Supergirl Saturday: Supergirl v6 #1-7, “The Last Daughter of Krypton”
|June 21, 2014||Posted by Jess under Comics, Supergirl Saturday|
It’s been a long time since the last Supergirl Saturday. Let’s fix that, shall we?
This week I want to talk about the current Supergirl series. I always planned to jump around a bit chronologically with these posts (and in fact if I was doing a straight chronology I would’ve already skipped a few key appearances), and I think popping back and forth between the Silver Age and today will be interesting. Thanks to the, um, magic of decompression (more on that in a bit), talking about a solo issue from this decade won’t get you very far, so let’s take the whole first arc of the current series, Last Daughter of Krypton by Michael Green, Mike Johnson, and Mahmud Asrar, which covers the first seven issues.
Now, I haven’t exactly made a secret of the fact that I hate the reboot. DC’s strength, their identity – or at least the good parts of it – come largely from their history, their iconic characters, their legacy heroes. Their comics were impenetrable to beginners not because there had been three Flashes, but because of runaway decompression, hostility to outsiders, and endless company-wide crossovers that are hard enough for a 10-year veteran like me to follow, let alone someone who picked up the dreadful Teen Titans series because they liked the Young Justice cartoon. Those problems didn’t go away with the reboot – in fact, they were exacerbated by it. Instead, DC eradicated their legacy heroes – or at least all the female and non-white ones – stripped their characters of their history, and took away Superman’s shorty shorts. They erased their identity, leaving them with…what? Dismemberments and an obsession with the number 52, mostly.
But the mostly-overlooked Supergirl relaunch was, I thought, pretty good! (I’m behind, so we’ll see if it holds up.) True, it was slow getting off the ground, but Green and Johnson imbued Kara with so much personality, and as we’ll see, Asrar’s art is just fantastic. It wasn’t perfect, but it was worlds better than the misogynistic nightmare that was the Loeb/Turner/Churchill post-Crisis relaunch. (We’ll get to that one someday, too. Ohhhh how we’ll get to that one.)
We begin, of course, with Kara’s rocket (well, “pod” in this version) crash landing on Earth, because this is a Supergirl origin story, dammit! But this is no plucky young go-getter pre-loaded with knowledge about her new home and ready to fight bad guys. Kara thinks she’s dreaming at first, as she finds herself in the snowy wasteland of Siberia and is quickly surrounded by dudes in mecha suits. (The mecha suit thing is very strange. We eventually learn that they work for a billionaire tech genius who basically harvests and analyzes all space debris for various governments so that they don’t have to, but the combination of mechas and privatization of space stuff makes these issues come off like they take place a few decades in the future, not “today.” It’s a weird choice.) Once they attack her, though, and she starts feeling pain, she realizes it’s not a dream – but as the sun comes up, her powers kick in, and she fights back. The brawl lasts for the whole issue, until the final splash page, when Superman shows up to put a stop to it.
And, look. This series has a real problem with decompression: the first issue is literally just one big brawl, and after two years of consecutive issues (which is all I’ve read so far – I told you I was behind!) Kara still doesn’t have any consistent allies or a home base. It’s both exhausting and a bit draining to have her bounce endlessly from place to place without ever getting to just have a nice conversation with Clark or the Kents or, IDK, the Danverses. Someone.
But. Kara has so much personality in these issues, and it’s such a lively and real one. She’s scared and confused and defiant. She doesn’t understand what’s happening to her or who these people who don’t speak her language are. She keeps thinking about Kryptonian traditions and history, or things her father’s said or done, which help to give us a sense that she’s a real person with connections and memories and emotions. And when people are in danger, she acts instantly to protect them, showing us that behind the scared and violent kid is a genuine hero. KARA. KARA, YOU’RE MY FOREVER GIRL.
And the art! Look at that! Asrar makes her so expressive, and adorably gangly, like a newborn foal. I adore her New 52 haircut; most comic book heroine hair just looks like the artist drew squiggles around the character’s head and let the colorist fill it in with lustrous waves, but this is actually a cute haircut a real girl might have. The top half of the costume is also great. (The bottom half is offensively high-cut – like, we seriously don’t need to see that much of a teenage girl’s pubis, thanks. And putting a big red triangle/arrow over her genitals is gross. And the boots are dumb. Why couldn’t it be a cute skirt and leggings? Why? Even actual red shorts would’ve been better!)
Anyway, Superman shows up and we get another issue full of brawling, which only lets up when Kara realizes she’s putting ordinary people in danger. Clark is his usual bossy, sanctimonious self, refusing to answer Kara’s questions until she answers his even though she asked first and is clearly upset, and I have to admit I got a lot of glee out of her swinging him face first into a giant tree by his cape. However, we also get a completely adorable flashback of the two of them on Krypton:
The upshot of this issue: Clark tells Kara Krypton’s gone. She doesn’t believe him, and doesn’t totally believe he’s her cousin either. He’s far from the dickweasel he was in the Silver Age, but that doesn’t stop him from calling after her as she flies off that she’ll only be safe with him and she’s a danger to everyone she encounters. Um, she’s invulnerable and not a monster, Clark, I think she’ll manage. Jerk.
SUCH A GREAT COVER WHY COULDN’T THIS HAVE BEEN A COMEDY BOOK. Ahem. Remember the mechas from the first issue? Well, turns out they – or rather, their pilots – are employed by a Luthorian young dude named Simon Tycho, one of many attempts to give Kara (and sometimes Kon) a Lex of her own. He’s stolen Kara’s space pod, and lures her onto his ship with it, then is lucky enough to accidentally expose her to kryptonite long enough to capture her for study. Also, he takes her costume off to examine it. HE’S CREEPY.
One of the mecha pilots, horrified by all this, helps her escape. Though Tycho kills him for it, it gets Kara away from the kryptonite long enough for her to recover, badly damage Tycho’s ship, inadvertently almost kill Tycho, and flee. Guided by a Kryptonian sunstone from the pod (you know, those crystal things they use in the movies to record 19 hours of Marlon Brando yammering in a wig), she flies through a wormhole to find…Argo City.
Like in the Silver Age, it’s floating on its own little chunk of ground, surrounded by a force field…but it’s a failing force field, and there’s no one left alive in the city. Kara manages to play the message on the sunstone – a recorded farewell from her father, interrupted by someone unseen breaking into his lab and shooting him.
As Kara grapples with the realization that her parents and world really are dead, she’s accosted by the redheaded woman on the cover: Reign, a Kryptonian experiment known as a Worldkiller. (I think this ties into what was going on in the Superboy book? Maybe?) They fight, but Kara’s too grief stricken to give it her all, and Reign leaves Kara pinned to the ruins of Argo, which is about to fall into a star and burn up.
But a vision of her parents gives her the strength to free herself.
I super love Zor-El and Alura. I find them way more interesting than Clark’s bio-folks, mainly because they actually had a chance to have an effect on Kara’s personality. (Jonathan and Martha forever, though!)
Kara races back to stop Reign from taking over Earth, starting with New York, but uh-oh! Reign’s not the only Worldkiller!
I LOVE THIS COVER I LOVE IT. KARA IS FRIEND AND PROTECTOR AND INSPIRATION TO ALL THE LITTLE GIRLS OF THE WORLD, FOR TRUE. <3 <3 <3 And we get another full-issue brawl, with just a couple things of note. First, Kara has a power that I don’t think Reboot Clark has: her body can fill up with solar energy and expend it in a huge flare of power, not just through her eyes. And second, well:
THAT’S MY GIRL. THAT’S MY HERO.
Anyway, Kara wins, of course, mostly through cleverness, and the Worldkillers beat a strategic retreat, leaving Kara surrounded by terrified-but-maybe-grateful New Yorkers. And that’s our first arc.
It’s interesting – like I said, it’s very decompressed in places, but summing it up like this, it still feels like a lot of things happened: Kara flew all over Earth, met Clark, fought Tycho and the Worldkillers twice each, went all the way to Argo and back, and dealt, sort of, with her parents’ death. And yet it also feels like not a lot happened at all? She doesn’t really know Clark – she met him briefly. She doesn’t have a human name or support system. She doesn’t even speak English yet. In a summary like this, when it’s only the first arc of the series, it seems reasonable enough that she wouldn’t have gotten to any of that yet – but bear in mind that this is over half that first year of the reboot, and I can tell you right now she doesn’t manage to get to any of those things in the next arc either. We know there are certain inevitabilities with a Supergirl story – she’ll eventually be welcomed into the Superfold, hang out with other teen heroes, lead some sort of normal teen life – so spending ages getting around to it can get a bit wearying. And Rao, I just want her to have a real conversation with someone.
On the other hand, she’s feisty and brave and clever and willing to lay down her life for stranger and determined to find a spark of optimism in the bleakest situation, and I will sit through all the decompression in the world for that.
I’d also like to note that this is really the first major “Kara Zor-El lands on Earth” moment that doesn’t have undertones of threat to it. I’ve already picked her first appearance apart to pieces, but Power Girl’s landing in the 70s and Kara’s post-Crisis one in the 00s also carry that threat. With Peej it’s more her willingness to upend the social order, while the post-Crisis Kara was actively floated as a potential villain repeatedly before submitting herself to being monitored by Batman and Superman forever for her own good (UGH, WE’LL GET TO IT SOMEDAY, PROMISE), but they were both given the “hey, don’t trust the blonde cutie-pie, this could all go very wrong” treatment.
Now, DCnU Kara got that treatment – but not in the comic itself. Solicits at the time and the blurb on the back of the first trade trumpeted that she had all of Superman’s power, but none of his affection for the people of Earth, but the book itself shows that that’s patently untrue, as she consistently acts to protect and avenge humans. With the exception of her fight with Clark, all of her fights in this arc are with bad guys who are attacking her – and I don’t really blame her, because if I’d just fought for my life on a strange planet while experiencing gaps in my memory and then a strange man told me he was actually my infant cousin, I’d hit first and ask questions later too. Kara’s not always right and she’s not always reasonable, but she’s always sympathetic. Or, to put it another way, DC’s editorial department and copywriters are as sexist as they ever were and perfectly willing to try to draw in readers with the old “oooh, teenage girl with power, scary!” hook – but Johnson and Green seem to be above that baloney, and good for them.
IN CONCLUSION, now that I’ve written a billion words about this: I still hate the reboot. But Reboot Kara is still the kickass, hopeful heroine I love, and that’s not nothing.