Friday, June 17, 2011

Review: Supergirl #65

Supergirl #65 came out this week, the first part of Kelly Sue DeConnick and ChrisCross's three part arc, the last arc of this Supergirl before the big DC Relaunch. And if this first chapter is any indication, looks like we are going out on a high note.

Despite this period of uncertainty, when the DC Universe is going to be remade, where Supergirl will become unpredictable and lack affection for humanity, despite all that stuff that is going to happen in September, DeConnick gives us character growth as this opening chapter keeps Kara on the track that Sterling Gates and James Peaty had her on. That's right! We have character progression!

First, we have Supergirl heading off to college, the obvious next step for the character as she begins to feel more comfortable in her secret identity and her place in this world. Remember, way back in the Supergirl preview page in Superman #700, Sterling Gates hinted that  he was taking Supergirl there too.

Then we have even more interaction with Lois, wonderfully handled in this issue. In retrospect we have had way more Lois than Lana in recent days. I don't think we have seen Lana since Supergirl #59.

But perhaps my favorite part of this issue is that it really reads as a Linda issue. One of the many things I liked about Sterling Gates's reinvention of Supergirl was the creation of Linda Lang. Here we actually see a lot of Kara as Linda, more than I think we ever have in one issue. And it was nice to see just how easily Supergirl is able to act as Linda, how comfortable she must feel in that role now.

Lastly, artist ChrisCross does a great job here, using a sort of exaggerated style to convey the emotions the characters are feeling. Okay ... enough intro. Onto the issue.

Right off the bat, you know that KellySue DeConnick is up on current Supergirl continuity. I know it is something small, but the very title of the issue tells me that. 'This is not my life' is a clear reference to Sterling Gates tag line of 'I'm Supergirl. This is my life.' But that title also works with the story, as we learn that Linda has to go undercover, acting in a life that isn't hers. These flourishes, recognition of things before and building on them, always work for me.

And even the little origin blurb on the title page has changed, recognizing the current history. She's Kara, she's Linda, she's 'the kicker of bad guy butt' Supergirl. She's all of those things. Maybe that's why she sometimes isn't sure who she is, what she is. The secret identity thing is still new to her. So I was glad to see so much time invested on Linda this issue.

Lois is seen in that top panel, entering a Metropolis tram car when a dazed young woman jumps into the car without paying the fair. It becomes clear that the girl is on the run from MONQIs, the robot lackeys of Professor Ivo. Luckily, Supergirl and Starman arrive to break up the attack and rescue the tram car as it plummets to destruction.

But again, the small things mean something here. Kara was giving Starman a tour of the city, an off-day hanging out with a friend. Very nice.

And then, a nice little nod to the Silver Age Supergirl. Supergirl says she knew Mikaal was bored because of her super-intuition!

What could be better than a reference to super-intution!

In the earliest Supergirl stories, Supergirl actually had 'super feminine intuition', an uncanny ability to read a situation or inherently sense what to do. I am pretty sure this is the first appearance of that power, way back in Action Comics #268, in 'The Mystery Supergirl'. Here Linda (doing an internship at the Daily Planet ... talk about deja vu) deduces that the Supergirl showing up around the world is a phony. (Remember, this is before Supergirl was revealed to the world. Linda needed to prove that she hadn't broken Superman's trust.)

Anyways, I love Supergirl Easter Eggs!

We later see Professor Ivo talking to a man and a woman about his pursuit of the young woman. She was a brilliant physics student and a violin player. She had potential. And Ivo was looking to 'extract' something from her for this couple. We even see other young people in stasis pods. My guess ... the man and woman are some ultra-rich couple who are trying to create the 'perfect' offspring and are using Ivo to kidnap and distill the genetic makeup of over-achieving college students. Sounds like a 21st century motivation right? Making the perfect child?

After the rescue, Lois tries to make a joke about how Supergirl's rescue was too late to save Lois' coffee. At first Supergirl thinks she is serious prompting Lois to backtrack and apologize.

I actually thought this was pretty natural, even after the nicer interactions we saw between the two last arc. Remember, Lois and Kara have a lot of water under the bridge. Way back at the end of Kelly's run here, Lois chastised Kara for staying away (this was the 'kill Kal-El' time) as that was hurting Clark. Then Gates had the Superwoman interaction where Lois blamed Kara for acting impulsively. And then Peaty had Lois leaning on Supergirl for help while Superman was 'Grounded'.

While Lois might think all this past stuff is smoothed over, that she is in a place where she can joke with Supergirl like this, Kara might not think so. Supergirl might still wonder just how Lois will react to her. It is as if Supergirl still thinks she needs to feel out where Lois is coming from. She seems a little nervous around Lois. And I think given who she is, her age, and all this past stuff, that makes sense. Once Lois apologizes, you can see Kara relax a bit.

As the rescued girl is taken away, Supergirl asks Starman if he ever feels like an outsider. I love Starman's response. Who could feel more like an outsider than him.

It is pretty natural for any young person to feel awkward or to look at themselves as an outsider. But this shows how much Supergirl has grown. She still has these feelings but instead living alone, hanging out in bars with Boomer, not wanting to be a hero ... instead she is channeling her energies more positively. Here she is quick to chuckle. Not sulk ... chuckle ... when she is reminded that everyone can feel like an outsider.

The two fly off to work off some steam. But Supergirl asks that it not be fighting robots, she has done that too much recently. Again, this is one off line referencing Peaty's arc showing how DeConnick is moving things forward and acknowledging the past.

The next day we see Linda actually working as an intern at the Planet when she is called in to Lois' office. Lois again apologizes to Linda for the joke, recognizing her nervousness, and wanting to dissipate the tension. The thing I like here is that Lois is extending her hand in friendship here. Even when Linda says everything is okay, Lois really wants to continue to nurture their relationship. I really feel like Lois thinks everything is fine between the two while Linda still feels she is walking on egg shells. And I think if you are a young hero with some wrinkles in your past, still trying to prove your worth, you would still be a little anxious around Lois.

Lois calls Supergirl in because she needs help. The girl being chased by the MONQIs has been indentified as a Stanhope College student gone missing Charlotte Yue, one of a several missing students with similar backgrounds. And Lois smells a story.

Rather than investigating herself, Lois asks Linda to go undercover as a student at some prestigious colleges to see if she can dig something up. The missing students were all without family so to fit the bill, Linda is posing as 'Linda Lane' here. And the next college orientation she is going to be at is at Stanhope College. The name of Stanhope as an academic university is well known to long time Supergirl fans. That is the college she graduated from in the Silver Age.

But it is Lois' explanation is also interesting. She recognizes that Linda needs to have some time to loosen up, to be around other people her age, and to have some fun. Plus there is this mystery to solve. Maybe by being around other teenagers, Linda will realize she isn't an outsider. This two page conversation really gives Cross some time to shine, letting the characters' emotions and feelings come through with body language and expressions. Lois in that first panel is a good example.

Linda meets Shirley, her roommate for the weekend. Shirley is a near perfect example of a college freshman, talking about hanging a Guernica print (always love how Picasso's sun is a light bulb) and wearing a carpe diem scarf.

We also meet 5th year senior Henry Flyte as he parades around the campus with his Silk Pajama Society group, reciting Fairies by William Allingham but altering the words so it is telling the story of Charlotte's kidnapping. It makes Linda angry and suspicious. She will keep her eye on him.

And, it seems, his interaction with Linda on the Quad makes Flyte want to keep his eye on Linda. He goes to her dorm room and begins quoting Guillaume Apollinaire, luring Shirley and Linda out and onto the green.

Well, all I can say is that when I tried reading poetry outside girls' windows in college, all I got was ridiculed. But it felt 'normal' to see him do that.

It turns out that Henry Flyte is a brilliant guy. He brings Linda and Shirley to his Silk Pajama Society headquarters. Since Linda talked to him about Charlotte Yue, he shows Linda a complicated chart using the information of the missing students (he has even uncovered more of them than Lois knew about) that shows that Flyte will be the next student to go missing.

I love the dialogue here between Linda and Henry. There is a chemistry here, some romantic friction that I hope will be explored. And Shirley is labelled for what she is ... the comic relief of the story. If I knew that DeConnick was going to stay on the book, I would say that she has just set up a great supporting cast.

Unfortunately Flyte is correct as he disappears just a few panels later. To be continued ...!!!

I have to say that I loved this issue. It just felt like a nice progression of the wonderful stories we have had before this. It showed how complicated a character Supergirl is, as she reels from serious to angry to lonely. There was character growth here as we continue to see Kara learning to be comfortable with who she is. All while a story filled with some very humorous moments whirls around her. The dialogue between Lois and Linda and Linda and these students all crackled, snappy and slick but not overly so to be unrealistic.

And there were some wonderful Silver Age Easter Eggs as well as references to more recent stories!

And you have a heroic Supergirl and a smart and savvy Linda!

Talk about a home run for a first issue! Welcome aboard KellySue DeConnick and ChrisCross!!! I really wish we could have the chance to see more than three issues from you!

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Oh, well done on spotting the new Supergirl legend, I forgot to read the thing. Oh darn, like you, I want this to be the start of an ongoing run. I really hope someone at DC notices that we loved this issue.

'Super-intuition' - tee-hee!

Anonymous said...

Because you describe the Supergirl here as "smart" and "savvy" and because I kind of like the way Supergirl looks in the pictures posted here, I could end up checking this issue out. The "smart" Supergirl was something very much lacking for the most part in issues 20-present. Hopefully I enjoy this one too, as I'm not usually in agreement with those enjoying... but smart might work... no "touchdown," no "I'd rather be dancing," no Puckett "tee-hee" moments.

I'm still interested in the new Supergirl #1 too. I think we need to be thankful they kept the series going and not try and lead some attack on something without even having picked up the book yet.

Gear said...

I absolutely loved this story, what a fun way to start the last three books in the current run. It was really great to see Kara just hanging with a friend, that was a nice series of exchanges she had with Mikaal - they felt real.

I liked the line where Lois gave Kara her new identity and said she was the daughter of her sister who died recently. I wonder if that was another reference to recent stories, since when Lois last saw Lucy in Supergirl #59 she told Lucy "My sister died." I don't know if that was intentional, but it gave me a start.

Throughout this comic Kara was written as smart, serious, capable, and competent. Lois was the real Lois, which seems to happen in the Supergirl comic even if it doesn't happen elsewhere, and DeConnick continued with that tradition in a fun and funny way. ANJ, you're so right, we were introduced to intriguing and entertaining continuing characters, it felt like the start of a great supporting cast. ChrisCross's art was fantastic, with nice touches like the backgrounds behind the panels having what looks like the Super shield on a number of pages.

I'm really looking forward to the next two issues. This run of Supergirl may be ending, but it looks like it's going to end in style.

TalOs said...

Loved it! B-D

Y'know, from this issue alone i THINK (again, think here being the main word) i might've stumbled onto some of the to be expected 80's "Supergirl" movies' Easter Eggs planted in DeConnick's 3 part arc. (As hinted to be the case by DeConnick herself during Anj's conducted interview with her.) They are: (1) Ivo addressing the particular evil couple in question, could they possibly be intended to be the movies' own 'Nigel' (who worked as a mathematics teacher by day at Midvalle High in the movie) as well as the "woman" (and i use that term lightly) for which he craves 'Selena' aka the evil warlock and sorceress respectively? (God please let this be true for that would just utterly ROCK!) Could the 2 be working at the college themselves? Wouldn't it somewhat explain just HOW they know of the particular students that Ivo requires of them to locate in order to fulfill his very own evil agenda? (2) 'Shirley' who so obviously the chatty, tomboy/comedic/party girl replacement for the movies' Lucy Lane

and finally...

(3) the 5th year senior 'Henry Flyte' possibly intended to be the replacement for the movies' young adult aged 'Ethan' the mobile gardener who in the movie eventually falls for Linda to which has her returning the same feelings. It's the last one that i'm really convinced of for the official cover for the 3rd and final installment of DeConnick's short run on the title is just sooo reminiscent of that particular scene in the movie where Supergirl after rescuing Ethan from Selena's grasp has now taken him to some random beach where Selena in retaliation has sent a coconut only to knock Ethan out unconscious to which Supergirl now extremely concerned and desperate to revive Ethan then picks the fruit up, cracks open and then begins to feed it's contents to him from. The picture on the comic's 3rd cover in question has her kissing an unconscious Henry Flyte instead but eerily in the same manner she does when trying to revive an unconscious Ethan. ;-)

Anonymous said...

No real complaints about this issue at all, enjoyed seeing an "All Linda Lang" issue, since we are likely about to lose that particular character completely come September.
My only complaint is that Henry isn't all that appetizing looking (he has a nose right? most fifth year college seniors have one some I'm told)...But then he is a very common campus type as I recall and therefore an excellent straw by which to stir the storytelling drink.
I guess though, this is the Twilight of the Goddess, a good send off to the Supergirl we all know and love...Glad to see someone with a sense of her complete history is doing the writing.

John Feer

Gene said...

Give Henry Flyte a wide brimmed hat and a bigger scarf, and he will look like Dr. Who from several years ago.