Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review: Adventures Of Supergirl #10

Adventures of Supergirl Chapter 10 came out this week and continued to mine the show's universe in a very entertaining way. As readers, we have seen a mystery slowly unwind before our eyes. What seemed to be a 'escaped inmate of the month' first few chapters has become a villainous riddle involving Fort Rozz and the mysterious Facet. Each chapter has brought us deeper down the rabbit hole leading to this issue where we finally get some answers.

No surprise, writer Sterling Gates has really done a wonderful job on the story. From the villains' motives to the interaction between Kara and her supporting cast to the homages to Supergirl/DC history, this whole book has been a treat. But for fans of Gates' initial run on the character, this chapter will really resonate as we get to see Kara interact with Alura. There was a lot of friction between the two back then. And even if this Alura is AI, we see some of that here as well.

This chapter we also get the treat of Cat Staggs on both the cover and the internal art. Staggs' art has an inky weight to it. It feels like a cousin to Sean Phillips or Alex Maleev. And that weight works here given the story here. I also like the cover here. This moment with Alura was the defining one for Kara for a while, a moment of heroic self-sacrifice from her mother. Given the slow humanizing of Alura, the cover strikes a nice contrast.

On to the book.

Last issue ended with Facet telling Kara to ask Alura about their history. So Kara heads to the DEO to question her mother's AI program. Since this will take time, she asks Winn to cover for her.

For me, comics are at their best when word and art complement each other. Here Kara says they are following a lead. The shot of Alex and Kara's boots sort of emphasize the follow idea.

Anyways, interesting panel choice which worked for me.

The Alura AI tells Kara and Alex about Facet. Facet was originally from the planet Barrio Prime. She  then became a guard on Krypton at a prison called Magin. Magin was the hardest prison on Krypton.

Barrio III is the homeworld of the Green Lantern Chaselon, the round crystalline Lantern. So having Facet be from a Barrio world and be a diamond is a deep cut reference to the DCU. (I was honestly hoping she'd be from Dryad).

And no doubt, Magin has to be a sideways reference to Superman legendary writer Elliot S. Maggin.

Facet's first day was marked by a prison riot that lasted a week..

Because of her physiology and strength, Facet not only survived the riot but helped bring it to an end. That shot of her wielding the baton over the cringing prisoners shows how brutal she could be in doling out physical punishment.

Again, so much of this series helps deepen the series. The riot on Magin is what made Krypton build Rozz as a satellite in space, keeping the prisoners off-world. So again, a nice piece of context to explain Rozz's existence.

Because of her success at Magin, Facet was named a given the title of 'Hand of Krypton' making her a protector of Krypton's future. It also probably made her politically untouchable. She was sent back to Magin and ran it ruthlessly for hundreds of years. We again see prisoners cower as she walks by. She did that for hundreds of years ... that's insane. It also explains how she knows antiquated Kryptonese!

When the time came to have someone run Fort Rozz, Facet was chosen. Alura must have known of Facet's techniques. But she hired her nevertheless.

Brid-Wel has to be a nod to E. Nelson Bridwell, the great Superman writer and historian.

But I love the line that Facet ran all the lower Master Jailers, explaining her superior role to the Master Jailer we met in the television show.

All these touches bolster the show's story as much as enriching this one.

Facet was so good in her role that other planets sent their roughest criminals to Rozz. This explains why so many different aliens were on Rozz as seen on the show. That is a brilliant piece of history thrown in to explain one of my questions about the show.

Alura needed Facet to run Rozz the way she did. It helped Alura do what she did on Krypton. But 'might makes right' and 'the ends justify the means' are never good foundations to build a society around.

Suddenly Alura isn't the immaculate, wonderful, perfect person that Kara has imagined her to be for all her life.

It makes it worse that Facet is now targeting Kara's friends.

It was Alura's decision to keep Facet in power, despite her violent ways, that has led to this moment. Once again, Alura has somehow reached from beyond the grave to endanger Kara and Earth.

This sort of political disagreement or clash of ethics was grist for the mill in Gates' original run with Supergirl. Seeing Kara stand up to her mother here felt natural for the story. But it also reminded me of the first Gates run and that's a good thing.

But it again felt like it was building on the show's big arc. This panel of Kara lashing out at the Alura AI seemed familiar. It reminded me so much of the interaction Kara had with the Alura AI way back in Hostile Takeover.

There Kara confronted her mother over Alura imprisoning Astra and ignoring the signs that Krypton was dying.

This all keeps building on itself making this whole story, comic and show, better because of the other.

The issue ends with this great panel, a troubled and weary Kara sitting on a bench, shoulders slumped, reeling from this news about Alura and Facet. You can feel the weight of all this pressing down on Supergirl. There are no words in this panel but it speaks volumes. Staggs knocks this panel out of the park. It is powerful and gorgeous.

So after 9 chapters that had a lot of action, we get an exposition heavy chapter revealing the motivations of the big bad. Still, this might be my favorite chapter yet. There is so much character development and growth here, specifically the Kara/Alura moments that I was riveted. Facet's back story makes perfect sense. And best of all, it all works within the plots of the show. Gates makes everything dovetail in perfectly so that each media form is made stronger.

Again, it is the small details that make this series such a wonderfully entertaining book. Gates continues to pepper Kryptonian culture into the story that has had me scouring my Krypton Chronicles miniseries and Superman Encyclopedia to research. A fanff is a Kryptonian week. Molium is a title of respect and honor on Krypton. Amzet is a Kryptonian year. Snagriffs are flying beasts on Krypton. Small touches like these honor the history of Superman and Supergirl.

I can't say enough abut this book. It is a perfect mix of action, characterization, and super-history built on the foundation of the show.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

Adventures of Supergirl is great. I do kind of wish for something a "historian's note" indicating when the issue takes place relative to the show (kind of like in Star Trek novels)... but that's probably the Trekkie in me wanting a clearly-defined canon or something like that ;)

Uncle Screensaver said...

Is it true? My brother told me that Gates is going to be one of the writers of the TV show, if so, that would be all kinds of awesome!

Anonymous said...

Caught up with the last couple of issues. I'm with 1st Anon about some sort of
guide placing this within show continuity / timeline, just for reference's sake.
Is be before the show, before/after a certain episode... just to quiet little
niggling things.

Otherwise, the "simmer" setting S Gates has this on, on one hand is annoying --
I'm HOPING DC will give him enough cloth to do what he wants to do, as he's
clearly building up to something longterm. On the other, like you say Anj, is
like a mystery novel. And the Alura hook is beautiful: I recall how Gates had
Alura go between two extremes during the New Krypton run, and how as much as we
could hate her, we could empathize with her line of thinking.

Here it's a different tack; for all the good Alura's done on Krypton, and how
much Kara adores and idolizes her mother, there's some serious skeletons in
the closet. And Kara has to deal with the choices her mother made in her past,
and in sending her to Earth.

Can't wait till the issues and TPB come out! To TPTB at DC, Shut Up And Take
My Money, Please!


Anonymous said...

I've said a bunch of times that #AdventuresofSupergirl takes place before/right up to Supergirl Ep. 109, and almost every story we've done has had some sort of context clue within it to signal where/when it takes place in the season.

Happy hunting!