Friday, March 20, 2015

Review: Supergirl #40

Supergirl #40 came out this last week, the final issue of this title, one of the casualties of DC's soft post-'New 52' reboot. And it saddens me that this book is going away.

I have talked almost too much about the missteps of the initial Kara in the New 52, from the idea of her as an angry loner, the 'Hell on wheels' young girl just as apt to attack a friend as an enemy, the hysterical gullible dupe of H'El, etc. I could talk about how DC promoted her as someone crushing Earth with red glowing eyes. I could revisit Scott Lobdell having her speak with icy word balloons as she threatened to kill Superboy.

But frankly, why dwell on the negatives.

The creative team of writers K. Perkins and Mike Johnson, artist Emanuela Lupacchino, inker Ray McCarthy, and colorist Hi-Fi have finally ... FINALLY ... given us the Supergirl we need. We are finally reading about a young hero embracing life and Earth, understanding her role as a hero, growing as she travels along the hero's journey, and becoming a leader for her generation of heroes. It is the exact opposite of the Supergirl we got in the early issues. I have been waiting 3 years to read this Supergirl.

So ... of course ... DC decides to cancel the book.

Any cancellation of a Supergirl book will sting. This one will ache for a while.

This is the end of this Crucible story arc and the end of this book. So Perkins and Johnson do their best to wrap things up and showcase their love for Kara. As a result, this whole issue reads like a love letter. It was hard to limit myself to a few scans. Every page had a moment I would have loved to highlight.

Lupacchino, McCarthy, and Hi-Fi give us jaw-droppingly beautiful art. Everything is lush, polished, gorgeous.

 Last issue ended with Korstus having taken over Crucible with the plan to clone Superboy, creating an obedient Super-powered army. Only a depowered Kara stands in his way.

We start out with a panel of Kara talking about her past and how she was trying to let go of the uglier parts of it, escaping it. Part of that history was calling Superboy an abomination and actually considering to murder him at one point.

And here she is, faced with Superboy again, this time trying to save him.

I really love that Perkins and Johnson weren't simply sweeping Kara's angrier past under the rug. They have her acknowledge it and trying to move beyond it. It shows some maturity on her part to look at her past and not like who she was. And it makes this Kara more three-dimensional, more sympathetic as a character than if she simply was 'rebooted' as a hero. She's complex and that makes her engaging.

Luckily, it turns out that she isn't truly alone. Tsavo and Comet have been hiding in the wings and join the fight. As they fight, Maxima and Preceptor Amata are freed. The device depowering Supergirl is destroyed. And Korstus and his lackey Roho are suddenly on the defensive.

Remember that Kara started out in the New 52 wanting to be left alone, building a true fortress of solitude on the bottom of the ocean.

Here she loves that her friends arrive, that they look out for each other, that they work as a team. Perfect.

 And we learn more about what Kara has learned in her classes at Supergirl.

She isn't the out of control Supergirl she was. She is in more control of her powers. For example, here she combines microscopic vision and heat vision to surgically destroy the filaments embedded in Kon.

With Kon freed, the creation of the clone army is halted. And Korstus, his drones, and Roho are defeated pretty quickly. And the hero of the piece is Supergirl.

The panel before this we see Kon thanking Kara for saving him. This is such a reversal from her earlier, more blood-thirsty approach to him.

But Amata says it plainly. Supergirl has saved Kara.

Korstus has one last wrinkle to his plot. He has planted a self-destruct device which could destroy a significant portion of the school. Supergirl recognizes she has the best chance of disabling the bomb and surviving. Despite her friends' protests to stay with her, Kara sends them away knowing the school, the universe, needs them in case she fails. 

Amata then tells Supergirl that she is worthy of being at Crucible, the school for heroes.

Here is what I love about this.

This last year of Supergirl, between the Red Daughter and the Bedard issues and now the current team's arc, we have seen Kara come to deal with her grief and rage, reach out to others, become a friend and ally, and better herself. She has come to accept where she is in life and put all the negativity behind her. She is willing to sacrifice herself to save others. And she will protect her friends.

She is a hero.

Kon stays so both can work together to defuse this thing.

The history between Superboy and Supergirl in the New 52 has been pretty ugly. So this moment, where they work together, where they hold hands knowing that they might not survive, is absolutely wonderful.

As I said before, I wonder if, knowing the title is going away, Perkins and Johnson decided to put as many of these moments, emotional and bittersweet and perfect.

Of course they survive. In fact, Lupacchino gives us a fabulous splash of the two flying away from the explosion that is beautiful.

With Crucible saved, nothing is left but the wrap-up.

Amata accepts a position on the board of Crucible.
Tsavo is named Preceptor and Maxima becomes his assistant.
Superboy wants to head back to Earth to help people (a far cry from the bank-robbing living weapon he was ... he has grown too).

And Comet will head back into space to team up with his 'other family' The Wanderers. This ties into the Bedard Supergirl Future's End issue where we see Supergirl as the leader of the Wanderers (with Comet). Love that potential continuity too!

And Maxima?
She admits that she has run from her home because she is gay. She doesn't want to mate with males. She wouldn't be accepted on her homeworld Almerac and so ran to Crucible. But now, after all they have been through, she has some hope.

In a wonderful moment, she comes out to Supergirl, telling Kara that she has inspired her. It shows the power of acceptance and friendship. And it ends in a hug between friends.

In an issue of great moments, this one was my favorite.

 Finally back on Earth, Kara is happy serving coffee and hanging out with friends. She feels different, changed, better.

And she really has accepted Earth as her home. The Maxima moment might have been my favorite, but this one is the most precious.

After flirting with Michael for months, even stealing a kiss, Kara asks him out ... sorta. It is about as awkward as it could be. And therefore perfect. Because I can remember squirming, scared, heart racing, trying to form the words to ask a girl out. And that's what this read like.

Michael says yes.

And then ... after doing an excellent job of bringing this chapter of Supergirl's life to a close, Perkins and Johnson leave us with a cliffhanger!

For some reason, Kara suddenly has no powers!

The end ... for now!

It is pretty clear that DC has some plans for Supergirl. I have to assume that another title or take on the character is around the corner given the impending show, this reveal, and the 'for now' statement.

But seriously, I want to read more of this Kara! This team has finally brought her to a place Supergirl fans want to be. They want her to be a young hero learning the ropes, filled with optimism and striving to help people. They want her to have a fierce sense of justice and a willingness to act first when there is need. And we finally have it! This issue showcased how far Supergirl has gone down the hero's journey. I don't want a new title to put her back at the beginning! I certainly don't want another 'bitter loner' take.

Anyways, I  should focus on the positive and thank this creative team for bringing me this wonderful story and this fabulous Supergirl. I can only hope that when DC does bring back Supergirl that they hand the reins back to Perkins and Johnson. I can only thank them and Lupacchino, McCarthy, and Hi-Fi (and Tony Bedard, Charles Soule, and Yildiray Cinar before them) for giving me back the Supergirl I love.

Overall grade: A+


PRgirl1294 said...
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Anonymous said...

Don't worry that final panel cliffhanger will NEVER ever be revisited or resolved by DC editorial, its the bane of the Supergirl franchise going back practically to her inception in 1959. She must lead all of the DCU in unresolved plotlines, decommissioned supporting characters and abandoned settings...this will be no different. Which is sad because I enjoyed the issue glad some things got resolved generally this has been a good month for Supergirl in terms of displaying her in a heroic mode and moving her past the whole "angry teen " motif. But the book is canceled so I guess none of that matters...again sad. All I can say is, Health to Melissa Benoist, Everything Depends on Her Now...

Martin Gray said...

Great review, I'm with you all the way on terms of the sentiments. I'm not thinking the return of Supergirl's series depends on the success of the telly show, even if it flops DC will bring Kara back in her own title - she's a DC icon who may be reinterpreted, but won't be mothballed altogether.

As for leftover plotlines, as I was saying over on my blog review of this issue - well, in the Comments, anyway - unless someone tells me otherwise, I'm assuming Siobhan sent that pesky Blaze packing.

PRgirl1294 said...

Nice review, but you got a few things wrong.

1. The problem with the self-destruct thing was that it was supposed to be done if someone tried to stop the cloning process and destroy the clones. That's what Kon and Kara were trying to do and that's why that part of the school exploded. (Though I don't think that they completely succeeded, considering what Kon had to go through in "Superboy: Futures' End #1" and what he may have to go through in "Teen Titans" for a few issues.)

2. Unless there's an explicit confirmation from one of the writers, whether Maxima is a lesbian is debatable. All that she said was that she wasn't attracted to the men on her planet and that could mean a bunch of things. It could mean that she's a lesbian, but it could also mean that she's asexual or that it's just Almeracian men that she's not attracted to. People need to stop letting this LGBT craze dictate everything we see or hear.

PRgirl1294 said...
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PRgirl1294 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay said...

I wonder if Kara's apparent power loss will have something to do with Superman's change of appearance post-Convergence? If, for example, a return to his first year, street level duds is a sign that his power levels have somehow diminished back to the levels he was at back then, maybe something's going on with Earth that's affecting Kryptonians' powers.

Anonymous said...

She said she likes Kara and she is the type of person she envision herself to be with.

PRgirl1294 said...

Yes, but even that is ambiguous. And even if one of the writers confirm it, there still has to be the other writer. And who's to say that it's gonna go anywhere? Subsequent writers can change it before it becomes truly explicit in canon.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

I think the Maxima reveal isn't ambiguous. I think she is coming out to Kara. And I think that is pretty cool.

I feel sorry that none of the other plot lines will be explored.

And interesting idea about a vague depowering of all Kryptonians Jay. I wonder if that is part of The Truth

Martin Gray said...

To see Maxima's scene as dripping with ambiguity is to be in deep denial. It's one of the most straightforward coming-out scenes I've seen.

And yep, K Perkins has confirmed that Max is gay, only today on Instagram: '#supergirl issue #40 is out & the the book is coming to an end - but really happy i got to have this moment. there needs to be more characters of diverse backgrounds, including LGBT ones, in mainstream media. (out &) proud to be a part of positive social change AND a BLEEPEDBYMART awesome team that's pushing us forward with epic storytelling, phenomenal art & a badass female#superhero:'

PRGirl, that's not something one slips past a co-writer, you can take it that Mike Johnson is down with the moment.

And you know what, if I'd seen comics pandering to a so-called craze when I was a kid it'd have made growing up gay a bit less scary and confusing. I applaud the creative team for this moment - what's so frightening about reflecting life as it is?

PRgirl1294 said...

1. Sorry, but if I was the only one who thought that that scene was ambiguous and there wasn't history of Pre-New 52 Maxima being uninterested in Almeracian men, your statement about being in deep denial would be valid. But I wasn't and there is. Check out this forum thread to see what I mean: Plus, Kara didn't seem to react as if Maxima was giving a profession of "love" for her.

2. Even if Johnson was on board, as one of the commenters on that thread mentioned, both his and Perkins's tenure on this book is over now and they don't own the Maxima character. As I mentioned before, this might not get anywhere, as another writer might change it before it actually becomes explicit.

3. It's not that I find it frightening to see media reflect life as it is. What I have a problem with is when it tries to represent life as it's not. Believe it or not, this issue is much more complex than you would think and portraying it this way leaves very little room for discussion about it with people of all viewpoints without the conversation becoming toxic. And not everybody who holds a certain viewpoint can be put into a certain stereotype. Some people can hold a certain viewpoint for different reasons and out of those people, some people approach it in a certain way. But let's not go any further than that.

Anonymous said...

Prgirl1294 or she can be bisexual like those ppl in that forum mentioned but I have a feel you're not liking her being attracted to girls at all full on or half on in general.

Saranga said...

That page was clearly Maxima coming out as queer. Call her lesbian, call her bisexual, whatever. She's not straight and that's a brilliant thing.
It felt a bit rushed but I reckon's that's because it's the last issue and the creative team wanted to gt as much in as possible.
The only question (to me) is whether that one page did enough for Maxima, and that is something I am about to blog about.

Anonymous said...

...suffice to say, handily agree we're FINALLY at a Supergirl we love and want to read. Loved
this, ambiguities and all.

...tho the Supergirl depower, while an interesting hook for the next set of stories (if there
were to be some), somehow made me think about Women In Fridges... I'm TRYING not to read too
much into it, but one can't help but wonder.

Personally, I'm hoping it's a leadup to the Supergirl TV series and their character blurb
that Kara was one to hide her powers and behave as if she were human.


Chrissy said...

Yeah prgirl1294, you are WAY off. Maxima coming out was about as in your face and obvious as can be. And confirmed by the writer.

Even if they are no longer writing the character, her sexual identity is canon. Whether it goes anywhere or not, it's a big moment for DC and comics in general.

Anyway, really good issue and a great way to tie all this Kara business together. LOVED it