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‘Supergirl: Being Super’ OGN (review)

Written by Mariko Tamaki
Art by Joëlle Jones
Published by DC Ink

 

With the exception of Hawkman, has any comic book character ever had continuity as convoluted as Supergirl’s?

There were three or four “Supergirls” in Mort Weisinger’s Superman comics even before Kara showed up in the late ‘50s, her existence kept completely secret by her cousin, Superman, by giving her a brunette wig and placing her in an orphanage.

Eventually she gets adopted, her existence is revealed, and she has a long run of short stories in Action Comics, followed by full-length ones in Adventure Comics before finally getting her own title. That title starts and stops several times before she’s finally killed off for good in one of the most dramatic issues of Crisis on Infinite Earths (although not before a pointless retcon that showed her married to an alien).

The new continuity that resulted from that crossover had no Supergirl…at first.

At least if one doesn’t count Alan Brennert’s brilliant Kara cameo in a Deadman Christmas story.

Then came this shapeshifting something that became a new Supergirl. That’s when things really started to get crazy with more and more reboots on a regular basis! And don’t forget the TV Supergirl!

Throw in the case of Power Girl who was meant to be the Supergirl of Earth 2 only Earth 2 retroactively never existed post-Crisis so…Head explodes.

Gee, thanks, Dr. Manhattan!

But scrap all of that because here, in Supergirl Being Super, we start from scratch…again. And so far, it works. Rather than muddying the waters even further, this current take is different enough to make it very promising indeed.

It’s paced for the long haul so we get to know teenage Kara long before we meet Supergirl. In fact, we get to know her so well, the book sometimes comes across as a CW show in print—and not the Supergirl CW show, either. More like Dawson’s Creek or One Tree Hill.

Kara’s story here is essentially the one traditionally associated with Kal-el. She arrives in a rocket as a toddler and a kindly farm family take her in and raise her as their own in the small rural community of Midvale.

But there are secrets in Midvale. Lots of them it turns out.

All Kara and her two besties are trying to do is survive their teenage years and maybe reach a goal or two along the way, but they’re being watched. And more. Kara, as you might suspect, has secrets of her own that her big, burly, bearded father has always told her to keep to herself. But then disaster strikes just as she turns 16, and it comes in both the form of a zit and the form of a fatal earthquake.

The book passes the Bechdel Test as the female characters spend most of their time talking amongst themselves without ever interacting with or discussing men. One character, identified as gay, is written particularly realistically and is my favorite character. Okay, she’s gay. As in real life, that doesn’t color her every waking moment. It’s noted simply as part of a fuller picture, just as Kara being an alien doesn’t change the other aspects of Kara that we already had learned.

One of Supergirl’s problems has always been Superman.

She’s so often been portrayed as a lesser version of him. Here, there is no mention of Superman’s existence at all until late in the book. Personally, I wish they’d left him out. Kara is developing just fine on her own without being shoehorned back into his shadow

Supergirl Being Super, written by Mariko Tamaki and drawn by Joëlle Jones (with Sandu Florea) is a unique and enjoyable take on a far too often mishandled character. The writing is crisp, very modern, and lifelike while the art has an absolute classic feel to it every step of the way, reminding me of some of the best mainstream art from 1980s comics. The fact that both creators are women may or may not have anything to do with how well this book about a young woman comes across. But it certainly hasn’t hurt it.

This is another case where I feel compelled to also give a shout out to the colorist, one Jeremy Lawson. His creative usage of browns, blues, and singular flashes of red throughout adds immeasurably to the overall impact of the art.

The book ends exactly where it needs to end and while it’s clearly setting up another chapter, if it stops right there, it works. Anything beyond this ending will inevitably change the dynamic of the story and the personality of the character that this volume sets up so perfectly.

Booksteve recommends.

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