Supergirl 34 review

Poor Superboy. First he’s killed in the Crisis of the Week. Then his jeans are ripped from his body to be worn by girlfriend/stalker Wonder Girl. And here, Tim Drake gives his Conner Kent glasses to Supergirl for her secret identity to be.

What next, Krypto starts wearing Superboy’s tighty whities?

Anyway, say hello to Linda Lang. Lang? Not Lee, or Danvers? Nope, the current Supergirl has been taken under the wing of Lana Lang, newly divorced, even more newly sacked from Lexcorp, and looking for her place in the world. And if she can’t pal around with the married Superman, she sure as heck can put herself in danger every second Tuesday by hanging out with his cousin.

Oh all right, I’m being facetious, this isn’t the Silver Age Lana, who duplicated pesky Lois Lane’s ‘Will Dive from Tall Building for Hero’ schtick. This is the modern woman, who has mostly avoided the more dangerous side of Superman’s life. Okay, she did recently have a run-in with Insect Queen, and there was the time she was kidnapped and brutalised by Luthor. Oh, and she was a Manhunter agent for years, but it’s not like she knew at the time, and we don’t talk about it anyway . . .

OK, let’s start this review again, and try to get things right this time.

Which is pretty much what the new regular creative team do this issue, after nigh on three years of idiotic and senseless stories. Writer Sterling Gates gets the story, ‘Why the world doesn’t need Supergirl’, off to a good start with Daily Planet gossip columnist Cat Grant’s front page tirade against Supergirl. In her eyes, the Girl of Steel is reckless, unworthy of wearing Superman’s colours. Translation: she got a black eye when Supergirl was busy saving lives and wound up with a black eye.

Supergirl’s reaction to the story shows how she’s changed since being reinvented by Jeph Loeb and the late Michael Turner – that Supergirl would have tracked down Cat and given her a mouthful. This older, calmer Kara Zor-El worries that Cat is correct, and, chastened, has a heart to heart with Superman. It’s here that the suggestion she adopts a secret ID comes up, with Superman pointing out that the stress of being Supergirl all day and all night could be too much – she needs a place to relax, another person to be.

Before settling on a new name, Kara talks to the Teen Titans (nice to see she’s comfortable with them, after the verbal kicking Wonder Girl gave her a few months back) and that’s where the glasses come in. She also has a wee team-up with Wonder Woman, who shares her own perspective, having recently become Diana Prince. And of course, she speaks to Ma and Pa Kent, who have been through the super secret-ID thing with Clark, Conner and (if it’s still in continuity, which the current Reign in Hell mini series suggests it is) Matrix-Supergirl.

(The latter heroine also links back to Lana – she was originally an alternate Earth protoplasmic blob with that world’s Lana Lang’s looks and memories, but that’s about as likely to be brought up as our Lana’s Manhunter moments.)

The scene with Kara and Lana sharing their woes is lovely, these two have a chemistry; they immediately seem to fit in a way that Kara and, say, the Amazons never did when Kara was sent to Paradise Island for some warrior training. The dialogue is natural, works for the characters and makes for a lovely vignette.

And this scene shows just how good Igle is for this book – Supergirl is pretty and smart, Lana, older and wiser yet vulnerable (inker Keith Champagne adds an appealing Jerry Ordway quality to the faces here). The body language is wonderful, and the storytelling smarter than the average artist, from page one’s ‘photograph’ of Supergirl onwards.

Look at the scene with Cat and the Planet staff on page two – in three panels we see Cat drink her coffee, place it on the desk as she touches her dark glasses, and raises them to reveal her shiner. That doesn’t sound much, but Igle’s choices are perfectly aligned with Gates dialogue, words and pictures are in synch, ensuring an easy flow that lets the reader relax into the story. (And if all this was in Gates’ script, well, Igle translated it all to the page brilliantly.)

Other highlights include a baseball fan’s caffeinated response to Supergirl’s fun fight with a creepy/sexy Silver Banshee, the depiction of super-speed and Lana Lang’s childhood bedroom . . . doesn’t sound exciting? Well, the attention to detail is, with Igle filling the room with an ageing television, ancient phone, Smallville High photos and so on. And outside the old homestead, Gates cleverly has Igle position a Lexcorp advertising hoarding that reminds Lana she isn’t with her toddler son (I think he’s with ex-husband/President Pete Ross . . . unless the Manhunters are busy programming him). It’s subtle, and I missed it on first reading, but it’s there and I look forward to young Clarkie Ross showing up soon.

I adored Kara’s witty note to Cat, ‘Cat, don’t call me if you ever get stuck in a tree’, accompanied by a cute doodle of a kitty by a keyboard, claws poised to write a nasty story. Cat smiles to herself and mutters, ‘You can try, blondie’. Intriguing. Had she, in fact, all along been trying to give Supergirl a push in the right direction? We know Cat isn’t actually stupid or a bitch – witty yeah, cutting, but not as shallow as she looks – her tarty clothes and demeanour are her own secret identity.

Random thoughts: brilliant cover from Josh Middleton (though I prefer Kara with non-blonde eyebrows). The ‘since 1959’ by the Planet masthead was a sweet touch.

It’s 2008 and Perry White still gets to smoke in the office – that guy has power!

‘Tsk, that skirt’s indecent’ says Cat of Supergirl’s outfit – pot meet kettle, and it’s not like the skirt isn’t longer these days.

New resident colourist Nei Rufino is a find, as proven by the gorgeous skies of Smallville, Kat’s Far East-style printed dress and the attention given Kara’s belly . . .

There’s a third scene with coffee – is Mr Gates an addict?

Nice to see other heroes get to do the gargoyle-sitting thang – but by now Metropolis should have gargoyles based on Mongul, Doomsday and the like.

I like the Kryptonese cursing – can Supergirl remember any 31st-century stuff?

Hurrah, for the first time since the Bronze Age, Lana is working in journalism.

Is Jamal Igle the first ever comic book artist to actually have seen a newsroom, with the wall-screens and general chaos.

Linda should immediately dump the glasses – they’re too Clark, and it’s not like she hasn’t got hair and make-up options, she could have a different look every day.

All in all, this was a terrific first issue – now, can we get her into an approximation of the Seventies Bob Oksner costume? If Supergirl’s going for cute, that’s the classic. Oh, and the old squarey logo. And maybe a comb that’s charged with electrons . . .

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