Friday, January 13, 2017

Review: Supergirl #5

Supergirl #5 came out this week and was something of a statement issue for this new direction. Writer Steve Orlando fills this issue with scenes showing Kara's strength, resolve, and her sentiment towards her new world. If you want a primer on who this Supergirl is, you might start here.

One of my minor complaints about this Rebirth book has been the theme of Supergirl needing to recognize Earth as her home and say goodbye to Krypton once and for all. While that is clearly an important aspect of the character's life, it had been told already ... and recently.

I suppose DC might say that not enough people were reading the last title to have it be in the collective memory. After all, one point of Rebirth was to bring in new readers. But for someone invested in the character, some of the ideas bandied about here - Kara missing Krypton, unsure how much she likes Earth, even a little annoyed by the low-tech here - has been well trod material.

Still, I should be lighting a candle here. Based on the things Kara does and says here, it looks like this plot isn't going to linger. We know how Kara feels about Earth now and she sounds pretty resolute in her acceptance and love of the planet. I am thrilled.

Brian Ching brings a real energy to the proceedings too. I have to say I am slowly warming to his style. Some things still irk me a little. But overall, this issue really buzzed art-wise. There was a real dynamic feel that flowed. And there can be no denying that Natalie Dormer is his model for Supergirl. Look at every panel and see if you don't see Dormer there. Uncanny.

On to the book.

The issue opens with Zor-El and his advance guard of re-animated Argo City citizens to rush National City. The plan is simple. These Kryptonians will steal the odic force (or life energy) everyone in the city to truly resurrect Argo.

The DEO is doing their best to hold these things off but we see them draining people.

But the background story of Zor-El's misguided thoughts in thinking this is what Kara wants is the backbone here. Zor might think that he is doing this for Kara but we know this is his own curse, trying to correct what he thinks was his worst failure.

I love this first page showing us that Jeremiah Danvers is a man of action. Over the panels we see him uncoil like a snake, guns drawn.

I also love how Zor-El complains about Jeremiah's Earth accent when saying Kara. Does this explain the Car-a vs Care-A pronunciation debate???

Even though the Argo revenants are only partially super-powered they still are outmatching the DEO. And the Cyborg has blocked all information signals leaving or entering the city. They are alone.

That is until Supergirl arrives. Here we see her save Maggie Sawyer from being crushed by a thrown car.

I beamed when I saw this panel. Supergirl is smiling! She is carrying a car, an iconic pose. And she clearly is happy to be there to help. Even the slightly snarky 'what did I miss' works.

Seriously, this is Supergirl.

And we see how fierce she is when she literally wraps that car around one Zor-El's troops.

And we see her have to perform the famous rescue scene of catching someone falling out of a skyscraper. This time it is Kara's school rival Ben Rubel. That catch is another stunning splash.

But I like how Ben is ruffled a bit at being saved by Supergirl. We have only seen him as a cool, unflappable, confident young man. Seeing him a little panicked and a little sweaty is a nice peek behind the curtain. And Kara's smile might be a little too satisfied.

I have some ideas why Ben's family ostracized him.

Flying into CatCo, we see the beginning of a plan Supergirl is concocting. In a matter of seconds, she writes a quintillion lines of code on CatCo's server. I assume it will eventually be some sort of jamming sequence, disrupting the power the Kryptonian zombies are relying on to run.

Orlando seems to have a great handle on Cat. She is willing to die to save her workers. She is willing to work with Supergirl. But she is stern. I love her body posture in the second panel here, strong and defiant.

But as I said in the intro, this whole issue is built on Supergirl truly denying this abomination of Krypton and accepting Earth as her home.

And nothing said that more than this sequence. She gets between Cyborg Superman and Jeremiah.

"Father. Get the hell away from my dad."

That is a great line. Father is so formal. Dad is a term of affection. It is clear who she loves. And this position, fists clenched, ready to fight. She has chosen sides.

And then this page. Kara has just told her father that the price to bring back Argo ... killing National City ... is too high.

Those panels of Cyborg are fascinating. It feels like in that first panel he is actually mulling over if she is right. But then he doubles down, saying she is too young (read immature) to understand. He simply doesn't respect her.

So Kara gives this great speech. Zor could have resurrected in other ways than draining National City. That action shows that he is doing this because he is ashamed and angry. Earth is her home, her family, her protectors.

And the art, her facing off screen, chin out, poised to attack. I love this page!

But Orlando keeps the hits coming. As I said, this is going to be the foundation of this Supergirl.

In her fight with her father, glass shatters from skyscrapers, endangering bystanders. She breaks off the fight to collect the fragments.

When Zor-El questions if she truly thinks she can save everyone, she says she knows she can.


Another excellent moment. I am usually a fan of being shown something not being told something. But all of this dialogue from Kara, aimed at her past and her father, just works. These are all the things Supergirl should be saying.

This doesn't stop Zor-El from pressing his attack, both physical and psychological. We already heard him say she is too young to make important decisions. Now he says she is too weak to do what's right. He can't imagine why she wouldn't want Krypton to come back. And as if to prove it he bring Argo City to Earth.

I have said before I feel for Zor-El, a character who has gone through many awful iterations in the last 20 years. This one is pretty terrible. He is a narcissist. He is petty. His responses to Supergirl are almost immature, lashing out at Earth out of spite. But this emotional barrage against Kara is particularly cruel. We saw at the beginning of the New 52 that these two had a good relationship. So seeing him descend into this kind of villain is sad. I keep hoping we'll see a glimmer of the old guy shine through.

This was a fabulous issue, my favorite of the run for its overt message. Kara is a hero. Based on Earth. Where her family lives. And she will save everyone. Just perfect.

Overall grade: A+


Riddering said...

I was very excited to read your review because I enjoyed this issue so much. It is definitely the best one in the Rebirth series so far. Each time the action led to someone needing to swoop in and save the day, Supergirl made it in time. I needed to see that! The majestic pages of her in action were gorgeous. I'm much more excited about where this series is going for Kara and her supporting cast!

Anonymous said...

Great issue! If only for the panel of Supergirl holding up the car... I was immediately reminded of the Superman/Gen13 issue #3,
only in that one it was Matrix Supergirl, and she wasn't smiling.

Thanks for sharing as always, Anj!


KET said...

Concur with your positive assessment....a huge improvement over the last couple of chapters. I found this issue to be really enjoyable overall, particularly for including more involving Supergirl action scenes. Artist Ching's work seemed to jump off the page at several intervals. And I'm intrigued by Orlando's emphasis on Kara being a VERY good listener, which she demonstrated handily throughout this installment. Thumbs up for me.


Anonymous said...

I'm torn.

On the one hand, great Kara's characterization. She was determined, fearless, quick-thinking and snarky in a good way.

On the other hand, I'm experimenting arc fatigue. I hate what has been done to Zor-El, I'm a tad tired of this storyline and I believe Ching's art was real rushed. Glad that there's only one issue left because I'm ready to welcome a new storyline and artist.

Yesterday I read a Bleeding Cool article regarding the imminent story arc involving Batgirl, Supergirl, Saturn Girl and Superman. Several disgruntled commentators grumbled about having to buy "Supergirl" again after having dropped her book. As I don't agree with their harsher criticisms, and everything you read in Bleeding Cool must be taken with a pinch -or ten- of salt, I think these comments shed light on why sales dropped after the first issues: dissatisfaction with the "evil Zor-El" plot and the art.

I hope that people give the book other chance now a new story arc is about to begin and a new artist is taking over.

However, for whatever reason, a lot of people never give Kara a real, fair chance. As soon as she is being awfully written, they drop her book for good. And they remember her bad runs for a very long while. Back in 2010 people still mocked "Super-Britney". Back in 2015 people still lambasted the "bitch who collaborated with H'el".

Aaron said...

I really loved this issue. Growing up I loved the Christopher Reeve Superman films but, taking nothing away from Superman who is of course awesome, because he was very mainstream I found myself more drawn to his cousin. After learning more, I found that she was more relatable. And ever since then Supergirl is the only superhero that I really like who has super powers; the character brings fantasy and colour to my comic book reading. And this issue really brings out the “super” in Supergirl. Great action scenes, and seeing Supergirl rescuing people and taking action to prevent them from harm is always special.

I too was unsure of this version of Zor-El, but I knew early on in this arc (with Kara having trouble fitting in and understanding Earth’s customs etc.) that it would conclude with Kara fully accepting Earth as her home. And I guess to help the new readers accept that then Zor-El would need to be a bit of a dick.

Just a side note, but I’m not sure how the cover of the issue you’ve displayed here fits in with the contents of this issue (my issue has a different cover). Maybe it will feature in next months concluding issue. I’m sorry I keep repeating the word issue. Issue issue issue.

Martin Gray said...

That's the variant cover, Aa3on. I like both, though I wish Kara didn't look so blooming grumpy!

Anyway, fab review Anj, I loved this too, what's not to like? Hmm, the length of Kara's skirt, it looks like an extra cape. Easily tweakable, and still better than the New 52 costume.

Orlando and Ching do a wonderful job characterising Kara and yeah, the Father/Dad line was perfect. I retain a glimmer of hope that the better Zor will shine through.

I suspect I know what you suspect about Ben. I still haven't taken to this kid, yes, we've seen vulnerability, but if there's been any warmth, I've forgotten it.

I don't think Eliza is being pursued, I think she's leading the Argo-noughts...why else would she still be heading to Earth once she saw she was being followed?

Anonymous said...

This issue definitely sounds like the best one yet, Orlando seems to be coming into his own stride. It can't have been easy doing a Cyborg Superman arc with Zor-El as the villain when that's an unpopular idea with Supergirl fans but it sounds like it's been executed fairly well. Looking forward to your future posts on all of the news with Supergirl teaming up with Superman and Batgirl to fight Emerald Empress and Superman's new costume.


Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I think this might have been a rough opening arc but it has been improving and giving us the Kara we all seem to want.

Hoping the Batgirl/Superman/Legion arc brings in new readers.

I think Argo was already heading to Earth, Eliza was just ahead of hem.

Anonymous said...

I thought the incoming Lar-On story would be a new story arc, but it's apparently a single issue.

All of sudden I'm wondering... Kara will start remembering the old universe during this arc? What will she think when her memories of the Post-Crisis Zor-El return?

"Wait a minute. So my father was a good, nice parent? And he was turned into Cyborg Superman as a result of someone mucking time and space up?"

"Whoever did this wants to weaken bonds among heroes. So, your father didn't get along with his brother, you didn't get along with your cousin, you never met the Kents, you forgot your parental figures -Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Lana Lang...- and your friends -Batgirl, Wonder Girl, Nightwing...- and you didn't fit in Earth for a long time because a part of yourself didn't want to fit in."

"But... Why? Why?"

"Dunno. Something about a 'need to create artificial, pointless drama and angsty, meaningless conflict', whatever it means."

"Seriously? Well, that Rao-dammned emo reality-warper can kiss my fist! I want my family and friends back!"

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to think that the current arc with its Epic Science Fictional Setting worked against Ching's strengths as an artist. If the book had commenced with the conceit "its the tv show with a high school setting" then Ching's somewhat wonky pencils might have found some purchase he seems like an artist who prefers "intimacy" over "expansiveness".
I'm just glad this whole Zor El Cyborg Superman thing is ending without Supergirl turning on the Earth or leaving the planet or joining The Metal Men or some other typically dumb DC "cheap heat" storyline....
This was a good issue overall (Supergirl is smiling all thru out despite the dire physical and emotional challenges that hearkens back to the Empire Days of the Silver Age in a good way), even if I'm enough of an olde goat to be a little appalled that Supergirl is getting into multiple fistfights with her birth father however berserk he may be.
And yes the Skirt is hellaciously long but she's rocked almost every other style so why should this be a deal breaker?