Monday, October 21, 2013

Review: Supergirl #24

It's catch up time for me as I scramble to get up to date on all things Supergirl after being away for a week because of work. And first thing on my plate is my review of Supergirl #24, written by Michael Alan Nelson and drawn by Diogenes Neves.

Now this is an interesting issue for any number of reasons but primarily because it marks the end of the Nelson 'era'. Steeped in horror roots, Nelson said there would be darkness in his book but with an eye towards the light. And technically he achieved that goal because this issue does end with Supergirl optimistically pining for happiness. But technically achieving a goal and actually achieving the goal are separate things. After the fun opening issue, we moved on to some sad dark stuff - leaving Earth, K poisoning, fighting her own fears, and then ultimately dying. And every time I thought the best, that these darker times were meant to be the deepest before a dawn, we just got even darker. Even this issue, with a rethinking of Zor-El and ending with a positive note, shows Kara at her most unhinged and vengeful.

And I will remind people that Chase and Harras were literally giddy about announcing Nelson and the darker turn he was bringing. I guess the question is why is Nelson leaving? Did he step down? Told to step down? Maybe he knew that another H'El arc would be doom. Or did DC realize AGAIN that this character cannot sustain itself with that take.

The art by Diogenes Neves is wonderful. I find that his stuff can be too stylized at times (his eyes are spooky) but that works with a Supergirl who is forming the clay of I'Noxia into whatever shape she thinks of.

Remember that last issue ended with Supergirl dead, disintegrated, and absorbed into the consciousness of I'noxia. The Cyborg Superman had been reconstituted into Zor-El, who seemed not to realize what he had done.

Now I guess I can understand Supergirl being angry for being destroyed. And I can understand her wanting to deny this false existence of a phony Krypton. But rather than try to figure out a way to use this omnipotence of her surrounding, she decides she will use it to exact a pound of flesh.

Seems a bit Draconian don't you think? And not subtle as we hear her say 'Hard to know what I would do in her situation. But I read these books to see what heroes would do and be inspired.

Now if there is one saving grace about this issue is that Zor-El actually comes out of this looking better. Cleansed of the Cyborg Superman persona, he instantly regrets his actions and orders his I'Noxian lieutenant Delacore to reverse the process. Kara needs her body back and the only way to do that is to become the Cyborg again. It means he will once again lose his memories and personality. He will once again become a villain. But Supergirl will be safe. It is noble and sacrificial. He even tells Delacore to tell Kara to search for happiness.

It also means he will need to fight Brainiac off so that the reversal can occur. And he needs to become the Cyborg again to fight Brainiac, unknowingly to help Supergirl escape. 

Since the beginning of this new incarnation, I have said that Zor-El is desperate to save his daughter to the point of crossing some ethical lines. Here he is just as desperate, becoming a villain once more, leading a horrible life (although as the Cyborg, he won't retain the knowledge he is Zor-El), but at least his daughter is safe.

Unfortunately, Zor-El's plan is to save Supergirl is being undermined by Supergirl herself. Having taken control of I'Noxia, she begins ripping it apart from the inside out.

She will leave the place a 'ruin of cinder and ash', have 'the world burn' until the Cyborg 'lies broken at my feet'. And even if she destroys the I'Noxian collective, so be it. They begrudgingly helped the Cyborg; they are just as guilty in Kara's mind.

I do like this panel as it does conjure up images of the Earth Angel Supergirl with her flame wings.

Zor-El's plan is relatively intricate and plays off the fact that he will reclaim all the foibles of the Cyborg's personality when he is reconfigured. The Cyborg won't remember he is Zor-El. He will be told by Delacore that Brainiac stopped his transformation to human, thus making the two villains fight. Zor-El will 'shrink' the I'Noxian collective to make it safe, sparing them the fallout of the fight. And thus, Kara can be presumed dead and escape without the Cyborg or Brainiac following. And he wants Kara to find happiness.

Again, this redeems Zor-El in about as best as can be expected for him. He is flawed and the guy can't catch a break. But at least he hasn't killed Kara. Unfortunately, it means he will remain a villain and neither he nor Supergirl will know their relationship.

And her anger is so blazing that she does take utter control of I'Noxia, pulling matter which makes up the city to form a super-sized avenger. And she means business. Moon fists and sun legs and a world of misery and wrath. Not very Supergirl-like.

Again, rather than trying to figure out a way to get her body back, this Supergirl is simply driven to destruction. If Michael Caine were here, he would describe her as someone who just wants to watch the world burn. This is the dark twisted Supergirl that DC wants and it's wrong.

The art here is very nice showing Supergirl forming from the swirling matter and dripping with fury.

Zor-El's plan works perfectly. He becomes the Cyborg, forgets all about what happened when he was Zor-El, and flies off to fight Brainiac.

Supergirl is reformed and cured of her Kryptonite poisoning. And no one knows she is alive.

With all that hate and anger behind her, with the need for vengeance removed, Supergirl is suddenly calm again, riding her space-cycle a distance from the Cyborg/Brainiac brawl. And Zor-El even succeeded in saving the I'Noxian collective mind. Sure, they are in floating sphere thing but at least they are free.

And then we get the ending 'feel good' moment. In some ways it is a coda to Nelson's run. I suppose he wanted to eventually get Kara here. And knowing that Tony Bedard has said he wants a likable Kara on Earth, this sets the stage.

It is good to have Supergirl hear one more time that her parents loved her and would want her to be happy.  Maybe this whole near-death experience will be some sort of catharsis for her, making her cling to life and happiness that much more.

Alas, before we can get there we have to suffer one more H'El arc which might derail things again. Remember, Mike Johnson was turning this book around before the first H'El.

And so ends another darker chapter and darker 'era' in the New 52 Supergirl book. Could DC, as they did with the last incarnation of Supergirl, finally have come to the realization that this character deserves something better, that this book warrants a different slant?

So, all together an unhinged Supergirl, a repentant Zor-El, and a happy ending. But in a rough package.

Overall grade: B-


Anonymous said...

How exactly did Supergirl take control of the Collective, was it a fringe benefit of winning "The Miss Teen I'Noxia Contest" or something?
Because that plot point seems to have come of left field, as for Supergirl's genocidal rage against the I'noxians is pretty much the culmination of her entire New 52 story arc and firmly anchors the character as DC's answer to the Bronze Age "The Incredible Hulk". And why not...her cousin is pretty much "The Wolverine" at this point.
I wanted to like this storyline, it seems like it got ended prematurely and on terms utterly destructive of Supergirl's character...I mean like Yikes.
Oh and the panel where Zor El's eyeball goes flying off to who knows where as he is being re-cyborged...that was to say the least, The Crowning Touch.
Nowhere to go but down from here kids.


Martin Gray said...

I'm OK with Supergirl's planetary fury, the dialogue was so over the top that it hinted at some kind of world-mind merging ... maybe I'noxia had had enough of the Cyborg too, and was using Kara as partner/instrument of vengeance; whatever the case, she made it through to the other side, leaving the unhinged aspect of her behind.

Now, how long is the H'el business? I want to see what Bedard gets to do? And that's Bedard, not some new writer parachuted in to enact Lobdell's latest plan.

Anonymous said...

I quite liked Nelson's run. Sure, Kara's dialogue here was over the top but I've really admired Nelson's attention to continuity across the series. I don't mind Supergirl stories being dark so long as the character herself remains a good person, and she's definitely shown the makings of a hero.

Anonymous said...

I mean she was a sniveling impotent punk in the last issue and she completely Hulks Out with genocidal threats in this issue...not a very consistent characterization IMHO...


Anonymous said...

I could take "dark" with the book if Supergirl was portrayed as a good person too, but to go along with threatening to kill everyone in this issue the arc started with her stealing that space bike she's riding fron Shay Veritas. Threatening murder and Grand Theft Spacebike doesn't align well with "good person" or "hero".

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I felt that this issue's characterization was a bit of a step backwards. It has felt recently that Supergirl has wanted to do the right thing but has a hard time actualizing.

Here she is all rage ... like super-rage. And that felt a bit off.

Anonymous said...

Lots of odd things with this issue and the overall story. Some points that stand out:

Why didn't the revived Zor-El just kill himself, or add himself to I'Noxia as his regular self, rather than have himself restored specifically as Cyborg Supes? If simply to challenge Brainiac, why not have his Cyborg personality/memories altered somehow?

Earlier in the story, what exactly did Cyborg Superman expect would happen when he added Kara to I'Noxia? What was his plan if his restoration hadn't reversed his loyalties? Why have Kara's "consciousness" join I'Noxia at all? Why not just kill her?

Although there was enough "mind/body" talk (which also came suddenly out of left field) in the issue to steer readers away from the idea of Kara's "first" self being permanently dead, does anyone else think that there was just enough of a narrative gap between the I'Noxian Kara being vacuumed up and her nude bodily self awakening elsewhere, to crowbar in an existential gap? I don't mean this as a negative point; more that if things in the book continue to go downhill, an interesting future twist could involve the restored Kara being confronted with either an angry I'Noxian doppleganger or some other version of herself claiming to be "the original" ? It actually makes for a good author saving throw investment.

AndNowInStereo said...

Interesting idea anonymous... I dunno. Personally I think a lot of this plot had "ass pull" written all over it, I'm not keen to have it brought up in the future at all.

I actually enjoyed this issue for the most part but that doesn't mean I forgive it for its failings. I went on at length about them over at Martin's blog, but Kara being so theatrical is top of the list. I am glad Zor-El gets a bit of redemption at least.

I'm feeling very enthusiastic about #26 now, after seeing Cinar's art posts and reading issues 20-22 of the preboot Supergirl. Come on December!

Anj said...

Thanks for the continued comments.

I agree that if a reset button was needed, this issue could provide it.

I still think Kara is presented in a pretty lousy light in this issue and the one before. It is a shame because I thought at the beginning of this arc that Nelson was setting Kara up to turn to happiness on her own, with a bit of physical catharsis. We didn't get that.

elknight20 said...

Welp. Flame wings bring back Linda, for me, but, even though the art's great the diaglogue, isn't all that... :( I'll wait until the series gets a little bit better with the writing, then I'll pick it up. ;)