Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review: Supergirl #57

Supergirl #57 came out this last week, the last issue on the BizarroGirl storyline and the first issue since the stunning announcement that Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle are off the book after issue #59. In what has to be some irony, this is one of the strongest issues in the entire Gates run and of course it comes just after we hear that he is leaving. It still is a bit hard to believe that this excellent creative team is heading into the home stretch.

What we have in this issue is a further exploration of the Supergirl and BizarroGirl dynamic. All along I have said that BizarroGirl is more a dark reflection of Supergirl rather than a pure opposite. We learn a lot about BizarroGirl in this issue, how she isn't inherently bad ... how she shares much of the same feelings that Supergirl does. And that symmetry allows Kara to learn a lot about herself.

And it is so fascinating to watch Supergirl help BizarroGirl; to see Kara help BizarroGirl overcome the negativity she is feeling. Helping BizarroGirl is allowing Supergirl to help herself, to heal. Supergirl is still dealing with the aftermath of New Krypton's destruction; she has survivor's guilt, she has feelings of self-doubt, of fear. She wonders if she is strong enough to keep going. And those feelings have weighed her down. This mission ... to save Bizarro World ... is a physical and emotional journey that allows Supergirl to put all that stuff behind her. And for me, the emotional aspect of this issue ... the personal growth of the characters ... is much more important than the actual battle with the Godship.

Last issue ended with Supergirl saying she needed Superman's help. It was a bit disconcerting to read. I think most Supergirl fans want her to be an important part of the Super-family but not rely on Superman to bail her out of every jam. I didn't want to see Kara call in the cavalry. I want Supergirl to be the cavalry.

So I thought this was a nice curveball by Sterling Gates, who is probably very aware of Supergirl fans' fears of her being overwhelmed by her super-cousin. She wasn't calling on Superman himself for help. Instead she was using Superman's research of Bizarro World to help her. It is another tangible way that we get to see Kara step out from her cousin's shadow, to show she is a hero in her own right.

I also liked that it showed Supergirl using her intelligence, formulating a plan, and bringing that plan to fruition. I love it when the Science Guild aspect of her background is showcased.

While Kara finalizes her plans, the Bizarro JLA swings into action, bringing the attack to the Godship. There is so much I love about the Bizarro's in this storyline. I love the square maces the Hawks are carrying. But is anything better than Bizarro Arsenal's quiver of cats? That is absolutely fantastic.

Alas, they aren't powerful enough to even scratch the Godship. The Bizarro JLA are reduced to ashes almost immediately.

With things looking dismal, Supergirl reveals her plan and it's a good one.

She learned from Superman that exposure to high levels of blue sun rays empower the Bizarros, allowing him to use his 'Bizarro vision' to create more Bizarros. In the meantime, Supergirl will expose herself to high levels of blue sun rays as well which will give her 'super vision', the ability to grant people super-powers. We saw this in Geoff Johns/Eric Powell  'Escape from Bizarro World' arc so it was nice to see it used here.

I love Kara's response to Bizarro. She is still reeling from her loss, still blaming herself for her people's deaths. She needs to save this world ... save a world. Yes, she still has this heavy heart but she is working through it ... trying to move forward.

With both Bizarro and Supergirl super-energized, they are able to create and army of Krypt-zarros, super-powered Bizarros. I am able to scan only a small part of the two page spread but trust me, it is spectacular. How awesome to see Supergirl leading this army into battle. She is received and respected as a leader and a warrior.

And the usual Bizarro flourishes are present. I love the one on the bottom holding the flag upside-down, a skewed version of the Krypton flag, a square planet in the center. Nice.

While the army looks impressive, in reality it isn't able to do much damage. The feeding drones of the Godship begin tearing through the troops without much difficulty. It is clear that Supergirl will need a new plan.

If a physical defeat of the Godship isn't possible than maybe capturing it is the next best thing. Remembering the 'solid vision' that BizarroGirl used on her, Supergirl asks Bizarro to lead all the army to use it on the Godship. If trapped, they can simply remove the Godship from the area.

Unfortunately, it turns out that BizarroGirl is the only Bizarro that has 'solid vision'.

At the beginning of the fight, BizarroGirl panicked and dashed off. She is no where to be found. If Supergirl is going to save the world, she is going to need BizarroGirl to become a hero. She needs her to take action.

BizarroGirl has fled to the Fortress. She tries to use Supergirl's blue sun ray device but can't get it to work. Frustrated, angry, upset, she lashes out before collapsing in tears.

All those feelings of inadequacy have been roiling inside Kara too, we just haven't seen it. Everything BizarroGirl is feeling, Supergirl has sort of felt. It's just BizarroGirl manifests it ... shows it in a Bizarro way. She is dealing with such fear ... she is seeing tragedy all around her ... and she feels helpless. It is everything Supergirl has been dealing with.

And there it is. Supergirl finally calls BizarroGirl her reflection ... not her opposite ... not her enemy.

Scared, guilt-ridden, rash, impulsive, thinking with her fists, making mistakes, feeling weak ... BizarroGirl is a  Supergirl as seen in a carnival mirror, dealing with the same emotional issues that Kara has carried since the War of the Supermen. Supergirl is her own worst critic, she is the one who thinks she isn't good enough.

Under the weight of all those negative emotions, Supergirl succumbed to them for a while ... leaving her life as a hero behind her for a time. We have seen the very attitudes that she names in BizarroGirl in Supergirl, from feeling guilty about the end of New Krypton to punching Dr. Light ... it's all there. So it is interesting to see her try to lift BizarroGirl up, to have her deal with those feelings. She may as well be saying it to herself.

The two have a heart-to-heart. Supergirl talks about how she vowed after Alura's torture of Reactron, after the death of her people that she would help the defenseless and always try to save people. She won't let anyone be taken advantage of. She will strive to be the best hero she could be. And it isn't selfish to care most about your loved ones as long as you do your best to save everyone.

She needs BizarroGirl to be brave so Supergirl will be scared for her. It is such a great talk as we see Supergirl dealing with her past as she helps BizarroGirl deal with her present. I love that last panel as we see BizarroGirl standing upright, chin up, steeling herself for the battle.

Needing to maximize their capabilities, Supergirl improvises a blue sun lens to power up her and BizarroGirl. Juiced by the blue sun, BizarroGirl's solid vision is at peak efficiency. She is made even more powerful by Supergirl's 'super vision'. Despite that, it takes hours of hit-and-run attacks before the Godship is finally completely encased in metal.

I am very intrigued to see how readers respond to this strategy. The concept of 'solid vision' wasn't particularly well received a few issues ago so to see it used as an end-game maneuver might be looked at unfavorably.

As for me, I thought this was a small part of this story. Really this book was about the characters dealing with their fragile psyches, working through their feelings, coming to terms with the sorrow in their lives. How they defeated the Godship isn't as important (for me) as them shaking off their catatonia and fighting.

 The GLC comes and takes away the Godship. Bizarro World begins to be rebuilt. But despite being hailed as Bizarro World's greatest hero, BizarroGirl is nowhere to be found. (Bizarro Girl hailed as the world's greatest hero, that is the opposite of the unfortunately maligned Supergirl.)

BizarroGirl is hiding in Sad Harbor, Rhode Eye-Land (nice Bizarro take on JLA's first HQ in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island). Despite the victory, BizarroGirl still feels empty and sad. And so Supergirl sits down and the two talk as she tries to help BizarroGirl work through the pain.

This really is the crux of this whole story and the best page in the issue. BizarroGirl cannot forget that she killed someone on Earth. She has learned about consequences, and poor choices, and sadness, and she is punishing herself. And one way she is going to do that is to live in cave all alone ... she thinks she should be alone, she can't hurt anyone that way. It is so clearly Supergirl's story. Remember, after New Krypton she was gone for weeks ... no one knew where she was. Kara was "living in a cave" somewhere too.

Everything that Kara has been feeling these last months, BizarroGirl is feeling now. This is really self-analysis as Supergirl tells BizarroGirl that at some point you need to realize that you have punished yourself enough. And with that, Kara realizes that she needs to put all of her baggage behind her. As she begins her trip home to Earth, she is smiling. She has saved a world. She has helped herself, healed some of her own psychological wounds.

And she made a friend in BizarroGirl?

Back on Earth, Cat finally realizes she needs help with her problems. She tells Lana she knows about her relationship with Supergirl. My guess is she hasn't put the Linda Lang = Supergirl part together.

What can I say, this was just a wonderful issue.

There really was a catharsis here as Supergirl sheds herself of all the weight she has had on her soul since War of the Supermen. The best parts of this issue were the Supergirl/BizarroGirl conversations. All the stuff that BizarroGirl  was going through was absolutely pertinent to Supergirl's psyche as well. It was as if the two had mirror events in their lives. And Supergirl needed to prod BizarroGirl into action, to forgive herself ... and then basically Kara had to practice what she preached.

The events of War of the Supermen needed to be dealt with. So to see Supergirl work her way through the stages of grief  ... to see her move from denial and catatonia ... to ignoring the problem ... to finally coming to terms with it, get a sense of peace, and act as a hero ... it just was pitch perfect. She needed to deal with all those feelings she had buried. And to deal with them in this concrete way, with the threat to BizarroWorld, was such strong story-telling. BizarroGirl's story was Supergirl's story ... just seen through a mirror darkly. It is a shame that Gates is moving on.

Add to the psychological aspect of the story that Supergirl used her intelligence and Science Guild background to come up with the answer, to see her improvise and win, makes this story a classic.

Bernard Chang does a very good job here and seems to have the right feel for Supergirl. His Kara looks lithe and athletic. His really strength seems to be big action scenes were everyone is dirty and disheveled in the heat of battle. His Bizarros look very creepy as if they have been carved from wood rather than formed from crystal. I think he'll be fine on the book.

Any Reeder's cover is certainly fetching. We know she is looking at the Godship here, fear evident on her face.

But the characterization was the key here. The high point wasn't the 'solid vision' win, it was that talk in Sad Harbor as Supergirl finally allows herself to feel a little peace.

Overall grade: A


ealperin said...

I was a bit iffy on the "solid-vision" thing when it first showed up, but the scary thing is that it works over here. I though it would end up becoming a catch-22 if they put this on in the story arc.


Anonymous said...

Loved this issue can't wait for the Supermanhomepage to throw a tantrum over the whole 'solid vision" meme.

BTW, I think I predicted that Kara would use her science smarts to save the day and not go running to Superman for help. Nice to see the broad aspects of my thesis.
Poor kid she is just desperate to live up to her potential and "live down" her supposed past.

You just wanna buy her some ice cream or something...

John Feer

Saranga said...

loved this issue!

about the solid vision - now it has been revealed as a metal casing, I feel much happier about it. it make smore sense here.

about the bizzaro jla scene, forgive me, I don't know who everyone is. I can work out Barda, Arsenal, Hawkman, Boosterm Beetle, Martian Manhunter, Mr Miracle, Firestorm, and Hawkgirl.
I guess the chick on the right of J'onn (in blue with white hair ) is Ice, but who is the white firey one below J'onn and who is the guy on the right of the panel with the x on his right breast?

also, why does arsenal have a quiver of cats? It's clearly an in joke, but I'm not in on it. :(