In this week’s Supergirl #36 from DC Comics, the Daughter of Krypton finally joins the universal Event story featuring the Batman Who Laughs virus. With the infection spreading wildly, what will Kara’s roll be in the fight between heroes?
Drawn to the Fortress of Solitude by Brainiac, Supergirl is infected with nanites and stopped in her tracks. Fighting internally to break free, Supergirl has limited time before the evil Brainiac can download all of the Kryptonian database. But a larger threat is on the horizon, one that could spell doom for both Supergirl and her enemy. One infecting the DC Universe. The Batman Who Laughs.
A Mixing of Genres
A strong opening sees Supergirl overrun by insect like robots, their extendable legs covering her body, attempting to claw inside. The scene is reminiscent of a scene from Superman III and contains the same level of horror generated by that 1980’s movie.
Marc Andreyko sets the scene early and reiterates the horror motif that has been running through the last few issues of this superhero comic. It has all been building to this: a confrontation with Brainiac.
Except, there is a lot of other stuff going on. This issue is tightly linked to various other DC comics that are released this month, with some of the fight scenes being shared across the pages of Batman/Superman. The Batman Who Laughs virus that has been infecting other heroes has finally found its way into the pages of Supergirl and not even her super strength can protect her.
How Andreyko manoeuvre’s Kara from the Fortress of Solitude into the greater DC arena is almost flippant in its disregard for narrative structure. He turns his back on the opening so quickly that he undermines the months of build up that has surrounded the two characters and their inevitable meeting. A resolution of sorts comes later in the comic but even this moment feels rushed, a victim of the crossover story.
And that is where this issue’s main problem lays. It is swallowed by the crossover. If you aren’t reading any of the other DC comics then this will leave you out in the cold; partially wondering what is going on but also not really caring very much. The ‘evil’ Supergirl comes off as lazy, both in design and character, especially without the backstory of the Batman Who Laughs. The action then moves at break-neck speed as if Andreyko has to tie everything up before the end of this issue.
The narrative is a blend of skin crawling horror and light hearted superhero shenanigans. There is plenty of banter in the fight sequences and pantomime level posturing by the villains but none of it is genuine enough to be anything other than cheesy. A clever script could have pulled this off but Andreyko just doesn’t quite manage it.
Goth Girl In Action
The only thing keeping the reader engrossed in this issue is the art work. Eduardo Pansica’s pencils and Julio Ferreira’s inks bring all of the energy and dynamism you would associate with the character. The Superhero tropes are there, just as in the script, but the clever panel layouts and shifting points of view give the artwork an edge over the narrative. The visual storytelling blends the horror and superhero aspects together successfully making this issue decidedly uncomfortable in places. The theme’s are set in the opening and carried throughout, almost overcoming the cliches of the costume design, which have been forced onto the comic by the crossover.
The coloring is a lot more murky than usual, another victim of the crossover. In an attempt to bring the comic more in line with the other titles in the event Chris Sotomayor has toned down the color pallet. The scenery is awash with grays and there is a prevailing sickly green tinge to an array of panels. These coloring choices do make sense in the grander scheme of the story and they reflect effectively Kara’s journey in this issue.
Unsurprisingly, the only aspect of the comic not adversely affected by the crossover is the lettering. Tom Napolitano does a spectacular job of keeping the speech flowing evenly through the panels and differentiating between characters; especially between those infected by the virus. For Napolitano the crossover offers him the opportunity to play around with the styles he has set up in previous issues.
When people talk about the pros and cons of Event comics, Supergirl #36 could be used as a prime example of both the good and the bad. It has engaging elements that relate to the characters own story, written and drawn by the usual artists. However, it also has a narrative forced upon by the crossover with a whole set of new cliches, most likely designed by another team of creators. The joins between the two are obvious and more often than not the quality of one is lost beneath the need of the other.
Entire scenes are missing from the story because they happen in a different comic. This interferes with the pacing of this comic and pulls the reader out of the story. Even if you are reading the related titles, the flow of Supergirl is interrupted and her story, the one that readers have been following for the last few months, is almost dismissed with a wave of a hand. The conclusion is unsatisfying and quick. Regular readers are let down by the need to include the crossover events.
The Supergirl comic, historically, always has the same problem. A new creative team launch the comic with some outstanding stories, building an impressive world for Kara Danvers to live in. But after a while, the momentum flags and the old stories are repeated, with Supergirl thrown into any and all Event stories as possible. This in turn dilutes her narrative and affects the quality of her comic until a re-launch with a brand new creative team.
We are currently in the later part of that cycle and next month sees a new team take on the Daughter of Krypton, albeit with the hangovers from this event story. Hopefully Supergirl will once again take flight and soar above the rest, where she belongs.