Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Supergirl Rebirth Packs an Emotional Punch

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Any regular visitor to the Fandomentals will know that we love us some Supergirl. Granted, it is primarily the television incarnation of her, but still, there is a lot to love there. With that in mind, we thought we would take a look at what’s going on with our favorite Kryptonian over in the world of comics.


A Little Catch-up

Since Supergirl Rebirth is on its 4th issue, and this is the first time we’re talking about it here, there is a little bit of backstory to fill in. This Supergirl is ostensibly a continuation from the New 52 incarnation, with a few changes thrown in to account for the wackyness that came out of DC Rebirth (which we won’t delve into here).

New 52

We’ve talked a bit about New 52 Supergirl before. Her origin is basically the same as her televised counterpart right up to the moment she crash-lands on Earth. From there it’s a series of angsty moments as the displaced Kryptonian fights with Earthlings, fights with aliens, even fights with Superman because she doesn’t fit in and can’t seem to find a stable home life anywhere. New 52 Kara is a misfit who can’t come to terms with her powers or with being a fish out of water. It doesn’t help that so many villains are trying to kidnap/study/kill/clone her. By the end of her New 52 arc, she seems to have finally found some shred of normalcy as a barista in a coffee shop, when her powers mysteriously fade away. Then, the writers saw something shiny, probably, because that’s it for New 52 Kara.

Rebirth to Now

The Supergirl Rebirth arc has seen a shift in Kara’s character. She still remembers the events from the New 52, but it feels like an all-new Kara. Firstly, she seems younger. This Kara is 16, whereas the Kara from the New 52 was a bit older, maybe 18 or 19 (and on TV she’s something like 24). What is more, DC has taken some elements from the television show and mixed them into the comic. Kara has a position at the D.E.O. much like the show, but her handlers are Eliza and Jeremiah Danvers, a husband and wife pair of D.E.O. agents, and Kara’s adoptive parents. (Sadly, no Alex Danvers). Kara will have to learn to balance going to school like a normal teen and working alongside her parents professionally (something that any teen would dread).

The Rebirth one-shot shows Kara getting her powers back. The DEO sends her on a trip to the sun so that her Kryptonian space pod can supercharge her powers (because that’s totally a thing it can do, trust us). Unfortunately, it runs on a “phantom drive” which accidentally opens up a hole to the “Phantom Zone” (for those of you new to Superman comics, that would be an alternate dimension penal colony) and lets someone out that her parents put there a long time ago. This is Lar-On, the Kryptonian werewolf. (In case you thought that was weird, he came from the silver age, so… ‘nuff said). Kara gets her powers back without really explaining why they were gone, and we’re off and running. Kara beats up the bad guy with the help of the D.E.O. and settles into her new home life.


Cyborg Superman

At the end of the Rebirth one-shot, we get a little tease of what’s to come in a red glowing eye. The run of Supergirl kicks off with Kara going back to high school. She’s a bit of a misfit there as she can’t handle primitive earth technology (like an overhead projector) and she talks with an accent. This is a nice touch as it reminds us that Kara didn’t come to earth as a baby like Clark did, but was already a teenager. Of course she has a weird accent. (In my head it’s vaguely Russian or Finnish). She rushes off to beat up some bad guys without the go-ahead from the D.E.O. and gets in a little trouble for it. Later, she shows how much different of a character she is from the New 52 Kara when she takes the scolding to heart instead of throwing a tantrum. By the end of that first issue, we are introduced to this story’s big bad, Cyborg Superman.

The New 52 reinvented Cyborg Superman. He is no longer the astronaut Hank Henshaw, but Kara’s father Zor-El, who was manipulated by Brainiac and turned into DC’s version of a herald of Galactus (except it’s Brainiac). The thing is, Zor-El didn’t know he was Zor-El on account of his memory was wiped. It wasn’t until he used Kara’s Kryptonian flesh to restore himself that he remembered who he really was, but then he felt horrible for what he had done and reversed the process which saved Kara’s life and re-erased his memories and, oh, you know what it doesn’t matter it’s all cuckoo for Cocoa-Puffs. The point is, he’s back, and he knows who he is (was).

This time around Cyborg Supes has used his cybernetic technology and remade everyone on Argo City (where Kara is from). He breaks into the Fortress of Solitude to get at the Sunstone which contains the minds of all the deceased people of Krypton (apparently) so he can reboot everyone and recreate the city. He invites Kara back to be with her family. This would be all well and good except that to make everyone whole again, he needs to steal the life force from a lot of humans, and guess where there are a lot of humans. Did you guess?

Mom? You seem different.

Kara’s not down with this plan, as for starters her mom and dad now look like Terminators, and also, the parents she knew and loved would never condone such an action. Sacrificing hundreds of lives for selfish reasons is not a very heroic thing to do. So Kara resists her father’s scheme, and for her trouble is trapped on Argo city while the whole cybernetic family tree flies off to Earth to make with the life force thievery. And… that about bring us up to speed for issue 4.

Oh, also, in the Kara as a human girl side-story, we get to see a revamped Cat Grant, who now much more closely resembles Calista Flockhart, and runs a new media company, Catco. This Kara has won herself an internship at Catco along with another student, Ben Rubel, a trust fund kid sent away by his emotionally distant parents who is sure to be in competition with her or at the very least have an awkward crush on her at some point.

Reign of the Cyborg Supermen Part 4

In this issue, Kara fights to get out of her trap while evil cyborgs attack National City. Kara is stuck on Argo with her new mom, Eliza Danvers, and her (new) old mom Cyborg Alura. Alura has already stolen some of Eliza’s “Odic Force” or “distilled life” or whatever (don’t ask) and Eliza’s heartbeat is steadily slowing. She will die soon. Kara and Alura have a heart-to-heart talk. As much as Kara loves her mother, she knows this isn’t right. This is her dad’s selfish drive to undo his mistakes. He isn’t doing any of this out of love for Kara or for anyone, he is doing it out of shame. Kara tries to freeze-breath and heat-vision her way out, but it’s no use. The adaptive technology is too strong.

Finally, Alura understands that this isn’t her wish either, it is a part of Cyborg Zor-El within her driving her to do these destructive things. She sacrifices herself to restore Eliza Danvers, and we get all the feels. Who is chopping onions in here, seriously? Kara figures out how to escape from her bonds by way of a power shriek that matches the frequency of Argo’s cyborg machinery. There is precious little time to mourn Alura’s second passing, however, because the Earth is still in trouble. There are a ton of cyborg butts to kick.

Classic Cyborg Dad.

And the Verdict?

Boy-oh-boy this one was an emotional gut-punch. Kara and Alura’s mother-daughter talk all while Eliza lay dying was riveting from start to finish. This issue, more than any so far, really gave us the feeling that we are in good hands with Supergirl Rebirth. This Supergirl isn’t about punching all the things and running away when everything sucks. This Supergirl has emotional maturity that the New 52 never did. She understands that it is not the real Alura who wants this, it is her dysfunctional and insane father. She recognizes that though Eliza Danvers is not her biological mother, she is as much her mother as Alura. Eliza dropped everything to brave space with Kara to help her find her old home. Kara has a new family, and even though she’s an alien, she has people who love her. Yes, she misses Argo, and her birth parents, but this isn’t right, and she knows it.

Pictured above: Feels. All of them.

Alura’s realization and self-sacrifice is as powerful a moment as we’ve seen in DC comics in years, and it give the upcoming fight to save Earth so much more weight than any fight Kara had in the New 52. Issue 5 is going to be so good.

The only downside is the Earthside story. There isn’t much there to chew on. Yes, Jeremiah Danvers and the rest of the D.E.O. are doing what they can to fight cyborgs (which isn’t much), and Cat Grant and company are taking shelter, but those scenes feel a bit light compared to Kara’s and feel like filler. We are treated to a nice cameo by another returning New 52 character Dr. Veritas, a buddy of Superman who runs an underground research facility. Literally underground. As in, five miles underground. She mentions that yes, Lar-On (remember our Kryptonian werewolf pal from before?) is still in containment. Gee, I wonder if he’ll be back in upcoming issues.

All-in-all, the issue feels a little uneven because of the Earthside stuff, but what we get on Argo is worth it. We could have just stuck to the Argo story and taken care of Earth next issue and been just fine, though D.E.O. director Chase has a couple of choice lines as does Cat Grant.

We miss you, Calista.

Looks Good

I am loving Ching and Atiyeh’s art. It has something of a cartoony style to it, but it fits well with the youthful feel of this new Kara. The action scenes are kinetic and work really well, and the colors are bright and fit the tone perfectly. The only downfall is in long shots the characters lose some detail and look a little like stick figures. It fits the style, but it can be distracting. The style of cyborg Superman is especially good. He looks angular and monstrous. We don’t blame Kara for not trusting him, I mean look at him.

No thanks.

Another thing that’s interesting is Eliza Danvers. She is drawn as having only one hand. It’s not clear why she is missing her hand at the wrist. No one mentions it in the text, and honestly, it’s an easy detail to miss if you aren’t looking for it. We’re not sure if she was born without it or lost it later in life, but it obviously doesn’t stop her from being a kick-ass DEO agent and master of hand-to-hand combat. We aren’t sure what, if anything, they are trying to say about ableism and representation, but we’ll keep an eye on it.

This Supergirl isn’t quite delivering what the CW show is, and it’s disappointing that our sweet cinnamon roll Alex Danvers isn’t in this story. What they are giving us is a pretty solid comic for a character we love, so there’s not much else to complain about.

Look for our recap of Supergirl #5 next month as the reign of the Cyborg Supermen comes to a head.

Writer: Steve Orlando

Art: Brian Ching

Colors: Michael Atiyeh

Letters: Steve Wands

Cover: Ching and Atiyeh

Images Courtesy of DC Comics

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