Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Issue Review: Supergirl 23 (New 52)

Following the events of last month's issue, Supergirl flees from the population of I'noxia, who are capable of making all her memories come to life. At the behest of "Cyborg Superman," the I'noxians have become all of the superheroes and supervillains Kara has ever met, and proceed to attack her.  Supergirl battles memories of Wonder Woman, Superman, Silver Banshee, the Worldkillers, Superboy, and Simon Tycho, before finally being captured and imprisoned by Cyborg Superman.  He still plans to use her body, but first he has to cleanse it of Kryptonite Poisoning. The I'noxians do so, and then Supergirl appears to disintegrate.  As Cyborg Superman's "creator," the Brainiac, hovers overhead preparing to attack, Cyborg uses Kara's body to regain his own -- and turns out to be (apparently) Zor-El, Kara's father.

This 23rd issue of Supergirl marks the end of her second year since the beginning of the New 52, and shows us just how far we have fallen since the last truly great issue of this series, which was #13.  Writer Michael Alan Nelson turns in a story that could have been a great character study of Kara Zor-El (think about it: she's battling her own memories) but instead devolves into a shallow, superficial mess. There is nothing thought-provoking or even mildly interesting about Kara's struggles with her memories, and her characterization is downright terrible, not to mention unbelievable.

Probably the worst aspect of Nelson's writing is the dialogue.  I believe Nelson is a neophyte to writing comic-books, and it definitely shows here.  His dialogue is frequently stilted and awkward, and he has Supergirl speak words that simply ought not to be coming out of a teenager's mouth.  On the very first page, she calls Superman a "sanctimonious poseur."  Supergirl at this point in her series has been on earth all of a few months (if that). She has had no earth-bound education. Just where exactly would she have learned to use a French-derived term like "poseur." So far as we have been shown, she's not even aware that the nation of France exists, let alone knowing anything about its vocabulary.

Even more sloppily, a few pages later, Kara refers to her mother when fighting Wonder Woman by saying, "You're half the woman she ever was!" This line of dialogue is atrocious for three reasons. First, it's not even the correct use of the metaphor, which is commonly stated in the English language as "You're not even half the woman she was."  Second, it's an incredibly trite expression. And third, the colloquialism of the phrase completely contradicts the earlier use of "poseur."  Thus, on one page we have Kara using a word that even the highly educated rarely employ, and on the next she's down in the gutter, mis-using a very cliche'ed, common expression.  Why is she ping-ponging between these two speech patterns?

Then we have Supergirl using an earthly reference that she probably shouldn't know anything about (not having yet been explained any earth history so far as we have seen):  When Silver Banshee attacks while complaining that Supergirl left her to be taken over by a demon, Kara responds, "Let me exorcise it for you!"  But exorcism is a middle English term from around the 1400s, derived from Greek roots, and is based on earthly religions -- of which Kara Zor-El should have, at this point, absolutely no knowledge. So why is she using a reference to a middle English term about earth religions? This is wildly out of character for the New 52 Supergirl.

The reference to exorcism is not the only statement that flies in the face of New 52 continuity.  Later, when Kara is offered a position as a Worldkiller, she respons, "I don't kill worlds -- I protect them!"  Um... since when, Kara?  What worlds has she protected, other than earth?  And even then, she spent most of the H'el arc unwittingly helping H'el almost to destroy earth, and only backed off at the last minute.  Her victory over the Worldkillers in issue 7 did protect the earth, but she didn't really do that on purpose -- she was mainly fighting for her own survival, and happened to save earth in the process.  In fact, throughout this character's existence, almost all of her actions are done in the name of saving her own neck, not "saving worlds." Kara as much as admits that she is mainly motivated by self-preservation a few pages later while fighting Simon Tycho, when she says that if he didn't want to die, he shouldn't have tried to kill her.  Supergirl, in fact, has yet to be much of a superhero at all in the New 52 universe. Thus, her words ring completely false -- she does not protect worlds in this current incarnation.

Quite apart from the dialogue, we have a series of short action sequences (roughly 1-page fights with each memory) that are utterly baffling. Because of the confusing artwork, half the time I can't tell what Kara is doing in the fight. For example, on page 3, in the  middle panel, we see Wonder Woman tying Kara up and leaning over her. Then in the next panel, we see Wonder Woman flying back, while Supergirl yells "Ahhh!", and a flash of light seems to be coming from Suprgirl.  I'm not sure what is supposed to be happening in this panel. If Supergirl punched Wonder Woman, it certainly is not depicted. So what knocked Wonder Woman backward? As another example, on the bottom of page 13, we see Cyborg Superman standing over Kara, and her falling into a big black hole. Where the hole came from, and what exactly is supposedly happening in that panel, is completely unclear.

Finally, the ending of this issue is rather silly, as it depicts and event that we know cannot possibly be allowed to stand -- Supergirl being disintegrated and her body used to reconstitute "Zor-El."  Presumably this is not the real Zor-El, but either way, we know Supergirl's going to have to get her body back, or else the series would be canceled as of this issue -- and it hasn't been. But at the very least, it seems like the idiotic Kryptonite poisoning has been eliminated for now.  As for the appearance of Zor-El, there are two possibilities. If it really is Zor-El, then it's a huge cop-out on the part of DC yet again.  This will be the third time in a  row that Kara has been given back her parents (or at least one parent) after believing them to be dead. What a waste of literary potential, when her parents actually being dead is so much more powerful a background element.  On the other hand, if it's a fake Zor-El (which is the more likely possibility) then it's yet another horrible comic-book cliche' -- the cloned/fake/mockery version of a well known character.  Frankly, I yawn at either possibility.

Overall, this was not just a poor issue, but stands as the lowest quality issue of the New 52 Supergirl series to date.  The art was sloppy and looked rushed, and many of the panels did not make clear what was actually happening.  The dialogue was stilted and awkward. And Kara's characterization was about as unrealistic, and particularly un-Kryptonian, as one could possibly imagine.  I hate to say it but if this series doesn't get better quickly, I don't think I'll even have to make a decision whether to keep reading it or not.  Not enough people are going to be willing to pay money for this kind of sewage on a monthly basis for DC to keep it in print.

My score: 5/10

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