Supergirl #39 review

This is the review I almost never wrote…

Doesn’t that sound dramatic? Really, it’s a matter of conclusion… I’m going to say this issue is of the same standard as last month’s – pretty good, far better than might be expected.

The thing is, we’re still in the area of Dark Kara, a path so well trodden by Supergirl that ‘Mariana Trench’ doesn’t do it justice. Our heroine has been infected by The Batman Who Laughs but, rather than fall in with whatever his plans are – don’t ask me, I’m skipping the Infected arc so far as possible – Kara is going her own un-sweet way. She’s built a contraption outside Smallville to infect folk with the BWL virus but not simply because she wants to rule. Nope, she sincerely believes it will give them the strength they need to survive any Krypton-style cataclysm.

Who should show up, though, but Wonder Woman, tasked by Superman and Batman with saving Kara from herself while they track down other polluted super-types. Diana is patience itself, trying to restrain Kara rather than hurt her. She bids to talk her down. Wonder Woman doesn’t even laugh at Kara’s ridiculous new hairdo.

Earlier, America’s official protectors decide to take action using seized Luthor tech. So it is that a cadre of iron giants show up – and they’re shooting kryptonite beams.

Is this the end of the Dark Supergirl Who Laughs? Sadly not, as the issue closes with an image very familiar to Supergirl fans, one that suggests she’ll be doubling down on the badness.

It’s a real shame as writer Jody Houser gets to a point at which it would make sense for Supergirl to break her BWL programming. She does some genuinely good deeds… OK, her logic is twisted, she’s grumpy with Krypto and her ‘inspirational’ speech has a sinister subtext, but her heart is in the right place.

And this is where the opinions get really familiar: Houser again gives us an event tie-in that’s fully engaged with the BWL nonsense without behind totally beholden to it. Like Diana, Houser won’t give up on Kara, and while she gives Wonder Woman a good showing, the Amazing Amazon doesn’t steal the show; the very fact that Diana believes Kara can be reached stops us seeing simply a puppet Supergirl, we’re always looking for signs of the true Maid of Might. And she’s definitely there, with Krazy Kara eschewing an easy opportunity to infect vulnerable Smallville citizens.

I was also looking for clues as to the identity of the officer with the bun who’s briefing the Army types – could it be the DC Rebirth version of soldier Superwoman Lucy Lane? And who’s her even shadier boss? I really appreciate that Bunwoman doesn’t immediately think the worst of her target, questioning whether it’s even Supergirl – it seems her rep isn’t as bad as it’s been at times. There also a neat nod to current events in Superman.

Artist Rachael Stott’s take on the editorially mandated corrupted Kara has a certain power, but she ultimately looks pretty pathetic, a third-rate Bizarro in Kiss cosplay. Stott appears to be having a lot more fun with Wonder Woman, who looks strong, serene and as beautiful as Aphrodite. And how brilliant does Diana’s magic lasso look? I can’t remember the last time anyone bothered to draw it like real rope. Then there are the fight scenes, which pop throughout, and let’s give some credit to colourist Cris Peter for her dazzling work; again, check out that glowing lariat. The only ‘note’ I’d give Stott in my role of back seat editor would be to always present a new foe in imposing style – our first view of the Lexbots is a tad underwhelming and we never do get a good look at them.

Tom Napolitano’s letters are as good as always, standing out on the page, while the cover by Kevin Maguire, coloured by the ever-excellent FCO Plascencia, is a winner – it actually screams Keith Giffen to me, I wonder if it’s a homage. Then again, Maguire spent his early years at DC working from Giffen’s breakdowns on Justice League, so some crossover makes sense.

So, apologies if this piece comes across as a tad familiar; I did consider skipping reviewing Supergirl this month, but such things as Stott’s work on the lariat and Houser’s efforts to keep something of the real Kara front and centre, are worthy of mention. But, to repeat myself just one more time, can we please get back to a Supergirl whose creed is ‘hope, help and compassion for all’? Houser and Stott deserve to work on that character.

11 thoughts on “Supergirl #39 review

  1. Hauser’s Infected Supergirl seemed more snotty than naughty and I too was enjoying the writer’s subversion of Snyder’s awful taint on the DCU. That last page ruined everything. I lasted through Kara thinking she had to kill Clark and her puking napalm with the Red Lanterns but I think that last page broke me…

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  2. I’d be astonished if that cover isn’t an homage to an earlier one. I’m thinking either a Superman or Hulk cover, but I can’t quite place it. (A Fantastic Four cover would work, too, with Thing being the featured player.)

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    1. I’m going to work on this. One of my failed guesses was a Giffen cover towards the end of the last Legion of Superheroes, during that awful sequence involving Prometheus giants, Sun Boy getting eaten, Element Lad crushed and Tinya running away. Just horrible stuff!

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  3. I saw that! This is certainly an homage. But given Byrne’s own penchant for recycling his layouts (such as the FF cover he reworked for Action Comics), I wonder if that’s the first iteration of it? I’d say the original layout is likely a Byrne, whether or not it started with Wonder Woman — when he does a tribute cover (like the many times he’s drawn something like FF #1), it’s usually a very obvious tribute, that he’ll credit.

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  4. Great review, Martin. I’m gutted this is ending.. but, kinda relieved at the same time. Kara deserves so much better. 😦 Hopefully she’ll return one day. 🙂

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