A new creative team brings DC’s Supergirl to comic book shops this week. Get ready to meet a different version of the Daughter of Krypton; one who has survived trauma upon trauma and, while still carrying the Batman-Who-Laughs infection, is struggling to find out who she really is.
Even with a new creative team on board, this issue is still carrying a lot of baggage over from this years crossover event. What can writer Jody Houser and artist Rachael Stott do to breathe life into the character?
Teenager of Krypton
Recent storylines have seen Supergirl facing the destroyers of her home world in the depths of space before returning to Earth to battle even more dramatic, and catastrophic, events. Ultimately, she has been pushed to the very edge. Left with an infection that has affected her mind as well as giving her a metal, punk rock look, Kara attempts to get on with her life. Unfortunately for those around her, her appearance isn’t the only thing that has undergone a radical alteration. Kara’s attitude has become confrontational, inpatient, even superior.
In essence she has become a teenager, cursed with super powers.
Houser has a lot of debris to pick through from the last few months of story. The direction that the character has been taken leaves Houser in a difficult position: she can’t just start afresh, the past is still very much present. Despite this, Hauser has made a clear statement with this issue, one that will set the course for the next few issues at least.
Supergirl’s new overconfident, almost cocky, attitude is front and centre in the narrative. From the opening pages with the traditional style rescue to the confrontation with her cousin and the Dark Knight of Gotham, Houser portrays Supergirl as impatient and self important. She has discovered a strength that she wasn’t aware of and, like anyone moving into a new phase in their life, she doesn’t have the experience to manage it.
Superhero Lightness and Dark
Despite the attitude, and the hint of darkness that comes with it, Rachael Stott’s artwork is full of joy and pops from the page. She creates exciting compositions within complex panel layouts. A wide angled shot of action is often interrupted by a personal close up, emphasising the emotion behind the activity.
Stott has drawn for a number of light hearted franchises that hold darker souls which makes her a perfect fit for this Supergirl. There is an air of enjoyment to the pages, and a flippancy that can be associated with teenagers acting out. The sequences where Kara fights Superman and Batman are largely humorous in the way Stott has depicted them. For example, Supergirl casually flings her cousin away while quipping.
A part of the jovial nature of the action is brought about by the comically expressive sound effects and the contrast between the speech fonts that Tom Napolitano uses. Supergirl’s speech is especially of interest as it flits between a standard, superhero font and a harsher, bolder text that appears more handwritten. These conflicting styles in her speech give the impression there is a struggle going on within Supergirl, as if Kara is fighting the infection that has turned her into a rage filled teenager.
This darker undertone is portrayed by Stott through occasional panels that give the reader a moment to pause and contemplate exactly what is happening. In these images there is a silent argument at work within the central character, one that almost physically manifests itself. These set pieces also give Cris Peter the opportunity to play with the colors.
For the most part the colors are competent superhero fare but there are panels where the color choices do more. The shifting of the background color from bright yellow to dark orange signifies more than just a sunset, it also highlights the inner turmoil of the characters.
The Supergirl comic goes through waves with strong, engaging stories lulling into page fillers and crossover events that rarely have any have any relevance to Supergril herself. This year the quality of the stories have been on a downward slope, however with a new writer and artist on-board it offers the comic a chance to perk back up.
With Houser and Stott in the driving seats the future looks good for Kara, even with the hangovers from the recent Year of the Villain to contend with. This issue of Supergirl is energetic, focuses on the titular character with some degree of respect, and proves that you can have fun superhero comics, even with some darker elements in the mix.