Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Review: Adventures of Supergirl Chapter 12

Adventures of Supergirl, Chapter 12 came out this week, the penultimate chapter of this book. As always, I read the second to last chapter of arcs pretty critically as it has to bring the story to a place where it can be wrapped up.Have the subplots been addressed? Has the main plot been brought forward to a point that it can be finished? This chapter is crucial.

I believe writer Sterling Gates succeeded here. There is a lot going on. But the story has been pushed forward so much the last couple of chapters that I feel we are close to an end. The main villain and our hero are about to square off.

But most impressive for me is that Gates has injected personal/emotional subplots into this brief series. The foundation of the show and a big part of its success was the relationship between Kara and Alex. Gates has leaned on that as well. In this chapter and comic, that relationship is the bedrock as well. The ending of this part is an emotional scene which resonates with the show nicely.

As for the art, Emma Vicieli continues to shine. We get to see action and character scenes here and both have some artistic heft behind them. In particular the expressive work here, especially with Alex, is the high point. On to the book.

We start out with Suoergirl facing off against Facet. We are dropped into this scene which is very different from where we left off last chapter. Facet begins monologuing a bit to Kara. She has been slowly destroying Supergirl's Earthly life, removing all her connections. Her friends at CatCo, her sister, the DEO, and her mother have all been disgraced or killed. Now there is nothing left to tie Supergirl to this planet. Instead, Facet will be free to mold Kara into whatever warped image of Alura she has.

It has been implied here that Alura looked the other way while Facet used here Draconian techniques to keep Fort Rozz orderly. Facet probably thought that meant Alura approved of her methods. And so, Facet would want Kara to be just as Machiavellian as she is, as she perceives Alura was.

I love this thread. Throughout the show and this comic, Alura has slowly been humanized. She has gone from being immutable perfect mother and judge in Kara's eyes to someone much more flawed, much more real. And that makes Kara's feelings about her mother that much more conflicted and interesting.

Big moments deserve big art. This is a 'splash page' for a digital book. But I'm guessing we get a true splash page once we hit the printers. I love this page, both characters poised for battle, Facet bracing for this attack.

That is what big art should feel like.

But this should be the cliffhanger page for this chapter, setting up next issue's finale. So why would Gates put it at the beginning? I think I know why.

We flash back to one hour prior to that opening scene, right where chapter 11 left off. Back in the DEO, Rampage is truly Hulking out, getting angrier, bigger, and stronger. Kara is pretty much overpowered. Alex keeps trying to talk down Rampage but the shrill sonic attack by Vril Dox keeps Carin enraged.

Luckily, there is someone in the DEO who can stop Dox. J'Onn. Remember, last chapter we saw Hank get supposedly crushed by Kara's pod. So it makes sense that Kara feels relieved to hear Hank's voice. But I still don't think she is aware he is a Martian.

I'm going to assume that J'Onn will mentally shut Dox down. Perhaps that is who he was practicing on between the guard at Lord Industries and the later villain he mind wiped in the show. We all wondered who he had been practicing on.

Just as it looks like Alex is about to die, she drops a bombshell. Rampage's sister died because she save Alex's life. The art in this sequence by Vieceli is particularly strong. You can see the emotional pain on Alex's face throughout.

But this is a revelation!

We finally learn about what actually happened on Alex's first mission. Alex went off over-confident, tracking down Rampage's sister. Thinking things would be like a training mission, Alex isn't careful and almost tumbles to her death off a building. Moyer reaches out and saves Alex, unfortunately revealing herself. The DEO agents then killed Moyer.

Alex didn't pull the trigger but in some ways is just a culpable. But the point is Rampage's sister wasn't a monster, wasn't evil, and actually was doing good when she died. And Alex wasn't going in guns blazing, mowing down a helpless victim. It's complicated. War often is. It is this nuanced look at these characters that makes this book so compelling.

I have to assume Agent Moss is a nod to editor Wil Moss.

After hearing the true happenings of Alex's first meeting, Rampage runs through a gamut of emotions before finally forgiving Alex.

But what was interesting to me was reading Kara's inner monologue as she watches Alex and Rampage come to terms with what happened. Kara mentions that Rampage has been harboring anger for her sister Moyer for not hiding out, for forcing the confrontations with the DEO. Rampage transferred that hate. And now Rampage has to deal with the fact that Moyer's sin was that she saved someone.

This scene plays out with different characters in the show.
Alex does 'something wrong', killing Astra. Hank takes the wrap.
Kara is so angry at this that she shuts down, avoiding the DEO.
Then Alex comes clean, but the bad act was to save someone (Hank).
And Supergirl has to ask herself the same questions. How do you feel? Happy? Sad? Or relief?

It isn't a complete copy but it resonates enough to hit with more power than it would on its own. Yes, this has been an arc about Facet. But, like the best of show episodes, it is also about Kara and Alex. So I loved this ending.

And this is the biggest moment in the book, bigger than the Facet/Supergirl face off. So by writing in a nonlinear way, Gates has this be the ending, the scene we close on, the scene we mull over. If we ended with the action shot from above, I don't think this scene would have felt as impactful. This was the emotional climax of the story leaving us the physical brawl next time.

Alas, this means that Sterling Gates only has one more chapter to wrap up the Facet arc and this book Will we hear more of Facet's plot? Will we see the subplots wrapped up (what does happen to Rampage, Dox, and Psi?)? Will we see more from Eliza? Another sighting of Alura? I hope so.

I also hope that DC announces a 'second season' of the book with Gates at the helm.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Nice review of a nice comic. I enjoyed this, as usual, but I'm less convinced by the cold open, then flashback. It's been done to death on TV and it rarely adds anything, to me it's simply a frustrating cliche. OK, it acts like a splash page, a promise of something to come, but is more troublesome because it takes up more room. I prefer a story to start at the very beginning, or if it's in progress, where it ended last time.

As for the Alex reveal, it was one bit of angst too much, we've had about six months of build-up and it turns out the sister accidentally died? That's really not Alex's fault, I can't see a convincing reason to keep that inside.

Ah well, I can't love 'em all.

When this series returns - and it has to - I'd like to see it divided into a number of short serials, or with one dedicated artist... as it is, the constant changing this time is going to make for a choppy-looking collection.

Anj said...

I think Alex felt great guilt because of the death. If she had not gone into that mission the way she did, Moyer might have survived, it is a hard way to start a career. So that's why I think she has been hiding it from Kara. She has always been the perfect agent for Kara. Maybe she worried that admitting this mistake would diminish her in Kara's eyes. And who wants to relive their worst mistake?

I get your point but I think you needed to touch on Facet somewhere in this issue. And I get wanting to end with the Alex revelation.

Thanks for comment!

KET said...

I actually thought that this chapter elevated the story beyond the usual 'final confrontation' cliché, which for me reversed a growing ennui I had gotten from the previous couple of installments. The emotional beats between the characters were much improved this time, and did offer a glimmer of hope that the finale will reflect well on the show's enduring 'stronger together' theme.


Anonymous said...

> I also hope that DC announces a 'second season' of the book with Gates at the helm.

+9000 on that Anj. I've loved this series, flaws and all since it came out.
And with the fact of S Gates at the helm, I know Supergirl will be handled right;
I've no higher compliment than that.

Thanks again for the reviews, as always.