T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
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Supergirl #1 made its debut last Wednesday, officially marking the start of the Teen of Tomorrow’s triumphant return to her own title. Writer Steve Orlando remains at the helm, but, since Supergirl: Rebirth #1, penciller Emanuela Lupacchino has given way to artist Brian Ching. ComiConverse’s Krypton correspondent, T. Kyle King, brings you his review.
Charged with the duty of rebooting the Maid of Might for the post-New 52 continuity, Orlando has brought readers a younger Supergirl with less experience as a hero and more ties to the television series. Can all these elements mesh together to create a coherent Girl of Steel?
Supergirl #1 Synopsis:
Sent to live with D.E.O. agents posing as her parents and assigned the role of an ordinary teen, Kara Danvers struggles to adapt to life in National City. She must conceal the scientific success she remembers from Krypton and ignore the jeers from her fellow high school students, so she welcomes the opportunity to spring into action and foil a high-tech train robbery.
Unfortunately, Supergirl’s heroics win her few fans. Instead, she draws criticism both from media mogul Cat Grant, who was on the train and angling to interview the perpetrators before Kara interfered, and D.E.O. director Cameron Chase, who warns her that her unauthorized solo sorties could cause more harm than good. Jeremiah and Eliza Danvers continue attempting to acclimate their adoptive daughter to Earth and to make her feel more at home, but their failure at both endeavors sends Kara rushing off to the Fortress of Solitude, where she makes a shocking discovery.
Supergirl #1 Analysis:
Although the cliffhanger reveal on the last page of Supergirl #1 is hinted at on the issue’s cover, the effort to avoid divulging spoilers compels me to keep secret even the title of the story. It suffices to say, though, that the issue’s final surprise ties back into the conclusion of the standalone introductory publication Supergirl: Rebirth #1, thus setting the stage for the Kryptonian conflicts to come.
For the moment, though, Supergirl’s struggles are more with the normal than with the extranormal, and Kara spends most of this issue feeling that the Fortress of Solitude was never more aptly named. Of all the fresh takes Orlando offers in his script, this is perhaps the most profound; this Princess of Power’s Man of Steel — the New 52 Superman — is dead, so this Supergirl is more alone than the Silver Age Linda Lee ever was.
For all Kal-El’s solitary outsider status, he at least always saw himself as more human than Kryptonian, having no memory of the homeworld he left in his infancy (or in his Kryptonian birthing matrix) and being raised by a loving couple who had always wanted a child. This contrasts sharply with his first cousin, who has distinct recollections of Krypton and was given parents by a government agency determined to train her and keep tabs on her.
Orlando subtly stresses both of these significant distinctions in Supergirl #1. Flashbacks to Krypton are interspersed with Kara’s present-day experiences, while the troubles the Teen of Tomorrow has with such rudimentary skills as operating an archaic internal combustion automobile are mirrored in her foster parents’ hilarious errors when attempting to speak Kryptonian and their poignantly ham-handed efforts to introduce Kara’s native decor to their home.
The overt use of teenaged angst as a connecting thread uniting many members of the audience with the superhero newcomer who doesn’t quite fit in became an industry staple with Spider-Man, was amplified through the X-Men, and was cemented in the DC Universe by the Teen Titans. Orlando makes the awkwardness work well in Supergirl #1, showing that Kara is hamstrung less by self-doubt than by the doubters around her; her problem isn’t figuring out who she is, it’s figuring out how to be allowed to be the person she knows she is. It is here that the blending of television’s Eliza and Jeremiah into the comic book continuity is most effective in the service of a purpose.
Although Jim Lee’s influence on Ching is evident on the final page of Supergirl #1, the artist displays great stylistic range in an issue that requires such skill. The four-panel first page tracing Kara’s journey from Krypton to Earth effectively echoes the iconic opening images of All-Star Superman before being followed by a two-page spread showing the Maid of Might flying over the Jovian moon Io in a pose reminiscent of her cousin soaring beneath the sun. From that point forward, Ching’s depictions of present-day action possess a playful exaggeration (after the fashion of Gustavo Duarte) that stops short of becoming cartoonish, establishing a visual signature well suited to the series’ youthfully exuberant yet not unserious tone.
It is regrettable that neither the undeniably talented creative team of Orlando, Ching, colorist Michael Atiyeh, and letter Steve Wands nor the editorial chain of command consisting of Andrew Marino, Paul Kaminski, and Eddie Berganza includes even one female involved in the relaunch of the Girl of Steel. Supergirl #1 deserves considerable credit for its diverse cast — which includes Cat Grant and Cameron Chase in prominent roles and introduces Kara’s high school rival, Ben Rubel — but, if the series is going to continue to ring true and do justice to four central female characters, DC Comics should give some say-so to at least one contributor without a Y chromosome.
Supergirl #1 is a strong opening installment that draws judiciously and usefully from Kara’s multiple strands of source material and combines them in a novel creation that is both recognizably rooted in tradition and vitally modern. The return of the Maid of Might is off to a solid start.
Were you impressed with Supergirl #1?
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T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
The creative team put together a variety of pieces to form a complete portrait that holds great promise for the future.