SUNDAY SLUGFEST: Supergirl #1

A comic review article by: The Firing Squad
Some stupid humans get in the way of Supergirl as she crash lands on Earth. Fisticuffs ensue. We come in peace, indeed.



Nick Boisson:
Jason Sacks:
Ray Tate:




Nick Boisson:


Like many of DC's superheroes, Supergirl is getting a complete, page one rewrite. There will be many a change to her character -- her origin, her personality, her look -- but all we can hope for is that we like the change. And, as a longtime fan of Kara Zor-El, I for one can say that I am looking forward to seeing what other changes this comic will have in store for us.

Now, there have been a few minor changes to Supergirl and her mythos. When Supergirl was introduced back into the DC Universe -- with Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner's story, ″Supergirl″, in Superman/Batman -- in 2004, she was a naked teenage girl whose ship landed in Gotham Bay and was found by Batman. After training with Wonder Woman and the Amazons, and being kidnapped briefly by Darkseid, she dons a Super-skirt and a bare-midriff and becomes Supergirl. That is a brash over-generalization for such a great six-issue arc, but I'm here to talk about the new Supergirl. In this new origin tale, after a meteor shower lands in (or near) Smallville, Kansas, the largest meteor pierces through the earth and ends up in Siberia. From the crash site emerges our new Supergirl, already fully in costume! [That's how you do it, Ultimate Spider-Man!] She has no idea where she is, how she got there nor the fate of her home planet, Krypton. And when she is met by a group of BattleMechs (?!), we discover that she is not only dressed in superhero attire, but that she -- having only been in yellow sunlight for mere seconds -- already possesses her super powers. Those mechs don't stand a chance!



These changes, especially in the new DC Universe, are interesting ones. Since there is no Ma Kent in this Universe, someone needed to get the poor girl clothed. Rather than it being stitched together by Ma, the new costume isn't really a costume at all. The way Michael Green and Mike Johnson explain it, it is her graduation gown. Well, there isn't really a gown. Let's go with graduation uniform. When it was said that Supergirl would be losing the skirt, no one really thought that she would really just lose the skirt and just keep her undergarment. Am I complaining that she is pretty much wearing a Super-bikini? Not so much. It's not as if she is wearing what her Earth-Two counterpart wears (see Power Girl). I am personally a fan of the new look. Specifically, the cape -- which, the way it is attached to the costume, looks more like a cloak -- and the thigh-high boots with the exposed knees. They also got rid of the bare-midriff, which always seemed a bit too much like what DC believed teenage girls wear after watching a few too many early-'90s flicks set in Southern California.

In the DCU of old, Kara Zor-El was also sent by Zor-El (brother to Jor-El, Superman's father) to Earth a little after Kal-El to protect him. Her ship had merely gotten lost after the explosion of Krypton and was kept in stasis until her ship finally landed, over 25 years after Kal-El. But she remembers being sent. In this one, she has no idea what happened to her. I don't know if she will begin to get her memory of the last days on Krypton back or if Zor-El had left a message in the ship, but this bit of a memory lapse can make for a terrifying first few days on Earth, surrounded by those much weaker and much more primitive to her. In a Kryptonian's eyes, looking upon a human are like us looking at a Neanderthal.



The writers -- Michael Green and Mike Johnson -- deliver a remarkable introduction to the new Kara. Supergirl narrates the entire story. She isn't telling us what happened to her, but is reacting to what is happening and thinking to herself within the moment. With that, and especially with the memory loss, we get that great sense of a stranger in a strange land feeling that she has.

But what works extremely well with their script is the art from Mahmud Asrar. Because of Asrar's images working so well with the writing, the reader feels every emotion right along with Kara. We feel it all. We feel her fear when we see her eyes widen after getting out of the crater and not knowing where she is. We feel that sense of nostalgia when she smiles just so at the thought that her father would enjoy the ″dream″ that she is having. We feel her anger when her eyes turn red after realizing that she is not on Krypton. And our hearts break when she gives that soldiers a longing look and asks him where she is.



The team shines in the beginning of this book and could not have given Kara a better place to land than in Siberia. Especially for an artist! When she climbs out of the ship and comes out on the snow, expressing her confusion, nothing could be better than Asrar's lovely snowy exterior to help sell that feeling of loneliness and isolation that Green and Johnson are trying to emote. I do feel as if the inks -- by both Asrar and Dan Green -- do wonders in the action panels and around the characters, but could have used a bit more polish on everything else. It almost seems as if DC was going to let Asrar do the inks, but right before it went to print, had Green step in to do a bit of polish. It is good, but could be better.

While last week's Superboy caught me by surprise because I had no faith in it, I was still excited for this book. Having Michael Green -- who wrote for shows like Smallville, Everwood and NBC's brilliant-but-canceled series Kings -- was a good choice for the teenager emotions for the book. Even if he did have any part in the screenplay for the Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern. And Mike Johnson used to write on DC's Superman/Batman series, so we know the superheroics will be in check. I did not know the artist, but I am loving him on this book. While still anticipating this series, I was -- again -- taken by surprise.



Up to now, the three Super-books that have premiered have been great. All we await on is Superman. Picking up three-out-of-four of the Super-books ain't bad, but I'd really like to make it four. As for this book, knowing that Superman is going to be in the next issue is just one of many reasons why I'm excited for issue #2. So far, I feel that Supergirl #1 may be one of the best books to come out of DC's relaunch to go into as a new reader and may just be one of the best books out of the relaunch altogether.


Nick Boisson grew up on television, Woody Allen, video games, Hardy Boys mysteries and DC comic books, with the occasional Spider-Man issue thrown in for good measure. He currently roams the rainy streets of Miami, Florida, looking for a nice tie, a woman that gets him, and the windbreaker he lost when he was eight. He sometimes writes things down on Twitter as @nitroslick.



Jason Sacks:

Thanks, DC, for making it hard. You could have made it easy for us reviewers to condemn you for objectifying and sexualizing women throughout all the DCnU titles. In fact, you could have done that very easily with the new Supergirl series by simply reviving Kara as the halter-topped, giant-breasted Supergirl who starred in her most recent series. You could have followed a well-worn trail and created a Supergirl that was easy for all us reviewers to condemn.

Instead, you've taken the hard way and created a sterling first issue with absolutely no controversy in it. Supergirl #1 is a terrific, headlong, rumbling, tumbling action comic with the perfect dollop of characterization included.

The comic has a very simple storyline: Supergirl's rocket crashes to Earth, not in Kansas but in Siberia. She leaves her rocket, believing she is dreaming, only to find herself attacked by giant robot-seeming creatures, who we readers understand are men sent to capture the woman due to the "Visitor Protocols." We're then granted a dozen or so pages of pure action, as the strange visitor fights to keep herself safe from her attackers. On the final page the guest-star we all expect to appear actually does appear, and voila! The comic wraps up.



As she fights, the alien girl reflects back on her life on Krypton in ways that show her age-- "I'm not supposed to wear this for another year, when I graduate" and lots of talk about mom and dad-- and we get a sense that there might be both more and less to this girl than there appears to be at first glance.

The character building seems to occur naturally, in ways that feel natural and normal. Of course the girl is reflecting on the events that are happening to her, and trying to compare them to events that would happen on Krypton, because that's what anyone would do in that circumstance. It all feels just right.

Mahmud Asrar's art is reminiscent of Mark Bagley. There are certain panels that look like Bagley channeled through another set of hands. That's not a complaint, that's high praise from me, because I think Bagley is a terrific action artist. Asrar handles the action in this comic well, avoiding confusion while always staying on model with his characters.

Most enjoyably, he draws Kara like a real teenager. She has a young face with traces of immaturity, a small bust, and a body that seems not quite filled out. She looks like a slightly precocious 14-year-old to me, and Asur draws that 14-year-old in a way that treats her with the appropriate level of respect.


Supergirl's costume is pretty ugly, with its weird bikini area and very strange leg-boots. But it's not a costume that panders, and Asrar draws it well.

Michael Green, Mike Johnson and Mahmud Asrar deliver a fine, fun comic that really ranks as one of the best of the week for me. They made a comic that's easy to read and hard to criticize.


Jason Sacks has been obsessed with comics for longer than he'd like to remember. He considers himself a student of comics history and loves delving into obscure corners of this crazy artform. Jason has been writing for this site for about seven years and has also been published in a number of fan publications, including the late, lamented Amazing Heroes and The Flash Companion. He lives in north Seattle with his wife and three kids.



Ray Tate:

Supergirl has always been considered Superman's "lil" cousin. She's always been thought of as his lesser. She's not as powerful as Superman. She's not as strong, or as fast, because after all, she's a 
girl "tee-hee." Fair enough, but Supergirl can still bench-press a tank. She can withstand being hit by a bullet train. She's fast enough to generate a sonic boom that can be heard round the world. Is it really all that important to start comparing her to Superman, Wonder Woman or the Flash? Suffice to say, Supergirl can take care of herself and others.

Michael Green, Mike Johnson and Dynamo 5's Mahmud Asrar forge a perfect introduction to the Girl of Steel. Her craft rips a hole through the earth and ends up in Siberia. Alone, she believes what she sees is a dream and doesn't remember exactly what happened to her. The exo-suited humans, despite noting the Big Red S on her chest, stupidly mount an assault, and as the yellow sun rises, Kara's powers manifest one by one. She has little time to adapt, but acclimate she does.



Some might question the paranoia and the lack of intelligence from the humans, but one need only remember that the U.N. created the Justice League International in order to have a team of superheroes that they could control. Even with a good President, brainless, parasitic forces still thrive within the government. This year we call them the Tea Party.

Supergirl takes down the humans, and they deserve everything they get. They could have greeted her peacefully. They chose not to. Asrar, Green and McCaig present Kara in all her might and glory, and Supergirl fans of old will be pleased. She hurls the tin cans as if they were Frisbees. She bears the pain of sci-fi energy tentacles. In a cool subtle moment, she views her own vascular system as her X-Ray vision kicks in, and the artists depict the devastation that comes with her heat vision unchecked. Kara can do some serious damage. We always knew she could.



The art's not the only recommendation. The writers take some smart steps to make this latest Kryptonian landfall seem fresh and distinguished from others such as her arrival in Smallville and in Superman: The Animated Series. Kara's belief that all she sees is a dream makes perfect sense, and there's a nice, sweet line about Zor-El, her scientist father, would love this dream. She comments about her mother scolding her for wearing a uniform that she has yet to grow into.

Her lack of understanding the human language-- she did afterall just debut-- leads to a communication problem that precludes an easy truce. Mind you, had the humans stepped out of their suits and welcomed her with open arms, things might have been different. Her conclusion that Zod may be behind the assault shows that she's not just reacting but thinking. The reaction of a solider that she rips out of the suit of armor even gives her pause. His expression of fear is a universal one.



There's a contrast at work in Supergirl. At once, she is the sweet, teen cousin of Kal-El, but she's second only to Kal-El when it comes to a multitude of power, and she's not afraid to wield that power.


Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups. In the POBB, as it was affectionately known, Ray reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.

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