Saturday, November 19, 2011

Review: Supergirl #3

Supergirl #3 came out this week and was my favorite issue of the run so far. Unlike the decompressed first couple of issues, this issue had a lot of story stuffed into 20 short pages.

We are still in the helter-skelter earliest moments of Supergirl's so the pace is brisk as she tries to grasp exactly what is happening to her. Her reactions to this bizarre new environment are both physical and emotional. Kara is appropriately confused and just wants to get back to the life she knew. And her reactions give us a better sense of just who this Kara is and I am glad we are starting to get more depth of her characterization. All along writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson have said that Supergirl isn't going to immediately adjust to life on Earth. A desire to go home, if possible, makes perfect sense.

As usual, Mahmud Asrar's artwork, inked by Bill Reinhold, is stellar. I am usually remiss in that I don't mention colorists work on book Paul Mounts really uses a wide palette and nuance to the colors here. I still don't know if I like the bottom of the costume and I don't envy Asrar in having to render it with all it's corners. It also seems to be cover a variable amount of skin depending on the angle of the panel.

The issue opens with the continuing conversation between the super-cousins. Superman has to give Supergirl the hard news of Krypton's destruction, the death of all their people, and the time that has passed. Of course that doesn't gibe with Supergirl's memories of Krypton being from only a couple of days prior. I have my theories on that; theories I have floated here and will do again in a bit.

But there is some good interactions here. First, prior to this panel, Kara talks about how Superman's voice scares her but she knows it is a voice which can only say the truth. It isn't exactly super-intuition but at least she trusts him. I thought that was a nice touch, again something which makes me think this Supergirl isn't as isolated from people as early statements sounded like.

Moreover, in this panel when Supergirl is still somewhat in denial, she again talks about how this has to be a plot against the House of El. I hope there is more story there ... either in the Superman books or here.

Unfortunately this conversation is cut short when Superman has to rush off to a disaster. I thought this interaction was great, Superman talking about how they have to help the people of Earth with their powers. After all, with great power comes ... umm ... heroism? Nice collage panel there.

And while I think Supergirl will one day stand up and join him in helping people, she just isn't ready for that now. I don't think this is a lack of caring by her. I think she simply can't deal with this new environment right now. She wants to just get back to Krypton and the life she knew.

She flies off to get back to her pod and her home. I have talked in the past of the overuse of the image of a crying Supergirl. But tears here also make sense given the magnitude of what she has just learned.

Superman, I assume, flies off to help whatever disaster is happening but speaks to her via her super-hearing. It again is spot on for Superman as he sounds both loving and supportive but also concerned.

But I wish I knew what the disaster was because it better be something huge for him to just let his long lost cousin, the only other survivor of Krypton, and basically a potential risk to just fly off. I loved the conversation but it ended almost too quickly.

Back at the crash site, Supergirl discovers her pod is gone. Instead a hologram device projects a message from Simon Tycho a 28 year old trillionaire who has got the world's countries' blessing to scrounge up all things which fall to Earth from space. That includes Supergirl's ship.

He is obviously brilliant and rich so this could make him Supergirl's Lex Luthor. But to be honest, I also got a strong vibe of 'Alex' from the James Peaty/Bernard Chang run. There is such an overwhelming air of arrogance around this man throughout the book. His callous manner in talking to his workers, Supergirl, even the President of the US in this issue ... it all speaks of sheer haughtiness. I sort of like the idea of a Luthor-like rogue for Kara.

He decides to test Supergirl. He knows she must want her pod and so he leads her to it on his satellite.

Some nice panels here as Supergirl hopes her new-found powers will get her where she needs to go but still with realistic fears about her situation. "Don't stop ... please,please,please ... don't look down", that all reads right.

On Tycho's satellite, he continues to push Supergirl's powers. Here she defends herself against robots.

We've heard Green and Johnson talk about how Supergirl will have a unique power and we finally get to see it. Here, in the 'heat of battle', she heats up herself. I don't know if I need a pseudo-scientific explanation but my guess is a Kryptonian female can metabolize yellow sun energy faster. That's why Supergirl got near immediate powers. And maybe she can literally burn off that energy as heat. At the very least, way way better than crystal spikes.

I have already heard it called 'super hot flashes' on-line so I hope Green and Johnson name it soon.

And here she fights 'the brain', a sticky stretchy gelatinous monster which reminds me of an old Brer Rabbit story. The brain can't survive the vacuum of space, so Supergirl is able to escape that trap as well.

Finally Supergirl is able to find her pod only to discover it is oozing Kryptonite, weakening her and setting up a nice cliffhanger.

So my origin theory. This thing is really a pod. It isn't a rocket like Kal was sent in. Maybe Zor-El didn't have a rocket ready. But Argo City somehow survives. Unfortunately, as in the Silver Age, the ground becomes deadly Kryptonite. To try to survive, Zor-El places Kara (maybe everyone) into protected suspended animation pods. This explains her not aging despite the passage of years (although it doesn't explain the memory problem). And then maybe the city becomes invaded by a threat ... whoever this 'Maxima' is. Maxima begins killing the sleeping citizens. Zor-El jettisons his daughter's pod towards Earth as a last ditch effort to save her. She lands here. It would keep some of the classic elements of her origin (Argo City surviving and then eventual Kryptonite doomed place) while being tweaked a bit (as it was by Johns/Gates just a handful of years ago).

Anyways, this issue traveled at a much faster pace than the earlier ones, semi-solidified her relationship with Kal (at least they weren't fighting and she was listening), introduced a new arch-villain, showcased a new power, and dropped more hints about Supergirl's origin. Now that is a pretty packed book.

What's better is that the characterization seemed right. She could have fought Superman more. She could have called humans gnats or cavemen. She could have been portrayed as disaffected or apathetic or bitter. Instead she was portrayed as strong and a bit sad. And that's okay given where we are in her journey.

Overall grade: B+/B


Anonymous said...

I really like this issue as well. A lot going on in it but it seemed really balanced.

It might sound silly but I like the idea that Supergirl remembers watching over her baby cousin on Krypton. To me it shows she is a caring, loving, person- and procrastinates like so many of us.

I think Simon makes for a great arch-enemy and there is a lot of potential there, even beyond the Supergirl series.

I'm not a major fan of the 'chastity shield' on her costume. I hope it's eventually removed and replaced with the blue.

valerie21601 said...

I really don't care for the sun-like power they showed her having if she can heat up like that then it can be used to burn things and people. What if she gets really angry or loses control will the area go up like a atomic bomb?

If she uses the sun power a lot perhaps her heroine name really should be Sungirl.

Gustavo Delamarques said...


Gustavo Delamarques said...


Martin Gray said...

Excellent review as ever, Anj. I'm not keep on the new power though - I'm never delighted with members of the Superman Family having variations in their power set. I'm good with Supergirl being better at using her vision powers, or Superman being a better flier or whatever, but textile telekinesis? Shapeshifting? Hot flashes (awfully close to 'hot flushes')? Not so much.

I never even realised that the flash was meant to be a power, so much as a one-off manifestation of built-up solar energy. I'd been thinking she got her powers relatively sooner than Kal because she'd been absorbing it while travelling through space for decades. I'm always wrong!

Martin Gray said...

Thinking on, Anj, you may still be right - the new power could be a version of the old 'super-intuition'. As noted, Kara shows good instincts twice in this issue ... that's more than she managed in the first three years of the last title!

Anonymous said...

The two most difficult things to do in a super hero book is create a really worthwhile villain and come up with an original & noteworthy super power.
Tycho sounds interesting, but he hews awfully close to the post crisis "Lex Luthor as Citizen Kane" motif, not sure if value is gonna be added there but this is the third issue of the series so I'm gonna hold off final judgement.
Supergirl has a rich collection of opponents just begging for reinvention, reintroduction just plain re-use...just sayin'.
As for her "solar flare", that strikes me as pretty slim pickings, it's been done to death by the Human Torch over at Marvel and Firestorm in the DCU.
NEXT everyone will be in an uproar over the fear that Kara's flares are dangerously radioactive or something...ho-hum.
Anyhow still readin'


mathematicscore said...

Re: powers

I don't think "Super intuition," as mentioned by a previous commenter and alluded to by you, is it at all; that was just a good, "human" empathic sense. We all read so much from nonverbal communication, and I really liked the juxtaposition here of Superman being inherently trustworthy and this Simon Tycho is inherently untrustworthy.

I've long thought that Kryptonians have a few basic powers: strenth/durability, Speed, Senses, gravity manipulation(which could account for tactile TK) and energy manipulation. The last one accounts for absorbing/storing solar energy, heat vision and cold breath, and while those are usually focused through the eyes and core respectively, I see no reason they could not manifest in a more general fashion.

As for the difference between her and Superman, I'd argue it's all in the practice. After all, two humans may have different aptitudes for different techniques, either mental or physical. I see no reason they wouldn't use their powers in slightly different ways.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I wonder if the plan is to see the response to the 'new power' of super-heat and decide if it will continue on. Certainly the 'crystal powers' of Kelly's disappeared.

And I doubt it really is super-intuition (despite her good choices here). That sounds to Silver Age-y. Although it could be labelled low-level empathy or limited precog or something like that.

The big thing for me here was progress as we got a whole lot of story here.

Anonymous said...

Interesting... Now, she can heat herself up.... Reminds me of Linda's flame wings/manifestations for a bit. Interesting take, too. Looking forwards to reading this series. -ealperin