Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: Supergirl #2

Supergirl #2 came out this week and continued to unfurl the new origin of this incarnation of the character. We have heard about this Kara suffering from culture shock on Earth, not caring for the population, and not trusting Superman. And those character elements are on display here in full force. In fact, the fight with Superman simply dominates the issue with page after page of the two cousins going at it. Unfortunately, while the picture may be beautiful, that many action sequences took away from space for more story and that is my biggest complaint about this issue. Writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson seem to be taking their time here, telling the origin in a decompressed manner.

Now it is not as if more kernels of information about Supergirl's origins weren't revealed. There were a couple of nice reveals here building more of the foundation that this version of Supergirl will be built on. But that is a double edged sword. I wanted more of that story here. Knowing that the battling cousins would surely be a stalemate and a transient plot element, I found myself hoping the brawl would end leading to more plot advancement. Maybe I'm in the minority and the fight sequence was just the right length for others.

Mahmud Asrar continues to dazzle here on the art, especially with some of the subtle expression on the characters, specifically Superman.

The issue starts with the first big reveal as we see Kara on Krypton with the time caption 'three days ago' and a very young Kal-El in the foreground. Kara is babysitting for Kal rather than studying for her 'final trials', the intiation rite which will earn her the right to wear the family crest.

So already, I have an answer but even more questions. The answer is that the new-ish plot twist of Kara being 'older' than Kal has survived the DCnU. I just don't know if it adds that much to her mythos to be the older cousin. It never really seemed to matter much in the post-Loeb world. I wonder if Green/Johnson have ideas to better use that fact.

But the questions are with the timing here. Kara thinks that three days ago she was on Krypton but we know that 25-odd years have passed. More importantly, it isn't like she recalls walking around on Argo City. So what exactly happened. It doesn't sound like the city escaped the fate of the planet under a force field, unless Kara was kept in suspended animation while everyone else walked around. Could Zor-El have put everyone in the city (except him) in a deep freeze? And how did she end up being rocketed here? Did someone push the launch button? Or was it automatic? I like open-ended mysteries like this.

I also like Supergirl's initial internal monologue as she deals with the environment of Earth, the destroyed mecha, and now Superman. Lost, confused, alone, scared ... all those responses make sense.

What isn't there is angry and I'm glad for that.

After stammering a bit, and asking some questions, Superman puts it all together and realizes that Kara is his cousin. He looks as befuddled as she does but seems to take it in stride a bit better than she does. Of course, he is probably excited at the prospect of some part of his Kryptonian heritage surviving.

Unfortunately, Supergirl thinks that 3 days ago Kal was a baby. She doesn't trust him, wonders if he is some agent of Zod, and attacks. So I have to say that that part is a little weird. That her first response, five minutes into being on a weird planet, unsure of everything is to attack. Three days ago, on Krypton, if faced with the same stranger, would she have attacked?

Much different than this response where both cousins are happy to see family.

The brawl is on with Supergirl, surprisingly fully powered lashes out again and again at Superman. Is this the difference between male and female Kryptonians and the yellow sun? Do they process the power at a faster rate?

I will say this, Superman is portrayed perfectly here. Despite being tossed around, he doesn't full out attack Kara, instead trying to talk her through controlling her xray vision, asking her how she got to Earth, wondering who she is, but giving her chance after chance to explain herself. He really was a high point of the issue.

I don't feel compelled to show panel after panel of the fight as it got somewhat repetitive with Supergirl punching and running and Superman catching up.

I did want to show this part though. Sick of being smacked around, Superman tosses Supergirl into the sky where we learn that her power of flight hasn't 100% kicked in. More on this scene on a later day but it reminded me of another scene.

Here is the best moment of the book. The battle between the cousins ranges from Siberia to China. Finally, Supergirl realizes that there are people on the planet, people she is endangering with this nonsensical fighting. And it is that fear of hurting them that makes her finally stand down.

So that seems like Supergirl. So she has an affection for life at least, even if she doesn't quite have it for humanity yet. And after this important pause, she actually decides to listen to Superman.

He tells her how the yellow sun of Earth, a nice place to live, gives them the power of World Killers. So that is another mystery. Are these Kryptonian weapons? Or something to do with the hinted at Zod soldiers? (Remember, the original Zod made an army of Bizarro-Zods to try to take over Krypton. Are they the worldkillers?)

More importantly, he tells her that Krypton is gone. Great work by Asrar here. You can see how difficult it is for Superman to tell her the tough news. And you can feel her surprise.

But really, what about Argo City? If only there was more story and less brawling here.

The book ends with a decent cliffhanger. We learned earlier that Supergirl's rocket was the primary target of the mecha-soldiers, not Supergirl herself. And here the mystery man (and I'll be kind of disappointed if it turns out to simply be Lex Luthor) who sent the attack, gets the first perk from that rocket. Is it a red crystal (loaded with information that Zor-El left for his daughter)? Or is it red Kryptonite? I am going info-crystal, something which will allow for some exposition in the near future.

So where are we?

There are some nice minor reveals in this issue. If I can use a puzzle analogy, part of the frame is built, but we don't have any of the big picture. I am intrigued by some of these reveals; I want to see this backstory. But the pacing of these first two issues make me concerned that it will take a loooooong time to get there. I don't need it all in one issue. I understand the slow reveals of mystery. But I also felt that there could have been less action in these first two books and more story.

Much like last issue, I still don't know if I have met this Supergirl, if I know who she is. Outside of the attack first response, there wasn't anything about her characterization that I felt was completely off. Her stopping her attack when she saw the people around the wreckage again gave me hope that this creative team has an understanding of who she is.

Overall grade: B/B+


Gear said...

Nice review, and an interesting start.

Like you I really wanted to see a little more exposition, more background, but it's still issue #2 so there's plenty of time. Green and Johnson are being guarded with what they're letting out. But the few snippets of information we got were nice.

I think there must be a rule somewhere that says there has to be massive chaos between the good guys in the first issue or two of any book. I hope we've all got that out of our systems now.

Mahmud Asrar continues to dazzle here on the art, especially with some of the subtle expression on the characters, specifically Superman.

I think that's probably the thing I like the best about the book so far. The expressiveness of Asrar's faces brings a lot to the story telling and has done much to bring out Kara's personality. That's one of the things that has made the relative scarcity of actual story up to now not be a huge problem, the artwork tells a lot of the story that we're not getting otherwise.

I did want to show this part though. Sick of being smacked around, Superman tosses Supergirl into the sky where we learn that her power of flight hasn't 100% kicked in. More on this scene on a later day but it reminded me of another scene.

It was pretty Cosmic, wasn't it?

Finally, Supergirl realizes that there are people on the planet, people she is endangering with this nonsensical fighting.

And for me that bit redeemed all the fighting up to that point. Her compassion flipped the switch, the anger was gone, the fight over. Nice bit of writing there. And again Asrar's facial expressions sold the point.

Another solid issue.

valerie21601 said...

I agree it's taking a long time to tell the first story arc.

To me while the art was lovely Kal and Kara often looked like they needed sleep with those puffy eyes and puffy faces.

We learn Kara's new ultimate nemesis is a man, at least that.

Plus with the tip of being able to read Supergirl #5 solicits we do know she will make it back to Argo City and fight Maxima there.

I recently got the trade paperback of Supergirl Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade and I was finally able to read the whole story. Johnson and Green tweeted earlier this year that Supergirl in the 8th Grade story was one of their two sources of inspiration for their version of Supergirl.
In the first chapter you can see the distant similarities of these two stories. Where as 8th Grade was done in a comedic vein the J&G version is done a dead serious vein.

Martin Gray said...

Speedier plot details would be nice, but I'm a sucker for stories in which the heroes discover their power set, so that thread kept me happy.

I wnder if the Kryptonian rites of citizenship include knowing how to throw a punch, cos Kara's there. In her position I doubt I could manage a bitch slap.

Jason said...

In addition to the whole crystal plot element, the scene of Kal telling Kara that Krypton is gone also reminded me of the same scene in season 7 of Smallville. I'm glad to see Kara here has a respect for life, even if not necessarily humanity. That makes me feel a lot less uneasy about the whole "not having the same affection for humanity as her cousin" stuff we've been reading about.

That art really is good too. Can we just please change the coloring or edges of the bottom piece of her costume? Just making it one smooth line would make me happy. The way it looks now it looks like it's a separate piece just barely covering her crotch area.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I hope we move away from the decompressed style soon, maybe after the initial puzzlment of being on a new planet.

I also hope that all the Super-creative-teams are meeting to make sure that there is continuity in the Kryptonian culture, etc.