Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: Supergirl #4

With the holidays officially behind me, I have some reviews to catch up on. So, a week after it's release, here is my look at Supergirl #4.

Much like the last issue, Supergirl #4 has a lot of story in it, moving through the Mr. Tycho story pretty quickly while dropping a few subtle hints about the origins of Supergirl. But more than anything, this issue got us into the mind of this Supergirl, giving us a better idea of who this particular Kara is.  So the decompression of the first two issue, my biggest peeve of those books, isn't around here. I can understand that the 'arrival moment' warrants some time to unfold. But with that moment behind them, writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson keep things rolling.

Again, this first arc seems to have two goals in mind. The first is Supergirl adjusting to the Earth and our world. The second is to fill in the gaps of her origin, what happened with Argo City and her family. While this issue clearly focused on the former, the latter is teased at a bit.

Finally, this is the first issue where Mahmud Asrar did both the penciling and 'markering' on the art. As usual, his stuff just pops off the page. The markering technique adds some nuance and depth to the work. And this issue we get to see moments of high drama and high action.

The issue opens up on Tycho's orbiting satellite headquarters. Last issue, Supergirl collapsed due to Kryptonite exposure as she neared her space pod. With her incapacitated, Tycho is able to study her more closely.

We start out with his analysis of her costume which is indestructible, stretchy ... basically armor. It reminds me of the more Silver Age aspects of Kryptonian fabric, invulnerable and able to be stretched to massive dimensions. Tycho, who seems to be more interested in the control of knowledge to obtain wealth, in only interested in copying the fabric for more mundane purposes. It reminded me a bit of Superman Family #199, where a thug steals Supergirl's cape and tries to cash in on the wonder fabric.

But there is more to this. I can understand that the fabric might be more durable under our yellow sun. But was it designed to be armor on Krypton? Was it indestructible there as well? What is the purpose of this suit, obtained after some sort of personal trial? Or is it merely ceremonial and the toughness of it is merely the result it being Kryptonian.

And the mystery, at least for me, deepened a bit here. Tycho has Kara in a stasis field near the Kryptonite, keeping her helpless and in pain. The text here, her thoughts, is nicely done here, describing her pain.

But how does she know what Kryptonite is? As far as I know (and of course things could be different in the DCnU), Kryptonite is the result of the planetary explosion. Kara should not have been exposed to it if she was rocketed straight from Krypton, or put in suspended animation on Krypton. Unless Kryptonite existed on the planet in this relaunched universe.

Of course, Kryptonite played a key role in the Argo City tragedy in the Silver Age. Could she have experienced it there? But then, wouldn't she remember her time there and not think she was on Krypton yesterday? Interesting ...

She is released .. rescued ... by one of Tycho's men. 'Jacobs' was in a battle suit fighting Supergirl when she first arrived. He sensed she was innocent there and therefore cannot stand by while she is being tortured. He didn't 'sign up' for that. I love the 'pieta' image here, one of comfort. It really added that extra layer of feeling to this image, painting Jacobs in the right light.

So Supergirl gets to see some of the best of humanity here, someone with compassion, someone willing to risk his own safety to help someone in need.

But then just as quickly, she sees the worst of humanity. Tycho shows up and has Jacobs executed.  He is shot and killed just for helping Supergirl.

It is easy to see why Supergirl might be confused about embracing Earth as a new home. In her short time here, she is immediately attacked by humans, tortured by humans, and the one person to help her is killed by his own.  No wonder she only wants to go home. We eat our own here.

This exposure to the whole spectrum of humanity will surely help Kara form her opinion about us and how she wants to act here.

With her strength returned, Supergirl tears her way through the satellite, dispatching Tycho's men and reclaiming her costume. (I find it interesting that she went right for that instead of simply escaping. It hints at the importance of the costume, at least in her mind).

I loved this panel as she crashes through the floor to confront Tycho. That is a nice strong image of Supergirl. I will admit I am still not a fan of the boots. She really seems to be a fast learner as she has semi-mastered her powers already.

Tycho has an ace in the hole though, a bargaining chip, the red crystal seen at the end of issue #2.

Supergirl recognizes it as a sunstone, a sort of external hard drive which probably holds a message from Zor-El. Tycho has even been able to hack it a bit, find a star map which might show Argo's location.

As for me, while the story is moving forward, I am getting a bit tired of Supergirl not understanding English, not being able to communicate with people in the book. Yes, it adds to the 'stranger in a strange land' feel. But it also limits what Green and Johnson can do. She can't talk to Tycho here. In her last origin, this was dealt with by having her be holed up in the Fortress for a bit, learning about Earth. How will it be handled here? Hopefully soon.

Tycho is willing to trade it for some of Supergirl's blood. Given what we have seen of Tycho, for him to be willing to trade this, this receptacle of information, makes me think he already has plans for that blood. He doesn't seem like the guy to trade away something like this for nothing.

But she can't understand him so she can't barter. And she doesn't want to simply grab it as she doesn't want to damage it.

So instead, she blasts through the floor with her heat vision, damaging the satellite's power core. Once again, I think this is sort of a subtle hint at Kara's intelligence here as she is able to scan the place with her x-ray vision and correctly deduce the power supply.

I thought this set of panels was great.

First off, Tycho can't believe that he might be beaten by a 'teenage girl', a rant/snark he uses earlier in the book as well. Underestimating Supergirl is never wise.

But I also like how outside, Supergirl is concerned for the well being of the staff inside. She knows that she might have overdone it and is happy to see everyone escaping unharmed. She cares about human life.

But all of these events have her questioning what she should do next. The crystal is cracked. She needs a Kryptonian console to access it. But where can she find one? Can she trust 'Kal'? Or should she just try to fly back to Argo based on the map on Tycho's wall.

I would like to think that Superman is combing that planet and space for Kara. Whatever the disaster was that took him away in Supergirl #2, it must be over by now. He now thinks he has a living relative, another Kryptonian, someone who isn't in control of her powers and must feel lost. You would think finding Supergirl would be at the tip top of his 'to do' list. He has thought he was alone, the last son, and even now is facing some distrust by humans. You think he wouldn't let Kara out of his sight.

The only person significantly injured in the explosion appears to be Tycho. There is less than more of him left as his limbs and most of his torso have been blown away. He has pieces of his 'brain' automaton grafted on to him to keep him alive. And yet, despite that, he thinks he has won when he spies a sample of Supergirl's blood on one of his minions uniform. So he *must* have plans. Will it be to heal himself? Clone a body for himself? Rebuild himself? Suddenly this is not just a Luthor knock-off. This guy will probably have powers.

So overall, a good story with progress as the Tycho chapter closes. We got some new info and hints as to Supergirl's past. And we add the first villain to her rogue's gallery. Add to that the continued scenes showing that Supergirl does not want to kill people, understands the sanctity of human life, and is scrappy enough to overcome the adversity she has faced so far. Green and Johnson are forming an interesting Supergirl here.

As I said, Mahmud Asrar is just stellar here.

And it looks like the 'origin' piece is moving forward.

Overall grade: B+


mathematicscore said...

I hope they leave that relatively unscientific idea of Yellow Sunlight making anything Kryptonian "Super." I don't even like the Red Sunlight weakness; Energy is energy, it's just a question of how much and how well it is absorbed. But I digress. I think the Super fabric is super because it comes from an advanced civilization.

Kryptonite is another thing where I disliked it being transformed pieces of Krypton. I'd much rather think of it as a common element on krypton that interferes with Kryptonian energy absorbtion.

Adam Smasher said...

Well, I love the boots :) and I like that she still hasn't learned the language. It's a challenging layer to the character and a challeng to the way the story is told (gives it a fresh, interesting spin). It also adds to my emptahy for Kara. She isn't just popping in, and all is well. She's still learning about her powers, she's not sure who to trust, she can only understand us by our tone and our actions. Plus, she's longing for home. I feel for this young woman, I care about her.

I thought this was a great A+ issue, the best of an impressive series, so far, and one of the best reads of the month IMHO.

Anj said...

I think the Super fabric is super because it comes from an advanced civilization.

Kryptonite is another thing where I disliked it being transformed pieces of Krypton. I'd much rather think of it as a common element on krypton that interferes with Kryptonian energy absorbtion.

Thanks for the post.

I think you will be right about the costume.

I think we'll need to wait and see about Kryptonite.

Anj said...

She isn't just popping in, and all is well. She's still learning about her powers, she's not sure who to trust, she can only understand us by our tone and our actions. Plus, she's longing for home. I feel for this young woman, I care about her.

I agree about all of this. And the best thing about this is that you can still feel that she is a good person at heart, worried about hurting people. And I can understand her wanting to go home.

But I hope the language things ends soon, at least as a way to open up the stories a bit through dialogue.

Anonymous said...

I'd say the major problem with all of this,is that while Kara is reasonably sympathetic, nothing in these issues
shows her as really heroic.She basically lands, gets in a few pointless fights(which she didn't actually start), helps no one etc.It makes internal sense,
but it seems like a very weak debut for a
character that is presumably intended to be a superhero.