Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: Supergirl #18

Supergirl #18 came out this week, the first issue post-H'El on Earth and the penultimate issue before new writer Michael Alan Nelson comes on board. I was, of course, eager to read this issue to see just what the post-H'El landscape for Kara would look like. Would she be vilified for her early alliance with H'El? Would she finally realize that Krypton isn't coming back? Would she be sad? Or angry?

Like Superboy #18, some of the bigger plot points from H'El, some fallout from the arc, are ignored in this issue, hopefully just being put on the back burner. The biggest plot point, the K-poisoning that Kara is suffering, takes center stage. That plot point does seem to plug Supergirl more firmly into the Superman mythos and I applaud that move.

This issue isn't without its quirks. And that starts with the original solicits and the expected creative team.

You might remember that the first cover solicit was Supergirl crushing the world, the thematic opposite of the nurturing cover of All-Star Superman #10. I talked about the original cover here. That sentiment, an angry Kara squashing Earth, is nowhere to be seen in the issue so I am glad it got scuttled. Frankly, I don't want that image to be how Supergirl is written, drawn, or marketed.

And, despite being on the cover, Mike Johnson did not write this issue and Mahmud Asrar did not draw it. The writer is Frank Hannah. Apparently this is his first comic ever, at least according to There are some highs and some lows here but overall a strong first issue.

The artist is Robson Rocha whose work I know best from his work on Demon Knights. His work is fine-lined and very different from Asrar's. It works fine here.

As I said above, one thing that I like about this issue is that it starts to establish Supergirl as a part of the Superman Family. Before I get killed, I don't want Supergirl to be under Superman's control, subservient to Superman, or have her act as 'Superman in a skirt'. But there is no denying she is his cousin and she should run in the same circles that he does.

That immersion into Superman's world starts with her catching the attention of Lex Luthor. Inside this tesseract device, embedded in his eyelid, the imprisoned Luthor keeps tabs on the world with his underlings. It is a nifty idea, explaining how Luthor seems to know everything that is going on outside his four walls.

His 'generals' are an odd mix. 'Alphine' is this Ursula-like octopus robot-woman. Appex is the blue energy construct; he might be the Blue-K member of Vyndktyvx's Anti-Superman Squad. And the last looks like the General Eiling/Shaggy Man amalgam.

As for Supergirl, Luthor is intrigued by her Kryptonite-devastated condition and so he wants to keep a close eye on her, follow her treatment, etc. It seems just a bit off. Luthor pocketed Kryptonite "5 years ago" in Action, created different colored Kryptonite waves, and created the Kryptonite Man. So he should know about how it works ... unless this is the 'worst case' of K-Poisoning he has seen.

Kara, in the meantime, is trying to burn the Kryptonite poisoning away. Standing on a satellite designed to focus yellow sun energy, she is bathed in energy.

And clearly she feels physically fine.

The captions here are a bit heavy but get the point across that she isn't only suffering physical from K-poisoning. She has been suffering mentally from all the loss in her life.

This treatment has been arranged by Dr. Veritas who I guess has taken the role of Emil Hamilton or Jenette Klyburn in the New 52. Despite Kara feeling wonderful, Veritas knows that this isn't a complete cure. Kara needs more testing. Kara objects and actually storms off, taking out a few robot drones in the process.

What I love about this scene is Kara's words in that first panel. She almost says she wants to go home before catching herself and saying she wants to head to Earth. It is the first time that we have almost heard her call Earth her new home. Sure, she hung out with Siobhan. But this means that reality is really starting to set in ... even if she backtracked. Nice.

What I didn't love about this scene? The complete absence of Superman, even by name. Couldn't there have been a line from Veritas saying 'Your cousin has been asking for you?' Or couldn't Supergirl have said 'Tell my cousin I will be in touch.' Or couldn't Superman have been there? The last image of the two in H'El was him cradling her in his arms. I just think this was a missed opportunity to again show their relationship was improving.

If that 'almost home' moment was my favorite moment of the book, this was my least favorite.

Karen Starr is watching news footage of Supergirl fighting H'El (of course which labels Supergirl as brash and unstable). And she wonders why she feels a connection with Supergirl.

She wonders why she feels a connection with Supergirl??

She WAS Supergirl on Earth-2. Of course she should be familiar with herself. This read really off.

But this also makes it sound like this is the first time that she has even seen Supergirl. We know this isn't true.

We know she has a grasp of this Kara. She doesn't want to meet her (as seen in Worlds' Finest #6). And that small caption box implies it is something that she has thought about and has avoided.

So that curiosity about Supergirl by Power Girl just read wrong for me.

Kara ends up heading back to Earth and realizes that the K-poisoning hasn't been burned away from her body by the concentrated sun rays. While she feels incredibly powerful, she also has a bout of dizziness and lightheadedness as well as weakness.

In another classic comic book coincidence (like Plasmus robbing the same bank that Superboy is in), Supergirl decides to fly through magma flows underground. And, in her weakened state, she is surprised by the lava woman from Superboy #3. Why she chose to fly through lava and just happened upon this woman is a question for the comic book gods.

In Superboy, this unnamed woman cursed all Kryptonians and so it is no surprise she attacks Supergirl.

And, weakened by the Kryptonite poisoning, Supergirl is defeated by this lava woman. But when troops show up to retrieve Kara, the Magmaid decides that escape is the better part of valor. Remember, she was a prisoner in a N.O.W.H.E.R.E. facility. She knows what might be in store for Kara and she wants no part of it.

This skirmish has been being watched by Luthor as well. Could Alphine be the 21st century Nasty Luthor?

And Karen Starr seems to be connected to Kara's condition. Once before, and now here at the end, when a surge of K-poisoning symptoms weakens Kara, Karen is effected as well. Hopefully we will have more of an explanation on this. I don't want them linked like the Corsican Brothers. I don't want them to 'short circuit' in each others' presence like they did early in the last series. So hopefully we hear just why this is happening here and why it hasn't been happening over the last months that both have been active on the planet.

So, overall, I think this was a decent issue. Yes, Supergirl stormed out of Veritas' care. But she also almost called Earth home. The fight scene is standard fare although it was nice to see Supergirl continue to fight despite being nearly incapacitated by the Kryptonite poisoning. The inclusion of Luthor and his generals into the story is a welcome addition.

The only moderate complaint was Karen's comments. Maybe I am reading it wrong?

Since we know that Michael Alan Nelson's first issue features Power Girl in her Supergirl outfit and Kara 'dying', it looks like this story will simply meld into Nelson's run. In some ways it keeps the title feeling seamless as we move forward. On the other hand, I would have loved a sort of epilogue issue by Mike Johnson, wrapping up his thoughts on the character.

Overall grade: B


Jay said...

Hmm, yeah now that you mention it, it is a bit askew, Karen's thoughts on Kara in this issue and obviously knowing about her earlier on. I had forgotten about that. I guess one could argue that she's not really surprised about Kara's existence per se, rather that watching her more carefully (safely from a screen) instead of rushing by her in a concentrated effort to avoid her made her miss this feeling before.

In any case I really liked this issue despite of the surprise credits. I think they all did a fine job, especially for Mr. Hannah if this indeed was his first gig ever.

anthonyriva said...

I haven't read the issue yet, but just from Karen's comments, she says she feels "more than just familiar with her." Which leads me to believe that she's acknowledging her familiarity with the fact that she's her Earth 2 equivalent, but now she says she feels connected to her somehow, meaning she's noticing for some reason now it's become a physical connection. I don't think the writer is disregarding Karen's previous acknowledgements or history with Kara, he's writing in the physical connection that's developing, which will ultimately lead to the two having to meet soon.

Anonymous said...

Karen could have said, "Well they say somewhere in this world there's a person who looks like you but is not you."
-- DW

Anonymous said...

Kara's "Stupid Lava Girl" is a virtual lift from the pidgin English spouting Incredible Hulk I recall from the 1970s.
Oh and the gummint's super secret Supergirlbuster's Squadron is about to get their mitts on the Maid of Might.
All we need now is some nice Kirbyish blocky art from Herb Trimbe and maybe an appearance by..."Zaxx The Electro-Terror".

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I guess it is the word 'familiar' that made it sound weird. She *is* her ... she should be familiar.

But I also worried that I might be reading it wrong. So glad to hear what everyone thought.

Anonymous said...

Great review Anj.

Maybe Karen is just now starting to feel some otherworldly connection. Who knows maybe those things take time. Maybe even longer for Kara since this is her universe of origin and she vibrates in sync with it.

Maybe Karen was talking about that in Worlds' Finest when she said they (she and Helena) were different and Superman could see it. Or maybe I'm reaching.

I wonder how long Superman is going to need to recover from those green K chains in Action.

I found this story (Susan - The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel) while googleing supergirl and I think it captures the essence of supergirl excellently. Have you read it Anj? If yes what do you think, if not I recommend it to any supergirl fan. Just google Sara Corel.


Martin Gray said...

It's not just you, Anj, Karen's thoughts absolutely read as if she had never come across Supergirl. Which is weird.

What also annoyed me about that scene was the cliched way Karen is drawn, managing to stick out both bum and chest while at her desk. The next panel focuses on her bum, then it's boobs and legs - I realise Karen is at ease with her body, and relaxed about showing off her assets even in a business setting, but does she have to be posed in such cliched, 'sexy' ways?

Otherwise, I enjoyed the artwork by Robson Rocha and co, especially the intro of Luthor's Lackeys, or whatever we're calling them, it was a great way to actually show Luthor as super-smart beyond his building jet packs ... It's a shame we'll likely never see an Art & Franco version of the new baddies.

I liked Frank Hannah's script a lot, overall, especially the narration. Great catch on Kara's avoidance of the H-word.

Top review!

Anonymous said...

Real quick...
Like others I haven't read the comic so I don't know the particulars. Did they name those other male characters in Luthor's mind? When I saw them I took them to be his Id and his Super Ego. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Frank Hannah wrote the script for the movie, "The Cooler", so he has years of professional writing experience. Apparently, this is his first comic book.

With all the editorial interference, it's sad that they didn't point out that Karen already knew of Kara. They meddle with the wrong things (dictating story directions capriciously) while they should be overseeing minor details like this.

Anj said...

Real quick...
Like others I haven't read the comic so I don't know the particulars. Did they name those other male characters in Luthor's mind? When I saw them I took them to be his Id and his Super Ego. Just a thought.

The blue guy is named Apexx.

The brute isn't named.

But great thought! Still could be true.

Anonymous said...

OK, after thinking about it a bit more there is no clue I can remember that superman (E1 or E2) can see vibrational frequencies of elementary particles at a casual glance or at all. So still no clue what Karen was talking about. Maybe it is just her anatomy.

According to the solicits and what we see here there is certainly a connection forming between E1 and E2 Kara and it is getting stronger. Maybe it took this long because they weren't on the same planet until a few weeks ago.