NEW 52 REVIEW: Supergirl #1

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Or – “The Last Daughter Of Krypton Is Back!”

AND she’s no longer dressed like a red-sun-powered lap-dancer at Scores.  This issue is the New 52 book that I found myself most surprised to be anticipating, so it will be interesting to see how the whole thing shakes down.

SUPERGIRL #1
Writer(s): Michael Green & Mike Johnson
Penciller: Mahmud Asrar
Inker: Dan Green with Asrar
Colorist: Dave McCraig
Letterer: John J. Hill
Editor: Wil Moss
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Supergirl:  The story of Kara Zor-El has always been about love, in it’s most subtle forms.  Her father, Zor-El was able to save his entire CITY from the destruction of Krypton (having been a bit more proactive than brother Jor-El) but a miscalculation caused him to have to send his daughter to Earth to spare her from Argo City’s demise.  Cousin Kal-El protected her from discovery for years, but when she went public, she found herself much more accepted than the paternal relationship Superman had with the world.  Her death was one of the most moving moments of 80’s comics, and her constant series of returns, revamps, relaunches and re-debuts has proved a testament to the fans (and writers’) love of the Supergirl character.  Now, in the new DCU, we are about to meet Kara Zor-El for the first time, again…

A STRANGE FEVER DREAM…

The issue opens with a very beautiful, very Smallville-TV-show-influenced scene of meteors crashing to Earth in the Kansas heartland.  (Also, as an aside to the various purveyors of pop culture?  Most of our windmills are made of aluminum rather than wood, these days.  Bygones…)  A large meteor crashes to Earth, but rather than stay, it continues traveling through the Earth’s crust, coming up in Siberia (!!).  The crash site is silent for a few seconds, before a hand appears out of the crater.  A very well-drawn sequence follows, wherein we see Kara climb out of the rubble and look around, confused at the strange dream she must be having.  The writers put us firmly in the head of the main character, as she tries to make sense of her surroundings, remarks that she’s “not allowed to wear this [uniform] yet”, and finds herself amused at the strange robot-men who arrive to capture here.  “Daddy would LOVE this dream,” she thinks.  I found myself smiling at that whole scene, as Mahmud Asrar puts a bemused smirk on Supergirl’s face, while the writing team gives us a very authentic-feeling young woman voice.  Most impressively, the tone AND the art perfectly capture the change from bemusement to surprise to fear to pain that Kara feels as the creatures attack, and the moment where the yellow sun of Earth starts to rise is really chilling, as a suddenly terrified and angry Supergirl cries, “Something’s wrong with the sun!”

…A REALLY APPEALING MAIN CHARACTER.

She quickly lashes out with the full array of Kryptonian powers: super-strength, heat vision, and invulnerability, but Kara’s inexperience leads the robots (who turn out to be American agents in armored suits) to overwhelm her.  Bits of dialogue are telling about this world, as the men recognize the crest on her uniform, and her super-hearing suddenly kicks in, giving Kara tantalizing glimpses of things going on elsewhere in the universe.  I suspect that someone could go track down the things she hears in other issues of the New 52 (it’s that kind of relaunch, after all), and for those paying attention, the strange hooded woman appears in the bottom panel of page 15.  What’s most gratifying to me is that Supergirl is clearly a young woman, not a pneumatic female caricature, and that her costume design, even as it shows some skin of her legs, is not the ‘teen bubblegum pop star’ look that she’s been sporting since 2006.  Of course, the fact that the soldiers treat her like a girl works out badly for them, as she rips one from his armored shell and asks where she is.  Another triumph in the storytelling comes as Supergirl starts to come down from her fear-induced combat high, and worries what has happened to her parents.  The issue ends with a red-and-blue blur (well, ANOTHER red-and-blue blur) arriving on the scene, and Superman speaking to her a single word in Kryptonian:  “Stop.”

THE VERDICT:  VISUALLY AND VERBALLY STUNNING.

Three weeks in to this brave new world, and I’ve been mostly happy with the results, but this issue really nails the point of the relaunch.  They give us a character, the writers don’t toy with us about “everything we know is wrong,” they make the story feel fresh and interesting, let us inside Supergirl’s head, and most of all, they don’t feel the need to jettison anything right off the bat.  This is our introduction to the newest iteration of a character nearly 65 years old, after all, and many of the people who want to check this book out know what Supergirl has been before.  Mahmud Asrar does a lovely job this issue, and the costume redesign is both regal and attractive, while the writing makes the character seem like one I want to read about, and doesn’t make her too tough, too old, too slutty or too young.  It’s a nice balance of character, with some action, a little mystery, and a nice teaser at the end.  All in all, Supergirl #1 was a wonderful way to spend 15 minutes, and earns a well-and-truly-deserved 5 out of 5 stars overall.  I’ll be back next month, and I look forward to more storytelling this smooth and assured…

Rating: ★★★★★

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Why, if I’m just a casual fan of SuperMAN, does the similar-but-distaff concept of Supergirl appeal to me as it does?