Friday, May 18, 2012

Review: Supergirl #9

Supergirl #9 came out this week, the next chapter in the Silver Banshee story. As the middle chapter of this three-parter the issue did it's job, providing information and moving the story ahead so that it is set up for a conclusion that can be aptly told in the last issue finale.

As I have said before, writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson are slowly building up the character of this Kara, showing us who she is as she gets a bit more settled in this new environment she has found herself. In this issue, Johnson and Green show us that this Supergirl has the appropriate crucial character traits of her prior incarnations. She is a good friend. And she will defend the helpless even if she has to sacrifice herself to do so.

Unfortunately, this issue continues to show that despite the right heroic aspects, Earth seems to be conspiring against her. We already have seen that despite defeating the World Killers, Kara was attacked by the army. Here we see that her best intentions have some lousy outcomes. It would be very easy for this Supergirl to adopt a defeatist attitude and simply stop trying. I hope that this semi-forced isolation and alienation gets resolved before we have a sulky Supergirl. That said, this Supergirl seems to have a somewhat stubborn streak in her, a solid core that makes me think she isn't going to abandon who she is easily. And she is easy to root for because she is saying and doing the right thing.

As usual, I enjoyed this issue quite a bit but left with the same questions I have had since the inception of the title. Where is Superman in all this? When will Supergirl be able to communicate, so that her intentions are more easily understood? And when will she be recognized as at least an untried hero as opposed to a villain?

Mahmud Asrar returns on art and brings his best work to date. With the addition of magical elements, Asrar is able to stretch his work a bit into the surreal. But there is a definite kineticism to his stuff here which makes the fight sequences that much bolder.

As seen in the released preview, Black Banshee, Siobhan's father seems to be some wraith who tried to claim her as his own 13 years earlier. It is unclear if this was to nurture her or possess her.

Regardless, Siobhan's older brother Tommy won't let him hurt her. To end the curse, he lets his father 'take' him. By the rules of the Banshee curse (not further explained), as eldest the son has that right. He is absorbed into Black Banshee and both disappear.

We will see throughout this issue that Asrar really brings a mystical and surreal feel to the art, helped immensely by the colors of Dave McCaig. So the swirling energy, the warped Thomas, or the blinding energy within the Black Banshee all add up to a great image.

With the semi-origin flashback done, we find ourselves back in the coffee house where the Silver Banshee is squaring off against her father.

Kara's internal monologue works pretty well here. For the first time in a long time, she felt at peace. She had a friend. She was going to relax. But now all that seems foolish on this alien world. For all Kara knows this is normal behavior. She hasn't been here long enough or dealt with people enough to know better.

After a brief skirmish in the bar (complete with distorted souls of patrons swirling around the Black Banshee), Siobhan and Kara retreat to a back alley.

This might be my favorite moment in the book. Despite the bizarre nature of what is happening, despite Siobhan's pleas that Kara run away and save herself, Supergirl doesn't leave. Instead she dons her costume and tells Siobhan that she won't face this challenge alone.

This isn't someone with no affection for the human race, someone completely isolated. This is a hero helping a friend in the face of danger. The calm expression on her face connotes this idea that there isn't a debate here. This is something she has to do. Really wonderful.

But that quiet moment of resolve is abruptly ended on the next panel when The Banshee arrives.

I include this panel for 2 reasons. One, the change in tone from the last panel to this one is great. It is surprising and would be a 'jump in your seat' moment if this was a movie.

Secondly, Asrar's art is fantastic here. This is my favorite panel of the book because you can tell by the bodies of Kara and Siobhan that they feel this scream, that it slams into them. Look at how they appear to be buffeted on the wind, thrown aside by the power of this. When a static image conveys that much of a kinetic feel, it succeeds on the highest level.

This is where things get a bit out of hand for Supergirl. Somehow the Banshee's cries seem to energize her such that her power levels are through the roof. So she accidentally tosses this man aside as he tries to help her stand. Of course no one is going to trust Supergirl on this world if she is throwing people into cars 20 ft away.

It made me kind of sad that even when she is trying to do good like save her friend and nearby people from the Black Banshee it appears as if she is 'dangerous'. I really hope that this 'Supergirl perceived as out of control monster' is a relatively short lived phenomenon. Of course, if she could talk to people she could say she was here to help.

The Banshees end up squaring off and automobiles get tossed around and the whole scene becomes a disaster site. Moreover, at least briefly, the evil part of this curse seems to take over Siobhan as she revels in the destruction, burying her father under cars. Luckily, she is able to reel it in and get control again. She tells Supergirl that it was the magic talking.

I love the look of surprise on Kara's face at the word magic. It's in quotes as if there is no Kryptonian equivalent. She even asks what magic is. It is clear Kryptonians are still vulnerable to it even here in the DCnU. It will be interesting to see how someone from a purely scientific culture like Krypton even comprehends magic so I hope that is explored somewhere down the line.

But the Black Banshee comes back and squares off against Kara. After she tries to outscream him (funny), he smashes her with another scream which ups her power and energy even more. She loses control of her heat vision and then erupts with a Corona Wave (my name for this solar flare power), scorching the street, trees, buildings and friends.

So I still wonder what to make of this new power. Does Kara need to discharge spare energy every so often or she'll erupt like this (a statement which reminds me of the old 90's character Damage)? Is this simply pooling the energy she has absorbed and releasing it as a last ditch maneuver? I hope this becomes part of her arsenal and not a 'signature move'.

But even this discharge hasn't dissipated the energy she has. Supergirl actually feels like she might explode if she can't get rid of this juice. And if she explodes, she most likely will kill Siobhan and all those around.

Rather than endanger anyone else, Supergirl does either the smartest or stupidest thing she could do. She flies directly into the Black Banshee (she has seen him absorb souls into his core). I suppose she might think that the energy she is crackling with might hurt him from the inside out. That said, even if smart or stupid it is brave. And it is done with the right intentions, to not hurt anyone who is innocent. As I said earlier, Supergirl really had her heart in the right place throughout this issue.

Again, great art here with the yellow tones of solar energy contrasting with the cold blue of mystical power.

Unfortunately, The Black Banshee simply absorbs the power and now becomes Super-Banshee. And he isn't very happy with his daughter. Nice cliffhanger.

So what happens next. My guess, based on the cover to next issue, that inside him is almost a mystical realm where Kara has to battle back to reality. I hope within there she is able to free the souls that the Banshee has absorbed so far. And I hope she can communicate with them in there.

So nice characterization of Supergirl who seems to have the right moral core, the right heroic ideals. And spectacular art that had great synergy with the words. But my guess is that people won't be happy with her given she immolated a city block and tossed some people around accidentally. I am not saying that I need a saccharin world where everyone loves Supergirl. But I don't want to read a book where the hero is hated by both villains and the common man alike. That won't be a fun book to read - especially given how likeable this Supergirl is so far. This is much closer to the Gates/Peaty characterization of Kara than it is the Loeb/Kelly Supergirl. This one wants to do the right thing.

It still begs the question 'Where is Superman?' Even if being a family member and another Kryptonian wasn't enough to have him track her down, now she is hurting people and causing infernos. It is time for the super-cousins to meet again. Meet again and talk ... not exchange punches!

But that is thinking about the future. I should stay in the now. And the now is that this was a very good issue.

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

The Loeb Supergirl always wanted to do good too. Power Girl Superboy, and the Titans attacked her--despite their behavior, she tried to be nice the entire time.

Oddly enough, this Supergirl reminds me more of the Loeb/Kelly Supergirl and less of the Gates Supergirl and that's why I prefer her to the Gates issues.

I just hope she isn't placed back in Superman's shadow, her behaviors and powers aren't restricted and she isn't made into his obedient inferior, she isn't made as dumb as she was in the Bedard, Gates (touchdown), and the absolutely terrible Puckett issues.

In my perfect world, she'd continue to be outspoken, intelligent, and independent. She could take an interest in the opposite sex and act like a teen. She gets to kick some butt and have some success. She brings back the 80's/90's style skirt and one-piece.

Anonymous said...

Kara wasn't dumb in my run at all, Larry/Ace/Anonymous.

One "alien-to-a-culture" joke doesn't make her stupid, just misinformed about baseball, a sport she'd never seen or played before.

Michaels Green and Johnson are great. Kudos to them!

Anonymous said...

Hi Larry glad to see your talent for mealy mothery hasn't dimmed with the end of ye olde DC Boards.
But this thread isn't about you, it's about Supergirl.
This "no can speaka da english" (or Chinese or Spanish or Hindi or Arabic) is seriously cramping the storytelling IMHO.
It makes the reader second guess what she understands and why she understands it, tiresome after a while.
She may as well be the Bronze Age Hulk with his stilted pidgin english...and I suspect the whole "Hulk thing" is what they are aiming at here.
A hero misunderstood and hunted in other words.
How that gets played out in the "superverse" is another question entirely.

I dunno the whole Corona trick seems like a non organic type power, I'm still not convinced that we aren't headed for some sort of "Matrix Reveal". If she is Kryptonian why is she processing the sun's energy in such a radically different way? Are males and females on Krypton literally two different species??
The artwork though is very good and has a weird muted tone suggestive of an oil painting or somesuch, hard to explain but nonetheless I like it.


Martin Gray said...

Anj, top review, there's not a thing I'd disagree with. Yes, at this point Superman should indeed be showing up and helping Kara. Otherwise, very decent story and stunning art.

I'm with John, though, in not being keen on the Sun Belch trick. The traditional power set is more than enough.

Oh, the cover copy is rather daft - 'murderous mercy' indeed!

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments and always nice to see you stop by Sterling.

Larry: I don't think we will ever see eye-to-eye about the last incarnation of Supergirl.

Mart and John: It will be interesting to see if the solar power ends up being some modification from World Killer tech.

The good thing about that is it can be made temporary if folks want to go back to the basic power set, have it be just a boost that Zor gave her to help survive the trip but will wear off.

I didn't even read the cover copy Mart. It is pretty ridiculous!