DC’s New 52 is clicking along as it completed its 19th month last month. Originally, the April issues were slated to be part of a “WTF” month complete with a shared logo and “shocking” covers. Fortunately, DC walked away from the WTF concept but they did retain the planned fold out covers which hinted at shocking events within each issue. In this offering of “Issues of the Day with Mike and Dan” our reviewers breakdown one title from this month of shocks, Supergirl #19.
Do you feel this story represent Supergirl well?
Dan: I really think the Kara’s were both represented well. They came off as very strong women, maybe a little bit quick to punch but strong. And Power Girl definitely felt like an independent woman. I would say if I want my son to be a Batman fan, I would be comfortable with my daughter reading Supergirl books.
I thought the story was fast paced, had some mystery since I did not really have background on why Lex Luthor was attacking the Karas and left me feeling like one chapter has successfully closed while opening another. But I defer to our local “Super” expert for his opinion.
Mike: No. How could it? She is “dead” for the first six pages. For the rest of the issue, she’s presented as just another hard-hitting female superhero. The issue contains very little about what makes Supergirl unique. To be fair, it does focus more on Power Girl, the “Earth 2” version of Kara; even with Power Girl, however, we only learn that she is another “last daughter of Krypton.” We get no insights into her personality, her motivations, her aspirations… If you come to this issue with little knowledge of Power Girl, as I do, you won’t leave it with much more. Supergirl #19 is basically one big fight scene, and while that’s fine as far as it goes—it is a superhero comic, after all, and super-action should be the norm—the previous, pre-“New 52” volume of the title showed readers how a Supergirl series could be, both issue by issue and overall, action-packed and substantive, developing character and theme without skimping on fast-paced entertainment.
Did this story conform to canon?
Dan: Oh wow, it sounds like you had some concerns. So I have only read the first Supergirl trade within the New 52. And I have read some of the other initial super books, but I do not feel like a Super expert. So the fact that Kara has her own Fortress of Solitude like sanctuary, uses the El family S symbol and is a hero all seemed to conform to canon. Also this clearly is a direct sequel to the “H’el on Earth” storyline which I have not read yet. So in general I believe it aligns to the long history of Supergirl and the forming New 52 canon.
I guess my biggest question is how did Power Girl get here? I know that she is a New 52 Earth Two hero, but how she is aware of Supergirl and how she got to Earth 1 is all a mystery to me at the moment. But I do have to give the artist and writer a round of applause for finding an excuse to put Power Girl in her traditional, if not revealing, uniform.
What’s up with Lex Luthor’s face? Lex is bald as he should be. Honestly, I think the have trimmed him down a little bit. But the biggest difference in my mind is his face. Of course this had led me to ask, how did this happen? It is a disease? Is it a Mike Tyson face tattoo? I want to know, but I do not believe it breaks canon.
Mike: Yes, both the immediate past—Kara is “dead” at the start as a consequence of her actions at the end of the “H’El on Earth” crossover that’s occupied the Superman family of titles for the last several months—and the larger “New 52” picture. You wouldn’t really know it from this issue alone, but this Kara is much more the “alien visitor” than her cousin Kal. She is still coming to terms with life on Earth, among human beings; she generally speaks Kryptonian, for example, and is wrestling with a lot of anger about the destruction of her home planet. Since she arrived on Earth much later than Kal-El, she has not had a long time to cope with her grief. That grief and shock gave H’El his hooks into her in the crossover, in fact. While the mini-event was a generally strong story, I was disappointed that DC positioned Kara, so soon out of the “New 52” gate, as the “weak link” in the Super-family chain.
What did you like the most?
Dan: I really do enjoy the pullout cover by Mahmud Asrar. It is full of action and made me want to open the book and rip into the story, especially after I saw the addition of Supergirl. And it did lead me to action. I had planned to purchase the Mad Magazine variant cover for Aquaman #19. But after seeing this Supergirl cover, I very much want the standard, and cheaper, gatefold cover instead.
Mike: What did you think of the Aquaman cover?
Daniel: Honestly, I was disappointed since I felt like that cover really did not line up the action of the story. I sense a trend, but I will have more to say about that later. What did you like Mr. Super Family Fanboy?
Mike: Kara’s underwater Sanctuary—her aquatic equivalent to Kal’s Fortress of Solitude—is one of the coolest superhero hideaways in comics today. As far as I know, Sanctuary is a “New 52” innovation, but I really like it. (It certainly beats Kara hiding out as Linda Lee in the Midvale Orphanage, as she did in Silver Age continuity.) Sanctuary is a bit like Stark Tower in Marvel’s Iron Man movies, run by a JARVIS-like AI ready to cater to its mistress’ needs—as in this issue, for example, when it provides Power Girl (whom it recognizes accurately as equally Kara) with a new costume. (I don’t care for the costume, but more on that in a moment.)
I also enjoyed the cameo appearance by Lex Luthor and his retinue. Since the days of the Matrix Supergirl, this character and Luthor have had a complicated relationship. It seems the “New 52” Supergirl will be tangling with the world’s greatest criminal mind from time to time, as well.
What did you like the least?
Dan: I told you I would get back to this, I disliked the expectation that the cover sets. The cover shows Supergirl and Power Girl brawling, making it seem like Power Girl is bigger threat to the title character than Lex Luthor himself. And despite Stan Lee’s dislike of heroes fighting heroes, let’s be honest the fans love it. So I expected to see at least 3 to 5 pages of Kara battle royale. And it would have been very interesting to see story wise and visually how the two would match up. These two however, spoiler, never land a punch on each other! Instead they combine forces.
Originally this was part of DC’s “WTF” themed month. I was going to rail against that concept, not the fact they were trying to shock us but using the WTF moniker for books that kids might be interested in. This is DC and not Vertigo! Kids read these books. But Krutack (yeah, I’m still running with that) if it made me mad that I never had Supergirl on Power Girl fist of fury (something seems very wrong about that statement).
Mike: So the task of issue #19 seems to be this: Let’s get Power Girl back in the “boob window.” The Flashpoint event changed many things about the DC multiverse, but it did not, apparently, given Power Girl a reasonably proportioned, non-objectified body. Granted, the costume Power Girl is wearing when she crosses over into Kara’s reality isn’t exactly modest—it’s form-fitting, to say the least—but the “reveal” (in more than one sense) of the “new” (read: same old, same old) Power Girl costume feels like a disappointing step backward—a ready-made pin-up poster.
Dan: I guess I did not put that much thought into the uniform. I guess after seeing Starfire in the Red Hood book I guess I accepted the fact that anything goes.
Mike: Also, I also disliked the generic nature of the big bad monster against whom Power Girl and Kara battle. “Consider me a test,” he tells them—as if writer Mike Johnson is admitting, “I couldn’t come up with an original threat this month, gang, so let’s just get through this, okay?” Again, strong but boring bruisers are part of the superhero territory; still, that doesn’t mean readers have to enjoy all of them.
Do you see spiritual applications in this story?
Mike: The bottom panel on page 6 references Michelangelo’s iconic painting in the Sistine Chapel of God reaching out to touch Adam’s similarly extended hand, granting humanity the spark of life. A nice (if somewhat predictable) moment in itself, it doesn’t seem to have implications for the rest of the issue.
While issue #19 doesn’t offer any particular spiritual or theological material, Kara’s story as a whole may speak to the tension Christians feel of living as strangers and aliens in this world. (Gee, that phrase would make a good name for a podcast…) Of course, Kara’s alienation is driven by her anger and grief at Krypton’s destruction. Our alienation is driven by our desire for a better country, the new home that God has promised us. It might be interesting to see if Kara can learn to be “in” but not “of” this world, as Christians must learn to be.
Dan: I went a very different direction on this one. I think this story is a good illustration of that the fact that two are better than one when struggling. I know this lesson is often used around marriage, but I think it could easily also be applied to comradeship. In this story, Supergirl and Power Girl need each other to both overcome the Kyrponite poison in their system and to defeat Luthor’s henchman Apex. And being the same person, the ladies work really well together.
This to me really is a wisdom teaching, and as we recklessly open up the big book we find in Ecclesiastes:
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV).
This story really shows that even for a hero, two locked together against one foe is better than one serving alone.
Do you plan to stick with the series?
Mike: I may look at some trades when they are released but, alas, no, I am dropping Supergirl from my monthly pull list. I was enjoying the previous, Igle-Gates incarnation so much; but Johnson and artist Mahmud Asrar, while they have introduced some rich characters into the mix—particularly the “New 52” version of the Silver Banshee—just aren’t telling all that compelling a story.
Dan: What, that could be as big as me dropping Aquaman. No, I won’t be here again next month. And I am looking forward to future Supergirl trades for me to check out from the library since the first New 52 Supergirl trade was a real surprise to me.
I did hand my copy over to my daughter to see if she would have a interest in it.
Mike: Did she like it?
Dan: No! She did not understand why Kara was green in the opening scenes, how she was poisoned and most of all why were there two Karas. I think I would have done better if I had given her a Supergirl trade with a full story arc than dropping her straight into issue 19.
Supergirl #19 appears to have received a mixed review from Mike and Dan. They expressed concerns over skimpy outfits and a lack of story context. But both really enjoyed the use of Kara’s sanctuary and other pieces of the Super mythos. And both are more than willing to read more from this franchise, but preferably in a collected trade format.