Thursday, August 02, 2007

It's Safe To Read Supergirl Again!

I've been a fan of Supergirl in her many incarnations, from the early Midvale Orphanage era to the mod 70's costume era to the Byrne Matrix era and even the the Peter David "wings of fire" era.

This latest version of Supergirl? Can't say I was a fan.

Her debut in Superman/Batman was far from stellar. First, she was a sixteen-year-old girl and she spent half the first issue naked. Not a good sign. Second, the artist/co-creator on the book was Mike Turner. If you've read my posts on other blogs you may know about my extreme dislike of most things Mike Turner (his art, not him personally). Well, the Supergirl debut was the crucible from which that dislike sprang. Despite some excellent coloring by his colleague Peter Steigerwald, Turner's Jokerized faces on Superman, Supergirl and Wonder Woman and his drawing of Darkseid as Badrock drove me to distraction. Writer/co-creator Jeph Loeb's story wasn't a masterpiece either, introducing among other things the first case of OMEGA BEAMS THAT MISS.

Later, the follow-up one-shot in Superman/Batman gave me hope for the book, especially since Turner was replaced with Ian Churchill, an artist who had shown improvement over time in the Superman books. Unfortunately, I soon found out that, while Churchill draws superior renditions of Superman, Batman, Nightwing, and Cyborg, as well as an extremely beautiful Starfire, his weakness is drawing teenaged girls. He tends to draw them a little too anorexic and cheesecakey (and at times indistinguishable from one another), which constitutes no small problem in a book starring a teenaged girl. (And now he's headed to another teen-centered book. This is a shame, because overall I consider him a good artist (reminiscent of Pat Broderick and Darick Robertson) who would be better served on a book like the aforementioned Superman/Batman or Flash, whom he recently drew in the one-shot special.)

Loeb's storyline for the first five issues did not help matters. The synopsis for Loeb's run on the book was:

Issue 1: Supergirl gets in pointless fight with Power Girl.

Issue 2: Supergirl gets in pointless fight with the Teen Titans.

Issue 3: Supergirl gets in pointless fight with the Outsiders.

Issue 4: Evil half of Supergirl gets in pointless fight with the JLA.

Issue 5: Both halves of Supergirl get in pointless fight with the Big 3.


Next, Loeb left and we had some hope in the form of Greg Rucka, an actual plot direction and some strong, albeit too cheesecakey, art by Ed Benes. But then...

Exit Rucka and Benes. Enter Joe Kelly. Enter scenes of Supergirl making out with a doppelganger of her own cousin. Exit me as a paying customer.

I still occasionally skimmed the book at my local shop to see if there was any reason to buy the book, but for every sign of improvement things would get worse next issue. Crystal spikes. Killer Zor-el. Flirtations with Boomerang and Power Boy. The mission to kill her cousin. Dark Angel. The horror! The lowlight was the issue where Kelly essentially called the many critics of "his" Supergirl morons.

The book's essential problem was that it began by alienating the female readership and ended up alienating damn near everybody. It seemed like Kara was portrayed well everywhere except her solo book. I've never seen events in a character's solo book so ignored by other company books with the exception of Devin Grayson's mob story in NIGHTWING.

But then, when I read the Newsarama article about Tony Bedard and Renato Guedes taking over the book, I saw some hope. I knew Guedes was a great artist since I first encountered his work with Rucka and others on the Superman books. But Bedard was a writer who hadn't really registered with me.

Until SUPERGIRL #20, that is.

Here, in a tie-in to the underwhelming AMAZONS ATTACK mini-series, the story begins with the aftermath of Supergirl's naive but well-intentioned idea of taking the President to meet with Hippolyta in the hope of ending the war. This goes predictably awry, with one of the effects being that one of the flight personnel, a soldier named Rannae, loses phone voice communication with her husband, an ex-Marine turned accountant named Greg who becomes one of the two central characters in this story. Although Greg will probably never seen again, his character resonated with me this issue as he struggled with his fear and resentment at the thought of losing his wife to the Amazon attack.

The other central character, the title heroine, was portrayed as more heroic in this issue than in all 19 that preceeded it combined. Here she made a critical mistake but showed great empathy with the people affected by it and a determination to make things right. No other line signified Bedard's improvement to the character than her line to Wonder Girl on page 4: "I can't do nothing, Cassie."

I can't do nothing.

The Superman family credo.

His collaborators on the book, Renato Guedes and Jose Wilson Magalhaes, deserve applause for their work here. Much fanfare was made of Guedes' more realistic redesign of Kara and the lengthening of the skirt (with bicycle shorts underneath instead of panties). But some readers may have been asking: Sure, she looks great in poses, but how does Guedes' Supergirl in an actual battle? The answer is: fantastic. Here she gets to fight against not only Amazon hordes but an actual giant cyclops (and I don't mean Scott Summers). The art on these fight scenes reminded me of ATTACKS artist Pete Woods, one of the mini's bright spots, but it also evoked Jose Luis Garcia- Lopez in places. Plus, the artists even gave Kara and Cassie distinctive looks. Guedes and Magalhaes deserve credit for a job well done.

So does Bedard. He could have hacked out anything following the turd that was the Kelly run and, combined with the great art, still have been well-received.

Instead, he wrote us a gem. Kudos, Mr. Bedard.


At 10:27 PM , Blogger Ami Angelwings said...

There was never a good reason as to why she had to be naked to be in the spaceship except that Zor-El said that she had to be (so we could that NOT CREEPY AT ALL SCENE where Zor-El leers at his naked (and so not 16) 16 y/o daughter).

When you factor in that Jeph Loeb said that Supergirl was supposed to be his daughter, that adds a +10000000000000 creepy factor to it. :\

And I hope that eventually Supergirl stops being a "Kara and other heroes/villains" book and they decide to give her an actual city to protect and a cast unique to her.

So far Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Big Barda, Darkseid, alloftheheroestogether, Poison Ivy, Clayface, Harley Quinn, The JSA, The Teen Titans, The Outsiders, Lex Luthor, The JLA, then the big 3 (again), Power Girl, Captain Boomerang, Ultra Man, Saturn Queen, Wonder Girl, Robin, Terra, Batgirl, A Monitor and Silver Age Supergirl. :\

All in the span of 25 or so issues.


At 5:44 PM , Blogger notintheface said...

No solo book should have that many guest stars unless Bill Mantlo is involved. Sadly, that's not an option anymore.

At 2:48 PM , Blogger Marionette said...

Actually I believe Kara's age when she first appeared (naked) was 14, not 16.

Notably rewritten in a recent issue to where she had her costume before she got in the spaceship, thus retconning comics not much more than a year old.

And blame Loeb for the guest star thing. I don't think he's capable of writing a comic without stuffing it with superflous guests. Why everyone else had to follow this, I can't imagine.

On the plus side, she might have got some terrible writers, but at least they haven't let Judd Winick near her.


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