Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 Year In Review Part Three: Wrap-Up And Top Ten Supergirl Moments

The new year is just around the corner and that means that 'Best of' lists for 2011 are everywhere. And, as I have done the last three years, I will join in the fun by looking back at the year and picking the Top Ten Supergirl moments that happened over 2011. Now I know I am long-winded usually ... and I am reviewing a year ... so bear with me. This is a long post!

2011 was a crazy year for comics in general and it was no different for Supergirl. It was something of a wild ride.But one thing I have to say, she remained in the spotlight of the DCU, not only in comics but outside of comics as well. I haven't always been able to say that so any year I can, it has to be a good thing.

Supergirl remained an active topic in the merchandise world with no less than 4 statues solicited by DC Direct. While the Michael Turner mini-statue was in some ways a re-solicit, we also got a full size Adam Hughes Women of DC statue, an Amanda Conner based Women of DC bust, and a Supergirl portion of a Superman Family multi-statue. We even had a Polly Pocket Supergirl as well and Heroclix of Supergirl, Superwoman, and BizarroGirl. Obviously, she must be a pretty popular character to warrant such merchandising.

And in terms of other media, we learned that she will be part of the DC Nation block on Cartoon Network. She will be part of the Super Best Friends shorts, produced by Lauren Faust of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fame. That is a great way for the character to branch out to a new audience. Love the costume too.

But this post is about Supergirl in comics. In 2011, the 'old' Supergirl title had two major arcs. The first, by writer James Peaty and artist Bernard Chang, seemed to pick up right where Sterling Gates/Jamal Igle's run left off, with Supergirl still sort of reeling and regrouping from New Krypton, wondering about her place in the world. While the villain's motives were murky, the characterization of Kara was spot on making this a big success in my mind. The next arc by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist ChrisCross had a lighter feel to it, a bit more of a  fun and rollicking story. But in the end that feeling and the story's conclusion was perfect for it to be a capstone for that incarnation of Supergirl. And James Robinson and Paul Cornell had her play major parts in the adventures of the Justice League and the Reign of Doomsday.

And then the relaunch happened and we had another Kara crash land on Earth, feeling lost and alone and confused. Early publicity material made her sound unlikeable but so far so good as this Kara tip toes her way into the DCnU.

So with all that going on it was tough to pick my top ten moments. I had plenty of them. But here they are:

#10 - "She's Magnificent" - Superman/Batman Annual #5, James Robinson and Miguel Sepulveda

As blog friend John Feer often says 'there is nothing like some Kara-tharsis!' And the Reign of Doomsday was a perfect storyline for that sort of unbridled action where Supergirl got to cut loose. In this scene, after having just shaken off the anguish of Dark Supergirl (more on that later), Supergirl just lays the hammer down on Doomsday coming within a cat's whisker of defeating him. This was just great. And Miguel Sepulveda's art (aside from the high heeled boots which I really dislike) captures the moment perfectly.

But what really kicked this into the top ten over any other moment of strength is Batman's response when he sees Supergirl on the offensive. Grayson can only say 'She's magnificent' as he watches her batter Doomsday. I have to concur. She is. And I think James Robinson really loved her as a character as well.

#9 - "Super Intuition" - Supergirl #65, Kelly Sue DeConnick and ChrisCross

Kelly Sue DeConnick's short arc was a fun, up-beat story filled with laugh and love. It really was something of a breather after the somewhat heavier arcs that preceded it. This was Kara hanging out at college, meeting friends, and meeting a guy she was attracted to.

But DeConnick also put some Supergirl history into her story, sort of nods to the past. Stanhope was the school that Supergirl was visiting. And here we have a mention of super-intuition! Super-intuition was one of Kara's goofier and less defined powers of the Silver Age. So to see it again, even as a bit of a snark by Supergirl, was greatly fun. I appreciate any time creators recognize Supergirl's history and translate it to the current continuity.

#8 - "Grounded Facepalm" - Superman #713, Chris Roberson and Eddy Barrows

So I could probably write books about the problems that I had with Grounded as a storyline. In particular, J. Michael Straczynski's early issues were cringe-worthy, making Superman act like an elitist jerk more than a hero.

Handed the reins, Chris Roberson did his best to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Roberson's issues had Superman reconnecting with his friends and family and getting a better understanding of his role on Earth. That said, Roberson could have had Supergirl and Superboy play a bigger role in that psychological healing. Instead, we only have this brief moment from Superman #713 before a complete stranger helps Superman (lost opportunity there for Kara to help her cousin in my mind).

Still, I love this moment because it actually summed up my feelings for this arc. After several issues where Superman seems to be on the road to recovery he suddenly decides to stop being Superman out in the open. Kara's response is perfect ... the face palm. That is exactly how I felt that moment. I just wanted this arc to end, I wanted Superman to act like Superman again. And to have him take a step back had me rolling my eyes.

So plant that face in your palm Supergirl! I was right there with you!

#7 - "Bizarro Girl Action Comics #252 Redux" - Tiny Titans #42, Art Baltazar and Franco

I have gushed about Supergirl in Tiny Titans too many places to count. And this year was no different with Supergirl having several great moments in the book.

This panel stood out as the best of the best. Here BizarroGirl arrives on Earth. But this panel is clearly an homage to Supergirl's first appearance in Action Comics #252. Even the dialogue is a riff on that classic picture. As I said before, creator acknowledgments of Supergirl's history are greatly appreciated. I feel as if the creators recognize her and her history as meaningful when it is done. So this was wonderful.

But add to that that it is BizarroGirl arriving here just added another layer of awesome. She is a great character. And she is a new rogue for Kara and a remnant of the Gates/Igle run. I am glad that there is some permanence to the character.

It is sad to see this comic ending.

#6 - "Outsmarted" - Supergirl #64, James Peaty and Bernard Chang

In 'Good Looking Corpse', James Peaty had Supergirl facing off against Alex, the petulant, smarmy, and overconfident clone of Dubbilex. Alex dripped superiority, laughing in the face of pathetic humanity as he plotted.

So this was just a fantastic comeuppance by a Supergirl who had, over the course of the arc, realized that she is a leader, a worthy eventual successor of Superman, and finally in the big leagues. It is a different sort of Kara-tharsis, more subtle but almost more devastating. That is a powerful looking Supergirl, towering over the fallen Alex, almost gloating, as she says 'this must be a new experience for you .. exposed, powerless, outsmarted'. It is the most cutting insult she could give him. And it was Supergirl who did the outsmarting, beating him at his own game ... and maybe rubbing it in just a bit.

Now that is a great Supergirl moment.

#5 - "Big Brother" - Justice League #60, James Robinson and Daniel Sampere

The relaunch of the DCU meant the dissolution of James Robinson's Justice League. One thing I loved about that run was the relationship that Robinson set up between the Dick Grayson Batman and Supergirl. From the beginning Robinson said that they would have a big brother/little sister relationship, not a tawdry one.

Throughout the run it was great to see Dick take Kara under his wing, trying to get her to open up a bit, to befriend him, to trust him. And it was fun to see Supergirl become so protective of him, rushing to his defense a number of times while shouting 'Grayson'. It just seemed natural that Dick, who grew up in the shadow of a legend, tried to find his own way, and inherited a legacy would be the perfect confidante for Supergirl, someone who constantly compares herself to her cousin and finds herself lacking.

This hug, as the team is disbanding, was a quiet moment showcasing that familial love the two had. They'll always be there for each other. Hmmm, this would also be a good World's Finest comic too.

#4 - "Forgive Yourself" - Superman/Batman Annual #5, James Robinson and Miguel Sepulveda

One of the most compelling parts of Sterling Gates' run was the psychological fallout Kara suffered in the aftermath of New Krypton. She went missing. She cut her hair. She swore off being Supergirl. She was grieving on the inside, suffering survivor's guilt, and trying to figure out the best way she could shield herself from more pain as well as make sure she didn't cause anymore harm.

Those themes were re-examined by James Robinson when he had Kara again take on the mantle of Dark Supergirl. This wasn't the evil Dark Supergirl that was seen in the earliest Loeb/Churchill issues. This was a bratty and superficial Supergirl, someone trying hard to ignore her feelings but hiding behind a facade of irreverence. But it was clear that wasn't her.

In the Superman/Batman Annual #5, Dark Supergirl is told that she is dying. The only way to be cured is to save herself psychologically. She needs to shake off this phony persona of Dark Supergirl. She needs to accept who she is. And she needs to forgive herself. While many of these themes were seen in the BizarroGirl arc, I feel like emotional catastrophes don't just disappear. They can relapse. I thought Robinson handled those emotional themes well and did it in a novel way. When Supergirl forgives herself, rids herself of that guilt, she dons the classic blue costume and became the Kara we all love again.

#3 - "Respect From Damien" - Supergirl #62, James Peaty and Bernard Chang

I have talked about 'Good Looking Corpse' earlier in this post and in the honorable mentions post. In that arc, Supergirl has to come to the realization that she holds a pretty special place in the DCU, that she is a worthy successor of Superman and in his league. Kara was her own worst critic at times, the sign of a growing hero wondering where she was on the journey.

But another part of that analysis of her place in the DCU came externally in the form of respect from the other young heroes. So when Supergirl comes up with an intricate plan to defeat Alex, when she recruits Blue Beetle, Miss Martian, and Robin, they all fall in line behind her. So we hear how Miss Martian looked up to Supergirl, was in awe of her.

Perhaps the biggest compliment she could get was from Damian Wayne. Damian has always come across as someone who looks down on everybody as an inferior. He is someone whose respect you have to earn. And that doesn't come easy. Here he says that he is following her into battle because he has been watching her and she has 'passed the test'. Outside of Bruce, Dick, and maybe his mother, I don't know if he respects anyone. Add Supergirl to that short list. She is the leader of the next generation of heroes. I loved this scene.

#2 - "Don't You Forget About Me" - Supergirl #67, Kelly Sue DeConnick and ChrisCross

The announced end of the DCU allowed some creators to have a bit of closure with their characters. So whether it was Paul Cornell having Clark and Lois profess their love, or Bryan Q Miller having Steph say 'it's only the end if you want it to be', creators got the chance to have their characters say goodbye.

Kelly Sue DeConnick gave us a great moment of closure to the last incarnation of Supergirl. It isn't Supergirl that says goodbye to us, that asks us to remember her ... it's Linda. While Supergirl survived into the DCnU, it is unclear if Linda Lang did. And from a longevity point of view, Linda Lang is a blip on Supergirl's history, existing only 2+ years out of 50.

And Linda is a decent symbol for that incarnation of Supergirl. Early we saw that this was going to be a troubled Supergirl. She jumped from her rocket naked, she was brainwashed by Darkseid, she beat up other heroes, went Dark, beat up more heroes, complained about being a hero, wanted to rave dance instead of save people, was proud of sneaking into a bar as an underaged girl by wearing a tight shirt, wanted to kill Superman, gunned down her high school with her father, and grew crystal spikes from her body.

That was about as far from who Supergirl is as you could get.

And then Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle came on board, rehabilitated her character, acknowledged the prior bumps in the road but moved past them, set up the Linda Lang identity, and restarted Kara on the hero's journey. And within their run, and James Peaty's, and DeConnick's, Supergirl and Linda learned some hard life lessons but always grew from them, always strived to do what was right. And when she failed she dusted herself off and kept moving forward. These writers seemed to embrace the core of what makes Supergirl Supergirl, that need to do what's right, to help people, to embody hope.

It had been a while since I felt like the creators understood the character. Then I got 3 years of stellar stories. And then DC erased that Supergirl.

So thank you for this moment and this story Kelly Sue. And thank you Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle and James Peaty and Bernard Chang. And Matt Camp. And ChrisCross. Thanks for letting me read the true Supergirl again.

And don't worry Linda. I won't forget.

#1 - "Last Daughter Of Krypton" - Supergirl #1, Mike Johnson, Michael Green, and Mahmud Asrar

Whether you were for a reboot or against it, there is no denying that the DCnU relaunch, the New Fifty-Two, was the biggest event of the comic year.

And by extension, there is no denying that the relaunch of a new Supergirl has to be the top moment in 2011.

So what is this Supergirl going to be like? The early promo material described her as someone isolated, someone with no affection for humanity, someone more likely to fight with her friends, Hell on wheels ... so don't piss her off. Again, that just didn't sound like Supergirl to me, not what she has represented for this half century. I was admittedly worried ... and maybe even a bit perturbed given how far the last Supergirl had come. This seemed like a giant step backwards.

That said, so far in the comic, this Supergirl hasn't been that off-putting. She's confused. And sad. And angry.

But she stopped fighting when innocents were endangered. And she listened to Superman for a bit. I haven't seen the stark description of a disaffected hero in the book at all. While the jury is still out, as I said above so far so good.

Writers Mike Johnson and Michael Green have given me some optimism in the face of the unknown. And Mahmud Asrar's art has been amazing. I have hope that this Supergirl will soar just as high as the last one. But those are some pretty big shoes to fill.

And that's my Top Ten Supergirl moments for 2011. Please let me know if you think I'm off my rocker, or forget a major scene, or if you think I got the rankings wrong!


Anonymous said...

Interesting list and I have to say that now I've read the first 4 issues of the reboot series I'm actually really quite enjoying it. If only the new costume hadn't got that dodgy groin panel then it'd be even better.

Oh, and the original solicitation blurb where she was pissed off and a general pain in the ass (or something like that) seems to have just been marketing garbage to make her sound edgy. But hey, I'm sure DC will be able to mess everything up quite easily should they decide to ;-)


Gene said...

I just realized that Kara's departure from Smallville right before its season finale was not mentioned in your year end round up. But thats ok, because it really wasn't worth remembering anyway.

TalOs said...

"I have hope that this Supergirl will soar just as high as the last one. But those are some pretty big shoes to fill."

Hmmmm with respect, Anj, what do you mean exactly by that last sentence? I mean "the new 52" continuity Kara Zor-El/Supergirl is still the same Supergirl we've known since '04. (Ok so this time around her origin doesn't include her being found scantly clad by Batman and Superman, trained by Wonder Woman, noir her reason being sent to Earth was to soley "kill Kal-El".) Care to elaborate a bit more? =/

I'm sincerely loving what we're getting from "the new 52" continuity take on her title (even bought the 2nd reprint of #1) and would even go so far as to say that I think its well on its way to surpassing Loeb/Turners reintoduction arc itself.

Anj said...

Oh, and the original solicitation blurb where she was pissed off and a general pain in the ass (or something like that) seems to have just been marketing garbage to make her sound edgy. But hey, I'm sure DC will be able to mess everything up quite easily should they decide to ;-)


Thanks for the comment.

I agree that the book itself has not had any of that over the top edgy stiff. And I hope it doesn't.

Anj said...

I just realized that Kara's departure from Smallville right before its season finale was not mentioned in your year end round up.

Boy, that completely slipped my mind!

Too bad they never quite used Supergirl the right way there. She was loaded with potential!

Anj said...

"I have hope that this Supergirl will soar just as high as the last one. But those are some pretty big shoes to fill."

Hmmmm with respect, Anj, what do you mean exactly by that last sentence?

Sure thing. And nice to see you again Talos!

The last incarnation of Supergirl had really come a long way. The last 3 years of the book were great. She had come a long way. She was being written and being treated the way I liked.

So those are big shoes to fill.

Supergirl could have carried on like other DC characters after the relaunch (like Hawk and Dove, or the Legion). But DC chose to hard reboot her. That means those past stories and that growth are gone.

I hope the new book will be of the same high quality as the prior. So far so good.