Friday, January 12, 2018

Review: Supergirl #17

Supergirl #17 came out this week, another chapter in this current arc of a Supergirl on the run from the DEO. Despite the danger to herself and warnings from her parents, this Kara continues to put herself out there fighting threats sent out as bait. But this Supergirl knows that with great power comes great responsibility.

Writers Steve Orlando and Jody Houser continue to craft a very solid book with a powerful and inspirational Supergirl and that makes me happy. Since Rebirth, we have seen a Kara who has put the welfare of others first, refusing to let others suffer loss. It isn't just punching. It is emotional support. It is trying to talk through a problem before bashing. And it is great. If you remember this Kara's negativity and selfishness in H'El on Earth, you'll realize how great it is. Thankfully, Orlando and Houser are building on what Tony Bedard and K. Perkins did.

What impresses me about this particular issue is how Orlando and Houser use other characters as foils, showing different paths and different viewpoints to emphasize Kara's actions. For example, Starshame is a sort of Supergirl 'gone wrong'. That contrast adds weight to the story.

Plus, we finally have a supporting cast with supporting cast plotlines. This is a pretty fleshed out book right now.

The art continues to glitter on the book as well. From Artgerm's cover of Supergirl helping a toddler cross the road to the Robson Rocha Carrie-esque main cover, the book pops on the rack. And the internal art by Rocha and Daniel Henriques is gorgeously intricate in its detail. As always, the expressive work adds to the emotion of the story. The back three pages are by Julio Ferreira whose style jibes nicely with Rocha's.

On to the book.

The book starts with a quick origin of Deceilia, the rampaging alien who was sprung from the DEO last issue.

It is a tragic story. As a young girl, we hear she is shunned by others for looking like a 'freak.' Her parents still love her and support her but they are killed in a 'car accident'. Left alone without their love, she goes on a rampage. Dubbed Starshame and labeled an abomination, she is exiled from her world. All because the emotional anguish of how she was treated over her looks. Incredible and sad.

But take a step back. Instead of being rocketed from a doomed world by loving parents, Deceilia is rocketed from her intact world by people who hate her. It is the Supergirl origin flipped on it's head. A couple of different life events and this could be Kara. That's a good thing for a reader like me to chew on.

So instead of hope, Starshame is the embodiment of rage and resentment.

Like Strange Visitor, Deceilia was able to shrug off Mr. Mokkari's conditioning easily. But it didn't change her more violent attributes. Rather than rebelling against those that captured her and brainwashed her, she decides to just lash out.

She sees the same pride in humanity that existed in the people that loathed her. So genocide seems like a good idea. So why not demolish this ferry filled with people.

Orlando and Houser have given Kara a new mantra - she chooses Earth so people can save each other. Starshame disavows Earth and wants to kill everyone. Again, this is the dark take on Supergirl and that difference definitely is a great story hook. I hope Starshame becomes a recurring rogue.

Kara realizes the easiest way to deal with the sinking ship and Starshame is by delaying any more attacks so she can concentrate on the rescue. So she punches Starshame into the upper atmosphere. And while that is happening, Supergirl is able to fly around the ship, weld the sides together, and save everyone.

With the rescue done, it is time for more super-fighting.

I love this page, a series of vertical panels with great angles feeding into the action. And that last panel is probably my favorite in the whole book. That is a look of fierce determination. The angle down is a great one for this look as it isn't the usual inspirational, up-view, heroic pose. And everything she is feeling is written on her face. That is fantastic.

 Despite clearly being irritated/angry at Starshame, Supergirl still does her best to talk the villain down. But it is hard to convince Deceila that humans don't deserve her anger when the only ones the villain knows are the brainwashers from the DEO.

Then the DEO arrives, armed with amnesium (!!!) and orichalcum handcuffs. They wipe Starshame's memory and demand Supergirl surrender. This is another great scene. Kara says that since there are no civilians around she can 'be Supergirl'. She disarms and defeats the DEO troops handily. The last panel on this page is also great. Supergirl looks in the bodycam of the fallen trooper giving a look like she is about to squash Mr. Bones and Mr. Mokkari. That is pretty cool.

But amnesium! That's a deep cut!

Unfortunately that scene ends and we head off to check in on other characters in the book. So what happened to Starshame? Did Kara leave her there for the DEO to take her back? Drop her off somewhere? It's just a side plot detail that bugged me.

As for the DEO, we get some looks inside. Mokkari has been conditioning the villains, not lobotomizing or controlling them. That is why Strange Visitor and Starshame could break free. Bones has an odd sense of honor. He doesn't want civilians hurt for his cause. He doesn't want his captives completely broken.

Meanwhile, Shay Veritas remains an embedded rebel within the DEO. She converses with Cameron Chase about how Bones is doing something unsavory to the captives there. But there is someone even worse within.

One of the things I have been hoping for since Rebirth is a look at Kara's life as a 'normal' teenager. We get a lot of time in National Tech this issue.

The mean girls in the school all tease Kara for being weak and afraid. It's hard to Kara to understand that sentiment. She and Ben continue to try to write anti-Supergirl rants for Catco while also respecting the hero they believe Supergirl to be. (Where is Cat? We haven't seen her in a while.)

And then Ben asks Kara to the semi-formal dance ... as friends of course. It's clear that Kara isn't prepared for this. That close up of her eyes clearly says confusion to me. She wasn't expecting that question and so says no.

 Meanwhile, Agent Ocampo remains camped out at National Tech and is convinced that Supergirl is a student there. Bones tells her in no uncertain terms that Ocampo needs to flush out our hero.

I don't think her heart is in this job. We see her remembering Supergirl rescuing her. That stark silhouette panel showing Ocampo head in hand is a nice, stark image to shake up the reader. That works well when used judiciously.

 Back at school, Belinda Zee swoops in and asks Ben to go to the semiformal with her. Suddenly Kara is even more confused. She is glad the two plan to go. She did say no to Ben. But she also doesn't know why she care so much that Belinda asked.

As an aside, I keep waiting for a Belinda Zee heel turn, solely based on her character in Cosmic Adventures. Maybe it isn't going to come. She is seems genuinely nice here. Or maybe Orlando and Houser are just setting me up!

We then get a nice scene where Kara talks about relationships and heroics with Eliza. Now this is the sort of scene I have been really clamoring for. I want to see Kara and the Danvers interacting. And Eliza gives some good advice. You can't be 'at work' all the time. You need to put your happiness first every once in a while.

If there is one thing I can say about this Rebirth Supergirl, it is that she is a dedicated hero. So seeing these other parts of her life - school, friends, home - just builds her up as a three-dimensional character. I love this.

Even though she turned down Ben, Kara decides to go to the dance. She sees Ben across the floor. But before she can approach, Belinda runs into Ben's arms for a dance.

Before Kara can say anything, Bones last meta arrives. An electric based looking woman who I think is going to be named Ruin. I know Ruin was the name of the disgraced Emil Hamilton way back in the early 2000s. Could this be a new Ruin? And how can Kara change into Supergirl without giving away her secret identity.

So I thought this was a very good issue for this book. We kind of got to sample all the things I love about Supergirl as a character here. She is fierce when she sees injustice. She offers the villains a peaceful way out, even willing to help. She is a teenage girl going through the usual stuff kids do at school. She has loyal friends and a loving family. If you want to give an issue for a new reader to sample to get a sense of her, this one would be a good one.

Add to that the great artwork, and this truly clicks. We get a lot of close-ups of Kara's face here, as we see her feelings in every furrowed brow, smile, and awkward look away. But the action sequences are just as dynamic.

I feel since the end of the Cyborg Superman story, and maybe even since the end of the Emerald Empress arc, this book has been building momentum.

Overall grade: A


John (somewhere in England) said...

I agree this was a good issue but I'm not entirely sure what a "Supergirl truther piece" is. Perhaps I'm missing something being a Brit, but that expression left me puzzled.

I also wondered what happened to Starshame. Hopefully we'll find out in the next issue.

Aaron said...

I love this book. This issue also had, I think, a brilliant cliffhanger. I'm tempted to order my copy again; hopefully this time the postman or some idiot employee wont see fit to bend and crease the package that's marked very clearly "Do Not Bend".
I need to move closer to a comic book shop.

KET said...

Seemed like an merely okay filler issue to me. It's like Orlando and Houser needed to move things along to the school dance scene, while dropping a few hints that DEO director Bones is losing control over his plotting against Supergirl. Mokkari seems close to betraying him already.


Anonymous said...

"If you remember this Kara's negativity and selfishness in H'El on Earth, you'll realize how great it is."

Kara will never live that crossover down, right? Prior to that character-derailing wreck she was actually making friends and considering to approach her cousin. And she didn't like to see innocent endangered. See Kara stopping fighting Superman when she saw her battle was putting other people in danger, Kara fighting the Worldkillers because "[she]'ll die before letting them hurt anybody" or Kara being outraged when she saw a fake Superman throwing Jimmy off a building.

It's like people only remembers the worst bits.

Anyway. I'm afraid I cannot sympathize too much with Deceilia. Yes, she was ostracized and then lost her parents, which sucks. However her parents died in a car crash. An accident. And her reaction was killing everyone. When she was caught and punished, her reaction was "The ruling class wants to push me down!" No, girl. You're a criminal making excuses for your murders.

It kind of reminds me of Livewire: she got fired because she was looking to build a career out of slandering Superman, and claimed her firing was because men wanted to put her down. And let us to not forget she helped her murdering stalker of a brother kidnap Lois. But, sure, you're the victim here.

Anyway, the book is pretty good and the ship rescue was a great sequence. I love that kind of scenes.

The supporting cast is being nicely fleshed out (and in my opinion, Belinda isn't the nice and supporting girl she appears to be), which is good. Supergirl lacks a good supporting cast due to every writer who gets his hands on the character replacing them, or just discarding them (poor Post-Crisis Kara barely had a supporting cast).

Still I wish her adoptive parents were called Fred and Edna.

However I'm not feeling her relationship with Ben. Michael Harris was a better love interest. I miss him.

Ruin can be an interesting enemy. We'll see how it goes down.

Off-topic, Anj, have you heard about this:

Nice to see Supergirl being noticed as an important part of the History of DC universe.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Mokkari is a line on getting Darkseid into this book...which would be KEWL in extremis...but I suppose deployment of an "A+" MegaSuperVillain requires multiple editorial-sign offs. Good issue, "Supergirl the super-altruist" keeps soaring along. I too wondered what happened to StarShame I'd love to see her come back, it'd be fun if she reformed due to Kara's influence and example. I mean all that altruism has to have good effects downstream as well as tough consequences for Supergirl. For some reason the full length panel of Kara in her formal gown got to me, she looks very uncomfortable and a little scared, good "emotional content".


Anonymous said...

You wrote "She is glad the two plan to go." We don't see or hear it then, but from what we learn later, it looks like Ben must have rejected Belinda the same way Kara rejected him. Yeah, Kara is a bit jealous, but I think she's only assuming Ben says yes to Belinda.

All three of them wind up at the dance alone. That seems awkward, and very insulting! Kara had let Ben down kindly by saying she wasn't planning to go, but then she goes anyway? Her actions tell Ben "Going ALONE was a better choice than going WITH YOU." I don't know, kids are sensitive to that sort of thing, aren't they?

At the dance, Belinda shrugs off the same situation and is determined despite it to have fun, which at that age is itself a super power, and grabs him to dance. Their clothes match nicely and Kara's are a completely different color. But this is where among other things Belinda tells Ben "I know you're here solo." In case there is any ambiguity about who is on a date, I still say the answer is no one.

Since we never heard Ben's answer to Belinda, I'm going to give Steve and Jody the benefit of the doubt and assume this was left vague on purpose. Maybe to illustrate how confusing high school is.

- T.N.

Anj said...

Thanks for great comments.

I promise I'll try not mention H'El on Earth again ...

I agree, Kara looks all sorts of awkward in her school dress. And yes, the Belinda, Kara, Ben 'we're all here together but separate' is weird. That said, not all friends need to be romantically interested in each other. I agree, Ben seeing Kara could make things more odd, but Kara can just say she changed her mind.

The art is so great!

Martin Gray said...

Terrific review as ever, Anj, you really do bring the commentary! I could not be happier with how this run is shaping up, and can’t wait to see where things go after the Bones business is over. I assumed, from the ‘next issue’ blurb, that this shiny last page baddie is The Evolutionist, but Ruin would work too.

Love that editorial note about the mean girls!

And I still don’t feel any chemistry between Ben and Kara either. I actually find it weird how alike they look this time!

I really hope the Belinda surprise is that she’s not a bad egg.