Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: Supergirl #19

I was unsure what to expect in Supergirl #19 which came out a couple of days ago. Let's face it, the book is in the midst of some turmoil. We are just out of H'El on Earth and the terrible characterization of Kara there (and I won't mention the relatively inscrutable plot). We had a guest scripter in Frank Hannah last issue who handled things decently if misunderstanding that Power Girl would know who Supergirl is. This was Mike Johnson's last issue before Michael Alan Nelson comes on board.

And as if all that creative upheaval wasn't crazy enough, it appeared we were going to have another fight between Supergirl and Power Girl.

Suffice it to say, I would not have been surprised if this issue was something of a mess, a placeholder until Nelson took over.

Instead, I got a very entertaining issue, an issue that was respectful of Supergirl, an issue that seemed to regrasp all the movement in Kara's character that happened before H'El on Earth, and began a friendship between the two Supergirls as opposed to going for the cheap thrill of a cat-fight.

Fare thee well Mike Johnson. I would have liked to see what was planned next.

Also back on the issue is Mahmud Asrar and does he ever deliver with this issue, drawing not only Supergirl in his usual superlative manner, but Power Girl as well. It is clear by his art that Karen is an older Kara. She looks like it!

On to the review.

Last issue, Kara collapsed from Kryptonite poisoning and (I assumed) a military troop came to scoop her up and run. I mean, it is an easy mistake to make. The US military has been portrayed like Hydra in DC Comics for a while. But know I don't know if it is the military or a Luthor sent squad.

Anyways, it think it is a 'Team Luthor' wetworks team, there to bring Supergirl in. I do like the idea of Lex trying to take advantage of Kara's apparent illness to further study Kryptonians. While I don't think this will make Lex a steady rogue of Supergirl's, I bet his tentacled female assistant does grow in prominence.

I did like one of the trooper's comment wondering how strong a fully grown Supergirl would be, a slick way for Johnson to bring Power Girl into the action.

Karen makes short work of the soldiers and whisks Supergirl away.

Johnson immediately rectifies the problem from last issue where Power Girl seems unclear of who Supergirl is. He has Karen say that she has been aware of Kara since the 'Great Wall' incident way back in Supergirl #2. She has been avoiding her not out disgust or being uncomfortable. She didn't know what would happen if they met, maybe universal destruction. It shows a lighter and more likeable feeling to Power Girl.

But when the K-Poisoning began effecting her/them she sought out Supergirl. The two finally touch and origins and memories flood into each other. This is a great page by Asrar showing that, making Kara/Karen one person. Suddenly the two understand each other, know each other. Unlike Jeph Loeb who had them 'short circuit' and fight each other, Johnson has the two of them grow closer. Just wonderful stuff.

Somehow touching has temporarily removed the effects of the K-poisoning. I suppose this is one of those comic book things that will have no easy explanation. Although I suppose touching your super-strong alternate universe doppelganger probably will make you feel better.

Now there is lot for these two to talk about. They might both be Kara Zor-El but they have different origins, different parents, different Kal's, and different tragedies in their lives. Certainly there is a lot that can be mined here. Perhaps the biggest thing is Karen showing Kara that you can carry on despite great loss, that you can remove the heavy weight from your heart and persevere.

But before there can be much small talk, Team Luthor shows up to try to recapture them.  I love how the two fight together! And not only that, they seem to enjoy working with each other saying it feels 'so right' to be battling as a team.

This is 1000% better than the standard 'Power Girl vs. Supergirl' battles we have seen recently.

When the soldiers cannot slow them down, Luthor sends in Apexx, his muscle-bound lieutenant, to battle. We here both from Apexx and Lex that this is simply a test of strength, can the two hold out against him.

To continue a trend, Power Girl's uniform get shredded in battle. But even she seems to recognize the pattern saying 'another frickin' outfit bites the dust'.

Now one thing I don't understand is why Apexx talks about how this is supposed to be a test against both Kara's. How could either he or Lex anticipate Power Girl showing up? And how do they even know she is Kryptonian?

Again though, the two Supergirls act like a finely trained unit, working together to bash Apexx soundly. I love it.

I also love how the fights in this issue shows the sort of ferocity in battle we have seen from all the incarnations of Supergirl, that determination and viciousness that manifests when she is fighting evil. Here it is even better because it is a double dose.

Unfrotunately, the Kryptonite poisoning cure is temporary and Supergirl collapses in a greenish heap again. She tells Power Girl to take her to Sanctuary and since they share memories now, Karen knows just where to go.

The computer recognizes both as Kara and allows them in. In a sort of humorous conversation, it refers to both as Kara in a way that could be confusing. The medical systems begin working on Supergirl to stabilize her.

And when Karen says she is underdressed, the computer creates new clothes for her, an outfit that Power Girl thinks will work just fine.

Meet the new Power Girl, same as the old Power Girl. I have to admit, there is something right about seeing Karen back in this costume. And how interesting that Sanctuary knew to make this outfit for her!

I love Asrar's take on her. Everything about this, from the costume to her body language to the look of confidence on her face just works perfectly.

When Supergirl arrives, improved but still poisoned, the two share a brief moment. Supergirl tells Karen she's beautiful. Power Girl promises that they will work together to find a cure for Kara. It is a powerful panel, again showing Supergirl what she can become if she easily opens up and allows others in.

But again, before any more conversation can happen, Sanctuary must finally realize there shouldn't be two Karas. One must be a clone. And we know what Kryptonians typically think of clones. Defense systems come on line in a nice cliffhanger.

What a great issue. Without H'El to muck things up, Mike Johnson is able to pick up where he left off. We saw how Supergirl was slowly realizing Earth was her home, making friends, and accepting her life here. Now, by encountering Power Girl, by sharing those memories, she knows that triumph over grief can happen. Even that moment at the end when Power Girl says they will work together speaks volumes.

But best of all, is that Power Girl and Supergirl don't fight each other. They fight together. The interplay between the two is easy and feels natural. I really really hope that when this poisoning plot is over, we see the two sharing a cup of coffee somewhere and just chatting about the turns their lives have taken. These two should be friends, the same way that Kal should be part of both their lives.

Of course, this is something of a bittersweet issue. Because as great a Mike Johnson's characterization is here, he is moving on. While I think it took a while for this Supergirl title to find its compass, I think it was pointed in the right direction with Kara heading towards optimism and heroism.

And it is always good to see Mahmud Asrar on art. His stuff sings this issue.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Great review, Anj. And headslap, of course these are Luthor lackeys, not US soldiers. I guess I'm too used to the Army showing up in this book ...

Now that Kara and Karen are friends, I'm itching to see what Kara makes of the Huntress, and vice versa - pray the two Ks don't have a stupid fallout next issue!

Anonymous said...

I agree the two Karas working together was beautiful and like Martin I hope there is no fallout next issue. Mr Nelson mentioned in an interview that the two Karas would get along well until they don't, or something like that. I wonder what it means.

I don't understand how deep the mind meld went. Did they just become aware of the similarities and differences in each others lives or did they share memories in full. I assume option number two since Karen knew where to find Sanctuary (unless this was through spying). This is where things get a little creepy for me. Sixteen year old Kara who was never in a war and only kissed two people now has all the memories of war and sex from twenty something Kara who was in a very bloody war and is something of a maneater with a very healthy sex life.

Zor El should have invested more in security, it took obscenely long for Sanctuary to notice that there are two people reading as Kara.

Here's hoping Supergirl and Power Girl continue to be on good terms.


Gear said...

That was a very good issue, and I think it felt even better because it was a return to quality story telling and compelling characterization. Asrar really did a great job here too, he has become one of my favorite artists working at DC.

And hey, Karen and Kara met and didn't fight? Amazing! I know that one of the things that I haven't cared for in the new DC universe is the distressing tendancy everyone has to immediately start fighting when they get together like ill-mannered toddlers, so it's refreshing to see these two work together. It made them feel like the heroes of the story.

I think I'll really miss Johnson's writing style. If you're reading this, Mike, thanks for the great work.

Unknown said...

Agreed that this issue was awesome. No super cat fights as in past incarnations. The story moved along at a refreshing pace, the battle w Luthors minion, Apexx. He reminds me of Gen. Eilling from JLUnlimited. When i turned the page to Karens new uniform spread page, a friend and i actually GASPED/YELPED in the restaurant we were in!! Im sorry that this is Johnsons last issue.
I wish the next writer, Nelson all the best. Asrar is stellar as always! His art of Kara & Karen is awesome!

PRgirl1294 said...

I don't that those were Luthor lackeys. One of them said that they had to get Supergirl to General Morrison who, as we saw in "Superman #15", works for the military.

BTW, I wonder if, after they take care of the "Sanctuary" problem, Kara will start to consider if Karen IS a clone, and after denying it, Karen says that clones aren't really as bad as Kara was taught. That would be interesting and, hopefully, it would change Kara's mind a bit about Superboy.

Anonymous said...

My personal bar is now set so low for Supergirl that all she has to do is not become Luthor's PA and I'm satisfied. Nice to see PG in her old costume, I hope it doesn't give SG any ideas though.



Anonymous said...

Has anyone noticed that Karen was still wearing her gloves when she touched Kara? Although that made no apparent difference to the story.

elknight20 said...

THIS ISSUE was GREAT! Fantastic review, Anj!
P.s. Hello, again! I haven't been up here, due to my busy schedule at college. Glad to be back! ^__^

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments. Glad everyone else liked the lack of a fight between the Kara's.

PRGirl - The General Morrison comment does make this more likely the US military. Sigh. I was hoping they weren't the potential kidnappers here.

Eki - good point about knowing too much about each other. That page seemed to highlight the 'origin' aspect of their lives. Maybe Karen's trysts weren't shared.

And I loved seeing the classic PG outfit too!

Anonymous said...

Great review and great issue. Once again the cover doesn't match the story. Let's see what the next writer can do, if he lives up to his hype.

Anj said...

Oh, and welcome back ealperin!

Anonymous said...

@Anj - Yes the "origin" aspect was highlighted but I got the impression they saw a lot more of each others memories. The horrors Power Girl must have seen during five years of a global war seem to me a lot worse then any memories of her trysts would be.

On the flip side there are memories of Power Girls training and her fighting experiences that could be very helpful for the inexperienced Supergirl. But only if my impression is correct. Maybe they only shared memories up to Supergirls biological age, when Supergirl had no more memories to share it stopped.


elknight20 said...

Thank you! :D
It's been a while! ^___^

Gene said...

Now if that machine could give Supergirl a better costume...

Anonymous said...

They could've skipped the entire H'el on Earth crap and had Kara meet Power Girl and learn English from her so much sooner.

Count Drunkula said...

Great review, Anj!

I've been wanting to get into this Supergirl series for a while, but the H'EL ON EARTH storyline just sounded atrocious and turned me off. I am really intrigued by Michael Alan Nelson taking over next month, because I loved his work on THE FALL OF CTHULHU for Boom! Studios. I figured I could wait another month before jumping into this book, but your review has changed my mind. I'm going to check #19 out!

Anj said...

Thanks for the new comments.

Count Drunkula, glad to entice you to get the latest issue! I'd love to hear about Nelson's prior stuff.

And yes anonymous, I wish we could have skipped H'El on Earth as well.

Count Drunkula said...

Nelson's FALL OF CTHULHU series was based on the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. It was steeped in the horror and dark fantasy staples of Lovecraft's stories.

I think the first story arc, "The Fugue", was excellent. A fairly simple but appropriately dark and creepy descent-into-maddness tale with a few genuine shock moments. Probably the most atmospheric and scary horror comic book I've ever read outside of Moore's SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING. After that first story arc, though, it gets… insane. He starts connecting the series to some of the larger, more incomprehensible concepts from Lovecraft. He does it quite well, I think, but if you're not familiar with the original stories it can be a little tough to get into.

None of what I've just described shouts out "Supergirl", I realize, nor any superhero comic other than maybe JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK or Doctor Fate. But from a pure talent level, I think Michael Alan Nelson's got some game. I have no idea what his approach to Kara will be, but I'm looking forward to finding out.

Anonymous said...

@Count Drunkula: Unlike you and people like you, I was able to get into the 'He'l On Earth' storyline quite well, because unlike you and the man that runs this site, I'm not stuck in the past wanting Supergirl/Kara to be a little goody-two-shoes who wears clean underwear every day and is well behaved/boring like Linda Lee Davners. To be sure, maybe DC needs to publish a separate title for younger readers, but I think that this version of Kara (and her big cousin Kal) works just fine.

If you guys need to read Kara as she used to be, there's always Bit-torrent so that you all can read Kara's old adventures to your heart's content.

Anj said...

Unlike you and people like you, I was able to get into the 'He'l On Earth' storyline quite well, because unlike you and the man that runs this site, I'm not stuck in the past wanting Supergirl/Kara to be a little goody-two-shoes who wears clean underwear every day and is well behaved/boring like Linda Lee Davners.

I truly find it laughable when anyone says that I want a squeaky clean saccharin Siler Age Supergirl.

I have never said that.

In fact, part of my love of the character is that she is striving to be a hero and that she does fail! I like that she gets angry when frustrated and sometimes takes things to far.

But most of all, I love that the character is constantly looking to do what's right and help people.

And I have talked about that pretty much for 4 years here.

What I don't like is a Supergirl like in H'El, a dupe of a villain, acting like a villain, and not doing what's right.

You want to read a bad girl who is closer to a villain, I am sure bittorrent can support you too.