Review: Supergirl #17 and 18

I just read Supergirl #18 today, and I can’t say I’m impressed by the resolution of this storyline. The previous issue was quite exciting and I enjoyed it, but after all the build-up of the past few months, the conclusion just fell flat.

Supergirl #17

Kara returns to Earth to find a month has passed, the sun’s turned red, and everyone – human and meta – appears to be possessed by the phantoms. They bring out people’s worst aspects, their inner fears and self-loathing. Kara is forced to confront what she’s secretly feared others think about her, and what she thinks about herself deep down. Zor-El tells her that she’s “just a little girl drowning beneath her father’s demons”. Sarah, her former schoolmate from issue #10, confronts her about leaving when things got tough, and points out the problem with her well meaning but hollow speech about “being yourself”. Sarah points out that “I’m myself all the time, and no one likes it…but I can’t fly away.” Kara’s insecurities about her friendships are brought to light when Wonder Girl appears and accuses Kara of using others and never being a “true friend”. She tricks Kara into revealing her deepest secret – that she is here to kill Kal-El, and that she wants to do it in order to gain her father’s love. Then a possessed Robin hits her where it hurts the most, by accusing her of having killed her mother. At this point the crystals that have been slowly protruding from her body fully extend, and she stabs Robin. To her surprise, this expels the phantom and brings him to his senses (she’d expected the crystals to kill him). She learns that Superman is still in Metropolis and is using a special protection suit, so she goes to find him as he is “the key to all this, the phantoms the possessions.” When she finds Superman, he is trying to battle the phantoms but they refuse to engage with him, preferring to manipulate humans. Two figures watch from a rooftop, and the man remarks cryptically to the woman, “Are you finished?” The woman responds, “No, “Zor-El”…I’m not finished at all. Until we know her mind, until we know what path she’ll choose…you are still mine.” Hm…

Superman brings Kara up to speed on what happened to people after the sun went red, and she reveals what “Zor-El” told her about the phantoms and Superman’s part in it. Superman begs her to kill him, having been driven nearly mad by the phantoms, but she refuses to give in to her father’s fatalism. Supergirl still believes there must be another way, that together they can find a better solution than their fathers did.

That’s when a Supergirl dressed in a Silver Age costume appears, and claims that Kara is an imposter!

Dialogue that made me wince: “You stupid cow”

Supergirl #18

Just when Kara has come to terms with who she is, another Supergirl dressed in the original Kara’s costume (albeit with a red skirt instead of blue) and with a perky 60’s ‘do shows up claiming to be the real Supergirl. She looks the part, but the resemblance to the original Kara stops there.

[The first 15 pages of this issue were pencilled by another artist, and I didn’t like the character’s faces very much. Ale Garza pencilled the final 7 pages. His Kara is so cute, but he draws his men HUGE in comparison to the women.]

Angst!Kara and Perky!Kara fight it out, while Superman succumbs to the phantoms which have swarmed him. What initially promised to be a fun and witty interaction between two different incarnations of Supergirl quickly becomes nothing more than a dull attempt at mocking all the complaints about the current Supergirl’s characterization, and defending the current portrayal of Kara as being more “realistic” and relatable to ordinary teenage girls. I get the point Joe Kelly is trying to make, but he does it so artlessly and unsubtly that the story screeches to a halt while the characters stand around acting as mouthpieces for his opinions. It’s a bit embarassing to watch. It also appears that Kelly doesn’t have a firm grasp on the criticism this character’s received. I wish he hadn’t wasted this issue trying to defend himself in what was supposed to be the climactic conclusion to a 10-issue storyarc. I especially wish he hadn’t made a mockery of the original Supergirl in the process.

Then the pseudo-Supergirl “absorbs” Kara and…things get a little weird. Long story short, it’s all been a test by an agent of the monitors to make sure that this Supergirl is the real deal and deserves to exist. Everything that happened after the fatherbox exploded has been an illusion, a final test of Supergirl’s will as a hero. (See! Told ya that wasn’t really Zor-El!) She’s exceeded all expectations, and the monitor is satisfied that she is indeed the one, true Supergirl of her universe. It’s all a bit anticlimatic and weird. There’s also the disturbing interaction between the heavily armored, physically imposing male monitor (all monitors appear to be male) and his scantily clad, physically vulnerable, sexualized female subordinate. All in all, I’m not sure what to think of the whole issue. Kara’s dialogue on the final page is rather amusing…

Dialogue that made me wince:
“A tip for your super-scrapbook, “Honey” – don’t play mind games against a crazy chick.”
“Tell me what the hell is going on, or I’ll forget I’m such a “hero” and PMS the crap out of both of you.”


Michelle loves comics and code. A lifelong Superfamily fan, she’s been collecting comics for 20 years, and running Supergirl: Maid of Might since 2000.

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