops Kryptonite, he shoots Reactron in the eye. I always knew that skull mask didn't provide enough protection. Despite his powers, Reactron is just a guy. A bullet to the eye should stop him if not outright kill him.


This was my favorite moment in the book.

When the fifteen seconds finally elapse, Supergirl says 'time's up' and makes a fist. There is such determination and anger and power in that panel. Wonderful.

When Reactron was shot, he accidentally destroyed one of the yellow disks on Superwoman's costume which caused a feedback of some sort. Lucy screams in pain and is out of commission for a short period of time allowing Kara to recover.

Figuring the disks are some crucial part of Lucy's power grid, Supergirl starts ripping them off and crushing them.

As Kara destroys them, Superwoman begs her to stop. Lucy tells Kara it isn't the disks at all. I suppose if she has some quasi-Kryptonian DNA than it isn't the disks. But when they are destroyed it does seem to hurt Lucy. Even the Project 7734 folks watching the fight note that Superwoman's 'containment field' is in severe flux.

After destroying all the disks and pummeling Superwoman, Supergirl rips the S-shield off Lucy's uniform stating she doesn't deserve to wear it. It is another great moment ... one of pride in her family. I can't believe that 2 years ago Supergirl hated her insane father and was trying to kill Kal. Unfortunately destroying the suit seems to have a greater effect on Lucy than smashing the disks did. Lucy's body becomes suddenly unstable contorting and expanding until she literally explodes. Pretty disgusting. It reminded me of Tetsuo at the end of Akira. Her body simply couldn't contain the power.

At least we know why Lucy was glad Reactron didn't compromise the suit in issue #39. Brrrrrr. One guess is that somehow General Lane was able to splice Kryptonian DNA into his daughter giving her powers. However, this amalgam proved too unstable and so needed to be fortified by a containment field. The same field may have shielded her from any Kryptonite exposure. Or her hybrid genome may have made her immune to K-radiation. The suit and disks somehow provided that protection. But this is educated conjecture rather than revealed truth.

But here is my latest guess and it's one I like.

I wondered about the purple color of the energy swirling around Superwoman and if that has some significance. Could it be Phantom Zone energy? Could Lucy be somehow possessed by either a Phantom Zone criminal or even one of the Phantom Zone phantoms from Joe Kelly's run? That would explain a lot. It would explain the grudge against the House of El, how Kryptonians are 'her people', why her DNA looks Kryptonian, how she had a place to go to on Kandor, and even partly explain the powers. That would explain why Sam Lane said 'I know who you are' to Superwoman/Lucy ... he knows who is possessing her. That might even explain why the suit needed to protect her ... it kept her in our dimension. Without it, she popped back into the phantom zone. Supergirl didn't kill 'Lucy', she put her back into the Zone.

This was my second favorite moment of the book. General Lane actually shows some emotion, some grief over the death of his daughter. It is the first crack in his armor that I have seen since he was re-introduced in New Krypton.


The issue ends with a somewhat battered Supergirl wondering if she killed Lois' sister.

So this is a tough issue to grade.

The truth is that there was a lot to like. It was great to see Supergirl show some resilience and finally throw down ... show how powerful she is. It was great to see her thrash Superwoman. There were some powerful individual moments. And we learned some things about the hows and whys of Superwoman.

I thought Fernando Dagnino did a fine job standing in for Jamal Igle. In particular, I think the fight sequences were done very well. His stuff here seemed to be more polished than the recently released Codename:Patriot covers, maybe due to Raul Fernandez inks. (That said, I am looking forward to Igle returning).

But my expectations might have been set too high. I was really hoping for more information about the Lucy reveal. The whole mystery of 'Who is Superwoman?' is somehow lessened since I still have no understanding of Superwoman's origins and motivations, of the small details like her time on New Krypton or why she would befriend Kara. Now all of this might be revealed in next month's epilogue. and maybe I am jumping the gun a bit. But without getting that information when expected, I felt just a little let down here.

Overall grade: B

18 comments:

Gene said...

I too am wondering if Lucy is truly dead or not. I assumed that after this arc was finished that Superwoman would be the latest member of Kara's gallery of rogues, and would show up from time to time to cause trouble. Perhaps there will be "The Return of Superwoman" arc sometime in the future?

TalOs said...

*Throws up hands in the air* That's it! I'm done! This very issue was the very last straw for this certain Supergirl fan! I've had it! I want Gates OFF of this title and I mean like NOW DC! Give it to Landry Walker please! At least he knows how to properly handle a respected icon of DC Comics that that's Supergirl unlike Gates who's not only single handedly managed to tarnish a LONGTIME Supermythos supporting cast member (Lucy Lane) during his "run" but has also slowly been turning Supergirl in to this "scared little Kryptonian girl" in the process now too (as his 'Origins and Omens' promised would be the case) and I for one am truly outraged and down right disgusted at him for doing both! So now we all have to live with the fact that he's had Supergirl actually KILL Lois's sister by her own hands and having to face the wraith of Lois for it!?? So Lois is going to be another villain of Supergirl's? And exactly what the hell was the point of the main DCU "E-0" being given this "Superwoman" only to intend her as being yet another evil superbeing welding the "Superwoman" mantle? Um, last I checked Sterling we already have the Crime Syndicate's Superwoman already filling out that role stupid! Please DC boot off Sterling Gates come issue #50 and give it to someone who actually CARES about Supergirl and is a true fan who wont have Supergirl be seen killing in your pages!

*Lets out a VERY agitated and extremely angry sigh* I'll only continue buying the title now on for Supergirl and Jamal Igle's art only and NOT for Sterling Gates any longer after the disgusting mess he's made more so then any other writer handling her title here!

Anonymous said...

Well...I don't think that was "Lucy" (as we understand Lucy to be a human being)and if it was, then I don't think Lucy is dead per se.
General Lane's plot was to frame SG for murder, which he cannot now do because that would compromise security on his operation..."Frame" her being the operative term. This is a serial and in serials bad things happen to the heroes, I strongly doubt DC editorial would sanction making SG a killer...they seem very very committed to the "The House of S doesn't kill peeps" rule.
Otherwise for me this was a very very gripping read start to finish...Supergirl is now officially the best kept secret in the DCU.
I however agree with our host that some answers could have been teased out here...but then so many interesting complications have been promulgated that I'm prepared to bide my time.

John Feer

TalOs said...

Hey, I'm truly happy if others love the way how Supergirl's being handled, and I absolutely bear no grudge to them for feeling this way what so ever I was just expressing how I am personally feeling come Gates time of being on the title in my prior post was all really.

Jason said...

WOW....that panel of Lucy exploding is pretty creepy and grusome!! That's some powerful stuff. I'm sure none of us saw that coming. So her powers somehow derived from both her altered DNA and the suit's technology.

This begs one question for me. If the suit was somehow a containment device, then how was she even able to take it off at all? Lest we forget, she wasn't always wearing the Superwoman costume. She was parading around as just normal Lucy Lane at times throughout this arc. Obviously she had someway of containing these new powers when she didn't have the costume on. So there has to be something to explain the seeming inconsistency of Lucy's explosive death when the costume is torn off and the fact that at other times she was able to take the costume off without any worries.

So...my half-baked theory? And please feel free to comment as it's just a guess. I could be way off base here. Anyway, my theory to explain this is she injected herself w/ some serum that altered her DNA to have Kryptonian traits each time she donned the Superwoman costume. Now just stay with me here. ;) This serum only altered her DNA for a specific period of time, and during that period she had to remain in the costume to contain her powers. When the serum wore off, she was able to remove the costume and operate as just regular Major Lucy Lane. That's just my wild stab in the dark.

So add that to the list of questions that I'm sure we all were expecting to be answered in this issue. I share the feeling that we certainly were expecting most, if not all, of the explanations in this issue. Now we have to seemingly wait another issue, which I agree is somewhat disappointing. Gates and company still have my full fledged support though. :)

As for Lucy's death, I don't think this makes Kara a killer. There's quite a remarkable difference between having her commit premeditated murder and having her actions during a fight unfortunately and accidentally result in someone's death. Kara wasn't trying to kill Lucy at all. She was simply trying to rip the "S" off Lucy's costume. How was she to know that Lucy would blow up and explode? So I have to disagree w/ any sentiment suggesting that this scenario (if, in fact Lucy is truly dead) turns Kara into a killer.

And if Lucy truly is dead, I think this would only serve to make the story more compelling and provide more emotional conflict for Kara. We already see on that last page the horror and guilt she feels for possibly having killed Lois's sister. And now she has to confront Lois with this information. Think of the emotional dynamics involved. If Lucy truly is dead, Kara's relationship with Lois and Clark will surely be permanently affected in some manner.

As for the writing and others' ambivalent feelings about this new direction, I just have to say I'm sticking with Anj and those who think Gates has remarkably turned this book around. The writing has been compelling and Kara has become a meaningful, likable character. Surely the book was worse during all the different conflicting arcs prior to Gates where we had a broody, ungrateful, and mentally unbalanced Supergirl who had visions of her crazy mad scientist father, killing school children, and killing her cousin. Supergirl was just a hot mess.

I feel like Gates has given the book a solid direction while even going as far as to provide explanations for those previous arcs that make them now fit into the storyline. He didn't have to do that. He could have just completely ignored those prior plots as is often done when a new creative team comes on to a book. That's my two cents on that.

RandomFX said...

I felt this was a top pick in the run so far. I got everything I wanted out of one issue: answers in a back and forth dialogue that I felt worked, more mystery built on top of said semi-answers, action (with SG actually being the one to cut loose), character development and solid line and coloring art. Plus it was the right balance of the Lana, Cat, and Jimmy back-story. With wherever those characters are going and how Lana’s “sickness” will play in.

Now we have a character (General Lane) that is even more personally motivated to take on Supergirl and there is still life to Reactron. They are doing exactly what the title needs: Giving Supergirl some of her own well developed villains to deal with that are a serious threat and not tied up in other books.

I don’t think Superwoman is done either. She’s a project, Major Lane is driven, the writers have given themselves an out for her to return. “She’s a professional; she can take care of herself.”

As far as Lucy being tarnished. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of it, or her. And besides, this is what comics do all the time ~ turn ~ tarnish ~ kill ~ resurrect ~ repeat.

I also don’t think we’re seeing a return of a “scare” Supergirl. The first several pages were all about a driven Supergirl who on the final page reflects on the consequences. No bravado empty headed ~ can do no wrong ~ here, and I like that. We have a strong, driven, reflective, and yes for better or worse for her and emotional character. It’s what defines her and separates her from the other “S” wearing characters.

I can see why others might give it a “B” ~ it was a B+ to an A- for me.

Only things that didn’t get it an A:

I would have enjoyed seeing the “She won’t let that teenage hussy” page expanded out a bit to be less cramped. There was 2-3 pages of material crammed in there.

How exactly do you take a heat vision blast to the chest and survive? I guess it should cauterize ~ did we really miss all the vitals?

Anonymous said...

Wait, so Lucy was spliced with Kryptonian DNA....

Are'nt we going into 1993 Superboy territory here?...

Y'know the one...

Spliced with Lex and Kal's DNA...

.....


Creepy.....


but interesting.

-ealperin

Yota said...

I don't think Lucy's dead simply because she actually tells Kara "You've killed muh-muh-me" as she's being ripped apart... That's rather forced, I think. I mean, who would actually say that?

Beam77 said...

I think that Gates is doing a good job on Supergirl. I hope that he writes it for a while. We need a steady writter on this book.

Anj said...

I too am wondering if Lucy is truly dead or not. I assumed that after this arc was finished that Superwoman would be the latest member of Kara's gallery of rogues, and would show up from time to time to cause trouble. .

I agree she probably isn't gone for good. I think in one interview Gates said she would be an 'active character' for as long as he was on the book.

Anj said...

This is a serial and in serials bad things happen to the heroes, I strongly doubt DC editorial would sanction making SG a killer...they seem very very committed to the "The House of S doesn't kill peeps" rule..

I agree. After rehabbing Supergirl's character I doubt they would make her be an murderer, even an accidental one.

I am sure that Superwoman will be back or has survived in some manner.

Anj said...

I was just expressing how I am personally feeling come Gates time of being on the title in my prior post was all really..

Sorry to hear you were so disappointed in this issue. I think that more info is to come and maybe that will help explain away some of your complaints.

I especially think that the 'scared little girl' comment from Scar has been proven wrong over these last 2 issues. Supergirl has been nothing but strong and courageous in these fight filled chapters.

Anj said...

This serum only altered her DNA for a specific period of time, and during that period she had to remain in the costume to contain her powers. When the serum wore off, she was able to remove the costume and operate as just regular Major Lucy Lane. That's just my wild stab in the dark..

This seems as good a guess as any and interesting too.

As you say, we have seen Lucy Lane in a military uniform without evidence of the suit so that will need to be addressed at some point.

Anj said...

I feel like Gates has given the book a solid direction while even going as far as to provide explanations for those previous arcs that make them now fit into the storyline. He didn't have to do that. He could have just completely ignored those prior plots as is often done when a new creative team comes on to a book..

That is definitely one of the things I have liked best about this run. Gates has acknowledged Kara's tough recent history and even attempted to explain it away rather than just gloss over it like it never happened.

Anj said...

We have a strong, driven, reflective, and yes for better or worse for her and emotional character. It’s what defines her and separates her from the other “S” wearing characters.

I can see why others might give it a “B” ~ it was a B+ to an A- for me.
.

Thanks for the post.

You describe Supergirl perfectly ... strong and driven.

And maybe my 'B' was a bit harsh. After all, I enjoyed the issue a lot ... just wanted more info.

I just hope all the questions get answered next issue ...

Anj said...

Wait, so Lucy was spliced with Kryptonian DNA....

Are'nt we going into 1993 Superboy territory here?...
.

I think we need to read more. But the splice theory could certainly be implied from this issue's revelations.

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Anonymous said...

"*Throws up hands in the air* That's it! I'm done! This very issue was the very last straw for this certain Supergirl fan! I've had it! I want Gates OFF of this title and I mean like NOW DC!"

Well, unfortunately for you and fortunately for Supergirl and her remainder fans, Gates kept writing the book for several more issues. I wish they had been more. Instead, DC changed creative teams quickly, several of which mishandled the character completely, which is what would have happened if DC had listened to your short-sighted rant.

This was a terrific issue, and Supergirl was NOT portrayed like a scared little girl. And if you had waited before blowing up, you'd seen she didn't kill anyone either.