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    Supergirl: The Crown Jewel Of The Superbooks

    By | December 28th, 2009
    Posted in Columns | % Comments

    I’m not a big fan of Superman or the Superman books (I love how often I write this sentence on this website). I’ve read my fair share of Superman stories, sure, but I can never call myself a Superman fan. With the recent crossover event of New Krypton, in which the lost bottled city of Kandor is released and all hell breaks loose in between Earth and the Kryptonians, we finally saw a clear continuity being drawn in between the pages of Action Comics, Superman, and the lesser discussed Supergirl. As the books continue to intertwine with each other as well as the new limited book World Of New Krypton, I continue to read all of them. It’s odd — if you’d asked me a year ago today if I’d be keeping up with the Superman books, I would have laughed a hearty laugh. Now, I read them all! I’m even looking forward to the upcoming Brainiac crossover, as well as the War of the Supermen “event” arc, whatever that may entail.

    It’s with this in mind, though, that I believe that I can comment on something: I firmly believe that Supergirl is the best Super-title on the market..

    Why? Read on, to find out!

    Now, this isn’t so much a character spotlight as it is a spotlight of an entire series, but I’d be wrong if I didn’t take a minute to discuss Supergirl as a character. To be quite honest, Supergirl is not a character that I ever saw myself really ever caring about. At least, not in the way that I care what happens to a DC character like Shazam or Green Lantern. Supergirl just is, with her odd choice of costume (how does her mother let her out of Krypton like that?)*, her limited rogues gallery, and general dismissiveness from fans (unless we’re talking about fanboys at a convention… then they LOVE seeing Supergirl). But when you really start getting into the books, there’s actually quite a lot to like about the character. In comparison with other Kryptonians, she’s definitely the one that is closest with Superman as far as general morality goes, especially when all you have to compare with is Superboy (who thinks being Lex Luthor could be a good idea?) and Power Girl (who… well, have you seen HER costume?). She’s much more light hearted than Kal, though, so when you read her stories it’s kind of like reading a Superman book if Superman had a bigger sense of humor. She’s sassy, a strong female character in comics, and she loves cats! That’s a selling point for me right there! And in recent years, she’s really ramped up her status in the superhero community, fighting more powerful villains with bigger challenges and being known for more than just taking down Air Force One that one time by accident (she swears).

    I guess my main thing against the Superbooks these days is just the lack of stand alone capability. When you take them apart and look at the books, they’ve kind of fallen apart, mostly because Superman isn’t in the title himself. The whole “World Against Superman” thing isn’t very interesting. Mon-El is a great character, and I love him from the Legion, but his stories so far have been pretty poor, even with Robinson taking over, who I like a lot. Action Comics, featuring the new Nightwing and Flamebird, has been a complete roller coaster ride of being good and bad. When they hunt Kryptonians – it’s good. Every other story? Can’t say I’m interested. And World of New Krypton has been very hit or miss so far, featuring some stories that are interesting and others, like the last issue, that just fizzle. My main issue with that title is that, for a book that’s suppose to be about a brand new developing society, it seems much more like a filler book in between now and when every other title is ready for the upcoming super events. It’s in that that the read just feels ultimately pointless and unnecessary.

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    I understand that it’s very easy to look over Supergirl as a character, though, which is why we need not just a good writer to come in, but a great one. Cue Sterling Gates, the new kid on the block. As far as I can tell, Supergirl is his first big character book in the DCU, but since I’ve been reading post-New Krypton, there hasn’t been an issue of Supergirl I didn’t like. She had one of the biggest moments in the whole New Krypton storyline when her father died, and this played a huge part of the books to come. The following “Who Is Superwoman Arc?” is when I really started to love the book, though. As Supergirl searched for Reactron, her father’s killer, she began to somewhat team up with the mysterious Superwoman, who we already saw was bad news at the end of the New Krypton story. As the story progressed, we saw that she clearly was an enemy, and eventually Supergirl had to take the elusive foe down. The entire storyline featured great writing and character development, as well as steady and talented art in the book throughout. In all honesty, in my short time following Supergirl I’ve actually seen more character development in this book alone than I see in most books in general. Supergirl, or Kara, has had to come up with her new secret identity (as a member of the Lang) family, learn to adjust to a “civilian life,” and then had to decide her role in between Earth and Krypton, with Earth wanting to push her out completely. Add her dad dying in the middle of it all and you’ve got a troubled teen. It reminds me what I loved about Ultimate Spider-Man, with a teen hero going through normal adolescent problems as well as superhero problems, and it makes for the best thing I’ve found coming out of New Krypton and the departure of Geoff Johns from the books.

    It’s no wonder that this has ended up like this, though. For those that do not know, Sterling Gates is somewhat of Geoff Johns’ protege on some levels. From what I’ve read about how Gates came to work with DC, it’s because of his interaction with Johns. It only makes sense that he would end up being as intriguing of a writer as Johns. Gates has been involved with numerous crossovers in the books, such as “The Hunt For Reactron” and the “Codename: Patriot” arcs, and Supergirl has always been the best book in every set. When allowed to go on his own, though, Gates has each time managed to write great build up with a tremendous pay-off. I have not gone back and read the Supergirl stuff Gates wrote before New Krypton, but again I come back to the Superwoman arc. It featured great build up, mystery, intrigue, action, and then a pay off that was satisfying for someone reading that book alone. You didn’t have to read a million other things to get the story – you only have to read this one arc. It’s something not a lot of authors are doing at this time. So many people want to write throwbacks to older DC stories, so that before you can “get” what you just read, you need to go buy a bunch of old trades and read all those stories too. Gates comes in as a new writer to write brand new stories with characters that are old, but with no previous knowledge necessary. It makes it really great for new readers to the title, like me. Even the current arc, which features the villain Silver Banshee, takes the time to explain who that villain is and what we need to know that’s important. It’s a great consideration for fans.

    As the Superbooks continue to intertwine (the most recent Superman and Action Comics will be interwoven with an arc, as well as the future featuring the Brainiac and the Legion of Super-Heroes arc which will be between all books), I can’t continue to recommend Supergirl enough. Considering you’ll need to be reading all the books together soon enough, I suppose you should at least have one that you can look forward to. Sterling Gates has made Supergirl a book that sits at the top of my weekly reads, and the future for the book looks great. With issue 50 right around the corner, it’d be a great jumping on point for anyone interested in collecting the single issues vs. just trades. I think it’s also a good idea to keep your eyes open for Supergirl trades, starting with the Who Is Superwoman trade (assuming you’ve read New Krypton already). Gates has also done a pretty good mini, called World’s Finest, which hasn’t measured up quite as much to Supergirl but is relatively entertaining. And definitely keep your eyes open for Gates in the future – I see good things happening for him.

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    *As a complete sidenote to this article, that really has nothing to do with anything, I just have to wonder – for characters who fly around in space, doesn’t it get cold? I mean, for the most part, you’ve got characters like Green Lantern, who creates a protective bubble around him, or Doc Fate, who uses his magic to keep him alive, or even Superman, who wears a full body suit that withstands all sorts of attacks and can certainly survive entry into outer space. But Supergirl is in a mini-skirt and revealing tank top. I know she’s Kryptonian and is powered by the Earth’s sun, but she has shown signs of feeling various forms of temperature changes in the comics, so why doesn’t the absolute freezing temperature of space effect her? How does this make sense?!

    Good God, I’m turning into Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory more and more every day.

    Matthew Meylikhov

    Once upon a time, Matthew Meylikhov became the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Multiversity Comics, where he was known for his beard and fondness for cats. Then he became only one of those things. Now, if you listen really carefully at night, you may still hear from whispers on the wind a faint voice saying, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not as bad as everyone says it issss."