Friday, April 24, 2015

Review: Convergence:Adventures of Superman #1

Convergence: Adventures of Superman #1 came out this week. This was the book I had the most trepidation about prior to reading. Sure Keith Giffen was handling the Matrix Supergirl and was probably going to make her a laughing stock. But Marv Wolfman was writing pre-Crisis Supergirl and, to be blunt, he doesn't have a great track record with the character.

Thirty years ago, Wolfman declared that Supergirl wasn't an integral part of the Superman mythos or the DC Comics universe. In a move to add some weight to Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wolfman killed Supergirl off. Now she dies heroically there, saving the universe, and that moment has carried weight moving forward to all later incarnations of the character. It has provided Sterling Gates and Landry Walker and others a powerful moment  to build on, a sort of legacy to play off of.

But Wolfman did kill her off.

Moreover, Wolfman has revisited this moment in the past in books like Legends of the DC Universe and DC Retroactive. Those books have seemed in places to be an effort to justify his killing off Kara. They also have concentrated more on Superman's reaction rather than Supergirl's heroics.

So it should make sense that I went in to this book warily, wondering if Wolfman would abuse the Kara character again.

Incredibly, I thought this was a great book, showcasing Supergirl and all the positive things about the character. While Wolfman takes some continuity liberties which I'll point out later, I was able to look past them.because of the brighter parts. I also know that this is a Supergirl that hasn't been seen in 30 years, who many readers have no experience with, and that Wolfman has only 2 issues to push through a character arc. So some minor characterization wrinkles to add conflict are probably a story-telling necessity.

Roberto Viacava and Andy Owens are on art here and bring a steady influence to the book. Certainly, their Supergirl looks good.
Like many of the Convergence books, this one is set in Gotham. Superman and Supergirl were there for an unrevealed reason when the dome went up, trapping them and rendering them powerless.

But they aren't helpless. They work with Wayne Foundations Lucius Fox to try to find a way out.

This is the first continuity stretch for Wolfman. I think he is thinking about the Christopher Nolan Morgan Freeman Fox. In the comics, he's no tinkerer.

They do have a decent idea. Why not create a Phantom Zone projector, use it to get beyond the dome, and then find some rift in the Zone to exit on the way out. Of course, that means they might run into the imprisoned criminals. There are no guarantees here but after a year under the dome, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Kara strikes me as a little young here, making some jokes and snarky comments about their chances. This pre-Crisis Supergirl was pretty established, the hero of Chicago, and mature.

And hearing Zor-El helped create the Phantom Zone was strange if not outright wrong.

This was my favorite page of the book. Superman talks about how he is inspired by Kara as well as impressed by her. For once, Wolfman talks about the strengths in her character. Her warmth, caring, and optimism. How she is pro-active and determined. It sounds as if Wolfman finally gets just why people love the character. She wasn't a worthless part of the DCU. She was unique and valuable.

Most people know how Supergirl is inspired by Kal. It was refreshing to hear the reverse.

Unfortunately, the Phantom Zone is also very different than I am used to. Instead of a ghostly limbo, it's a true material plane, a blasted wasteland where you can be physically hurt. It struck me like the Phantom Zone in Smallville.

The Phantom Zone villains do end up attacking. The cousins split up to maximize their chances of escape. The bulk of the villains stay and overpower Superman while only four trail Supergirl.

Now after waiting decades for revenge, you think the villains would kill Kal outright. But instead, they decide to prolong this ... by setting up a trial by combat?? You think that their bloodlust would overtake them. And considering how many times Superman has defeated them, you think they wouldn't take this chance and would just kill him.

I think Wolfman adds a little Crisis wrinkle to the proceedings. The Zone's skies turn red. And while in this place, Supergirl gets a vision of her entire life. It actually is a nice little homage to so many parts of Supergirl's career. Argo City, the Midvale hollow tree, the reveal to the world, the Gang, the crying cover from the 70s solo title, and ... of course ... her death in the Crisis.

It shows a little respect for her history. Maybe more than Wolfman has shown her in the past.

It does mean that Kara now knows her fate. If she escapes the dome, she is fated to die at the hands of the Anti-Monitor.

There is a brief period where Kara questions what to do. Should she streak to her death? What if her death doesn't matter? But that period of doubt is brief. She gathers up her resolve and moves forward.

Now I said that this is supposed to be an established Kara. She is far along the hero's journey. And seeing her wonder about the vision and wonder if she should save Kal if it meant her own death seemed off for me. (Think of her speech in Crisis #4 to hear her thoughts about doing what's right and fighting.)

But for people who haven't read this Supergirl, it allows Wolfman to show that she would make this decision. Adding a little emotional punch makes it a more powerful moment.

The rest of the issue is really a showcase for Supergirl's fighting prowess.

She defeats the four villains who tailed her. Then she is able to stealthily overcome a number of the other Zone prisoners before bashing her way through them and saving Superman.

Supergirl saves Superman. This is her story.

Unfortunately, the rift from the Zone closes before the cousins can escape. It looks like its going to be a brawl.

I love how Supergirl is poised and ready, defending a battered Kal.

Of course the dome has dropped. And this Gotham is under attack by armed gorillas from Kamandi's time I presume. The cousins need to return and defend! This was almost an unnecessary and silly cliffhanger for the issue.

In many ways, I felt this was something of a love letter by Wolfman to the Crisis-era Supergirl. We hear about her warmth and compassion. We see her willingness to sacrifice herself to save her cousin and the universe. We see her strength and skills in defeating the Zone villains and saving Superman. This is really a Supergirl adventure. Superman had little to do here. And that made me happy.

Happy enough to look past Lucius making hard-core tech, Zor-El creating the Zone projector, and the Zone itself being a physical plane.

Because it had been a long time since I read this Supergirl in all her glory. So a tip of the hat to Marv Wolfman for writing a great Supergirl issue. (Now that's something I thought I'd never write!!)

Overall grade: B+


mhr said...

It was always suggested that SG knew she was going to die. That was used (maybe) on 'Many Happy Returns' and now on thi sissue.

Anonymous said...

However...there is something deeply sadistic about writing a Supergirl this inspiring and noble and still putting her on the fast track to annihilation and expulsion from continuity. Which does nothing except to prove that Marv Wolfman is truly unrepentant. He could save The Teen Titans from inanity and obscurity but no love for Supergirl unless she is bound over to the Undertaker...
But I repeat myself...
Anyway loved the artwork...and Marv's dialogue is as always crisp. ...

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I enjoyed the cover art, but really hated a lot of the pages. Sometimes there was real emotion, other times the artist couldn't draw a face correctly.

JF: the entire Convergence thing is sadistic and not that well-written. I've only picked up a few titles out of curiosity and half the fighting involves characters from Kingdom Come (last week's Matrix, Arrow, Superboy). Did you read COUNTDOWN: ARENA back before FINAL CRISIS came out? It was similar to this, and Dan DiDio himself later called it fanfic.

OK. Kara sees her eventual death in COIE. But how can I even care about that when I know it has nothing to do with this book's second chapter?

Anonymous said...

Wayne that's the sadistic part, Supergirl's own death is a Sub Plot to a brawl book....
Its the final indignity.
Maybe though this will give someone with a heart and some talent the idea to revisit the Bronze Age Supergirl outside the COIE #7 Orthodoxy & tell some good stories about her. For that fact somewhere in all the multiverse shouldn't there be one alternate reality where Supergirl saves the universe at the cost of her cousin's life....? I mean just once...lets see what happens when the barnacles get cleaned off Supergirl's sleek feminine hull.

Anonymous said...

Storytelling is a window into a person's soul. Unhappy people write unhappy, tragic stories. Someone who has a chip on his shoulder about women will write stories in which women don't succeed. The fact that Marv Wolfman keeps going back to the story of Supergirl's demise perhaps says something about him. That's why a woman or a mature confident man is needed to write Supergirl.

Anonymous said...

Supergirl hears her Cousin's distress and returns to battle the anti-monitor. In a grudge match she proceeds to defeat the anti-monitor and save the universe. Superman sees that his cousin Kara has finally fulfilled her potential and is ready to take his mantle. He then can retire and live with Lois and in an interesting twist become Kara's occasional secret weapon when she needs help. Supergirl proceeds to be the muscle of the Justice League, etc. and become the lead and face of heroes around the galaxy. Seeing Supergirl save the Universe and rising to new heights, Batgirl overcomes her momentary crisis of confidence. The Adventures of Supergirl continue...

Anj said...

Thanks for such great comments giving me a lot to process.

For me, I think that here Wolfman does bring up all the things that Supergirl fans love about her. There can be no rewriting history, this is the pre-Crisis world. The Crisis will come. So I am glad he made her the star here.

Yes, the death back in '85 was misguided. But, as I said, it has given Supergirl a great legacy. Certainly, that death is more important and remembered than Barry's one issue later, and many other comic deaths in similar situations - Hal, Conner, etc etc.

And I wonder how Wolfman feels that the Supergirl moment, the death of someone he thought worthless, has become a defining moment in his career.

Thanks again! Love this thread!

Anonymous said...

History gets rewritten in the comics all the time, Supergirl was once a veritable curse word at DC and banished from continuity. All I want is for the re-writing of history to advantage My Fave for Once!

Martin Gray said...

What a lovely, fair-minded review. How I hate you!

Kidding! Well, only about the last bit, this is a lovely, even-handed review and you make some great points. I just didn't like the volcano vision at all - take about contrived.

As you say, though, great to see the real-ish Kara again.

But does she not know Klurkor? ;)

Martin Gray said...

Reading the comments on here, I feel obligated to point out that DC asked Marv to revisit the death for this book. See this interview:

I still wish he'd said no!

I do like this exchange from the piece:
Nrama: I'm sure you're aware of all the different versions of Superman and Supergirl that have arisen in the years since Crisis — including the new Supergirl TV show that's yet to be seen by fans. What’s your hope for the characters?

Wolfman: I only hope everyone treats these characters with respect. As I said earlier, take them into the future, but don’t forget what made them work and special.