As we near the end of September 2011 and the line-wide re-launch at DC Comics, it’s been fun to compare characters who have gotten a complete overhaul versus those that were barely altered at all. So while we’ve got business-as-usual this week in titles like “Green Lantern Corps” and “Batman,” there are other titles where we’re starting over from scratch, like “Supergirl.”
Mike Johnson and Michael Green bring Supergirl to life this time by harkening back to the meteor shower that opened the “Smallville” television show. (Since Michael Green worked on the show for several years, it’s not a surprising step, but more importantly it’s smart to co-opt a now familiar image into the comic.) From there, though, everything goes wrong for poor Supergirl, depositing her on the far side of the planet from Kansas.
Supergirl’s emergence in Siberia is easily my favorite part of the comic. Green and Johnson bring her confusion to the foreground; in her mind she went from being on Krypton to suddenly appearing on Earth, and the sudden shift is disorienting and confusing at best. I found myself getting drawn into her belief that she’s dreaming, and that gentle, almost sheepish smile when the armored squad makes its appearance and she’s marveling at what her “imagination” is dreaming up for her. Even something as simple as her reaction to snow is well-played; it makes her feel alien to be so taken aback by something that we take for granted. And I love the comment about how the humans are “speaking in clicks and beeps,” another reminder that she’s literally not of this world.
Once the big fight between Supergirl and her would-be captors take place, it’s not quite as interesting. Sure, her struggle to figure out her emerging powers and her new situation is well-written, but at the end of the day it’s another “hero slowly wallops bad guys” sequence, and there’s not much new brought to it. It’s a temporary shedding of that “stranger in a strange land” feeling, and I hope it’s something that returns some more next issue.
Mahmud Asrar and Dan Green provide the art for “Supergirl,” and there’s a lot to like. I enjoy their take on Supergirl’s new outfit, for starters. I’m still not crazy about the bikini bottom, but the big boots look distinctive and fun, and the way they draw her cape reminds me more of a parka or a military cloak. In other words, it doesn’t just look snazzy, but also functional, making it one of the only capes in comics to hit both of those points. I also especially love the scenes in the snow when Supergirl first arrives; they bring across (along with colorist Dave McCaig) not only the cold nature of the environment, but the quiet, sound-absorbing properties of snow. It makes her look that much more isolated and alone, working well in harmony with the script.
“Supergirl” #1 is a solid debut, but I’m curious on where it’ll go from here. If it’s more of the first half than the second half, I’m sold; sure, punching is good, but telling a story of loneliness and adaptation seems like a much more interesting tactic. For now, though, it’s a good enough beginning to stick around for a second issue.