Last issue, Supergirl fled into deep space, having accepted the idea that Kryptonite poisoning was going to kill her. Enticed to the world of I’noxia, she found a place that could be reshaped by her memories. Then she met a horrific figure, someone who looked like her cousin, but with limbs replaced by sinister technology.
This issue opens with Kara wondering if this is actually Superman, after some sort of attack. Or a clone. The being says that isn’t the case, causing Kara to christen him.
Not one to judge by appearances – as we saw during the H’el fiasco – Kara accepts that this is a lost soul, someone with connections to Krypton but no memory. He claims her recollections of Krypton, if given shape by the I’noxian world tech, might help him remember who he is. ‘Starting small’, Kara recalls her home in Argo City, in an especially well-written moment from Michael Alan Nelson.
With dialogue such as this, and the mix of hope and joy on her face courtesy of penciller Diogenes Neves, Kara has rarely seemed so human.
Cyborg Superman’s crony, Delacore, persuades Kara to push the experiment further, pressing her – figuratively and literally – into a painful device that links her more deeply to the I’noxian collective. It’s like a twisted reflection of the Kryptonian headband of citizenship.
And the reward for Kara’s ordeal?
A version of her mother, Alura. And soon, other people she knew on Krypton. And some she didn’t.
Maybe that woman at fourth left is indeed Tali or Tak-Ro, but one of the named pair is missing. Instead we see new friend Power Girl and heartbreak clone H’el, neither of whom Kara namechecks. A clue, or simply miscommunication between creators?
I like that throughout this issue Nelson never has Kara accept that this is really Krypton, and that the constructs are truly her loved ones. But that doesn’t stop her enjoying the facsimile. Mind, Cyborg Superman misjudges the situation when he makes Kara an offer – become one with the planet, and give up her flesh to make him complete, perfect. At which point we see that the super-powerful Kara, so often duped, is finally developing a sense of incredulity.
Which doesn’t please Cyborg Superman, who drops the facade of friendliness. As he and Kara battle one another, Delacore unleashes Kara’s memories on herself, giving Neves a chance tio produce a rather sensational spread (click on image to enlarge).
Kara though, fights fire with fire, and embraces the bad times. And when Cyborg Superman turns up the heat further, Kara shows her ingenuity in turning something to hand into a weapon. By issue’s end, though, she’s in massive trouble once more.
Whew. This has to be the most packed issue of Supergirl to date in terms of interaction and incident. Look at how many pics I posted – I normally bother with just one or two. But fear not, I’ve not given everything away, because this issue is the very opposite of decompressed. Happily, both Nelson and Neves have enough skill that the pages don’t seem squeezed, even when we’re offered ten panels.
Just a few months into Nelson’s run and he has me hooked, with a rich storyline that spotlights where Kara came from and where she’s gotten to, physically and emotionally. And I can’t wait to see where she goes from here. First though, she has to survive I’noxia. While the Cyborg Superman is revealed to desire flesh more than memories – secret whisperings with Delecore make it obvious he knows how he got where he is today – there’s an interesting mystery centred on the identity of the unseen third entity they’re working with. The nature of the conversation, and green word balloons, has me thinking Brainiac. But something Delacore says points to Kara’s scientist father, Zor-El. We shall see.
Kara’s determination and ingenuity is heartening. The only thing I’m not keen on is her acceptance that she’s going to die … I like my Super-people to go to the ends of time and space when they need a cure. Atlantis. The Legion. Circe. Of course, today’s Supergirl hasn’t got the wide range of connections enjoyed by her Silver Age counterpart. And Kara’s situation has brought us an excellent arc.
Longtime Supergirl artist Mahmud Asrar this week announced that he’s leaving the book, but he’ll be around for a few issues as cover artist. And if upcoming covers are as successful as this month’s striking image, we’re in for some treats. I don’t know if former Demon Knights artist Neves will get the ongoing assignment, but on the basis of this issue and last, I hope so; he has a gift for composition and character, and is equally adept at big and small moments. I could do with a bit less of Kara’s bottom on display, but with a costume this bad, it’s probably hard to avoid.
Neves has a battery of inkers – Marc Deering, Oclair Albert and Ruy Jose – but their work is similar enough here that the book doesn’t suffer. Regular colourist Dave McCaig also gets an assist, with Daniel Brown handling a few pages, and again, you can’t see the join. And Rob Leigh’s attractive, appropriate lettering is as much a part of the artwork as the lines and colours. Well done to editors Rickey Purdin and Eddie Berganza for assembling and wrangling the creative team. I hope more people are noticing just how good the Supergirl series is these days.