Behind the stunning Mahmud Asrar and Daniel Brown cover, “Supergirl” #21 is a departure from everything this title has been for the past twenty months. Michael Alan Nelson cuts the cord and changes the pace of the book, which opens with Supergirl zipping through space on a spacebike similar to something one might find when selecting motorbike options on “Mario Kart.” Branded as the KR-1 by Superman’s pal, Doctor Veritas, the bike adds visual punctuation equivalent to a semicolon: it could be used effectively, but it just gives the reader pause and seems out of place.
Unfortunately that departure is not only in story, but in art as well. Diogenes Neves and inker Richard Bonk are a serviceable one-two stand-in team for Asrar, but quite simply, they’re not Asrar no matter how hard they try to emulate him. Dave McCaig’s colors hold a part of the visual presentation in place throughout “Supergirl” #21, delivering the same brilliant hues we’ve enjoyed throughout the series. McCaig steps up and adds depth and texture to a few backgrounds, providing an assist for Neves and Bonk. Neves storytelling is fine, but the story itself lacks soul.
Nelson rockets readers out into space alongside Kara Zor-El to open the issue and throws a fiery planet in our faces then cuts to New York two days ago. The strongest piece of Supergirl’s supporting cast beyond her now-destroyed sanctuary is clipped out, and we return to Kara in space. Again, no soul, just damage and very little damage control. Nelson explains the catastrophe Supergirl encounters and tries to balance her between whiny and pitiful and brave and hopeful. This, naturally, opens the door for a mysterious foe to prey upon Kara’s fears and from there Nelson adds history, but not anything deeper than window dressing.
I appreciate that Nelson’s attempt to imprint Supergirl with his thoughts and ideas while deepening her history and collection of foes, but “Supergirl” #21 feels like scorched Earth. While Nelson is almost certainly trying to get the readers to collectively scream out for Kara to “Watch out!” as some might do watching a suspenseful movie, there’s just not enough depth here for me to care about a character I’ve spent nearly two years getting to know. Nelson and Neves are technically sound in their craft, but this issue just seems like a shadow of what the title has been.