By: Michael Alan Nelson (writer); Diogenes Neves (penciler); Marc Deering, Oclair Albert, & Ruy Jose (Inks;) Dave McCaig (colors)
The Story: The Cyborg Superman gives Kara a gift for the girl who has everything, but he wants one in return.
The Review: Supergirl’s a character that I think has gotten a bad rap. She’s been a household name for a long time now, but she’s never really become anything more than Superman’s cousin to most people. Well, if you’ve always scoffed at the idea of ‘girl Superman’ or never found the time or money to investigate Kara Zor-El, may I suggest doing so now.
While she doesn’t have the same spunk that made Power Girl such a hit before the reboot, the New 52 Supergirl is hardly the Kansas farm girl that many presume her to be. In fact, I’d risk it to say that she’s actually one of the best representations of a teenager looking for her place in comics right now.
Rather than play her for humor, Michael Alan Nelson gives Kara real troubles and writes them with all the seriousness they deserve. Supergirl has always suffered most when defined, in this order, by being a girl and by being a teenager, but here Kara is a hero who just happens to be young and just happens to be a girl.
But lest you think that this is a grim n gritty read, I assure you that the book nails Kara’s moments of confusion, bringing a different but enjoyable brand of comedy and character into the series. When the Cyborg Superman reveals his plan, Kara responds beautifully, (beat) You want to say that again? I couldn’t hear you over all the creepiness coming out of your mouth!” This is a young woman who feels alone in the universe but that doesn’t for a second get in the way of the her certainty of what she feels. Whether it amounts to conviction or foolhardiness, Kara’s precarious but unwavering self-confidence makes her feel like a real teenager.
I also have to mention one scene where Kara talks about Krypton, because it’s touching and wonderful and real. As we balance Kara’s complicated feelings about her own history against Hank Henshaw’s beautifully creepy commentary, we get to see the super and the girl, the epic space opera and the human struggle.
Unfortunately for the book, for all the myriad things it does right, it’s just a little bit academic. The action scenes are nice but they don’t get the heart racing quite the way Batman or Superman: Unchained does.
Diogenes Neves turns in some lovely pencils. The twisting surface of I’noxia and Kenneth Rocafort’s new Cyborg Superman are expertly rendered. Neves seems particularly skilled at expressing the particular menace of the Cyborg, making him sinister throughout but charismatic enough to hunt after Kara’s trust.
Some pages have more problems that others, an obvious example being the first page, where Supergirl seems rather…pointy. Sometimes faces seem off, sometimes they’re excellent. Sometimes the lack of backgrounds is noticeable, sometimes it blends in. It’s a mixed bag, but I think that Neves succeeds in the ways that count most.
The relationship with cheesecake is complicated, but comes down on the right side of the line. And, despite the presence of three different inkers, the book maintains an impressive level of visual consistency.
Neves’ manga-inspired eyes bring the characters to life, allowing Kara to sigh, wretch, or cry unbelievably. Though the overall look of the issue is consistent with a mid-level title, don’t let it fool you. Just because it doesn’t have the style of Cliff Chaing or the detail of Ivan Reis, doesn’t change the fact that this is beautiful work.
The Conclusion: Supergirl is still missing the spark to be a sleeper hit, but if you enjoy slower comics with a focus on character, you should probably check this out. The art is excellent, the writing strong, and the layouts lively. Especially with hints that one of Superman’s greatest enemies might be showing up in the near future, this is a great place to jump onto the adventures of Krypton’s last citizen.