Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Issue Review: Supergirl 24

Inside the I'noxian collective, Kara's mind, no longer connected with her body, goes back to the time when she was a little girl.  But she knows that Cyborg Superman betrayed her, and she wants revenge.  As Zor-El, Kara's father and formerly Cyborg Superman, realizes what he has done, and finally remembers who he is, Brainiac attacks. Zor-El decides to go back to being Cyborg Superman, and to give Kara her body back.  However, Kara, enraged against what the I'naxians have done, breaks free on her own and starts tearing apart the planet.  A floating disk in the distance pulls Kara's body into it. Cyborg Superman is reconstituted and fights Brainiac.  Meanwhile, Kara, naked, awakens "nearby" surrounded by more floating disks. Delacore, the lead I'naxian, tells her to get away, and that her family wanted her to find happiness.  The I'naxian collective miniaturizes itself and escapes. Kara gets onto her space-bike and flees the scene, only to be stopped by the giant space oracle from several issues ago.

As the description hopefully makes clear, this issue is another incoherent mess from Michael Alan Nelson.  Solicits for future issues reveal that this is his final solo flight as a writer of Supergirl. He will be co-writing with Scott Lobdell next issue (hardly an improvement) and following this, will be replaced by Tony Bedard.  By my lights, it cannot happen quickly enough.  There were so many problems with this issue, I don't know where to begin.

My first complaint about the story is the ridiculous plot contrivance that neither Supergirl nor Cyborg Superman know who he is.  He only realizes after stealing her body and becoming whole, and "getting his memory back," that he was Zor-El.  This is bad enough (just how many Kryptonians are going to have to have amnesia in this series anyway? First Kara, then H'el, now Zor-El.).  But then we learn that when he turns back into Cyborg Superman, Zor-El is going to forget who he is all over again.  There is absolutely no good reason provided for this in-story -- it's simply Nelson's way of making sure that he reveals the truth to the reader, but keeps it concealed from the characters.  I found this to be quite forced and contrived.

But beyond all that, one has to wonder what the point is of making Zor-El be the human side of Cyborg Superman when neither he nor Kara end the story knowing about it.  The whole point of making Cyborg Supes be Kara's father ought to be to introduce some kind of father-daughter Electra complex drama. However, that can't happen if Kara doesn't even know who the guy is.

My second complaint about this issue revolves around the numerous logic errors.  For example, if Cyborg Superman doesn't even remember he's Zor-El, and if he has never, so far was we know, been to earth nor encountered the real Superman, why would he call himself 'Cyborg Superman?'  The name "Superman" is not a reference to any sort of Kryptonian legend (according to earlier issues of the Superman comic, the name was given to Kal-El, as in the movies, by Lois Lane).  And why the heck is he wearing the "S" shield on his chest, which (again like the movies) represents the "House of El" if he doesn't know he's from that house?  

Another plot hole: how does Kara get her body back while Zor-El is still not finished turning back into Cyborg Superman? And if she did so, why does he need to return to being a Cyborg to "return her to her body?"  This is not explained, and it makes no sense. Plot hole #3: Zor-El says he knows how to "minimize the Collective." But he doesn't explain how.  Another plot hole, which has never been explained since Nelson's second issue on this book -- why, for Kuppergerg's sake, does Supergirl need a space motorcycle to fly around the galaxy? She should be able to do that using her own superpowers!

But perhaps the biggest plot hole, for me, is how in the world are the I'naxians able to conduct surgery on Zor-El when he is a Kryptonian?  The guy should be as invulnerable as Superman.  How are they able to cut into him, rip his brains and skeleton out, and so on?  None of this is satisfactorily explained, and none of it makes any sense based on the known rules of the DC Universe.

Beyond all the plot holes and contrivances, we have the dialogue, which is atrocious.  For example, as she bursts out of the I'naxian consciousness, Kara shouts, "You stole my flesh, but in so doing you made me anew!"  She follows this with, "Come to me, Cyborg Superman, and feel the wrath of what you have birthed!" Who talks like that?  Someone needs to give Nelson some dialogue lessons, because this has been going on since he took over the book.

The confusing, logic-deprived story is not assisted by art that frequently only makes things more incoherent.  For example, what exactly is the floating disk that seems to disincorporate Kara and suck her onto it, and what are the other disks floating around it? All we see is the word "nearby," which so utterly fails at both description and explanation that it seems like Nelson is mocking us.  And the picture showing brains and skeleton being removed from Zor-El to make room for Cyborg's mechanical elements is also confusing. For example, it shows both of his eyes looking down at his body, but Cyborg Superman still retains one eye -- so where did the extra eye come from?

I can say one, and only one, positive thing about this story: at least Nelson seems to be trying to give Kara some reason to move on from her past and embrace the future, and try to be happy.  On the one hand, I definitely feel it is about damn time, and I'm glad he made the attempt. On the other, I think this was also a highly contrived plot point.  This is what Kara should have been doing for 24 issues, instead of running around outer space or being sweet-talked by H'el -- finding a way to fit into her new home, to leave her past behind, and try to become happy.  If this had been a 2-year effort at character development, it would be a great place to leave her on her 2nd anniversary in print.  Instead, it is sprung on us in a few panels, after 23+ issues of this book's writers having her do everything but deal with her loss and come to grips with it.  It feels like Nelson (and probably the editors, Berganza and Purdin) realized that the "miserable, angry Kara" business is not playing, and decided to heal it in one quick wave of the hand.  So as glad as I am that they seem to be getting her ready for better things, I think even this was handled in a ham-fisted way.

Overall, this was another weak issue from the New 52 Supergirl.  I've been reviewing issues of The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl from the 1980s over at the Supergirl Home Page, and I have been plenty blunt, and sometimes even brutal, about badly written plots in that series as well -- but there is nothing as bad as this issue in TDNAOS.  Because even at his worst, TDNAOS writer Paul Kupperberg knew how to write dialogue, and how to develop character... two things about which Michael Alan Nelson seems to have not a clue.

My score: 4/10.

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