Well, this is a little depressing.
When “Supergirl” #60 was solicited, it was to be written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Bernard Chang. Since then, Spencer was announced to be leaving the book, and that James Peaty would co-write #60 (probably some of the scripting, based on when the book would have needed to be plotted for the purposes of Chang to draw it) and take over as the book’s main writer with #61.
Here’s the good news and the bad news, with all that in mind: not since Sterling Gates’ debut on “Supergirl” several years ago have I been so itching to see what would happen next in this title. The writing on “Supergirl” #60 is inventive and forward-thinking, intercutting between three stories. We’ve got Supergirl facing off against an unlikely squad of Superman villains. Lois Lane gets disturbing information about a secret Cadmus project. And a Harvard student’s new, free smartphone app is tied into a plan to slowly take down the next line of superheroes, including Supergirl.
I love how Supergirl comes across here; she’s smart and thinks things through, able to get serious in a heartbeat when she needs to be, but just as easily exasperated by young men’s attempts to get her attention. Spencer and Peaty avoid making Supergirl appear naÃ¯ve or dumb (which sounds obvious, but it was her defining characteristic before Gates took over), and she’s even more importantly an instantly likable character. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never read anything about Supergirl before, you want her to succeed here.
Lois Lane’s storyline is also a strong depiction of the character, meeting with a confidential source but able to whip up some rage as well. She’s the kind of journalist you want on her side, and we get to see her able to command the entire Daily Planet’s news room with sheer force of will, just like she should be able to. Before the second features went away last month, Spencer was also writing a Jimmy Olsen story in “Action Comics” so it’s not surprising that Jimmy gets a couple of choice lines in this issue. (I kind of want to see more involving Crazy Cat Gorilla Lady, now.)
But best of all in terms of the writing is the story set at Harvard, with the nasty Flyover app and the deeply manipulative Alex. It’s rather brilliant in its simplicity; the Flyover app seems at first like an innocent social networking program that would certainly exist in the DC Universe (or any other one populated by superheroes). And then you start to think about the implications about what one could do with all of that data (and if perhaps it ties into the Supergirl attack story), and you start to realize that Supergirl could end up with a new archenemy in the form of Alex. It’s a dynamite opening script, and it stings that much more that Spencer’s already gone from the title.
On the bright side, though, Chang’s art looks beautiful. During his brief stint on “Superman” last year he showed off two different styles, one smooth and classic, a second one more jagged and rough-hewn. Both looked great, but this appears to be an evolution of the smoother side of Chang’s art. There’s something lush going on here, from the tumble of curls in Catherine’s hair, to the clean profile for Lois or Supergirl. Something as simple as Supergirl’s cape wrapping around her as she flies looks natural and elegant here, and Chang’s spent just as much time on rich backgrounds as he did the characters in the foreground. Chang’s stepped up his game, again, and if this doesn’t make him into a superstar then comics readers in general are blind.
I wish Peaty the best of luck with “Supergirl” #61, and I hope that his contributions to #60 were substantial enough that we don’t have to worry. He’s definitely got some big shoes to fill, though. Fortunately, Chang will be around if nothing else. And to Spencer, the best of luck, but I can’t help but wish that you had stuck around a little bit longer.