Sunday, March 4, 2012

52 Catch-Up: Supergirl #1-6

I wasn't expecting to like the first issue of Supergirl, let alone start picking the book up on a regular basis. But this book proved to be one of the most pleasant surprises of the New 52 and perhaps the most criminally underrated. It is also one of the few New 52 titles to have had a complete multi-issue character arc which can still be picked up and read one issue at a time, without any worries about being able to get back into the story - a trait that is rarely appreciated in these days of "writing for the trade".

As I noted in my review of the first issue, writers Michael Green & Mike Johnson were quick to establish Kara's character, showing that she is logical and intelligent as she is able to quickly deduce that she's on an real alien world rather than dreaming. Despite this, she is still portrayed as being a typical teenage girl, as her first thoughts are worries about how her mom will react to her wearing an outfit that she is too young to be wearing. Okay, the outfit in question is the formal garb prepared for her graduation rather than a mini-skirt and fishnets, but the principal is the same.

As Issue #2 opens, Kara is confronted by Superman, who claims to be her younger cousin, Kal-El. She finds this completely preposterous - understandable given that her last memory of Kal-El involved holding him while babysitting several days earlier. The standard "fight-between-two-heroes-over-a-misunderstanding" issue commences, made somewhat less-than-standard by the wonderful internal monologue going through Kara's head. Understandably shaken up as her body begins to react to Earth's yellow sun, her horror at the alien environment and her very being rebelling against her is well conveyed, turning what might have been an ordinary issue-long action sequence into a character-defining issue as well.

Issues #3 & #4 pit Kara against Simon Tycho - a young super-genius who made his fortune by recovering and exploiting alien technology that has come to Earth. He grabbed Kara's spaceship during the fight with Superman and - not content with that find - goads her into chasing after him so that he can have a real, live alien to experiment on. As a villain, Tycho is rather forgettable - a lightweight Lex Luthor, if you will. But these issues are still enjoyable as they do much to further establish Kara's compassionate nature and growing skill in using her powers.

Issue #5 details Kara, newly armed with a crystal from her spaceship, trying to fly back to Krypton in the hope that someone may have survived the cataclysm. This leads her to the remains of Argo City and her uncovering her parents' last message to her. She also finds a being who calls herself Reign, who it turns out is one of the mentioned - but unseen until now - Worldkillers that her father had been designing.

With Issue #6, Kara comes full circle. Refusing to die among the ruins of her people, she returns to Earth in hot pursuit of Reign. She accepts her destiny as a hero and proves herself worthy of the clothes that she's wearing - both by the standards of adulthood on Krypton and by what the S-shield means to people on Earth.

All of these issues are ably illustrated by a top-notch art team. Many Supergirl artists take great license with the character, drawing exaggerated cheesecake poses while giving Kara the body of a porn star. Penciller Mahmud Asrar avoids this, thankfully, giving us a Supergirl who looks like a young, athletic young woman. The backgrounds are also well-illustrated, with several two-page spreads depicting poster-worth landscapes. Inker Dan Green does a fine job of defining and separating everything on the issues Asrar did not ink personally. Colorist Dave McCaig, who colored all the issues save #3, also does an excellent job, using a somewhat muted-palette that only serves to make the bright colors of Kara's costume stand out all the more, seeming all the more out of place in the various places she goes.

In short, this is a wonderful book and you should be reading it!

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