Saturday, October 11, 2008

Supergirl #34

After several years of aimless meandering -- a problematic period marred by epically bad story-telling, idiotic plot developments, and some truly terrible characterization and art, this title appears to have righted itself.

Jamal Igle, an artist whose work I have followed since taking note of his assured penceling on Firestorm, is in fine form. Dynamic, well-wrought art makes a big difference -- there seems to be something always going on in Igle’s panels.

And Sterling Gates turns in a good story -- it’s not a take on earth-shattering, philosophic questions, or the crazy follow-up to Supergirl’s (stupid) promise to keep a young boy from dying. What’s on offer is just a competent, straight-ahead comic book story, delivered in three acts:

In the first, after Cat Grant writes an attack article on Supergirl in the Daily Planet, the public turns on the young Kryptonian. She’s seen as an irresponsible teen-ager unworthy of Superman’s legacy, and Kara takes the public’s disapproval to heart. Superman suggests that perhaps part of her problem is that she’s Supergirl 24 hours a day -- maybe a secret identity would help things? (This was the same advice that Supes offered to Wonder Woman at the end of 52 -- is this all he’s got?)

In the second act, Kara seeks advice on secret identities, visiting with the Teen Titans and Wonder Woman. Robin offers Conner Kent’s glasses to her -- a nice touch, and though a heavy-handed writer might have ruined the scene, it’s not over-played here.

Kara talks to Wonder Woman while they’re subduing a giant eagle that shoots flames out of it’s beak in a scene that acknowledges the inherent weirdness of the DC universe. (And deploys Diana’s invisible plane to good effect.) I appreciated that the writer didn’t see the need to stop and congratulate himself about how he had managed to bring together the strange and the mundane.

Finally, while licking her wounds in Smallville, Kara figures out what she’s going to do. Martha Kent engineers a meeting between Kara and Lana Lang -- it turns out the two young women are dealing with the same problem. They have given in to the tendency to hide from a world that seems to have rejected and wounded them. In the finest tradition -- one often on display in movies and comic books -- a single, meaningful conversation is enough to get both Lana and Kara to see the light. It’s on to Metropolis for these two!

Although it sounds like I’m being cynical, I’m not. I appreciated that this comic took aim at a single story and deployed Igle’s impressive artwork to very good effect. All of the parts of an enjoyable comic are here, and I don’t ask for all that much: a nice opening splash page, several decent fights, character development and motivation, all followed by a final splash image that delivers the hook for the next issue.

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