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Review: The Adventures of Supergirl Chapter 1: This Girl is on Fire

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Can we take a moment to appreciate how weird a character Supergirl is? Superman may be labelled the “Last Son of Krypton”, but the sheer amount of people or dogs (Kyrpto, I’m looking at you) that escaped the planet’s destruction is astounding. Kara Zol-El was originally sent to Earth to look after her baby cousin; Kal-El only to accidentally get placed in suspended animation for decades. When she awakes, not only is Kal-El no longer a baby, but he has become the Man of Steel himself. Their destined roles now reversed, it is up to Superman to take care of his cousin and guide her. If Supergirl hadn’t been a product of the Silver Age, you’d swear she was the product of someone’s fan fiction. As such, I have often struggled with the character. I accept the importance of the character’s death during Crisis on Infinite Worlds, but outside of a 2004 Batman/Superman story-line, there was nothing that endeared me to the character. Her Earth 2 counterpart;Power Girl, was interesting because of her unwillingness to be defined solely as Superman’s cousin, but Supergirl lacked that independence and often served as a plot device for when an unknown Kryptonian issue would reek its head. CBS’ Supergirl , on the other hand, is about a Kara Zor-El, who wants to pay tribute to her cousin without being subservient to his legacy. Clark may be her inspiration, but he doesn’t define who she is. This Kara Zol-El is her own woman, a superhero and interesting character who just so happens to have a famous cousin. The Adventures of Supergirl by writer;Sterling Gates and Artist; Bengal is not only a fitting tie-in to the TV show, but a fantastic work in its own right.

This comic acts as an interesting companion piece to the Burnside Batgirl series, one aimed at millennials, but appeals to a much broader readership desperate for something different. The foreground of this revolves around a monster-of-the-week fight with Superman villian; Rampage, but that fight serves as a vehicle for recapping the TV series’ premise and certain aspects of the pilot developed by Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler and Andrew Kreisburg. One could argue that it’s redundant because the majority of those picking up the comic will be familiar the show but given that the new 52 has done nothing for the character, it is necessary as a way of re-introduces readers to the character. Besides based on their work on DC characters, up until this point,  I’m fairly certain Berlanti and Kresiberg could convince me to watch a show about the aptly named Challengers of the Unknown. The first chapters highlights what makes the series great, an understanding of how to humanise one with godlike powers. The problem with a lot of Superman stories is that the failure to understand that the best drama is internal in nature. There is a reason why Superman’s greatest adversary is one who challenges him on an intellectual and philosophical level.  The villains and actions scenes should be a way of personifying the internal challenges that such characters face. Smallville was always great at showing the impact that living in a world of cardboard would have on a young hero. The need to constantly be in control, to constantly restrain yourself, is something that Clark had to learn over that show’s tenure. Supergirl is faced with a similar dilemma, having embraced her powers, she must now learn to control them effectively. The young Kryptonian refugee certainly has the raw power and potential to be a hero, but as the new kid on the block, she must learn the accompanying responsibility. Kara’s inexperience is what prevents her from being a great hero and that is her true antagonist. Supergirl can certainly do lots of things, but the question is should she and how her actions influence those around her.It has the great emotional core of Smallville without all the fluff. Sterling Gates captures Kara’s voice quite well, emulating the uncertainty that she feels and her worries regarding how people perceive her relative to Superman. I look forward to seeing how Mr. Gates deals with Kara vis-a-vis other characters in the coming chapters as this inaugural outing is a soliloquy of sorts.

Isupergirlt’s really nice that publishers have finally recognised that bright, energetic and vibrant artwork has a place in the industry. Bengal is a French comic book artist who has been active in the European industry for a number of years and it is reflected in his style of artwork. One thing that the European comic tradition has always exemplified is a style unrestricted by much of the gritty photo-realism that often dominates the US market. It looks and feels like a sophisticated animated series. It’s position outside of mainstream DC continuity allows it that flexibility with regards character designs and house styles. It is unafraid to be a There is a joy to art like, an intangible quality that reflects the love and fun that went into its creation. My one gripe, and it is one that doesn’t reflect the quality of the work per se, is that it doesn’t take advantage of the unique features a digital comic can provide creators. There is no attempt to layer images in such as way as to ensure a smoother progression from panel to panel. There is not problem with designing a weekly digital comic as a more serialised form of the traditional print comic, but it can feel like a wasted opportunity. Bengal’s artwork itself is beyond reproach, it’s glad to see a style such as his being embraced.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s just a damn fine comic and one that sits comfortably alongside recent endeavors to give nuanced female-led titles the spotlight that they deserve in an ever diversifying readership. Much like the DCAU of old, The Adventures of Supergirl is that special kind of adaptation that exceeds its source material. The mainstream DC universe hasn’t treated Kara well over the last few years and it’s about time that she got her kumuppins. We need better female representation in comics and it looks like it just might be a job for Supergirl. The series can only go up, up and away from here.

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A review copy was kindly provided by the publisher.

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Gary Moloney
Some would say that he is a mine of information, too bad most of it is useless. You can read his own comic work over on garymoloney.tumblr.com. Follow him on Twitter @m_gearoid.