Friday, February 15, 2019

Review: Supergirl #27

Supergirl #27 came out this week and continues a concerning trend in the book for me. As this space odyssey has progressed, it has seemed less and less like a true Supergirl story. The impetus for this quest was for Kara to find out what role Rogol Zaar had in the destruction of Krypton. I wasn't sure then if that was a strong enough cause for Kara to abandon Earth. But at least it was something personal, something tied to her history.

As we have moved 6 issues into this new direction, we have barely made much headway. There is something of a forced plot point of Appa Ali Apsa having split up redacted information into crystals scattered over the galaxy, making a longer quest a necessity. We have a memory that maybe Zor-El was involved in creating the bomb that Zaar uses. We have crime boss Gandelo trying to hunt or delay Supergirl. But really there hasn't been much movement. It is glaring enough that Supergirl says it herself in this book.

Moreover, these last couple of issues read more like an Omega Man story than a Supergirl one. Seeing Supergirl spitting on villains, shooting a Liefeldian gun, and overall being a bit nasty just pushes this further away from what I am looking for in a Supergirl book. Again, I shouldn't be surprised. This is the wash/rinse/dry/repeat Supergirl 3 year cycle. We seem to have to get mired in angst, have that approach fail, and then reboot every so often.

As for the art, Eddie Pansica does a good job here. I have liked his art in the past and he certainly brings his A game here. But when a book has many different artists in a short period of time it makes me worry that it isn't of prime importance to either the creators or the producers. And I love Yanick Paquette's cover even if it is Supergirl screaming as she fires her rifle.

So let's see what happened in the book.

Since his arrival, I have been skeptical of Z'ndr Kol. our presumably Coluan space adventurer. Part Indiana Jones, part Brainiac 5, he seemed a bit too perfect to be a good guy. And since her inception, Supergirl has always struggled in her love life with undercover creeps trying to get on her good side.

So I can honestly say I wasn't surprised when we learn that he was hired by Gandelo to track Supergirl and observe. Of course, Kol had ample opportunity to let Supergirl die. He even probably had some chances to kill her himself. So it doesn't seem like his mission (or Gandelo's) is to off Supergirl.

It is clear that Gandelo is upset with Kol. Z'ndr has helped Supergirl. That wasn't part of the deal.

I will say I was surprised when Gandelo called Kol his son. I assumed this was something of an adoptive mother relationship, or more personal connection. I mean, Thulsa Doom called Conan 'son' once. That simply wasn't true.

While this family reunion happens on the bridge of Harry Hokum's starship, Supergirl and the Omega Men lead a slave revolt on the other side.

Nothing says Supergirl like her firing a gun at a villain's torso while screaming 'War is Hell'. Am I right?

Of course, the answer is that I am not right. This doesn't seem like the Supergirl I am used to reading or want to read. This isn't the shy, awkward girl we read just last year, struggling to balance schoolwork and life.

When did she become Gamora?

Anyways, Splyce isn't falling for the solar blast trick again. The genetically modified assassin won't power up Kara again. Instead she uses the Tamaranean blast to collapse the ceiling.

During the skirmish, a young alien slave is killed before Kara can save her. Seeing this innocent child killed before her eyes enrages Supergirl. Once more she cries of the need to avenge this young girl. In fact, since Andreyko took over, vengeance has been the primary motivator for Supergirl. Not wanting to do good ... not wanting to spare people the pain she has felt ... vengeance.

Again it doesn't sit right.

So even when Andreyko has her saying the right things, like caring about the vulnerable being her biggest strength, he has her saying it for the wrong reasons.

And, since this is the gritty, harder edged Supergirl, she says it as she maims Splyce, ripping out the assassin's tongue.

I'll also remind people that this is supposed to be a completely depleted and powerless Supergirl. How is she holding off the huge jaws of Splyce and ripping out those tongues?

At the very least, Pansica gives this the weight it should have. Hair flying, blood spattering, Kara yelling. It is a powerful image.

Meanwhile, we learn that Gandelo saved Z'ndr at some point in the past. He was alone, in danger, and she plucked him out of that situation and raised him.

She is also confused by his love of all cultures and civilizations. Remember, he is sort of an Indiana Jones type.

I did like this little peek into Gandelo's ideas about Kryptonians (and similar races). Those that expand and invade are like vermin carrying disease. They must be eradicated. No wonder she fell in line with Zaar and his desire to eliminate Krypton.

Of course, it is a little hypocritical. Kol reminds her that she could have left him to die. But she didn't. When faced with her own inconsistencies, she loses her mind and threatens her son.

Seeing this unfold, Krypto (luckily recovered) blasts her left hand off with heat vision. With his eyes now open to his mother's insanity, Kol takes off.

Do we really need Krypto to blast hands off of people? Is this Forever Evil? Couldn't he have just flown into her and body checked her into the wall? Again, this feels like an 'EXTREME' take on these characters.

Still fuming from Splyce's killing that young slave, Kara's vengeance flares. Somehow it calls Zaar's axe to her hand. So she now has some sort of psychic link to this weapon.

And then, hot with vengeance, she wields the axe screaming it is time for Splyce to die.

How the depowered Kara wields this enormous battle axe is beyond me. And this sounds way way too much like the Kara that embraced rage and became a Red Lantern years ago. Didn't this very character already go through this personal growth? Didn't she already see the errors of this way?

At the very least, she stops herself. She isn't a killer.

Whew ...

Of course, she also, just pages earlier, shot a laser rifle at Splyce's chest. So she seemed pretty okay with potentially killing before.

Now I'll say this is a very important moment for me. Maybe ... just maybe ... it will turn out that the axe is somehow amping up this vengeance thing in Supergirl. Maybe this is some cursed weapon, feeding the more negative feelings someone has. So maybe there is an underlying explanation for this odd character turn in the character.

To be honest, I hope that is true. Because it would neatly explain why this Kara is so different from the one we just read in the Orlando/Houser issues which preceded this.

Nice panel progression here. The background color brightening, mirroring Kara's feelings, as her expression calms ... it all works.

It is time to flee the ship. Kara sees Kol and Krypto take off and says she'll find them. But she has no choice but to join the Omega Men on their ship. The heroes grab their fallen comrades and as many refugees as they can and head to their headquarters. She even has a little meet-cute moment with Ryand'r.

Now a little meta-moment.

I have been slightly irked at the lack of story progression. We are 6 issues into Andreyko's run and Supergirl has barely moved forward on her quest.

Maybe realizing we have been treading water, Andreyko has Kara acknowledge the lack of plot movement. Maybe separated from the axe she is starting to think more clearly.

I can only hope this acknowledgment in text means Andreyko realizes he needs to kick this thing into the next gear.

Remember that the Omega Men found their supposedly long dead allies of Nimbus, Harpis, and Demonia on Hokum's ship. Kara spies a scar on Demonia's neck.

Once more Kara remembers a conversation with Zor-El possibly building the bomb Zaar used to destroy the planet. That jogs her memory. That scar is part of Kryptonian cloning.

I really love the middle panel. That is a surprise and horrified face right out of a horror movie. Great work by Pansica.

I just hope Zor-El isn't sullied more. Poor guy.

Turns out the presumed dead Omega Men are actually Hokum clone slaves. They attack the Omega Men from within. And their presence has led Hokum's fleet to the hidden headquarters. Hokum then releases his latest trick! Horribly mutated Kara clones!

Okay. That's a decent hook.

So I am sort of split about this issue.

Kara saying her defense of the helpless is her greatest strength is great. I was glad Kara's internal barometer calmed her and stopped her from killing Splyce. That sounded like the old Kara I love. The idea that maybe this new vengeance fueled Supergirl is being stoked by Zaar's weapon is a decent theory.

But so much else here seemed off. Ripping off of tongues. Firing weapons at an opponent's chest. Krypto frying off someone's hand. It seems like a step back to the more grim New 52 style stuff. And then there is an actual acknowledgment that this arc is spinning it's wheels.

I have to hope we are turning a corner here.

Overall grade: C+


Anonymous said...

The book is on a treadmill, the plot line hasn't move a tick in four months, I could almost believe that this arc is a "back door pilot" for a new Omega Men floppy. Super girl has pretty much become a supporting player in her own damn book, and so given that, along with the low sales be rotten glad she didn't bisect Splyce with one blow of her axe in search of "cheap heat".
I hate to be a defeatist but I don't think Supergirl is ever gonna return to Earth and resume plot lines with her supporting cast, I think this stupid arc will stagger on until the book is canceled whereupon some other Fresh Hot New Creative will be tagged in to Send Supergirl In A Bold New Direction!
Can't Wait.
Thank Ghod for Melissa Benoist and Lauren Faust.


Aaron said...

I hope sincerely you’re right, Anj, that this book improves, quickly.
I’ll continue to read because I love Kara… but I hope this is as close as she ever gets again to killing. I hope this book doesn’t become like the TV show where I’ve lost track of Supergirl’s body count.

Has anyone read Marc Andreyko’s tweets? He’s an angry man. I think he’s letting his own personality bleed into his work (not that I’ve read his other works). So far (and I do stress “so far”), my impression is that he’s not a good fit for Supergirl. Just my opinion, of course.

Great review, Anj. I hope you’re well. Thanks again for the platform for me to have a voice about this book.

Anonymous said...

Andreyko is putting more violence into the book than we’re used to seeing with Supergirl. Last issue, Supergirl spit into Hokum’s face. We overheard several different conversations between depraved guards. This issue, a child is killed. Things are callous.

(Was Steve Orlando a good fit for Supergirl? I recall him expressing gratitude to some friends or colleagues that helped him figure out how he could approach the book. His wheelhouse seems to be in a more mystical/magical arena. Over the last decade there have been a few really good storytellers: Sterling Gates is probably everyone's favorite, but I also really liked Kelley Puckett and Michael Green.)

But I think your idea is good that the axe is fueling this vengeance. Things have never been the same with Kara’s emotions since Rogol Zaar showed up on earth.

I want to nitpick about some problems I had with the writing and editing - I had some confusion with the continuity.

I think the first problem is the caption on page 3:

“Meanwhile, on the other side of the warship.” I puzzled over this. You wrote “While this family reunion happens on the bridge of Harry Hokum's starship, Supergirl and the Omega Men lead a slave revolt on the other side.” Which I guess means you believed that caption too. But I decided it was a misplaced or mistaken caption, because the slave revolt actually takes place on the prison planet. (Right?)

Second problem: There is a “Decompression event warning” when Z’ndr is talking to Gandelo. But, the event that causes the decompression actually happens 2 pages later, caused by the axe smashing through the ship’s hull. More misplaced text?

Final problem is not a continuity issue, but is just my own confusion about Kara’s thoughts about the axe. Is it feeding her rage, or tapping into it and feeding ON it? Both? Moreover, what does this mean: “It felt my rage - no, an extension of it.” That’s too many “its.” The axe felt an extension of Kara’s rage? (Does Kryptonian rage have “extensions” we humans don’t know about?) Or, did an extension of the axe feel Kara’s rage? Is Andreyko referring to the peculiar property of the axe that it extends in size?

I think ambiguous writing is a skill that can be learned - and, it sort of papers over inexplicable nonsense by couching it in incomprehensible/ambiguous text that has a veneer of profundity. But I don’t know if Andrekyo intended this to be ambiguous, or if it was accidental, or if the meaning is clear and I’m just an idiot! The best comic writing is short and punchy, to not overwhelm the art, and this sometimes leads to overly compressed writing that I sometimes find more evocative than informative.


Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

I read the Decompression event as if Andreyko was showing how it played out in both places primarily.

This arc is pretty rough and not what I want in a Supergirl book. I keep holding out hope that it'll even itself out.

Martin Gray said...

Great review as ever, very fair. I think the axe has to be feeding her rage, but her Red Lantern experience should make this sort of this a total non-starter with Kara.

And TH, spot on, I also found the decompression bit confusing, and didn’t understand the spaceship thing.

William Ashley Vaughan said...

I agree that the ax is fueling Supergirl's anger, although I am glad to see that she is capable of resisting it. I also think that she wasn't trying to kill Splyce with the big gun. If you look carefully at the trajectory of the beam it goes just off to the side. I think Supergirl was doing exactly what Splyce said she was doing, trying to trick her into providing another solar recharge. That said, tearing out Splyce's tongue was going too far. I did like Kol refusing to harm Supergirl. It should be interesting to see what happens when she finds out his true background.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the concern about decompression was the characters snarking about the story’s glacial progress.

Kinofreak said...

It could be worse. Imagine Tom King writing Supergirl... 😇

KET said...

"Hokum then releases his latest trick! Horribly mutated Kara clones!

...which is pretty much the height of creative bankruptcy on Supergirl for me. Cloning Supergirl is such a worn-out cliché writing trope on the character, as it never ends well.

Pretty much confirms for me that this mostly uncharacteristic story arc really can't end soon enough.


Aaron said...

"...which is pretty much the height of creative bankruptcy on Supergirl for me. Cloning Supergirl is such a worn-out cliché writing trope on the character, as it never ends well.

Pretty much confirms for me that this mostly uncharacteristic story arc really can't end soon enough."

I couldn't have said that better, KET.
These kind of "superhero" actions from Supergirl are what I'd expect to see in the movies (like how they messed up BvS, for example (personal opinion)). But in the comics? Kara used a gun, came very, very close to killing, and has already maimed in this book. It's a far cry from being supposedly the same character that checked up on a prisoner because she wanted to help him in Orlando's book.

This arc is lost already. I too can't wait for it to end. I hope this is as far as Kara goes in terms of extreme and uncharacteristic actions. I'm starting to get Joe Kelly vibes.

Anonymous said...

There’s an arc? It’s gotten hard to see one. The last six issues feel like a random series of events with no clear narrative throughline, starring a generic “bad-ass” action-chick in a Supergirl cosplay costume. The more Supergirl becomes like any other character on the shelf, the more her uniqueness is diluted by generic superhero behaviors and personality traits, the less she actually matters as a character.

What’s strange to me is to see so many positive reviews on by reviewers who...

... get free review copies.


KET said...

"It's a far cry from being supposedly the same character that checked up on a prisoner because she wanted to help him in Orlando's book."

Well, outside of the obvious trademark, I actually don't recognize the lead character anymore. More of that usual bulldozing 'leaving their mark' hack work that so-called 'superstar' types tend to employ when abusing the IP in their charge.

"What’s strange to me is to see so many positive reviews on by reviewers who...

... get free review copies.


LOL...good the old song goes, money changes everything.

With current rumors regarding a possible new DC Implosion of comics titles in the wake of the publisher's restructuring, things are starting to feel rather ominous on this one.


Anonymous said...

Orlando had Wonder Woman checking up on an old prisoner in his fairly recent brief run. It's a generic hero plot. It's a good one through.

What's the "in-comic" elapsed time since 2011 New 52? Not 8 years. Must be closer to 8 months. Adolescents can regress. To make an exaggerated point, perfectly normal kids will show signs of schizophrenia only in late teens or early adulthood, God forbid. That's a lot of potential change. Point is, adolescents have ups and downs, growth isn't a straight line with no backsliding. Kara can still get angry, especially when genocide is involved, especially when even Kandor was destroyed. And with an alien semi-sentient rage-aware corrupting axe in play.

Remember how angry about Kandor the far more mature Superman recently was in his own book? Superman, who was raised and spent his whole life on earth and wasn't ripped from Krypton probably just a few months earlier.

How long has Kara even been in space, in-story? A week maybe?!

If we fans don't support a book that we like, what will DC make up of it? I don't mind the excursions and explorations of Andreyko's angle. Not so much that I would condemn it wholly. (I just wish for more careful editing.) It's an arc in the sense that it's a classic wandering journey of adventure, and hopefully personal growth. Kara's Odyssey. Does ANYONE really think she's never going to get "home?" If it's cancelled, the homecoming will be abrupt, tied up in one lousy panel. Let's hope for something better!

I support the book through its ups and downs. The book is blessed with Connor, Lupacchino, and Artgerm covers. I love the new costumes. What I really wish for is 22 instead of 20 pages, something a couple of DC books now have. (There's that old joke that the food is terrible and the portions are too small, but I actually still like the food.)


Anonymous said...

"There’s an arc? It’s gotten hard to see one"

Hear Hear!!

If indeed there is a pending Implosion then this book is canceled, and Supergirl will either be creatively shelved until the next Hawt New Creative comes along or she'll cycle thru the Superman books since she hasn't got a team affiliation to keep her current in down times.

Oh how I miss Steve Skeates.


Anonymous said...

"It could be worse. Imagine Tom King writing Supergirl... 😇"

Oh no, Kino, don't say that! We're all legally required to love & worship King even though he is actively destructive to every character he touches and is more pretentious than a freshman art major. Same with Bendis destroying the Kent family & turning Lois into an unrecognizable caricature.

I cannot wait for this era to end at DC. Not just on Supergirl, where she's practically a cameo in her own book, but on every title. If it's not dour & unreadable, it's smug & unreadable, and it's 90% done by people who don't actually LIKE anything in DC Comics except the paychecks they get.

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