Saturday, 21 January 2012

Supergirl's Higher Purpose


Supergirl #5 came out this week, and while the first four issues were fun, they only hinted at a few of the ongoing plot points which would come into Supergirl’s life as the series continued. Issue #5 proves to be the first step in exploring the character and giving her a long-term storyline to deal with. And in the process, it proved to be the strongest issue of the relaunched series so far.

Writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson take Supergirl off-Earth once again (she has yet to spend much time there, really, and the cosmic side of things seems a more interesting place to develop the character. On Earth she is going to be frequently compared to Superman, but in space she can be established as her own person more) to investigate her origin. We obviously know that Krypton, her home planet, was destroyed – Action Comics has been retelling that old story for the past few issues – so G&J needed to give Supergirl’s backstory some kind of twist on the Superman origin. And here, they’ve managed to do just that, and in the process set up a mystery which will probably take up the next few issues.

What’s clever about this issue is that it suddenly twists five different elements of the story and aligns them: Supergirl has been struggling to grasp a sense of self after waking up on Earth. The only thing she owns is a sunstone, and several others have been trying to steal it from her. She wants to find out what happened to her family. She is semi-aware of the fact that somebody is watching her. And she has anger issues. Without warning, all five of these traits have suddenly become an active part of the story, as the narrative makes a snap progression and tells us all about Supergirl’s family, home, and world. We in turn get a sense of purpose for the book – something which only a few of the other DC books has attempted to create thus far – and hints of the long-term story that’s being planned.

Having Mahmud Asrar on pencils helps as well, as he has a particular knack for character. Supergirl is the focus throughout the issue, and although we’re still not sure that the muddier colour palette is a good choice by Dave McCaig, they don’t actively hurt the issue. Asrar latches onto Supergirl’s sombre nature here, as she explores the ruins of her old house and looks for any sign of her parents or friends. This is the strongest sequence of the issue, both in terms of writing and art. The final few pages are given over to the fight scene on the cover. Pleasingly, the writing for the fight scene is solid, as G&J have already set up Supergirl as conflicted, angry, and unstable. It’s perfectly in-character for her to attack new character ‘Reign’, even though it’s obviously a mistake on her part. And Asrar switches easily from a sombre tone to a big, splashy fight sequence. The only thing we would perhaps mention is that Reign’s costume doesn’t really hide much – nothing out of the ordinary for a comic book, but Asrar does at times struggle to… uh…. ‘contain’ her. Her breasts are all over the place, basically. Sure she’s racing about, and fighting… but if she’s going to have a costume like that, then Asrar needs to be careful to keep her body in proportion.

That’s a strange critique, but we felt the need to mention it. It is a little distracting. Anyway, let’s get to the REAL meat of the issue here: the absence of Streaky the Super-Cat. With Krypto apparently dead, it falls to Streaky to take his place as the DC Universe’s most fabulous super-animal. Although there haven’t yet been any firm references to Streaky yet, we have read several into every issue out of sheer will, and are convinced that his return is absolutely inevitable. With Supergirl back on her home planet, looking for some remnants of her previous life, what could be more perfect for her that finding Streaky alive and well? We expect that Streaky will probably appear at the climax of this arc, and will then be the protagonist of the third big storyline. After that? Well, we’re probably looking at a miniseries, followed by an ongoing series. We’re taking this slowly, you guys. Don’t want to rush straight into a Streaky ongoing title, after all. But given the events of this issue? It seems inevitable.

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