DC Comics bring you the finale to Jody Houser and Rachael Stott’s infected Supergirl story arc in this week’s 40th issue. Will the guest stars Wonder Woman and Krypto the Super Dog be enough to bring Kara back from the brink and return her to Hero status? Only time, and one big punch up, can tell.
A recent announcement confirmed that the Supergirl title is due to end with issue 42. This leaves Houser and Stott with only a few issues yet to make their mark on the character. How will they fare with so much Event baggage weighing the story down? Can they save Kara from another forgettable end?
Houser is wrapping up her short lived run on Supergirl with an action packed, punch up between two of the strongest characters in the DC Universe. This issue sees Kara use her anger and resentment to battle Wonder Woman’s resilience. What Houser makes very clear, through her script, is that Diana is not fighting Supergirl, she is fighting the infection within. She refuses to strike back, instead using reason to attack the lost Kryptonian.
Within the melee that takes up the majority of this issue, are the well written, thought provoking words spoken by Wonder Woman. Houser has the Amazonian question Supergirl’s actions and then forces her to look at the consequences littered around her. This results in a comic that holds up the very notion of what it is to be a Hero. In an age when the hero is often indistinguishable from an Anti-hero or even a villain, it is refreshing for a comic to lay it out simply.
If only the plot had something more to offer but it doesn’t. The entire issue is taken up with this struggle between Supergirl and the infection within her; between the notion of what is Good and what is Bad. It wouldn’t be such a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that every issue before this has been exactly the same thing. Previous issues have contained, in essence, a single fight scene so another here is a waste of the diminishing space that the Supergirl comic has.
The worst part about it, and this is a minor spoiler but important, this comic doesn’t even conclude the Infected Supergirl arc, that is going to be picked up and dealt with in Hell Arisen. Unfortunately for Houser and the readers of Supergirl, this entire arc started in a different comic and will end in another. From a readers point of view, this comic is the centre part of the middle of a chapter. It does not stand on its own in any way and leads to a disappointing end.
Due to the nature of the story Stott has little room to play from a storytelling point of view. Her art style is fun and dramatic, a perfect match for a character like Supergirl. Unfortunately she has not had a chance to show off her talents in this run.
Stott captures the power of these two superheroes in her panels, with the characters often shattering through the borders and crossing the gutters. There are also a number of large panels containing multiple images of a character in different positions, challenging the usual constraints of a comic book page. Through this Stott brings a freshness to the comic and a modernity that is more than welcome.
Cris Peter’s colors also have a modern feel to them. They are bold and bright, covering the page like a Gerhard Richter painting. Vivid backgrounds devoid of detail allow the central characters to stand out on the page as the story demands. This chapter is about the interaction between Diana and Kara, all else is irrelevant for the most part.
The focus by the creators on the characters is essential for the story-line and is handled beautifully. At no point during this issue does the reader take their eyes off either superhero. The down side of this is that there is an emptiness to the plot. Something is lacking and this makes the reader notice inconsistencies in some of the art work. This was mentioned in the previous issue and there are a number of occasions in these pages where a not too eagle eyed reader will find a continuity error or two.
The one constantly impressive element of this run of Supergirl has been the lettering by Tom Napolitano. The contrast between the two clashing superheroes, and also the inner fight of Kara and the infection, have been beautifully rendered in the text styles and word balloons. Napolitano’s attention to the script, bringing out Kara’s anger or Diana’s wisdom, makes the central concept of this comic work and ultimately more satisfying for the reader.
Supergirl has been weighed down with debris from Event stories and this has hampered the enjoyment of this run. Houser and Stott have both produced some outstanding work elsewhere in comic books but somehow the heavy DC Universe continuity has held this comic back.
If you read a selection of DC comics and follow the events closely you will definitely get more out of this comic but as a Stand Alone comic, or even a chapter in the story of Supergirl, this is a disappointment. This is not particularly the fault of the creators, more the need to service the publisher as a whole.
This story continues elsewhere, meaning you will have to buy other titles to find out what happens next. For the Supergirl title however, this means that the final two issues can be what this reviewer hoped this run of the comic would be: Houser and Stott enjoying themselves unhindered in the Kryptonian play-pit.