Review: SUPERGIRL Vol. 1: Power
Description: “This volume tells the story of Supergirl’s whirlwind tour of the DCU. Along the way she encounters the JSA, the Teen Titans, the Outsiders, and the JLA – but will she be an ally or enemy to the world’s heroes?” Reprints SUPERGIRL #0-5. Written by Jeph Loeb; Art by Ian Churchill. Published June 14, 2006. 160 pages. $14.99 USD.
I received my copy of SUPERGIRL: Power from Amazon yesterday, and the first thing I noticed was that they didn’t use the SUPERGIRL #2 variant cover as the trade cover (as solicited). That’s too bad. It’s much more appropriate and timeless for a debut volume than the scene of Supergirl and Dark Supergirl at odds, from the SUPERGIRL #5 variant covers.
Summary: SUPERGIRL #1
Up to this point, Supergirl’s story has been told from Superman and Batman’s POV. In this issue we get to hear events from Kara’s view.
Kara recounts her memories of her last moments on Krypton. From inside her escape pod, she watched helplessly as debris fell down around her parents as they watched her rise away from them. Tears streaming down her face, the young Kara (shown here with short hair) peers out the window as all around her the city of Argo breaks apart and the planet shatters. The next thing she knows is crashing into Gotham Harbour. Inside her ship (her hair now grown long and still naked), she sees a man in an underwater batsuit with headlights. Alone, scared, and with no idea where she is, she flees. But she can’t keep runing. Today she’s with Stargirl, discussing how old she is: how does age work when you’re in suspended animation? Best she can answer is that she’s around fifteen or sixteen years old on Earth.
She’s met up with the JSA, who are busy fighting Solomon Grundy, to find Power Girl. Trying to figure out who she is, she was surprised to discover that she’s not the first Supergirl. [This is the first time the series acknowledges the first Kara, Matrix, and Linda Danvers.] She’s not even the “only cousin from Krypton Supergirl” – that title belongs to Power Girl. As Supergirl watches the fight with Grundy, she thinks about how the JSA is a generational team where older heroes train the next generation. She wonders who trained Power Girl. Stargirl describes as Power Girl as like Kara, “only with a different bra size”, and speculates that since they’re both Superman’s cousin, perhaps that makes them sisters. Supergirl barely has time to ponder that thought before she notices Power Girl weakening under Grundy’s grip and flies in to save her. This brings the JSA’s fight to an abrupt halt, and the two girls from Krypton shake hands. This has the unexpected effect of making Power Girl’s powers go haywire. Kara finds herself battling her out of control counterpart, until Alan Scott, the original Green Lanten, separates the two of them with a magical barrier. Mr. Terrific theorizes that the two of them are like two positive wires on a transformer crossing. Instead of repelling, there is an energy burst. In essence, they’re like the same person trying to occupy a single space. Supergirl could handle the overload, but Power Girl could not.
Supergirl is crushed: the one person she’d hoped would understand her and possibly provide her with answers wants nothing to do with her. She’s able to meet with Power Girl a few days later, and Kara explains her how she’d hoped the two of them could be friends. But it’s not a good time for Power Girl: only recently did she rediscover who she was, a Kryptonian from Earth-2 and cousin to Superman. Kara sympathizes, and doesn’t wish to take that identity away from Power Girl. For now, the two of them cannot be friends. Before Power Girl departs, she shares with Supergirl something troubling: when they first made contact, she felt something dark inside of Kara.
Having failed to find any answers from Power Girl, Kara sets off to find another member of her family who is closer to her own age. But when she finds Superboy in Smallville, he doesn’t appear happy to see her either.
The entire book is chock full of superhero infighting as Kara and everyone around her struggle with the question of whether she is “good” or “bad”. I never get the sense of why they’re fighting, they just are because that’s what superheroes do or something. The tension between Supergirl and every other character who meets here is inexplicable and feels forced.
Kara’s arrival has not been as welcoming as she expected, and she is frustrated and angry about the way that everyone, starting with Superman and Batman, has been trying to control and use her for their own gain. Kara’s own fuzzy memory, coupled with the (again, unexplained and unjustified) suspiciousness of others towards her, leads her to doubt herself so much that she literally splits into “good” and “bad” Supergirls” when hit by black Kryptonite. That plot device might be interesting if we actually knew who this character was, but pulling out this gimmick so shortly after meeting her just falls flat. We have no investment in the character yet and no way of appreciating how out of character “Dark Supergirl” is, when we’ve only just met her. It reminded me of the second episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (“The Naked Now”), which was disliked by fans when it first aired because it had the crew acting out of character, before their characters had been established.
I do like the art in this book a lot more than Michael “Witchblade” Turner‘s character designs in SUPERMAN/BATMAN (ugh). The women and girls still look like young supermodels, but much of the blame can be placed firmly at the feet of Turner for creating that ridiculous costume and figure for Kara. I don’t have much to say about the story. The amount of fight scenes is over the top, and the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense. The storyline never really concludes in a satisfying way. It just…ends. We are left with an ambiguous Supergirl who has a lot of anger but is otherwise fairly one-dimensional. SUPERMAN/BATMAN told her story from the point of view of the two male leads, and here in her own series I still don’t feel getting inside Kara’s head.