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Supergirl #50 [Review]

Queen

Writer: Sterling Gates
Penciller: Jamal Igle
Inkers: Jon Sibal & Mark McKenna
Colorists: Nei Ruffino, Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover Artists: Michael Turner and Peter Steigerwald
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics

After quite a bit of foreshadowing, last issue provided the culmination (or so I’d thought) of Lana’s story. Where I’d thought it was going to be cancer or some other terminal illness and that DC would actually allow the character to be killed, that issue ended with Supergirl barging into the morgue and finding a cocoon where Lana’s body should have been. This issue opens some time after that with General Lane and his grunts finding the re-grown body of his daughter Lucy and discovering that she’s actually alive, despite being thought dead when her super-suit exploded awhile back. We then pick up wtih Gangbuster (in a new, weird-looking costume) busting into some alien hive and getting Supergirl out…as she’d been captured off-panel since the previous issue. The hospital Lana was in has been grown over by a cocoon, as we find out that the Insect Queen lives once again, having spent the past year preparing Lana’s body to be taken over. Supergirl and the Queen fight, and it’s not hard to guess what happens by the issue’s end. We have some definite closure to things, while elements are left open to coming stories…but this issue’s events are not likely to be simply brushed under a rug.

The art by Igle is quite good. In and of itself, I have no problems with the art.

The story is also quite strong as what it is. I have never had any interest in the Insect Queen stuff with Lana, and have zero nostalgia for the silver age stuff…it was actually the Insect Queen story in the main Superman book several years ago that led me to bail on the Superman titles entirely for a brief time. As such, I was quite dismayed to see it becoming a focal point for this storyline. To its credit, the actual, overt Insect Queen stuff is basically limited to a couple brief bits last issue, and now this issue, rather than being a huge part of the overall arc. I’m interested in seeing where Supergirl herself goes from here, as Gates has continued to grow the character and give her surprisingly realistic reactions to things instead of the usual, simplistic cliches one would normally expect.

What I dislike most about this issue is the ties back to the Superwoman story, as I to this day cannot be convinced that the Lucy Lane I’ve read for 15-some out of the last 20ish years is the same character…whether this is Gates claiming the character or simply doing the best with the hand dealt, I’m not sure.

In addition to the 40-page main story (which has a 26-page chunk with no ads!), we also get a short bonus tale by Jake Black and Helen Slater (the actress who played Supergirl in the Supergirl movie in the 1980s).

A Hero’s Journey

Writers: Jake Black, Helen Slater
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Colorist: Dave McCaig
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Wil Moss
Group Editor: Matt idelson

This short is pretty simplistic and straight-forward: it’s a recap of much of these first 50 issues of Supergirl. I recognize Black from his TMNT work, and it’s cool to see his name popping up like this. While the story is basically recap, it does add a bit to the Supergirl character, as we are reminded how far she’s come, and the changes over the past 17 issues or so have been brought both betterment and clarity to the title as well as the character in the title. I also quite enjoy the fact that Ron Troupe is still around and being used again lately…he is just as important a character to me as any of the supporting cast of the Superman family of titles…and I like a great deal better than, say, Steve Lombard or the current interpretation of Cat Grant.

The art for this story is clean and fairly simple, reminding me of any of a number of animated works that don’t use too much in the way of detailed lines to get things across. Again, that works for this story, though I don’t think I’d care much for the style on any ongoing basis for this title.

As a whole, I think the only “weak point” of the issue is the cover. Turner had a significant role in bringing this version of the character into contemporary continuity, but the art used for the cover just doesn’t work for me–it seems extremely out of place, especially given how far this title and the character have come over the past few years. Maybe it’s just over-nitpicky, but Supergirl’s ears on this cover make her look like an elf, and her physical build just seems out of proportion with the way she’s portrayed lately. As with most books, though…the issue can’t be judged solely by the cover.

Story: 3.5
Art: 3.5
Overall: 3.5

Supergirl #49 [Review]

Death & the Family

Writer: Sterling Gates
Artist: Matt Camp
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover: Joshua Middleton
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics

In many ways, the cover kinda spoils this issue. Then again…perhaps that’s just comin’ from a guy who sees an image that is rather “iconic”–not really in and of itself, but in the sense of an almost archetypal image. It could also be a bit of a cultural thing, at least here in the US. Supergirl collapsed on the floor, her back to us, facing the double-doors reading “Emergency” and the “red cross” signifying “hospital” (and the all-too-familiar hand-rails along the walls). Knowing the Lana Lang subplot that’s been going on in this book for awhile, it’s easy to put two-and-two together and come up with “something bad happens to Lana.”

This issue opens in such a way that if you didn’t have the familiar names of the Superman-family cast of characters, one would not be blamed for thinking this was a comic-book version of House. Lana’s on the phone with Perry, leaving her apartment, and while the doorman hails her a cab, she collapses, bleeding from the eyes, nose, and mouth, and no one quite knows why (though the reader is shown a clue).

We then get back to the Supergirl/Silver Banshee battle where Supergirl has been possessed by the spirits of the Banshee’s ancestors, turning her into a counterpart of the Banshee. Once this threat is dealt with, Supergirl and Inspector Henderson face another threat, and then converse on a rooftop overlooking the city. Public emergency over, Supergirl’s super-hearing picks up on Lana’s plight, and the personal emergency begins as Supergirl rushes to her friend. The clue at the beginning of the issue somehow lessened the impact of this scene, and that feeling of disconnect built as Supergirl dug a bit deeper into the situation, and the issue ends with a cliffhanger that should have seemed extremely obvious from the beginning.

The art for the issue’s pretty good overall. My main gripe is with the colors–for a comic, far too much seems too “shiny” for my tastes. While this may–in some ways–lend to realism, there’s something distracting and off-putting about it. Despite that, the visual style’s good, and does what the art for a comic should do.

The story’s decent, though less impactful than I’d expected going into the issue. If my suspicions from the end of the issue are correct, it represents even more of what I’m disliking about many DC books the last couple of years. Still, the actual execution adds to the characters and the development of the ongoing story, and is still definitely worth reading. Also despite expectations not being met, after reading this week’s Green Lantern #50, I should note that this issue falls into a similar well: years ago, this would’ve been a “gimmicked” cover given the supposed enormity of the interior story, AND this would be issue #50…and the final sequence would be in the next issue and not this one. As-is, the story is thus coming across much more AS story, and not like it’s being entirely padded to occur in a certain issue-number for the sake of happening in a given issue.

New readers may be lost if this is the first issue read…but it’s not impossible to get into the issue. I suspect, though, that one is just as likely to read this as “the latest issue” as to come back to pick it up after they read #50. While #50 remains to be seen as to its own worth, this issue is worthwhile reading if one’s interested in the character and her story.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 7/10

Supergirl Annual #1 [Review]

Secret Identities / Second Born: The Secret Origin of Superwoman

Writer: Sterling Gates
Penciller: Fernando Dagnino
Inker: Raul Fernandez
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Renato Guedes
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue functions much as I would expect of an annual “special” issue. We have a couple of stories by the main series writer–stories that are directly relevant to current ongoing plots, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to see the regular issues slowed by inclusion of these stories in chunks nor taking a whole issue.

Essentially, we finally get to actually see Supergirl in her new civilian guise of Linda Lang (the introduction of the concept having been interrupted by the start of the whole New Krypton affair last spring). We see that she’s not nearly as experienced as her cousin, but it’s her learning curve and differnces that make the character more interesting–she’s not just some “clone” of her cousin–we see some real depth to her here. While we see development of Supergirl sorting out elements of her own secret ID we also see continuation of the anti-Kryptonian sentiment present in the current DCU.

The second story of the issue gives us a background story/origin of Superwoman, and how it was that Lucy Lane wound up in that role. While it technically “fits,” it’s not a story that I particularly “buy,” and it leaves a sour taste for me much like the “Supermen of America” story did in the 90s taking a character that has no business with Superpowers or such being given them as anything more than a one-off situational thing. Within the already-set bounds of belief-suspension, Lucy Lane having any sort of super-powers (provided by a costume or otherwise) doesn’t fit for me. We also see where the character is being further subjected to fantastical elements that just seem really out of place to this reader.

The art throughout the issue–for both stories–is not bad, nor is it anything spectacular. It holds its own, but I could take it or leave it.

If you’re following events in the main Supergirl book, you’ll want to snag this annual–its stories are certain to play into major plot points in the main book in the coming months. This mostly deals with plot threads prevalent in the main book, so I wouldn’t particularly recommend this issue as a jumping-on point.

Story: 6/10
Art: 6.5/10
Whole: 6/10

Supergirl #44 [Review]

Codename: Patriot part 3

Writer: Sterling Gates
Penciller: Jamal Igle
Inker: Jon Sibal
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Fernando Dagnino & Raul Fernandez with Mazi
Publisher: DC Comics

Ral-Dar, the would-be-assassin of General Zod overhears conversation between General Lane and his people which sparks an outburst leading to his fighting Atlas (recent villain in the Superman title). We then move into seeing Superman, Supergirl, Lois, Mon-El, and the Guardian interacting with one another at the Science Police headquarters. Some tenseness plays out given Supergirl’s role in the recent apparent death of Lois’ sister. Supergirl and Mon-El set out to deal with Nightwing and Flamebird (Flamebird being a childhood friend of Kara’s). The confrontation doesn’t go well, and things escalate as everyone moves toward their places on the board for the final chapter of this story in the next issue of Superman.

The story feels a bit forced here…and yet, on the whole it works. This is the third chapter of a 4-part story with a tighter crossover than we’ve had for the last half-year or so in the Superman books. It feels forced in that certain things set in place by the other titles have to be acknowledged as well as the core in-title story elements. It’s interesting seeing so many of the characters interacting after the separation the last few months. I’m glad to see that some story elements from earlier issues are coming to fruition here, adding to a feeling of the story being more organically-generated than otherwise.

The art’s solid as usual. There are points where I think of Guedes’ style in this issue, but definitely prefer this visual presentation. The art does what it should, getting things across quite well. No real complaint there.

Overall, not a bad issue. It plays with elements from the ongoing story in this title, but mixes well with the “intruding” elements of this “crossover.” One would be lacking in context without the earlier chapters…but even if one hasn’t read those, enough ongoing elements are here that that story is not entirely derailed by the crossing of titles. Similarly, if one is following the Codename: Patriot arc, one may not “get” everything in this issue, but there’s plenty of context on the essential story elements.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 7.5/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Supergirl #42 [Review]

Who is Superwoman? conclusion: epilogues & homecomings

Writer: Sterling Gates
Penciller: Fernando Dagnino
Inker: Jamal Igle
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Joshua Middleton
Publisher: DC Comics

We see more wrap-up on stuff from the Who Is Superwoman? arc here as Supergirl faces Lana and Lois–telling the latter about the death of her sister. Lana fills Supergirl in on the relationshp between Lois and Lucy, while we see General Lane dealing with the death of his daughter.

This issue worked a lot better for me than the previous issue–while I don’t totally “buy” Lucy’s military career and role as Superwoman, it’s a lot easier to “buy” the fact that something horrible happened (her death) and someone having to break the news to Lois. This also adds a bit of depth (cold as it is) to General Lane’s character as he comes to grips with what he’s lost.

Gates seems to hve a good handle on these characters and the relationships they have between one another–such as in Lois’ handling of the news she’s presented with. Though on the book less than a year now, Gates has turned this from an outer-rim sorta book almost embaressingly tied to the Superman family into one integral to the family of books, making Supergirl into a real-seeming teenage girl (albeit alien and with tremendous super-powers). Igle’s style continues to work very well with the stories–though my sole gripe continues to be the way ears are drawn, for whatever reason.

All in all, another strong issue of this title, well worth reading if you’ve been following the book. If you’ve not been following it, you’ll likely be fairly lost, as much of the action in this issue comes from what’s transpired in the last few issues.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7/10

Supergirl #41 [Review]

Who is Superwoman? part five: Daughters of Krypton

Writer: Sterling Gates
Pencillers: Fernando Dagnino
Inker: Raul Fernandez
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Joshua Middleton
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue “concludes” the “Who is Superwoman” arc. Basically it’s a drawn-out fight sequence between Supergirl and Superwoman, with some drama for Lana thrown in to round things out a bit. In a way I wouldn’t expect much else–the two have come to be enemies of sorts, especially given Superwoman’s role in the way things went down when Zor-El was killed during New Krypton.

The cover seems really flat and a bit stylized…definitely not an image that would “sell” me on a comic (the way Brave and the Bold #23’s did). Better than I could draw, but not all that appealing.

The art’s prett good for the issue–no real complaint from me on it. It fits the story, conveys what needs to be gotten across, and though largely seems like a darker/heavier color scheme, it feels like a story set in a world where Superman could exist.

The story isn’t nearly as enjoyable. I don’t for one second buy the identity of Superwoman (and even if I were to buy into it, it merely continues an unfortunate trend toward the unbelievable in comics that I can easily otherwise suspend my disbelief for).

On the whole, this isn’t all that enjoyable an issue–I’m hoping that now we’re past this silly “mystery” of Superwoman, we can get into more story and character exploration for Supergirl herself.

If you’ve followed the arc thus far, it’s worth snagging this issue as well. This is certainly not a good jumping-on point for new readers, and whatever your status, should not be taken as a representative issue for this series.

Story: 5/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 6/10

Supergirl #39 [Review]

Who is Superwoman? part three: Ticking Clocks

Writer: Sterling Gates
Pencillers: Jamal Igle & Talent Caldwell
Inkers: John Sibal & Talent Caldwell
Colorists: Tom Chu & Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Joshua Middleton
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue picks up on and deals with the ramifications of the “reveal” regarding Superwoman’s point of origin last month. We see her retrieve Reactron (who was earlier menacing his ex), and leave a scene that shows Supergirl that the stakes are quite high in this conflict. Supergirl converses with her mother and with Lana as she ponders her current place in things, and we begin to see the reaction of those who expect Superman and “get” Supergirl instead. Finally, Agent Liberty’s killer seems to stand revealed, prompting Supergirl back into action.

I’m not a big fan of Reactron–newish character I’m not all that familiar with; I wasn’t reading this title when he was introduced. However, I am quite glad to see that we continue to have all parts of Kara’s series/continuity recognized and not simply discarded. Though not a fan of Reactron, I can see how this character can come to be quite the menace for Supergirl, perhaps even on an ongoing basis (depending on how all the New Krypton stuff shakes out, ultimately). It’s interesting to see the continuing relationship between Kara and Lana, as well as the development of Kara’s relationship with her mother of late. I have no real complaint in terms of the story itself.

The art for this issue comes from two sources, and while that’s often not a big deal with me, it was quite noticeable, which is something I’m not all that thrilled with. Neither batch of art is bad or anything; it’s just that each is different enough that it’s a bit of a distraction (especially in catching myself curiously looking to see how Caldwell draws characters’ ears, since ears are the only thing I’m not all that thrilled with from Igle’s art).

The issue’s story holds true to the characters involved, and continues to build on stuff not only from New Krypton but also from stuff going on in the other Superman books, and makes for a nice, satisfying read. You need not be following the other books to “get” this one as this series’ stories can work on their own. There’s a lot more to “get” and enjoy out of this with knowledge of the other books, and having this as just another part of the much larger ongoing story being told across all the Superman books.

Story: 7/10
Art: 6.5/10
Whole: 7/10

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