Thursday, 28 October 2010

Supergirl Annual #2 review

Who wouldn't grab a chance to be somewhere else when things get overwhelming at home. And when you're a superheroine, the chances tend to be bigger. So it is that when her rocket trip back from the Bizarro World ends in the 31st Century, Supergirl decides to stay awhile. After several adventures with the Legion of Super-Heroes she's made a member, but the holiday turns sour when two threats appear, one external, the other closer to home.

The more obvious threat is the demon goddess Satan Girl, who enslaves the world in four days and sets most of the Legion against Supergirl and Brainiac 5. The internal threat is to Supergirl's psyche, as she deals with the knowledge of how, according to history, she died.

This is a cracking issue, blending aspects of the Silver Age of Comics - Satan Girl, the Kara/Brainy romance - with modern sensibilities that make the story fresh even for those of us who thrilled to the classic Supergirl's Legion exploits. But this is today's Supergirl, who's no longer the confused, brattish Lolita who was hard to like; under recent creative team Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle we've seen her change. 

And here. as she claims some of the original's adventures as her own, it's obvious that Supergirl has come into her own. This isn't the new Supergirl, the current Supergirl, whatever - Kara Zor-El is Supergirl, a heroine worthy of her name. 

Just look at how she commands respect from the Legion, at how Brainy falls for her. Cheer her indomitable spirit as she finds herself the last fighter on an enslaved world. And pity her as she faces her fate.

Not that we're shown it. The veil is left in place as to how Legion history says she died. It may be the Crisis on Infinite Earths death of the first Supergirl that is commemorated, it may be some death from which she'll 'get better' - certainly, there's a comment near the end of the book, from Saturn Girl, which is pleasingly ambiguous.

What Kara sees isn't important - it's what she feels, and how she reacts. And because Gates has written Kara so well for the past couple of years, her responses ring true, ensuring this issue is more than some throwaway tale. What's more, it sets the scene for Supergirl stories to come, while also reinforcing some past ones (the wonders of time travel mean that while the Legion here is meeting Kara for the first time, she's already met older versions of them).

Even as it salutes the past, 'Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes' is full of surprises. As well as the nature of the army Supergirl raises against Satan Girl, I loved this panel, a wink to Saturn Girl's Seventies sartorial shame.


So the horribly inappropriate pink bikini Saturn Girl wore for years is all Kara's fault! (Don't ask me why Kara's calling Saturn Girl, 'Emm', mind - I always assumed 'Imra' was a take on the common Fifties name Irma ... maybe it's the Titanian accent?)

The other featured player, Brainiac 5, is nicely presented, with Gates remembering that Querl Dox of the Legion is not Vril Dox of the L.E.G.I.O.N. - too many writers willfully write the basically friendly 5 with the personality of the manipulative, standoffish 2. Here his concern for Kara is evident throughout, and it's a treat to see Kara begin to notice how much he has going for him. He's also bloomin' bright, of course, making him an asset even to scientific prodigy Kara.

Jamal Igle isn't drawing this month, but occasional fill-in artist Matt Camp shines as illustrator for most of the 46-page tale. His take on the early Legion is wonderful. Characters are clean-cut, but not boring, their bodies realistic rather than overly sexualised. The storytelling is crystal clear, and the joy on the characters' faces much of the time is infectious - the page showing Kara qualifying for Legion membership, for one, is a keeper.

Marco Rudy steps in for a batch of pages, and while his style is noticably different to Camp's - the layouts flip from straighforward to trippy - the change is entirely appropriate as the story moves into a dark future. Rudy apparently had a lot of fun with this story, as is very evident from the panel in which a dramatically foreshortened Kara winds up looking like a Powerpuff Girl.

Blond and Brad Anderson add vibrant tones throughout, while the ever-excellent Steve Wands comes up with a striking new font for witch queen Satan Girl, and remembers that sometime Colossal Boy gets a tad shouty.

And if the interior art weren't enough, there's a stunning cover by Amy Reeder - it's a fine layout, gorgeously brought to life by Richard Friend and Guy Major.

Forget all those Bruce Wayne one-offs, think twice before spending $20 on Clark Kent in a hoodie - this is likely the best value, most entertaining  special of the week.

5 comments:

  1. Agreed. This one's a keeper!

    And those other adventures B5 mentions are really tantalizing -- too bad Gates won't be around to chronicle them.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yessirree - I nearly quoted those titles but decided to let folk find 'em for themselves.

    I may yet crack ...

    ReplyDelete
  3. I also thought this was a great comic, doing justice to both the Legion and Supergirl.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Okay, I asked the comic shop guys to put this one to the side for me.

    Emm? Maybe she was trying to say, "Erm..."

    ReplyDelete
  5. Keith, glad you enjoyed this too.

    Carol, Sterling gave me is thoughts on the Emm business vis Twitter: 'Re: "Emm." Did that because when you say/spell "Im" phonetically, it's spelled "Emm." In my opinion.'

    That surprised me!

    ReplyDelete