It’s 40 Days of Supergirl here at Multiversity Comics and we’re celebrating the Girl Of Steel and everything she brings to the DC Universe! Here, I’m going to be taking a look back at somewhat overlooked chapter in the Maiden Of Might’s life as Kelly Sue DeConnick and ChrisCross closed out the “Supergirl” series prior to the New 52 in a beautiful and poignant way that reminds us of the humanity at the core of the character.
Read on below for the full review of issues #65, #66 and #67 of “Supergirl,” collecting the story titled ‘This Is Not My Life’ by Kelly Sue DeConnick and ChrisCross.
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Illustrated by ChrissCross
“This is Not My Life” part 1! Supergirl goes undercover on a college campus to help Lois Lane uncover the truth behind a string of recent student disappearances!
2011 was a strange time for DC Comics. For most of the year, its comics were living on borrowed time as the reboot of the New 52 reared it’s head. The looming reset button meant that larger stories were going to be cut short, as was the case with most of the series at DC. One of the lucky ones was “Supergirl”, which managed to sneak in one last three-part story that, at the very least, managed to provide some closure for the character before the big switch up. That closure came in the form of a story by Kelly Sue DeConnick and ChrisCross, with inks by Marc Deering and colours by Blond, which sees Supergirl going undercover at a Metropolis university to investigate a number of missing children.
Just as 2011 was a strange time for DC as a whole, it was a very interesting time for Supergirl herself. If you’re coming into this story clean, the landscape of Kara Zor-El’s life might look fairly different than what you’d expect, especially if you’re main experience with the character is the CW show. For one, Kara’s secret identity is not that of Kara Danvers, but instead she is working as an intern at the Daily Plant under the name Linda Lang. This isn’t necessarily important to the story, but does give a sense of how this character has evolved different and explains why she goes undercover as Linda Lane, a niece of Lois’, at the university.
The other notable thing about this story is how little Supergirl is actually in it. Kara shows up in costume during the first and third issues of the story, but remains in character as Linda Lane for the entirety of the second issue and most of the third. This focus on Linda puts the humanity of the character at the forefront, focusing on her intuition and investigative skills more than on how much she can punch which is a nice change of pace for a story about a Kryptonian character. This is where we see Kelly Sue DeConnick’s skill at character interactino and dialogue (something she, apparently, was always fantastic at) shine as Linda meets a host of weird and wonderful characters including her new roommate and a pyjama-sporting secret society. Fans of DC’s current “Gotham Academy” series will find a lot to love in the character dynamics and general storytelling of this series as will pretty much anyone who loves stories in the vein of Nancy Drew. Except, you know, with Kryptnians.
This focus on mystery and investigation not only allows for a new side of Kara’s character to be explored as she connects with her peers on a level we’ve rarely seen in Supergirl stories, but it also allows DeConnick and ChrisCross to explore a sidestory with Lois Lane. Having Lois Lane be a major aspect of the story both ties the story to the larger mythology of Metropolis as well as keeps the story from defining Kara by her connection to Superman. In fact, the Big Blue Boy Scout is barely even mentioned in the story and that’s something that haunted this particular volume of “Supergirl” for a while (and, when you think about it, most Supergirl stories) so having a story that focused on Kara’s skills outside of her Kryptonian abilities or the costume she wears or who she’s related makes this, truly, a story that’s actually about who Kara Zor-El is. It may not have had the space to explore that concept, but it’s one that I feel gives the story a lasting impression.Continued below
The other benefit of keeping Kara’s antics as Supergirl to a minimum is that it allows for ChrisCross to illustrate some fantastic dialogue scenes. ChrisCross’ artwork may not be for everyone, but there’s an exaggerated playfulness to the expressions he gives his characters that keeps the story from ever getting to serious. Sure, it’s a story about college kids being kidnapped, but the tone never strays to far from the playful mystery feeling of a Nancy Drew-style story that makes this story feel genuinely fun. The only downside, however, is that ChrisCross’ linework tends to lose a lot of detail in panels that aren’t closeups. The closeups of characters that showcase the exaggerated facial expressions are a delight, but they also make the panels where a character’s face looks like a smile emoji all the more noticeable.
When the action does kick off, ChrisCross’ style focuses on a sense of speed and momentum, keeping things at a brisk pace and utilising lots of small panels in a page to cover the multiple characters in each action scene. The highlight is perhaps the big action scene to the end of the second issue, #66, which has Kara having to defend a group of humans without giving away her identity as Supergirl. The double page spread ChrisCross employs to showcase Kara’s superhuman speed is simply gorgeous in how it uses the snapshot of time that is a comic book panel to illustrate a character moving faster than the blink of an eye.
Finally, the reason that this story has so much staying power, for me, is the final pages of the last issue. I don’t want to venture too far into spoiler territory here because I want this to be a story you actually go back and read if you haven’t, but it was clear that DeConnick and ChrisCross wanted to leave with a statement on the New 52 and superhero reboots in general. In a poignant moment, Kara talks about the idea of Supergirl as a symbol lasting beyond her and hoping that nobody forgets the person beyond the symbol. It’s an important reminder that these characters can go through changes upon changes and can live in so many different universes, but the reason we love them, the heart of them, are the people behind the masks. This is why we’re doing Supergirl Month. To celebrate the girl behind the S.