Friday, February 21, 2014

Review: Supergirl #28

Supergirl #28 came out this week, the first part of the Red Daughter of Krypton storyline.

We have been hearing about this story arc for some time now and so I am glad to finally have it arrive. Writer Tony Bedard has been talking about how this arc will be a turning point for Kara, a way for her to deal with the past and move on. So if it is a character catalyst, I suppose I am fine with it. It is time for this Supergirl to accept Earth as home and become the hero we all want her to be.

For me, the part that I have been most interested in is seeing just how we get from the sullen Kara to one who accepts a Red Lantern ring. I feel that Mike Johnson and Michael Green wrote this book as a treatise on grief and not necessarily rage.

But as time has gone on, with H'El and Krypton Returns and Zor-El, things have been leaning more towards anger. Still, there have been enough glimmers of hope in this Supergirl that embracing rage seems off. In this issue, Tony Bedard does a good job stripping away the last bits of hope and comfort from Supergirl. And in an acute setting, I suppose, I shouldn't be surprised that Supergirl gives in. Still, some of her reasoning is off. I still think that a lot of this self-anger, transferred to everyone and everything.

As I have said before, I am being a bit more lenient on this arc since I know it has an end, and relatively soon. But if I didn't know that, I would be pretty unhappy with this. DC could have taken Supergirl in a whole different direction in the New 52. Here as a Red Lantern is the direct result of what might be considered a flawed premise.

All right, enough bemoaning the direction of Supergirl since September 2011.

The art by Yildiray Cinar continues to be spectacular. He really draws a wonderful Supergirl. And we get to see the scope of his art - from sci-fi settings like The Block, urban settings like Siobhan's apartment and neighborhood, and horrific settings like Blaze's holding pen.

One thing Bedard does show us this issue is just how powerful Supergirl is when fully charged. She basically puts a beatdown onto Lobo this whole issue. This is just a great panel, Supergirl smashing Lobo through not one but two walls. Great dynamic feel to it.

I also like Lobo's internal monologue here as he calls Supergirl 'little miss powerhouse', a title echoed in her naming caption.

I gushed about the use of Blaze as a villain for Supergirl last issue. I think it is inspired. I do hope that we don't see them throw down until after Supergirl has rid herself of the ring.

I included this panel for a couple of reasons. One, this looks like a statue of Blaze which makes me think that her containment unit isn't necessarily a cage but a portion of her kingdom stuck in the Block. I mean why would this statue be put in a simple containment cell? Regal, sitting on the backs of her minions, weird glyphs on the pedestal. It shows just how insane Veritas is, hoping to contain a demon's world!

Again, beautiful work by Cinar.

Lobo does a good job of egging Supergirl on. His hope is to destroy The Block enough to force Veritas to teleport him outside. And to increase the destruction, he needs to inflame Supergirl. So he insults her throughout the initial portions of their fight.

So we see Supergirl's resolve slowly erode from the banter. Two issues ago she was upset thinking that she killed Lobo. Here, she feels that it is weakness to show that restraint. And eyes blazing, she vows to show she isn't weak.

It saddens me a little that Supergirl has become reduced to this angry, smoldering, ball of hate. This simply isn't her. I can hear blog friend John Feer already - she is the Hulk of the DCU right now.

Once outside, Lobo actually changes his tune. Now, he almost wants to help Supergirl. He sees in her a kindred spirit. They both are alone, both a survivor of a doomed world, and both incredibly powerful. He tells her he felt the same way she did but channeled his rage into his work. Maybe she should do the same.

Like Reign was in the earliest issues here, Lobo is a dark reflection of what Supergirl could become. And that dynamic might have been interesting to explore ... if we didn't already know that she is doing something just as bad in accepting the Red Lantern ring.

Bedard does layer on one more slab of betrayal onto Kara. The last couple of issues have made it seem like Supergirl was going to live in The Block, or call it headquarters. Veritas had reached out to her. Now we learn that Veritas doesn't think to highly of Kara. One other person she has let get close to her who has let her down.

Hoping to calm Supergirl down a little to continue his pitch of them becoming partners, Lobo takes the fight to Siobhan's neighborhood, the last 'home' Kara had. But she is beyond caring and takes the fight to him.

I said above that some of Supergirl's reasoning and anger is misguided and here is an example. She says that Kal tried to 'use her'. Earlier she says he had a 'plan for her'. And that Superman acted like he knew 'what was best for her.'

As far as I can tell, Superman has left her alone and hasn't tried to do much of anything. His is a sin of omission, removing Supergirl from his life. He has been the opposite of the overbearing cousin of the Silver Age. He has been an absent relative. That is the flaw ... heck that might be the flaw of this whole concept.

And now she says Kal 'let her down'? How? She pushed him away and he listened?

And without knowing about the Cyborg Superman, how did Zor-El let her down? By not letting her know his plans?

I suppose I can chalk all this up to disorganized thinking, to anger feeding on itself until reason is lost.

But it is telling that the last line here is that they all 'broke her heart'. Nice foreshadow to the red ring and its effects.

And then finally we get this primal scream moment. Standing over the pummeled Lobo, Supergirl screams she doesn't belong anywhere. She lost Krypton. She won't accept Earth. She fled the Block. She has nowhere else to go.

Frankly I am sick to death of this sort of Supergirl. I want her to be young and optimistic and full of righteous fury trying to help bring justice to the world. I want her to make mistakes, grow, and get better. I don't want this monster.

But again, if this is the way to bring us back to a likable Supergirl I will go with it. It's like taking bad tasting medicine.

I will say that the moment that raised this up a bit was this one. The book ends with a shot of Supergirl in her Red Lantern regalia and breathing fire. But this was the best moment in the book.

Who hasn't, in a moment of despair, looked to something wrong and thought it was salvation? Whether it is real or merely perceived, Kara feels completely alone on Earth, completely abandoned. She has just lamented not belonging to something or to some place. And now here is a magic ring offering her a sense of belonging. Those words make this work. If this was 'you have great rage ... join us' it would not have the same effect. 'You belong ...' is a better hook for what Supergirl is dealing with.

And the art captures that. Yes it is an angry face. But she looks hypnotized by the ring too. The red of the ring has completely washed out the yellow of the family crest ... a subtle way of telling me that she has forgotten who she is right here. And the color spectrum on her face is subtle but powerful, slowly bleeding into a deep red. The heck with the last splash of her as a lantern, something we saw 2 weeks ago. I wish this was the ending page.

So how do I grade this?

It is the beginning of a story that makes little sense to me as a long time Supergirl fan, grown from 2 years of stories trying to force the character into a mold she doesn't fit. But it might be the fire needed to burn all that stuff away and get the character back on line.

There are subtle moments (like the one above) which work showing Supergirl's despair. But there are moments where she seems irrational, blaming others for the problems she has brought on herself by running away all the time. The art is superlative.

Overall grade: B-/B

But I reserve the right to change my mind if this red lantern stuff plods or moves the book backwards as opposed to moving it ahead and back on track.


AndNowInStereo said...

Yes, forward momentum and actual character progression is what I want to see. This book very rarely has any, it's all stop-start, as opposed to something like Wonder Woman, which I don't currently read but I hear few complaints about regarding its consistency and depth. Bedard has got some momentum going now after these three issues, the pace and energy of the plot feels like it's ramped up from the lighter #26 to this very intense one, and I hope he keeps it going. I feel like he's doing a decent job so far, there weren't any over-forced moments here (although Lobo saying Kara hits like a girl is a bit lame) and I appreciate the bit of seeding for future plots - Shay, Blaze, Siobhan and Alexa. I'm glad to see Siobhan actually appearing again and a name and face being given to her roommate, which hopefully means she'll eventually be a recurring character.

But it's the art team who made this one for me. I liked Cinar, McCarthy and Brown on the previous two but they really pulled out all the stops here. This raised the story a lot, I think. I felt the weight of the action scenes and the feelings in the characters pretty strongly, especially in that panel you've picked out Anj. This issue looks amazingly good and I reckon I enjoyed it more than any issue of this series in some time. Maybe since #22 even.

#29 had better not be just a big fight. That would be a bit lacklustre, I hope there's a point to it and I feel like any Kara vs Siobhan conflict should mean something. I also wonder if there'll still be internal narration from Kara in her pre-Lake state?

I notice that Kara's plasma looks like fire and not blood. I'm very glad about that, as well as what looks like a recolour job on next issue's cover (seen in the back pages here) to reflect that change.

Martin Gray said...

Definitely, Kara's accusatory thinking was off, even blaming Siobhan. I'm with you all the way, if this story gets Kara to a place worthy of her comics history soon, great - but the direction of the New 52 Supergirl has been fundamentally wrong.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great review Anj!
I don't disagree with any of your complaints about the overall direction of the arc. Kara/Supergirl's increasing rage has been a bit roughly handled, especially given the distinct lack of involvement from Kal/Superman. (One of my biggest concerns, which you put into words, was Supergirl's isolation from the mainstream continuity. There isn't even a Super-family at all. Maybe JLU will bring some changes.)
However, I do have to say that I came to this line of comics as a new reader, and found a lot of the character dynamics fresh and exciting. My only experience with Supergirl before this was the Superman/Batman: Supergirl in 2004. I wasn't very impressed. So coming onto the New 52 and picking up Green and Asrar's Supergirl was a breath of fresh air, frankly, a new character that I could really enjoy. The upcoming Red Lantern arc is something that I've been looking forward too (although the transitional period has been frustrating). It seemed to fit with the DCnU's emphasis on the alien identity of their Kryptonian characters. When I picked up the more recent Red Lanterns under Guy Gardner (Soule/Vitti) I was happily surprised: the Red Lanterns are a group of interesting, broken people who are each trying, in their own way, to channel misdirected or overwhelming anger into doing something (relatively) positive. Kara does belong there, whether it be temporary or not, and I hope that she, at the very least, comes out of it with a respect and appreciation for the Red Lanterns.

Saranga said...

I thought this issue was quite good, if not what I expected. As an issue in itself it made sense, Kara's anger driving her to the red rign made sense. In the previous couple of issues it felt more like her anger was forced.

I thought RL/GL 28 was excellent, and Supergirl 28 is not as good, but I still enjoyed it.

Interesting to hear from a new reader like Clanoblique!

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

Thomas - I agree. There is movement here which is welcomed. And you are right, Siobhan's roommate will hopefully be part of a growing supporting cast once Kara gets back.

Mart - I think all of these false accusations are Kara transferring her rage. She could have made all these people who left her be closer if she approached them! Somewhere I hope she realizes that she is in a prison she made.

Clan - again thanks for coming by! I completely agree about Red Lanterns. I have read the last 6 issues or so (picked them up when this Red Daughter arc was announced). And you are right that these aren't crazy evil-doers. They are flawed, hurt, but trying to do what's right. They are much more sympathetic and likable than I thought they would be. Adding Supergirl should be interesting.

Saranga - I agree that prior episodes of anger seemed forced. This issue felt like Supergirl had simply lost it so everything was seen as an enemy, everything made her mad. So accepting the ring felt right for the moment.

Hoping we get this turned around soon.

Jay said...

I've actually been more hesitant to continue on with this storyline than I initially thought I would be. Instead of growing more accepting I seem to be more grudging toward it I guess, lol. But seeing this review, I think I'll give it a go, as Anj had strong feelings of this direction than I did. So if he saw the amount of positives here that he did, that's a good enough sign for me.

Totally agree the blame game stuff with her is beyond irritating and they need to move on from it, but hopefully this is exactly the storyline in which that will occur.

lordciaran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lordciaran said...

Ah sorry my last comment was actually meant for your comments on the new trade of supergirl. My bad.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review, I need them more than ever since I've dropped the book. From the looks of things, it was just as bad as I thought it would be. Fundamentally while I abhor dark (and stupid acting) Supergirl, the dark versus light argument is something of a distraction. The real issue is that a succession of creatives on this book cannot answer the question "Why does Supergirl" stay on Earth...she has "no motivation" in the patois of Hollywood. Now that seems like a simple question to me, but to these guys it's the Riddle of the Sphinx. As a consequence every single bad plotline choice imposed on the character from the git go flows from this issue...regardless as to who is the writer.


Anonymous said...

"It saddens me a little that Supergirl has become reduced to this angry, smoldering, ball of hate. This simply isn't her."

I don't really have a problem with this here. The way I see it, this is a small stage within a character's life; at this point, Kara has gone through some serious crap, and all that anger and frustration she feels is starting to take its toll on her, eating her up on the inside. I know Supergirl is supposed to be this symbol representing optimism and the good within us all, but when has there been a mandate that said she couldn't ever have off-days or that she is immune to human weakness, including anger and/or frustration? Seeing her like this, to me, really shows her humanity and vulnerability. What interests me is her overcoming this obstacle and finding her footing.

BTW, it's interesting that in this issue Lobo of all people was the voice of reason to her mindless rage (a warped and sinister one, but a voice of reason just the same).