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 #4 debuted this week, providing readers with the latest and most harrowing installment in writer Steve Orlando’s and artist Brian Ching’s Reign of the Cyborg Supermen. Wednesday’s issue saw Zor-El implement his plan to restore his home to its former glory, and ComicConverse’s Krypton correspondent, T. Kyle King, is on the scene with his review.
(Warning: Spoilers follow!)
Supergirl #4 Review:
Argo City and National City are now openly in conflict. Kara is trapped, unable to intervene between the women who both claim to be her mother, neither of whom quite qualifies… and each of whom can only survive by stealing the spark of life that animates the other. When forced to make a choice, is Supergirl Earth’s Woman of Steel or is she the Last Daughter of Krypton?
Supergirl #4 Synopsis:
Ben Rubel arrives at the Ordman Building in National City to assist Cat Grant in the launch of CatCo Worldwide Media, but his morning routine is interrupted by the aerial arrival of the attacking Cyborg Supermen under Zor-El’s command. Cameron Chase and Jeremiah Danvers spring into action for the D.E.O., but the desperate rearguard action they are waging is failing to prevent the mechanically reanimated Kryptonians from stealing the humans’ animating odic force to bring them back to life.
While the assault unfolds on Earth, Kara is caged in Argo City. Powerless to save the dying Eliza Danvers, Supergirl persuades Alura to see reason. The mechanized frame of Kara’s birth mother sacrifices herself by restoring the stolen life force to the fading form of Kara’s Earth mother. Supergirl frees herself by outsmarting the techno-adaptive bonds that bind her, but is she too late to save the embattled humans in immediate danger in National City?
Supergirl #4 Analysis:
Orlando continues to impress as the author of this unique blend of superhero comic continuity and metahuman television drama. Reign of the Cyborg Supermen: Part Four tells a straightforward story that borders on the simplistic, but his writing remains lean and lively. The rapid pace of Supergirl #4 requires this issue to be direct, but it is not without its fine details. Cat Grant never fails either to utter or to inspire the best lines, and the story incorporates a clever escape attempt by Kara ere she arrives eventually at a workable solution.
The Maiden of Might’s insights into the function of the adaptive cells of the restrictive machine that has her ensnared were foreshadowed by Ben’s passing realization that the Cyborg Supermen were attacking the humans’ computers via binary code as well as physically siphoning the “distilled life” from their victims. This likely serves as a harbinger of the Young Innovators’ upcoming collaboration to defeat the invasion, but that putative teamwork raises the question why the D.E.O. was left to defend National City by its lonesome. Supergirl #4 opens with an allusion to George Taylor’s Daily Star, which recently was revived in the pages of Superwoman, and the middle of the issue is padded with an obtrusive ad for Justice League vs. Suicide Squad. Alura even calls Kal-El a “traitor” to the Kryptonian cause. All that name-dropping in the midst of an alien invasion serves largely to highlight the uncomfortable incongruity that no one else in a cape bothered to show up to address the problem.
Visually, the page layouts for Reign of the Cyborg Supermen: Part Four are strong, but the execution is weak. The masthead suggests that Ching, who is credited as the issue’s artist, both pencilled and inked Supergirl #4, and the results of his double duty are rough. Ching’s previously whimsical style has hardened into an imagery of harsh angles and coarsened into artwork bearing a half-finished appearance. Capes that once billowed now are starched into the rigidity of statuary; hair that formerly flowed in fine filaments now folds like fabric. Although this series would be better served by turning Ching’s pencils over to another inker, Michael Atiyeh’s colors did his artist no favors in Supergirl #4, which was given a washed-out look by the muted hues.
Reign of the Cyborg Supermen: Part Four moved at a brisk clip. This allowed the author to advance the plot with alacrity, pressing the story forward while inserting an Easter egg or two. (Chase placed a quick call to Dr. Veritas to ask about Lar-On, for instance, which introduced in a panel and a half the Chekhov’s gun that will have to be fired in a subsequent installment.) However, the quick tempo of Supergirl #4 also imbued the artwork with the pervasive quality of feeling rushed. The strength of this issue, and of its eponymous heroine, came from a combination of heart and smarts; its failings, like those of its paternalistic antagonist, were matters of mechanical implementation lacking a necessary animating essence.
If you were dissatisfied with Supergirl #4, do you blame it on the Reign of the Cyborg Supermen?
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T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
The writing moves the story along at a rapid pace, but the rough and unfinished appearance of the graphics makes the artwork feel rushed.