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 #2 reached the racks last Wednesday, bringing fans of the Woman of Steel the second chapter of writer Steve Orlando’s and artist Brian Ching’s Reign of the Cyborg Supermen just two days after the second-season premiere of Kara’s successful television show. ComiConverse contributor T. Kyle King, who covers all DC Comics superheroes who wear an “S” on their chests, brings you his review.
Supergirl #2 Review:
Feeling isolated and conflicted as a resident of Earth with vivid memories of Krypton, Kara finds herself struggling with both of the cultures she claims. Supergirl is neither convinced by the claims of the Cyborg Superman who insists he is her father nor comfortable with the confidence that potential mentor Cat Grant expects her to exhibit. Will the Maid of Might fit in anywhere?
Supergirl #2 Synopsis:
Finding herself in the Fortress of Solitude facing a former foe who now holds himself out as Zor-El, Supergirl fights back. Cyborg Superman assures her he has the sunstone with which to revive Argo City before he physically self-destructs, revealing himself to be only a drone. Kara discusses her mixed feelings about the encounter with Eliza Danvers as they go to meet the prisoner the Maid of Might captured in the previous issue.
Cat Grant comes to National City Technical High School to choose one standout student to join her Young Innovators program. Although Ben Rubel cuts off Kara to claim the honor, the CatCo CEO sees something in the young woman and offers her a second chance. Kara meets with Cat for an interview, but she isn’t sure how it goes, and Supergirl subsequently receives a visitation from Zor-El through a vision that beckons her into space, where the resurrection of Argo City awaits.
Supergirl #2 Analysis:
In Reign of the Cyborg Supermen: Part Two, Orlando continues carefully to walk the tightrope between 57 years of comics continuity and the mainstream popularity of Supergirl’s solo TV series. Since comic book reboots invariably are touted as “jumping on points” for new readers, the writer had to be mindful of Kara’s television viewership; however, since Rebirth was premised upon restoring DC Comics’ legacy, the author is equally obligated to stay true to the Maid of Might who exists in her original medium. Supergirl #2 should serve to satisfy fans of every sort.
Orlando’s ingenious solution to the challenge of writing a main character who is a product of two worlds — comic books and television — is to portray her as someone who wrestles to reconcile her dual identity as a high school student coming of age on Earth and as the Last Daughter of Krypton. His trick is to incorporate elements from each incarnation and blend them in order to emphasize the common characteristics all fans will recognize as true while sorting the disparities into the naturally occurring categories of the Earth girl seen on TV and the Kryptonian who came from the comics.
As a mousy, bespectacled, and awkward Kara Danvers intimidated into incoherence by the successful and self-assured Cat Grant, the eponymous star of Supergirl #2 will appear familiar to readers who met the character on the small screen before encountering her on the printed page. The presence of Zor-El as the New 52 Cyborg Superman likewise will ground this issue in the canonical continuity of longer-term comic book fans, for whom the callbacks include some even deeper tracks.
Most crucially, though, Orlando centers his story on a resourceful young woman who holds onto her hope in the midst of a constant bombardment of bewildering problems (including the “survivor’s guilt” that defined the Silver Age Superman’s relationship with Krypton). Facing the antagonistic reaction of a criminal she imprisoned, Supergirl does not wallow in her own uncertainty; rather, she enters his cell, calmly and confidently defends the correctness of her efforts, then compassionately reassures the captive that her actions do “not mean I do not want to help you, too… If you will talk, I would love to listen.” As we have seen before, Orlando’s Maid of Might fights for what is right while innocents are endangered, but, once the threat has been neutralized, she shows sympathy for the devil rather than vengefulness toward the villain.
In crafting and conveying this caring composite Kara, the creative collaborators behind Supergirl #2 turned in a total team effort. Letterer Steve Wands imparts an emotional emphasis to the words of the Woman of Steel, gives a robotic coldness to Cyborg Superman’s utterances, imbues sound effects with lighthearted charm (the silence of the students in the National City Technical High School auditorium is underscored with: “Crickets crickets”), and adds a ghostly dreamlike quality to the flashback sequences by using translucent word balloons. Colorist Mike Atiyeh plays with darkness and light to establish mood, shifts from National City’s greens and browns — literally, Earth tones — to pinks and purples to convey the alien nature of Kara’s Kryptonian heritage, and subtly shows us how the brunette high school student transitions into the blonde superhero.
That just leaves Ching’s illustrations, which combine realistic background details with cartoonishly exaggerated figures. The resulting aesthetic of Supergirl #2 is something of a synthesis between the cheerful caricatures of Gustavo Duarte and the elongated abstractions of Bill Sienkiewicz. While this is an odd admixture stylistically, it works as a method for meshing the series’ necessary elements by giving the graphics a whimsical innocence, an evocative emotionalism, and a youthful awkwardness that together exhibit what might be summed up as this series’ Twee sensibility. For instance, Ching’s representation of Kara Danvers’s ungainly stance when conversing with Ben by the CatCo elevators suggests that Cat Grant is not the only one to have taken a body language seminar.
Supergirl #2 is a busy enough issue that readers might be inclined to wish matters had taken a bit longer to unfold, but the hurried pace of these 20 pages aids in conveying the harried existence of an accomplished high school student, prospective employee of a media conglomerate, special agent of a clandestine government organization, flying caped superhero with heat vision and freeze breath, and inadvertent immigrant from an alien civilization on the verge of returning. Indeed, the title of this opening arc — Reign of the Cyborg Supermen, plural — strongly suggests Kara’s life likely will get even more complex.
The Woman of Steel may still be finding her feet in the post-New 52 continuity, but the creative team charged with shepherding her into the Rebirth era appears to have developed its sea legs. While there is room to quibble with bits and pieces of Supergirl #2, the issue’s overall impact is positive, and what Orlando, Ching, and their colleagues already have created offers encouraging indications that they are getting it right. There is good reason for fans to look forward not just to watching Kara Zor-El’s adventures on Monday evenings, but also to reading of her exploits on Wednesday afternoons.
Are you ready for the next installment of Reign of the Cyborg Supermen, or did Supergirl #2 leave you cold?
Let us know what you thought by ComiConversing with us in the comments!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
This issue effectively blends the human with the Kryptonian, and the versions from multiple media, to present a Supergirl who will ring true to all fans.