Friday, January 20, 2012

Review: Supergirl #5

Supergirl #5 came out this week and continued the momentum of the last couple of issues of the title. There has been progression here after a couple of decompressed opening issues. Writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson are working their way through Kara's origins and continue to unveil new elements to the story, answering some questions but creating new ones on the way.

One thing that I liked about this issue is that we finally have Kara acting rather than reacting. We are slowly learning about who this Kara is, what she thinks, where she is at emotionally. And we are learning that not only through her actions but through her thoughts. Add to that the introduction of the character Reign, someone who is clearly set up to be a contrast to this Supergirl, a dark reflection of who she could become, and I finally feel like maybe I have a sense of who this Supergirl is.

And, as I have said before, I think this is a challenge for Green and Johnson. Supergirl was basically rebooted 7 yrs ago under Loeb and Turner. She was then soft rebooted by Gates and Igle when they washed away the 'Kill Kal-El, crystal hell' aspects of the earliest issues. There will be elements to their story that will echo aspects of the prior origins.

Lastly, I wonder how closely the entire super-creative teams meet, how much editorial oversight there is, to make sure that the Krypton in Supergirl mirrors the one being created in Action and referenced in Superman. I hope that there is a universal feel to the planet, streamlined and consistent.

As always, Mahmud Asrar's art is incredibly strong here. There is a mix of action and emotional moments in this issue and Asrar shines in all facets of the book.

The issue opens with Supergirl streaking through space, flying to the coordinates she saw on Tycho's satellite, the potential site of her home. This is a frantic Supergirl trying to reclaim some sense of sanity in her life, trying to get back home. She hopes her powers won't suddenly leave her. She is desperate and she knows it. And that mix of fear and hope is shown so perfectly on her expression here. Just a great mix of art and words here.

Luckily the sun stone seems to be guiding her through space.

The stone leads her to a stargate/wormhole takes her to a blue sun system, Argo City in orbit.

But the city is abandoned and in disrepair. And obviously separated from Krypton, torn away. The sad truth about Krypton's fate is slowly unfolding. Again, a nice splash page here.

So already, a question. Who put up the stargate?

And next question. Where is everybody?

Supergirl flies to her old house, finding it dust-covered and empty. The slow realization that she is alone, without family and friends, begins to take root.

Kara places the sunstone inside a control matrix, activating a message from Zor-El. The destruction of Krypton is imminent and  Zor-El has a plan to save the city by erecting a force field around it. But the plan is too risky to include Kara. So Zor-El places her in suspended animation and fires her protective pod away. He states that the time in slumber might affect Kara's memories.

So there was a lot to process here. The Silver Age element of Zor-El saving the city with a force field, Argo being ripped from the planet intact is preserved. But this means Kara was fired off Krypton before the planet exploded, not from Argo at all. Interesting.

I do have to add that this look of Zor-El seems a bit different from the look of Jor-El in the current Action Comics. There is no headband, no chest symbol, just a tunic.

Unfortunately, the message ends in tragedy when someone comes into the room while Zor-El was recording and blasts him through the chest. So there are echoes of Zor-El's death in Supergirl #36 at the hands of Reactron.

But this also creates a number of new questions. So Zor-El died before the destruction of Krypton. Who killed him? Was Kara already in the pod when he recorded this? If not, who put here there? Who put the crystal into the pod? Who fired the pod? And where is Alura in all this? So there are some answers here but not the whole story.

With this message displayed, the sunstone burns itself out, crumbling away. So no further knowledge will be gleaned from it.

And then there is this lovely 'silent scream' splash page as Kara reacts not only to seeing her father's assassination but realizing that she is alone. Krypton is gone. Her family is gone. Her friends are gone. This is such a powerful display of the anguish she must be feeling.

Overwhelmed by emotion, Supergirl flies out into the city and starts smashing anything she can get her hands on. So we have seen Supergirl have an angry response to physical or mental confrontations. Now I hope we will soon see some other emotion from her when she is troubled.

Her destruction of the planet is stopped when she is affronted by Reign.

Reign says that she is like Kara, looking for answers about who she is and what has happened. She seems to know a lot about Krypton and the world-killers. She even hints that Zor-El knew about or was involved with the world killers.

I think we are going to learn more about Zor-El than he is a peaceful scientist. We have heard Kara talk about her 'father's plans'. In the first issue, we heard Kara say that an encounter with attacking robots would be something her father would set up. Now we hear Reign talk about Zor-El and world killers. Maybe he was in the military, or a weapons developer. There is more here I am sure.

But Kara isn't ready to partake in quiet conversation. She thinks Reign might be responsible for Argo's destruction and/or the death of Zor-El. Supergirl wants to know what Reign knows. And so she attacks. Again, this immediate response of anger and violence might make sense in the context of the emotional turmoil she is going through right now. But I hope we see other parts of Kara's emotional make-up when things settle down.

I do like that Reign, a living World Killer, is a nice foil to Supergirl. Reign says a lot of things that this Kara might. She has immense power. She was born to rage. She could conquer. Those are all things that Supergirl could say, might say. But what I have seen is that this Kara won't take that last step, stopping her fight with Superman when innocents were threatened, hoping that her destruction of Tycho's satellite didn't kill anyone.

Reign is a monstrous version of what Kara could become, a dark reflection, and a nice way to show us who this Supergirl is by showing us what she isn't.

With her powers waning, Supergirl is defeated by Reign and left to die on Argo which is slowly falling into the blue sun. (I can't believe DC wants a floating Kryptonian city to remain in the DCU, so I suspect that this last vestige of Krypton will burn away next issue.)

Again, we see more of those similarities between Reign and Supergirl. Reign is looking for answers about her origins. She wants to know what happened to her. She went to Earth looking for those answers and then came to Argo for the same. Hmmm ... basically Supergirl's story so far. Again, it makes Reign a nice foil. When Kara eventually steps up and defeats the World Killers, it will show who Supergirl is.

This also added more questions to the fate of Argo. Reign showed up and found the population dead. So where are the bodies? And I really hope that we get to see something of Alura.

So, overall this was a good issue. We learn more about Supergirl's origins, more about Zor-El, more about Argo. and more about the World Killers. We also have a lot more questions that need to be answered. Reign plays a contrasting role to Supergirl nicely. We have more raging Supergirl. I hope next issue, we see a quieter Supergirl dealing with her grief in a nonviolent way.

And I have to say it again. If you are Superman and another surviving Kryptonian comes to Earth, someone who is potentially family, I doubt you would leave her to her own devices. I better see Kara seek out Kal or vice versa soon. It doesn't make sense otherwise.

Lastly, I could spend a whole post gushing about Mahmud Asrar. Amazing stuff here.

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

Nice review. However, I wanted to point out that you always say how it is make sense for Kal to find Kara and take care of her since she's a family. But think about it - it does make sense from a plot line standpoint, but it may only hurt Supergirl as a standalone character in the future. By choosing to not include Superman, authors letting Kara to escape his shadow and became fully established character all by herself, something, that was really lacking in her previous series. Supergirl don't need to be babysitted by guest stars in her own comics, this book needs to establish her as a separate character, who can easely hold on her own even without the more famous counterpart.
Hope this makes sense. Sorry for broken english. Nice blog.

Anonymous said...

Oh geez is this gonna be another "Mysterious Secret Origin of Supergirl" storyline that'll get teased out for a full year or more?
Origins are always the least interesting stories IMHO....I saw Zor El getting gunned down (Again) and thought to myself "The poor schlep is either a killer or getting killed in every incarnation".
And anyway, been there done that.
Sorry folks, I"m still not feeling it yet on this version, I am however coming around on Asrar's artwork "it is fluid yet dynamic.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the first post. I don't want Superman in the picture too often... I prefer the Peter David version and some of the others where she felt more like her own character, worthy of a title, and not Superman's Robin.

The writing on this Supergirl is the best I've seen since at least Peter David. I actually feel like the writer cares about seeing this through the eyes of a young girl with Super powers who has gone through this terrible loss.

I'm also glad she has some spunk, fight, and spirit to her and has some brains. I am really loving this portrayal and hope DC keeps it up. Along with Action Comics, this is DC's best title.

Anj said...

it does make sense from a plot line standpoint, but it may only hurt Supergirl as a standalone character in the future.

Thanks for the post.

I agree with the main point of your post. I don't want Superman to be ever-present or controlling. But he should be part of Kara's life. And again I doubt that he would let her simply roam the planet without seeking her out.

I think to the last title. Superman was part of that Kara's life but really wasn't in the title for the last year or so. Supergirl was solo. And that's what I want to see too.

Anj said...

Oh geez is this gonna be another "Mysterious Secret Origin of Supergirl" storyline that'll get teased out for a full year or more?

Thanks for the comment John.

I agree there is a 'been there' feel overall. As I said, Supergirl was rebooted and soft rebooted within the last 7 yrs.

I am trying to roll with this. Especially given that it seems like the 'origin' piece of this story is done by #8.

Anonymous said...

Survivors? Plural?
Also:Less than a day has passed,maybe Superman isn't sure how best to handle it yet.

Anonymous said...

Well so far I've liked this book more than I thought it would. Supergirl hasn't been like they said, a bratty teenage with powers. She's scared and unsure if she's alone and I agree her reaction to news Krypton is gone was right.

I agree with Anj that Kal not showing up again is a mistake. She is after all his only living relative. Plus even if she wasn't, you think he might be a tad concerned that someone with all his powers is running around. Now of course its SG's book, we want her to stand on her own. But early on in the origin Superman has a role to play.

Anyway I think things have been going okay, for the moment I continue to following SG.

Martin Gray said...

Fab review, Anj.

I agree, I don't want Superman an ever-present figure, but unlike in the Fifties, it's tough to accept that Superman would abandon Kara. He should certainly be offering her help to set up home on Earth, providing her with tips and training ... it can mainly be off-panel, but I want to know he cares.

Anonymous said...

Oh! This looks really interesting! Great review, Anj! I've never heard of Reign before but she sounds like a pretty good villianess for Kara, there. Powerful stuff from Asrar, too! Loving his art!-ealperin