Monday, July 6, 2020

Review: Supergirl #42

Supergirl #42 was released digitally last week, the last issue of this volume of the title character, born from the brightness of Rebirth and ending in darkness.

I don't know what to say about this pattern with Supergirl in DC. I have seen her go dark and need to be redeemed too many times to count. But this one, given how it began with the 'return to classics' zeitgeist of Rebirth stings the most. Since Supergirl #21, when Marc Andreyko had her abandon Earth out of bloodthirsty revenge, through Supergirl #42, Supergirl has been mistreated. There have been a few bright moments mixed in. But mostly these last 21 issues have been her nearly becoming an ax-wielding murderer and then becoming a Goth villain.

Supergirl #41 and Supergirl #42 was a chance for the creative team of writer Jody Houser and artist Rachael Stott to redeem her and set her up for the next bold new direction. But instead, even their 'redemption' reads like a lack of understanding of what Supergirl fans are looking for.

Add to that some wonky art and some convenient story telling and you limp out of this volume. And given how this all transpired, I wonder if DC is even remotely interested in putting a new volume on the shelves.

Supergirl fans should be used to this. And maybe I am not surprised. But it still bothers me.

On to the book.

Supergirl is in Florida trying to save people from an ongoing hurricane. General Banes, an elderly Army general, has donned Kryptonite armed armor and goes out to bring in Supergirl.

Initially Banes grabs Krypto and threatens the pooch. Even Supergirl knows that is low. What sort of monster attacks a dog.

But,as with last issue, Supergirl continues to have hallucinations, the after effects of the infection of Batman Who Laughs infection. Don't look for such relapses from Donna Troy, Hawkman, or Commissioner Gordon. They came out fine.

It is only Supergirl plagued this way.

We get several pages of Kara fighting Banes/mirages as she tries to figure out what is real and what isn't.

The art is for the most part good. But these panels took me out of the story.

In the first panel, Kara's left arm is just too strange to be real. In the second, she looks like she is galloping like a horse and jumping over the lasers.

When the story doesn't click and the art doesn't click, it is always going to be a slog to read.

No matter how much Kara keeps trying to send Krypto away, the dog keels staying.

Here is a nice panel of the two steeling themselves for battle.

But I have to say, in these last 2 arcs, the hero is really Krypto. He has saved Supergirl from herself too many times to count.

The visions aren't always draped over Banes. Sometimes they are just mirages. And so Kara has a hard time figuring out where the fight is.

Of course, we conveniently forget all of the other super-senses Kara has. Does she hear a heartbeat? Does the rain bounce off the hallucinations? Does she have infra-red vision? Does she smell them?

There are plenty of ways a smart Supergirl could determine what is real. But we haven't seen an intelligent Supergirl for a while.

One of the visions is Starshame, a character from the back end of the Steve Orlando/Jody Houser run.

At least we get a bit of a callback, an acknowledgment of the continuity. But do any of us remember Starshame?

Finally, the hallucination takes the form of the Goth Kara and is over Banes.

Get it ... Supergirl is fighting herself! She is defeating her inner demons!

Finally, Supergirl is able to show Banes that there are people who are need rescuing, people who didn't get away before the storm hit.

We start to see what I think is a troublesome message for the end of this book. Supergirl keeps saying 'I'm not human' but she will save humans.

She convinces Banes to give her a moment to save these people and Banes relents.

And then, magically, the hallucinations stop. Just when they aren't needed for the story any more and without explanation, Kara stops seeing things. I hate saying the phrase 'lazy writing' but at the very least, this is convenient. We simply forget the problem that has been impacting Kara for the last 2 issues.

Sure enough, she is able to save everyone by taking a section of bridge and flying them out.

When Banes tries to still arrest Kara, the citizens get in the way and tell her to escape.

You know what that means? It means this book will end with Supergirl still on the run from the US military.

She has become the Hulk. A monster to be stopped.

Does that sound like Supergirl?

Whenever there is a dark turn in Supergirl that tanks sales and irritates Kara fans, the outgoing writer usually throws in a heartwarming 'I choose Earth' page, showing that once more Kara has found a new home and plans to be its defender.

Here, Houser gives us a sort of twisted version of that.

She didn't choose Earth. She doesn't want to live a human life. Krypton was a better world. Maybe one day she'll call Earth home.

That sentiment basically undoes the first 2 years of this book's sentiment of Kara caring and calling Earth home. It distances Supergirl from the people here. It makes it sound like she is going to be a 24/7 superhero, something that has failed before and was revamped by Sterling Gates.

But it just doesn't sound like Supergirl.

"I'm on Earth not because I want to be. I guess I'll stick around."

What a terrible way to declare her desire to be a hero.

And no dramatic splash page at the end invoking a never-ending battle will change the fact that this book ends darkly. Sure, Supergirl isn't a demonic clown anymore. But she doesn't consider herself at home on Earth.

That's not Supergirl.

I can only hope Brian Michael Bendis does something in the Superman books to give us a better redemption than this.

Will there a new Supergirl book on the shelves at some point? I don't know.

But I can only hope that DC picks a creative team that likes the character, likes the character's foundation, and strives to make her a likeable young hero again. Because these last 2 years have been a slap to the face to Supergirl fans.

Overall grade: D-


Martin Gray said...

Thanks for the review, this really was a (Super)dog of an issue. What were the creative team thiniing of? Houser worked on the book with Steve Orlando but seems to have rejected his positive vision for the character. Why call back to a one-off villain from years again and then write the story as if Kara doesn’t have longtime fans? Why set up an ending that’s basically a cliffhanger - grim-faced Kara on the run, Krypto her only friend, with no definite continuation?

Could we please just Mopee away the last two years?

And I wish you’d not pointed out that weird arm, I’d managed to miss it... it looks like the graphics we get when Swampy or some other regenerating character regrows a limb. Gross.

kenkraly2004 said...

I agree after issue #21 Supergirl the comic lost it's way. I can only hope that the next Supergirl title at DC has a better writer / artist team on it and someone that respects the character of Supergiel Kara and her history. This title needs fresh new creators on it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to be as hard on Houser in this issue.

Was it great? No by no means.

But given that all the other issues have been spent dragging the comic to hell it would impossible for one last issue to deliver heaven.

In one issue this is about as high as the speed elevator takes you.

Is it where I wanted to be? No I pressed the top floor and ended in the basement. Either way, basement is better than hell. Even if it is lower than where Orlando took us first.

Hopefully this is the last time that we go down this road. I don't believe that DC is patting themselves on the back after this run.

Just hoping that this run didn't time bubble us back to the 80s.

Mart said...

I'll take the Eighties and the Daring New Adventures of Supergirl over much of the stuff we've had since we lost Sterling Gates any day... I loved that run!

John (somewhere in England) said...

I came across this on the Supergirl Maid of Might website. There's nothing I can really add:

"Notice to Visitors

This site is now on permanent hiatus. DC Comics knows what they’ve done. It’s up to them to fix their many, many problems. My eternal thanks to the many creatives and staff who’ve done amazing work. You’re awesome. You deserve better.

– Originally posted Jan 14, 2020
– Revised June 24, 2020"

Martin Gray said...

I don’t think you can actually have a ‘permanent hiatus’. Anyway, different sites for different folks… The Maid of Might site seems to be mainly about collectables, this is deep Supergirl fun! Let’s not lose the faith… Kara needs us.

Anonymous said...

This is what you get when the creatives "give up" and slip out the door without saying goodbye. Its not quite as final as COIE #7 and Kara's expulsion from continuity...but it serves the same purpose to make it more difficult to revive her going forward...this is a sad end for a book that lost its way twenty months ago, and its also proof positive that DC is DEAF to any entreaty from Kara's fan base.
Hey DC..."I want my money back!!"


Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

I found this article before reading your blog :

I hope dc comic will take these comments into account.

Afterwards, i am not shocked that supergirl does not want to live a humain life. Especially, when you see her "boyfriends" as if having a housband and children is the only possible life on earth. Why cant't supergirl stay single ? where is the problem ?

Anonymous said...

Martin, agreed, permanent hiatus is a contradiction, but perhaps she meant ongoing hiatus till things get turned around.

Before it was moved and redesigned, so this is actually a couple of years back, the Supergirl Maid of Might site listed not just every in-continuity appearance (including silent cameos) through the start of Rebirth, but also every single out-of-continuity title. (The site was also much faster at its prior home at

Some or even most of that was abandoned or lost. I don't think I'd have discovered a lot of the more obscure alternate treatments without the site, like Bombshells, Tiny Titans, Gotham City Garage, Ame-Comi, Trinity, Smallville, Scribblenauts, DC Universe Online Legends and others. I see Justice League 3001 and some Silver Age out of continuity appearances are still there. Maybe I don't know how to find the missing material.

It was a great resource and an incredible effort and project, and maybe when it was moved the extra material was unintentionally dropped.


Martin Gray said...

Thanks TN for the background and context; it’s really sad to hear so much hard work has vanished - that’s heartbreaking. It’s also blooming sad that DC has worn down as big a Supergirl fan as Michelle... thinking supportive thoughts here!

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure much of the unusual-looking left arm was covered by the cape, but it's made unclear because the adjacent red blur is not distinct from the cape itself. Some of that red blur should actually be blue, and most of it would be if Cris Peter had colored the skirt the current blue color. Blame editorial more than Peter for not getting that right. Apparently they were directed to spend minimal time editing the book.

Since when would a modern low-rise apartment building in Florida collapse from a hurricane? This isn't a vulnerable older home in the Caribbean, the kind which did suffer devastation during the disastrous 2017 hurricane season. This odd storm is behaving like an 8.0 earthquake.

And if this were a Category 5 hurriance, the federal response would be different; and Supergirl would not have simply brought groceries in #41 to a couple of kids who were hunkering down in a much less substantial single family home. She'd have taken them to safety.

And the best solution is to destroy a bridge that would cost millions or even a billion dollars to replace, depending on the damage caused? And the resulting crumbling segment of bridge is safer for people to stand on than remaining in the building? No way. What happened to super-speed to whisk everyone out of there? Flash could have saved a couple of dozen people in a few seconds - in less time than Kara spent discussing her plan with Banes. (The number of people depicted varies from a half dozen, to a few dozen standing around later sheltering in a school gymnasium, not all of whom were likely rescued via the Piece of Crumbling Bridge that Should Have Broken into A Hundred Pieces when Torn Off.) This bridge-destroying solution only solidifies Supergirl's bad judgement and the risk her strength poses.

I kind of figured Supergirl would end up a fugitive. If she really didn't want the townspeople to protect her, and tells them it will be okay, then why does she take off just because they stand around her? She could just fly over their heads and turn herself in. But no, she just takes off under their "protection." Why? Not thinking clearly yet? I call it poor storytelling, but I guess the way this is written, anything that doesn't make sense can be attributed to Supergirl's ongoing state of confusion.

What glass does she smash through near the end? Is this the 1984 movie with its corny special effects? Or perhaps she metaphorically crashed through the level of sales needed to avoid cancellation.

Anyway, I listed these relatively trivial but poorly conceived details because I don't blame editorial for these details. The editorial intent was likely just to show Supergirl helping while still being both haunted and misunderstood, and I presume the series was mandated to end more or less the way that it did, with no resolution to Supergirl's reputation and an indeterminate future.

On Facebook (as French fan observed) and Twitter, DC asked fans what they thought about #42. The Facebook comments are almost universally angry and dismissive, of both the content and, moreover, the kick to digital. The fan comments on Twitter are slightly more charitable, but lots of bile is expressed there too. Many people didn't even know it was released - why would they? Their local comic shop won't tell them (their business does not involve promoting Comixology) and may not even know.

Even in DCComics's tweet and Facebook post, they don't mention where to buy the comic! Brilliant marketing. DC never had the courage to officially announce the move to digital - they only responded to press inquiries.

Poor Derrick Chew had 2 Supergirl variant covers, 1 Manhunter main cover, and 1 RWBY variant cover tossed out! No other artist was hit from so many sides by this move to digital. You can't even buy his covers at Comixology, which for some reason doesn't include the variants in digital releases.

In sum - from any angle (and sorry I mentioned so many thoughts in my long-winded comment here), this was awful.