Having restored the Girl of Steel’s powers and set up her new status quo in “Supergirl: Rebirth,” writer Steve Orlando uses the first issue of the ongoing “Supergirl” series to explore her alter ego, Kara Danvers. Orlando ensures readers that — outside of the powers and family emblem — Kara is nothing like her cousin, and convincingly hammers home that point with a series of contrasts between her past life and current one. Brian Ching parallels this dichotomy with a more contemporary, stylish approach to the art, one that’s a nice contrast to the traditional, larger-than-life look typically given to Superman’s stories.
Ching greets new readers with a broad, four-panel overview of Supergirl’s origin on the introductory page; brightly and captivatingly colored by Michael Atiyeh, it’s a welcoming sequence that will please both old and new readership alike. What’s more, Ching conveys the story so succinctly that Orlando only needs a minimal amount of captioning to supplement it. Together, they perfectly capture Kara’s essence as she confidently and majestically flies across the solar system, even as she looks a young woman who still has a lot to learn about the adopted world she’s momentarily left behind.
Orlando then jumps into the very real struggles Kara faces, like learning to drive and surviving a game of dodgeball, which are juxtaposed with flashbacks to Kara’s schooldays on Krypton, where she excelled at sports and science alike. This contrast is what gives her character such diverse depth; she’s a child prodigy with her advanced native tech, yet is challenged by relatively primitive inventions here on Earth. Her conflicts don’t end with the disparity in technology, though; her ethics and inclination to help others in distress go against her D.E.O.-driven mandate to act only on their behalf, and — as established by Orlando — these layered conflicts make her inner turmoil seem all too palpable.
While the supporting characters naturally don’t get the same amount of page time, Orlando’s setup for these players is no less thorough and well-developed. D.E.O. Director Cameron Chase is convincing as Kara’s hard-nosed and cold-hearted handler, a point that’s hilariously hammered home when Kara asks, “How can Director Chase yell while barely moving her face?” Cat Grant — another of Kara’s presumed future handlers — is also introduced here, and readers won’t be able to help but hear Calista Flockhart’s voice when reading her dialogue.
In addition to successfully conveying her as a misfit on this world, Orlando also excels at establishing Kara’s character by also invoking a kind of cultural generation gap between Kara and her adoptive parents — a notion she also conveys by referring to herself as a “strange visitor,” a nod to the oft-used description given to her cousin. Orlando also adds the dynamic of well-meaning parents who simply just don’t understand the emotions of their child; though intended to help, their actions only make things worse, which firmly solidifies Kara as her own character, and one nothing like her better-known cousin.
Jeremiah and Eliza’s actions lead Kara to head to more familiar surroundings, which sets up a surprising cliffhanger that caps off an already superb introduction. In the span of just one issue, Orlando and Ching find a place for Supergirl in the DC Universe.