Review: SUPERGIRL #53
This review was started in June but I got stuck in the draft stage. Here it is, a little late but hopefully still reflecting the excitement I felt upon first read.
After the end of the long New Krypton crossover, Supergirl #53 continues the story that Sterling Gates began setting up way back in Supergirl #34 with the introduction of the Linda Lang secret identity. I was very eager to move on from War of the Supermen, but I couldn’t imagine how Supergirl would go on after such devastation.
This issue finds Kara trying to bury herself in her Linda Lang identity, as she continues to be haunted by her overwhelming grief and guilt over the destruction of New Krypton. Oh Kara! :( At the same time there is hope, with the rebuilding of Kara’s relationship with Lana Lang.
The issue opens with an extended version of the final fight between Supergirl and Superwoman, which morphs in a nightmare of walking corpses amid a literal fiery inferno that represents the hell of General Lane’s Project 7734 (the numbers scrawled upside-down on the walls spell out a dream-distorted “HELL”). This was a trauma that Kara was utterly unprepared for – the hell of war. Kara has long struggled with her survivor’s guilt, but this is so much worse than her original escape from Argo. It’s been 41 days since the Kryptonian-Earth war, and she’s still replaying the events of that day in her dreams. This one ends in heat-vision scarring the ceiling of her bedroom in Lana’s apartment.
We don’t see how Kara came to be living with Lana again, but I bet it was awkward and short on words. We know from Supergirl #50 how much Lana needs Kara in her life, and after losing her mother and her world, Kara needs Lana more than ever. I get the sense Lana welcomed her back with open arms and no questions asked. I loved their cautious, stumbling attempt to reconnect as Kara paints over the damage she caused. Kara’s curtness about her dream makes Lana back away, but Kara has matured and quickly apologizes and expresses her gratitude. I love the both of them in this scene so much. Their relationship is strong enough that when Kara makes the shocking announcement that she wants to become Linda Lang permanently and full-time, Lana reacts with surprise but not judgement. She’s clearly worried about Kara abandoning her identity, but holds back from saying more.
Kara appears to have cut her hair a few inches since we last saw her. It’s cute! Jamal Igle has a sketch on his DeviantArt account of a proposed Supergirl redesign that was rejected, in which he shortened her hair a bit and gave it a flip. I’m really glad he was able to introduce this element. It’s subtle, freshens up her profile, and makes her look a bit more mature while still being very “Supergirl”.
I loved all the little details in Kara’s room, from the books on her desk to the clothes on the floor which she shoves into the closet when Lana walks in, to her light blue t-shirt with the I.S.H. logo (should I know what that means?), to the “Vampire Diaries” poster (hehe). Compared to Kara’s spotless and minimalist suite on New Krypton, this is a very American teenager’s bedroom. I love the colours by Nei Ruffino in Linda’s bedroom and later in the cafe.
Meanwhile, things are going very badly for Lucy. Yikes!
Pesky little things like prisoner/patient’s rights and informed consent are clearly not a concern at S.T.A.R. Labs. I thought Dr. Light was one of the good guys. The DCU has power dampeners for *everything*. Forcing such a painful “treatment” on Lucy against her will is completely unacceptable. Have they even heard of medical ethics at S.T.A.R. Labs??
If this is intended to create sympathy for Lucy when she inevitably breaks out (there’s a crack in her shackle following the explosion at the lab), it’s working!
We cut back to a cafe on a bustling Metropolis street where Lana and Kara, in her Linda glasses and her hair pulled back in two cute pigtails, are bonding in a quintessential urban setting. (Linda is very cute! The way her hair is parted and pulled back from her face reminds me of Linda in Supergirl #4 by Gary Frank.) We learn that Kara was missing for six weeks and, most interesting, that she doesn’t want to discuss what she was doing during all that time. Oooh! I sense a story of the missing time in the near future!
Lana starts to suggest that Linda explore the possibility of attending Metropolis University, but is interrupted by a blast that shatters the window and sends the customers flying (I love the flying cars outside Linda and Lana’s window that they completely miss.) The wreckage of broken glass and injured bodies made me gasp. Excellent work by Jamal Igle.
The good moment between Lana and Linda evaporates, as Lana realizes that Kara is really not going to get involved as Supergirl. I understand Lana’s horror that Kara won’t try to help injured people in her capacity as Supergirl, but I have to wonder what would happen if she were to suddenly show up in costume. We don’t even know what Supergirl’s status is post-war, politically/legally. She might be arrested by the Science Police or one of the many para-military/meta-policing forces the DCU seems to be full of. Given the unresolved hostility towards Kryptonians, I don’t think she can just go back to being Supergirl without facing some serious antagonism.
But Supergirl’s going to be back in action soon in spite of Kara’s plans, because a Bizarro Supergirl has crash-landed to Earth in a spaceship that, strangely, is an exact replica of the spaceship that delivered Kara. And this BizarroGirl looks pretty dangerous!
The Supergirl #53 cover was pencilled and inked by Jamal Igle himself and comes in two versions: the original (above left) that was originally solicited to promote the “Who is Supergirl?” storyline, and a revised and recoloured version with a busy backdrop of men and bullets flying behind Supergirl that was added by Jamal for publication.
I much prefer the original version with the exploding yellow background. It’s everything I want in a Supergirl cover – iconic, exuberant, and timeless. The revised cover is still awesome but not nearly as striking. It definitely fits in better with the story inside. I can’t help thinking that the original version would have been perfect for a big anniversary issue.
Jamal Igle has posted a step-by-step of this cover’s creation, from the initial sketch to final product.
Jamal’s rendition of Kara’s face and hair have evolved so much since he started. I think she looks amazing and wonderful here. I love the wave in her hair, the twinkle in her eye and that little Jamal Igle tug at the mouth. This is the Supergirl I’ve come to know and love through Jamal’s art over the past two years. It took me a while to become accustomed to Jamal’s rendition of Supergirl. I didn’t like the way he drew Kara at first: she didn’t seem larger than life, her hair was blah, her facial features not well defined. But that was just the early issues. Soon I began noticing how much I liked Kara’s facial expressions, the warmth brought to the character’s interactions, the stunning action scenes. Jamal Igle’s Supergirl has become the definitive image of Supergirl for me. This cover just finalizes that. This feels like the Kara we were building towards before New Krypton.
This cover is more a promise of better things to come than a reflection of where Kara is emotionally right now, but I’m okay with that. I’m looking forward to seeing how an anachronistic Silver Age concept like Bizarro World plays out in the modern Supergirl.