Friday, December 13, 2019

Review: Supergirl #37

Supergirl #37 came out this week, the first issue for the new creative team of writer Jody Houser, artist Rachael Stott, and colorist Cris Peter. And, in classic DC Comics fashion, the team is dropped onto the book in the middle of a crossover, this time The Infected plot with the Batman Who Laughs.

No 'Bold New Direction' here. Instead, pick up the book with an evil Supergirl overwhelmed and turned dark. Suffice it to say, I wasn't looking forward to this issue. I am totally sick of the 'Dark Kara' trope, having been played and replayed ad nauseum over the last decade.

Then I read the book.

It shouldn't surprise me that Houser has a decent grasp of the character and already shows that this isn't simply going to be a dive into the grime. After all, she co-wrote the tail end of the Steve Orlando run in this very volume. And here we see a Supergirl who is still trying to do the right thing although in a warped kind of way.

Artist Rachael Stott is new to me but her airy style fits the book nicely. At times veering towards loose penciling, the issue flows nicely. This is a classic 'hero fights hero' issue and Stott rolls out the action in a dynamic way. Add to that Bengal back on covers and vibrant colors by Cris Peter and you have solid art.

The hope, of course, is that this plot goes away quickly and we get to see Supergirl back in her environment. And already Houser is bring back some of the old gang. So I find it amazing that despite the cover treatment and the Road Warrior Kara, I was pretty hopeful after this read.

On to the book.

The book starts out with our infected Kara saying that she will be the hero this world needs. She will build a better future for Earth because she can.

But right off the bat we know things aren't right.

We have been getting majestic two page spreads by Eddie Pansica recently of Kara swooping into action. Here she is flying upside down, not really paying attention to the world below her, the sort of opposite of the iconic poses we usually see.

Yes, visually this one two page horizontal panel sets the tone for the book.

But unlike Shazam and Donna and Blue Beetle who have totally embraced their dark infections, Supergirl is still out trying to do heroic deeds. Although she is more like the 'heroes' of Kingdom Come than the usual Supergirl, causing as much damage and fear as stopping.

We again go to a classic heroic trope of a school bus hanging off a bridge. She rescues the bus but by tossing it casually away from the ledge. Not exactly neat and clean and safe. And then she threatens the man who accidentally hit the bus when his brakes gave out with a quick death.

I love how Kara's new look is frightening to the kids, even making one poor girl cry.

Still, she did the right thing ... just carelessly.

As one of the infected and part of The Batman Who Laughs plan to destroy Earth, Kara is quickly sought out by Superman and Batman.

But this is an unfiltered Supergirl. Part of the way her infection has plagued her mind is to have her think that restraint isn't needed. And she isn't going to kowtow to the World's Finest's wishes.

First she screams at Superman for hiding how weak he is. Then she attacks him, showing him what a Kryptonian going all out can do.

She even temporarily seems to get the better of him.

And then Batman arrives in the Batplane and she isn't going to listen to his dour broodings either.

After all, many teens who have listened to him in the past have ended up dead.

That is pretty cutting.

But Superman still sees through all the noise to the bottom line.

Supergirl is still calling herself a hero. And she is still ... overall ... trying to do the right thing.

In a nice juxtaposition, you can see the differences between Superman and Batman.

Here is my favorite scene in the book.

Sick of being shot by missiles, Supergirl rips Batman from the cockpit and confronts him.

He says he sees her only as a threat. (Batman has never really seemed to embrace Kara as a hero, in almost all continuities but especially since the post-Crisis.)

But then Batman's image fades and suddenly Kara is facing herself. And that Kara warns that she is losing herself.

All along I have said that Supergirl has been through so much stuff in the current timeline that she should be able to fight off this infection in some way. She has already learned this lesson. Now maybe we see that she is fighting it off.

I cannot tell you how happy this made me.

Indeed, she doesn't kill Batman but just throws him in a way to distract Superman allowing her to escape.

I like the explanation here that the virus was built for Superman not Supergirl which might explain why it is affecting her differently. Still, I like to think it is because Kara has the mental wherewithal to be battling this thing on her own.

Needing to go undercover from Superman/Batman while she thinks of how to 'save the world', she slips into a mall and grabs a new outfit.

I wondered  if this color choice was in the script or was Cris Peter's call. Having her don the green and purple look of both the Hulk and the Joker is another nod to what is wrong with Kara's state of mind. So Inreached put to the creative team on Twitter.

Turns out it wasn’t specified in the script. So great work by the colorist Cris Peter and the editor.

This is the beauty of comics ... words, art, colors all complementing each other in story telling.

And then Houser shows she remembers where this book came from before Rogol Zaar and Empress Gandelo and murderous axes shows up.

Kara runs into old friend Ben Rubel who has been worrying about her since she disappeared a year ago.

Maybe we'll actually get to see a supporting cast and subplots and a Supergirl-centric title some time soon!

But that has to wait, The Batman Who Laughs wants some words with his Infected Secret Six member.

What can I say, there was a lot of hope in this book even if Supergirl looks like she is ready to enter the squared circle and professionally wrestle. This isn't a Dark Kara reveling in evil, just misguided in her desire to do good. And she seems to be working through this a bit on her own.

I can't wait to see where Houser and everyone goes with this book. Here is hoping that this Infected nonsense ends relatively soon.I could use a bold new direction!

Overall grade: B+


Nikolas Torres said...

I hope to see again Zndr, he is a more interesting love interest to Kara, or at least if they going to put characters like the tv series, I hope to see William Dey in this comic as Kara's love interest. And more because he is half indian half russian (more relatable to me).

Anonymous said...

agreed, ben is such a meh character and brings literally nothing to Supergirl.

I really hope Kara doesn't have a love interest for a while longer and instead writer focuses on giving Kara an actual interesting story and villain

Ben said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Really great review.

I would describe Supergirl as alternately exuberant, disgusted and bored.

Some things I really liked about the art: the beautiful yellow skies giving way to orange and red; the "lens flare" from the sun sparkling right behind Supergirl in the first panel you posted above, and behind Superman in the first panel where he appears; the cityscapes reflecting red light; the really interesting splotchy patterns on the storm clouds on the page after Superman catches Batman.

I thought this was a good start by the new team.


Anonymous said...

I don't like evil Kara. This goes double when it's out of the blue from another comic line without a well built foundation in her own book.

Houser and friends was dealt a bad hand.

Having said that, they show their skills in this book and they give this arc the best treatment it could possibly get given the circumstances.

They manage to start the restoration of a foundation to build on, bringing back Ben. Behind this silly virus we can still sense Kara, giving this book a reason to still have the Supergirl title on the cover instead of Venom or some such.

They steer clear of destroying her character and keeping the body count to zero.

The murder of Brainiac still lingers bad in my mouth from last issue. That brainiac wasn't a mindless drone. It was by all accounts a sentient being that was needlessly murdered and is now lost to the world.

As long as the team stays away from doing that I will be happy to see such a talented team on the other side of this arc.

I think I saw something about Wonder Woman appearing to help Kara out of this in a future preview though. Didn't we do exactly that in Wonder Woman just a few months ago? :/

Ben said...

Jody Houser seems to have stumbled upon a profound question in this issue without being fully aware of it: Is a person who's been forcibly converted into an EVIL person still capable of free will?

For the most part, I dug how Houser explored Kara's inner turmoil, as opposed to the other infected heroes, who basically turned into emotionally abusive a$$holes right off the bat. The "Good Kara" vision suggests Kara is trying to fight the infection on a subconscious level, which is giving the character a lot more respect and credit than Joshua Williamson bothered to do over on the BATMAN/SUPERMAN series.

My only complaint is Superman's conversation with Supergirl. It was all-too-brief and far too unconvincing. Having already experienced what the personalities of the other infected heroes are like, and knowing this could be his only chance to reach her, Clark would/should have gone "all-in" to save his beloved cousin. He would have dropped the usual "I don't want to hurt you" trope and bared his soul in such a way that even Kara in her evil-addled state would've been taken aback.

But then Kara might have actually gone with Batman & Superman, in which case DC would have come down on Houser like Lex Luthor armed with a kryptonite bomb.

Martin Gray said...

Wasn’t this a surprisingly terrific issue? Did you read that interview with Jody Houser at DC online or whatever it’s called, it’s good that she’s sharp enough to avoid a purely Dark Supergirl again, and yes, roll on regular Kara, hopefully with both Danvers around. I still don’t believe that Eliza is brown bread!

The only thing I wasn’t mad keen on is the cover by Bengal, it’s too wispy, and the big head isn’t best positioned.

Top review!

Anonymous said...

Sorry folks, it was great, but it was also absolutely nothing new...I'm supposed to breath a sigh of relief that Hope-Help-Compassion Supergirl still has a streak of humanity in her??
But I'm venting, I concede the new creatives are in handcuffs involuntarily, and will need to demonstrate some serious Erich Weiss class skills if they ever wanna restore Supergirl to her Chivalrous Compassionate Super Self OR Take Her Somewhere New and Interesting...


Professor Feetlebaum said...

"Supergirl...still trying to do the right thing although in a warped kind of way" made me think of the earliest Bizarro stories in which Bizarro did good deeds (albeit in a clumsy way), but frightened the people he was trying to help.

The infection has apparently suppressed any sense of humility Supergirl had. Even doing good, she's pretty arrogant here. Maybe those thoughts and feelings were always in her sub conscious. It must be difficult for anyone with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men NOT to feel superior at times. I remember when Odin stripped Thor of his memories and sent him to Earth to live as Don Blake because he was lacking humility.

Now I don't know what the short term plans are here, but it would be nice if Jody Houser could use this infected Supergirl storyline to parody the whole idea of "Dark Supergirl". Kind of a "here we go again" type of thing. Maybe DC would get the message and avoid doing it again.

Anj said...

Thanks for great comments.

I agree that this was as tempered a 'Dark Kara' story I have read with Houser et al treating Supergirl with some respect.

3 more issues of this?

Rob S. said...

I've jumped off for the time being, but I'm so heartened to hear that this issue was better than expected. That's great news; hopefully Houser & Stott will have a nice long run on the traditional version of the character soon.

Anonymous said...

Solicitation for Supergirl #38 sounds a lot like Wonder Woman #47.

If reminding Kara that she is good is going to be an annual arc, maybe switch out Diana for Babs?

Anonymous said...

Just read the solicitations for #39 and #40 and those clearly were not written for Supergirl readers.

Can Snyder or Tynion or whoever tf is behind this arc just stay the f away from the Super titles forever.

Anonymous said...

Williamson too.

How does editorial even deal with this? The Batman Who laughs editorial office infects the Superman editorial office? Everyone or no one in charge?


Anonymous said...

CW: Kara is the Paragon of Hope
Comics: Kara is a douche for half a year

I need the later version like I need bot flies.


Ben said...

"Sorry folks, it was great, but it was also absolutely nothing new...I'm supposed to breath a sigh of relief that Hope-Help-Compassion Supergirl still has a streak of humanity in her??"

To be fair, what could they have Supergirl do otherwise? Let the bus drop and show her cackling as all the kids drown? (Come to think of it, I wouldn't put that past Snyder & Tynion…)

Anonymous said...

"To be fair, what could they have Supergirl do otherwise? Let the bus drop and show her cackling as all the kids drown?"

Perhaps not tossing the bus so that it lands in a way that would have seriously injured or killed the kids while posing like a drama queen model and admiring her nails?

Anonymous said...

She had "shoot up the classroom" ideations at one point years ago, so I doubt none of these speculations to quote the late Jim Carroll.
BTW her pointed ears look stupid.


Anonymous said...

Personally I think everything about the new look is eh.

DC really should have kept this in the Batman/Superman title and preferrably not at all infected Kara. This arc doesn't sit well with Supergirl readers.

Comics should be written for the target audience, not because someone needs to get something out of their system.

It's especially infuriating that Supergirl gets a rare female writer and DC completely screws her over with this.

3 more issues... god... 3 more MONTHS. I can only hope we pretend this didn't happen when it's over. Just silently retcon it out and don't dig back into this for emotional points.

This is the Highlander 2 of Supergirl, the midichlorians of Kara. Don't talk about the war.

Anonymous said...

"This is the Highlander 2 of Supergirl, the midichlorians of Kara. Don't talk about the war."

Heh. Its all so Jar Jar Binks ain't it?

But then this is DC Comics, THEY DON'T KNOW HOW TO PANDER TO THEIR CORE AUD...they don't even seem to care who buys their meshugginah books. If they cared about their core aud and various individual fandoms COIE VII would never have happened!


Anonymous said...

As bad as COIE was for Kara, it was written with respect for the character. Kara hurting children while checking her nails is the furthest from Supergirl you can get. It's not an aspect or dark side of her for BWL to dig up. It's anathema to her, it's anathema to her readers and it's an affront to her core values.

DC should give Kara an advocate as her editor is not up to the task. They should pass all ideas by Sterling or someone who gets Kara.

Ben said...

"Perhaps not tossing the bus so that it lands in a way that would have seriously injured or killed the kids while posing like a drama queen model and admiring her nails?"

Well, yes, but that's supposed to be the whole idea, isn't it? Her brain's been forcibly rewired into a sociopath's. She's still endeavoring to do the right thing, she's just going about it badly.

The bus scene didn't offend me as much as the fact that Kara seems to have wholeheartedly embraced her new vigilante ways - at least on a conscious level. The Batman-as-Kara vision implies she might be trying to fight the infection subconsciously, but the synopsis for #40 implies she's only to get progressively bitchier with each subsequent issue, and apparently the writers are the only ones who understand the appeal behind that.

Anj said...

Can't thank you enough for the continued comments!

I have to admit that Kara saving kids callously is better than watching the bus fall off the bridge. So I was glad to see that.

And I think the point here for me was Kara trying to fight from within. She has dealt with all this before.

I am hoping the end of the run leans into that!