Friday, February 20, 2015

Review: Supergirl #39

Supergirl #39 came out this week, the penultimate issue for this arc, creative team, and title. It is hard to believe that I finally have a New 52 Supergirl that I want to read, a Supergirl who has consistently been a hero, and ... just like that ... DC has decided to pull the plug. It is almost ironic. After completely shedding the angry, loner, disaffected, 'Hell on Wheels' persona that DC forced on us at first, Supergirl is being canceled.

Ah well, enough lamenting the ending of this book. Instead I should be praising the work that the creative team is doing here. Writers K. Perkins and Mike Johnson, artists Emanuela Lupacchino and Ray McCarthy, and colorist Hi-Fi have been putting together a wonderful book here. It is interesting, engaging, beautiful and bright. Crucible really has been a superb arc. In fact, the only knock on this issue is that it reads fast, as if the creative team realized they needed to sprint to the finish line to effectively finish the story. There are plot threads which I think would have percolated for a bit longer if this team had more time on the book.

Perkins and Johnson also write a great Kara. She is smart, brave, strong, optimistic, and loving. She also is a bit brash, one of the things I love about a young hero learning the ropes. It is sad that we won't be reading more of her.

Oops ... I said no more lamentation! On to the book.

Last issue Supergirl returned to Earth and fought off Roho and his gang, stopping them from kidnapping Superboy. Despite that win, Kara's ally Maxima turned on her and tried to do the same thing. Superboy is of some importance to Crucible and the different factions there.

One thing that I have liked about this new run is the internal monologue that Kara has. She has seemed to not only accept but embrace a new path in life as a leader and a hero. But there is also this sort of resiliency. Even here she notes that life continues to throw her curve balls. It seems as if her life will never be stable. The idea that Crucible might bring some order to her life is wrong ... but she rolls with it. Instead of sulking, or bemoaning her life, she decides to be pro-active and try to improve it.

Just jaw-dropping art by Lupacchino and McCarthy here. And the colors really pop.

Most importantly, we see growth in Kara. I said before she was embracing this new life as a hero. Does anything say that more than her leaping to the defense of Kon? Remember the Lobdell version of Kara calling him Abomination and vowing to kill him? Now we get her protecting him.

Even when she is called on her past actions with him, she feels regret. She says she realizes that he is a person and worth saving. And look at her expression here. Sort of an apologetic look on her face as she looks at Kon, knowing that she was so bull-headed and biased before. Such strong work by Lupacchino.

It is so important for me that Supergirl is a true hero, looking for the best in people, and rising ... sometimes passionately and fiercely ... to help them. We have that here. And I like that Perkins and Johnson are acknowledging the stuff from Kara's past rather than sweeping it under the rug.

I also have been pretty rough in my assessment of the New 52 Superboy here. He has been a 'living weapon' and out of control. He has been a bank robber, covering himself in bling. He has been a blank slate, someone who could be controlled. He has never quite been enough of a hero for me.

In this book we have seen Superboy doing some soul searching too, trying to reach some sort of understanding of who he is. He actually agrees to go with Maxima to Crucible. Maybe Crucible holds the key to him finding himself. He and Maxima teleport away, leaving Supergirl on Earth to give Comet time to heal.

We have seen tremendous progression in Kara over this last year under Bedard, Perkins, and Johnson. I am glad to see Superboy on this same journey.

But remember how I said that this issue felt like a bit of a sprint. Here is where I felt it the most.

The Crucible plot goes from simmer to a full boil quickly. We had the sense that Korstus was up to know good, mobilizing the Crucible students into an army. And we knew that Amata seemed to have nobler goals. My guess would be that the plots of these two would have been slowly unveiled over the next year.

But the creators don't have the luxury of time.

So instead Amata is attacked by Korstus, who is in cahoots with Roho and his band. Korstus is going to seize control of Crucible and force it into his image.

Meanwhile, Kara brings Comet to the place she feels is safest on Earth ... Michael's apartment.

This is a brief scene but you can feel some sparks fly between the two. Whether it is Michael saying he would be there for Kara, or her telling him Comet is just a friend, or the peck on the cheek she gives him when she heads back to Crucible, this is a relationship I have loved see grow a bit.

Over and over, we have heard creators who come to Supergirl say that this book needed a supporting cast. That's hard to do when the initial concept is Kara being a loner in an isolated Sanctuary on the bottom of the ocean. Thanks to Perkins and Johnson, we finally got one - Michael, Maxima, Comet, Tsavo, Amata - only to have the book dropped by DC.

Oops ... no lamentations.

Back at Crucible, Supergirl finds that Korstus has changed things dramatically and quickly ... maybe unrealistically quick? Again ... there is that feeling that things are being rushed a bit.

Think of how dark Hogwarts became when Snape took over. It's like that. The school is in shutdown, with curfews and defense robots and deserted halls. As soon as Supergirl arrives, she is attacked by drones for being out of her dorm.

I guess that means it is up to Supergirl to free the school and save the day!

During her fight through Crucible, Kara comes across Korstus and attacks him. But he is able to shut down her powers with a failsafe switch, something Crucible has built into every student. (Nice negative coloring here by Hi-Fi to show the effect.)

Crucible is a high school of incredibly powerful teens. I remember the roughhousing that happened in my high school. Here, with super powered students, that could be extremely destructive. So it makes sense that the faculty would be able to shut people's powers off. But you would think the students would have to agree to that ... or know about it.

I liked how Kara was able to activate her armor during the fight.  I am normally against armoring up but it works for me. There have been nice little touches to this run, many of them artistic. I love the subtle changes we have seen in her costume, changes which have improved it tremendously. And having an armor costume for defense is a nice addition.

Then we get to the cliffhanger. Korstus has decided to make Crucible into an army. Why train the students and hope they become heroes when they graduate? Why not create an obedient attack force and make order happen?

And what better way to churn that army out than to clone a clone! This is why Korstus wanted Kon.

Nice set-up into next issue's story finale and series finale!

With the book ending, Perkins and Johnson do have to rush to this ending. This could have unfolded over the usual 6 issue 'ready for trade' length. But I would rather have a rushed ending than no ending at all. I suppose I should be very happy that the team had enough forewarning to try to wrap things up. But I would have loved to explore Crucible for a bit longer.

I was going to write a long list of things that I think would have been introduced into the book if it was going on but I said from the beginning that I would not lament the passing of the book. I come to praise this issue. (Lamentations might be coming next review.)

Suffice it to say, I have enjoyed this Perkins/Johnson/Lupacchino/McCarthy/Hi-Fi run. It has been bright, fun, action-packed and filled with great characterization. We have a heroic passionate Kara. It has given us a supporting cast. What more could Supergirl fans want?

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

It really IS tough not to lament at least a little, for all the reasons you know. Well done in trying to keep things positive.

Honestly, though, you weren't at all unfair to Superboy as presented, the poor guy was messed around horribly by DC in the New 52. It's great that he may be set for some peace, once things tie up.

Anonymous said...

I am glad you didn't rate this an A+. You can feel the urgency to complete the story. I shook my head as I read it and wondered about all of the richness this story line could have delivered. The crucible arc could have been a two year story line with Kara checking back in for deeper and deeper guidance as she moved on to other adventures. It could have been the defining story line going forward as long as Kara existed. They could have advised her to find a family and fit into the culture and that would explain the Danvers. So much was left on the table.... :( But it was a fabulous issue, worthy of a B+, just so much more was here than could be said. I will miss this Kara forever.

Anonymous said...

Is it me or did Supergirl get taken out a trifle too easily by Korstus et al?
They are in such a hurry to wrap up yet another barely explored storyline and rush along to the next Big Thing for Supergirl...same old same old. That TV show had better be a hit folks or our Fave may be in some real trouble....


Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I will be sad to see this team go and would love to have seen them let this story slowly unfold.

I don't know if Korstus' defeat was too fast due to lack of respect as much as lack of time.

I do hope the show works (obviously). And I hope the comic isn't in lockstep with the TV show.

But we shall see!