Supergirl hasn’t had a chance to catch her breath. She’s only just beaten DEO dupe Strange Visitor and now a new superhuman menace has appeared. But before we meet her in this latest issue, we see a bit of Deceilia’s past.
Deceilia is going by the name the elders of her planet gave her, Starshame, and camp as it is, you’re not going to tell her that. This woman isn’t just fierce, she’s murderous, slaying holidaymakers on a cruise ship because they... well, really, its because she’s nuts.
Kara being Kara, she tries to reason with her attacker.
No dice. Then Starshame (so much easier to spell than Deceilia) decides mass murder is the way to go, splitting the cruise ship open in the hope everyone drowns. Kara can’t understand such random evil.
Meanwhile, at the headquarters of the DEO - the Department of Extranormal Operations - Director Bones finds that resident mad scientist Mokkari isn’t as compliant as he’d like.
Bones realises he’s going to have to amp up his vendetta against Supergirl, whom he considers a dangerous alien who, if she’s not going to work for him, needs to be taken off the board.
Back off the California coast, having tossed Starshame out to sea, Kara stops the ship from sinking and finally has a chance to gather herself.
That’s one determined Supergirl. So it’s no wonder Starshame gets more than she bargained for when Kara catches up to her. The fight-in-progress is interrupted when, as happened with Strange Visitor, DEO goons show up. Conveniently, they arrive just as Deceilia is telling Kara she’d been a prisoner of Bones and Mokkari...
Bones’ machinations have had Kara on the back foot for awhile. No more.
As Kara fights the DEO on one level, previous DEO director Cameron Chase and super-boffin Shay Veritas are working out what Bones is up to.
And later, in her civilian identity of Kara Danvers, Supergirl finds the Mean Girl cliches alive and well.
Watching from the shadows is DEO Agent Ocampo, tasked with ferreting out Supergirl, whom Bones rightly suspects of posing as an Earth native. She’s been questioning the newcomers, such as Kara’s friend Belinda Zee, but her heart, it turns out, isn’t in it - she knows that despite the odd public relations blip, Supergirl is a good person who doesn’t deserve to be hounded.
And there’s more. Kara and Ben have a conversation about Cat Grant’s orders that they turn up the heat on Supergirl via her media empire. Eliza Danvers gives her foster daughter good advice. Ben gets a sharp new look. And Bones plays his final hand...
I don’t know what the work demarcation is so far as co-writers Steve Orlando and Jody Houser are concerned, but together they’re working magic. The overwhelming angst Supergirl has been feeling for the last few issues is dialled right down; sure, the pressure is still on Kara, but she’s not letting it crush her. Nope, she’s fighting back and taking names. The DEO storyline is coming to a head, with Kara, Chase, Shay and Kryptonian werewolf Lar-On - seen quietly reading in a motel room - working out Bones’ game. The dastardly DEO chief can’t even intimidate supposed lackey Mokkari with his poison touch, and if his last anti-Supergirl living weapon doesn’t deliver, well, he’s lost.
New villain Deceilia is rather awesome in her awfulness, ranting even when she’s ‘flying’ through the air after being hurled away from the ship by Kara, with no audience. I’m not sure, though, what it is that made her a ‘freak’ on her own world. That awful neck? Could be super-tension... we don’t get a clear look at anyone else on her planet, unless they really are fuzzy-faced folk. Whatever Deceilia’s perception, it’s pretty clear she’s always been Little Miss Twisted, and I’m glad Kara didn’t waste too much time trying to reason with her - she reached out but Starshame is clearly a lost cause. Supergirl’s job is to end the immediate threat to the holidaymakers.
Given such things were popping up before Houser joined the book, I’m guessing Orlando is responsible for all the callbacks to DC history - amnesium, former Checkmate guy Tommy Jagger, Kara wearing an Alice band. Then again, I don’t know how much of a fangirl Houser is... whatever her contribution, I like it, because I like this series so much and this issue is outstanding.
The art’s nothing to be sniffed at, either, with penciller Robson Rocha and inker Daniel Henriques producing better work every issue. The clash with Starshame is full of energy, and the body language and facial expressions are exemplary... young Deceilia, struggling in her claustrophobic rocketship, so different from Kara’s experience, for example, while Supergirl’s feelings towards Deceilia are evident throughout. And I really appreciate the busy backgrounds, filled with people and things. My favourite page, though, is the Ocampo scene above, you can see the conflict the woman is feeling, in her Broom Cupboard of Solitude, and that final silhouette is just lovely.
I do wonder, though, if Rocha is having a laugh with one of the fleeing tourists!
And do I detect a Keith Giffen vibe to his rufty-tufty Tommy?
Rocha and Henriques don’t handle the whole book, with the fine Julio Ferreira arriving for the last three pages, and he gets to introduce a new villain who looks amazing.
Colourist Michael Atiyeh helps knit everything together with well-chosen and applied tones, while letterer Steve Wands applies his expertise to the usual excellent effect.
That cover is rather Carrie, isn’t it? It’s nicely done by Rocha, Henriques and Atiyeh, but I’m not overly keen - this book is good enough not to have to reference something else. I don’t mind figurative covers but this is such a strong image that it becomes more misleading than a nod to events and feelings inside. And I still dislike the glassy Superman: The Movie logo treatment. Actually, I want Kara to get one of her own mastheads back, preferably the tall Seventies look.
The variant by Stanley ‘Artgerm’ Lau is his best yet, just sublime, almost 3D in effect. Consider this 1000 words of praise from me.
I understand sales have been going up on this series of late, with the Artgerm variants credited. They’re gorgeous and must be a big draw, but surely the sheer quality of story and art is a factor too? Supergirl is a terrific book, and improving with each issue - DC should add it to the fortnightly roster.
Supergirl #17 review, Steve Orlando, Jody Houser, Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques, Julio Ferreira, Steve Wands, Michael Atiyeh, Stanley ‘Artgerm’ Lau