Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Issue Review: Supergirl 25

The Oracle watches as parts of the time-stream are being destroyed by H'el, while Superboy, Supergirl, and Superman try to prevent it.  In the distant past H'el attempts to stab Kara with the Kryptonite shard she used on him, but she breaks free.  Meanwhile, in the more recent past, Superman watches his mother tell his father that they are about to have a baby (him).  Superboy and Kara from before she became Supergirl fight against the Eradicator, who Superboy sends to Smallville through a space-time portal.  The H'el of two time periods merges, bringing Superboy and present-day Supergirl back together.  Then Supergirl launches a final attack to destroy H'el.

As the summary of this issue hopefully makes clear, this is one of the most disjointed, logic-impaired Supergirl stories I have ever read.  Time travel is hard enough to do well when the plot makes sense and can be easily explained to the reader, and when a competent writer is at the helm.  But when we have three -- count them, three -- writers (Lobdell does the plot and part of the script, with Michael Nelson and Justin Jordan doing the rest of the script), none of whom seem to have the ability to adequately convey what is going on to the reader, we simply have a recipe for disaster.

The main problem with this story is that there are too many timelines, and it hops back and forth between them.  Too frequently, events just happen that do not follow logically or reasonably from the prior events. I suppose that happens with time-travel, but these writers throw cause and effect to the wind too often.  Portals seem to open up randomly, with no explanation as to why there is a wormhole between point A and point B. So, for example, why does the wormhole in the vicinity of pre-destruction Kara and Superboy connect the past of Krypton with the present of Smallville?  No explanation is provided.

Indeed, far too many events "just happen" with no explanation to guide the reader as to why they occur. For instance, early on H'el claims he exists in "every possible variation of existence, every world created, every old universe destroyed." If that is the case, why is it that, when two timelines converge, they just so happen to be the ones with Superboy and Supergirl?  Why not any of the others?  If there is a reason, the writers should provide it.  But they do not, which leaves the impression of a forced plot contrivance.  This is, of course, nothing new to Nelson or Lobdell, but it is frustrating to see them keep doing it.

To be fair, I really detest time travel stories unless they are done extremely well, and I particularly dislike when they play with the past in silly ways -- such as Kara meeting Superboy in the past but then in the present having no memory that this ever happened.  Or worse, Superman witnessing his own mother announcing herself to be carrying him.  This is probably one of the worst scenes in the book, although, having read Superman #0 almost a year ago, I knew it was coming.  Why? Because part of the tragedy of Superman ought to be that he has never seen his birth-home, or met his birth-parents.  For the sake of a silly crossover that lasts barely more than a month, DC has decided to remove this critical feature of the Man of Steel's backstory? What a terrible call. But then, events like these are exactly why I generally don't like time travel.

There are a number of smaller problems I have with the story as well. First, as with the last time he appeared, it continues to bother me that H'el keeps sprouting new powers and abilities. He seems to have "whatever powers the writers feel like him having" from panel to panel, and to make matters worse, his powers are completely over the top, such the scene in which he emits some kind of green aura that pulverizes a bunch of Kryptonian clones.  One cannot escape the impression that, typical of the poorest comic-book writing, the creative team did not sit down ahead of time and outline the parameters of H'el's abilities.  They are just making stuff up as they go along. And it shows.

Another thing that may seem like a nitpick but really bugs me is the lettering of character names on the first page. In the splash page that opens this issue of Supergirl, when Superboy, Supergirl, and Superman are named, the name given special lettering isn't Kara's -- it's Superman's!  That is just completely unacceptable.  Superman can be the star of every other title in their line if DC wants, but in this comic, Kara is the star, not Kal.  This is a great example of how little respect DC comics has for Supergirl as a character... they don't even give her top billing in her own book!

Just about the only slightly positive thing I can say about this issue is that the art is an improvement over the last few. The interior artwork by Paulo Siqueira is a great deal better than the interiors have been since Asrar left. I can more or less tell what is happening in most panels, for a change. And that's saying something given how stream-of-consciousness and and causation-impaired the writing was.

The cover by Rocafort is terrible, however, and also inaccurate.  The cover shows Kara fighting a clone and proclaims that this is her last stand against them, but Kara and the clones do not so much as thumb-wrestle in this issue -- it's entirely about Supergirl and Superboy fighting H'el.  Apparently someone forgot to mention this to Rocafort.

Overall, this is another weak issue full of plot contrivances, melodrama, and generally bad writing.  H'el is as annoying as ever, although Kara's not quite as irritating as she had been previously -- probably because Nelson didn't write much of the story.  Additionally, because there are four or five different threads going on and each one only gets a few pages, hardly anything happens to actually advance the plot very much.  The result is one of the weakest issues of Supergirl to date, although it's probably not quite as bad as issue 24, which remains the worst in the entire series.

My score: 6/10


  1. Hi. By what I've read from you so far we have experienced to comics in a similar way. I've reached your blog searching articles about Supergirl. Much like you I became attracted to her because her apparitions in some of the Legion of Super Heroes' old stories, mainly in the arc when they had to fight Darkseid. I got sad too seeing her die in Crisis. But in those stories she was really Super, fighting villains on her level of power, instead of bullying pitiable bank robbers. From DC I also liked The Teen Titans by Perez a lot. However by the other hand I was more a Marvel fan, being my favourites The X Men (the second formation), Captain America and Spiderman. Back in the 80's beginning I was really into superhero comics, however by the end of the 80's and the beginning of 90's the overall quality of those comics dropped a lot, plot wise and art wise. Before continuing I must tell that I'm far below your level of writing, mainly because English isn't my native language and I'm not skilled at it, so I'm sorry if I sound weird sometimes. I'm from Brazil and here, back in the 80's, the comics chronology was a few years behind the stuff released in the US, so take this in mind when I mention dates. Back to the main subject, the quality had fallen below bearable levels and I dropped reading comics in the very beginning of the 90's. However I always have been an avid comic reader and missed a lot not having something to read, so I tried many alternative stuff like Heavy Metal, Druuna, The Immortals by Enki Bilal, Tank Girl, plus some underground comics. None of these were completely satisfactory to me. Let me go back to the 80's again, before the superhero comics disappointed me beyond repair. There was a new series started by Marvel that radically diverged from their regular stuff, it was Epic Marvel, featuring Dreadstar, Sisterhood of Steel and Alien Legion. These were far above Marvel and DC regular stuff in tematic, drama, sex and violence, however the average US and Brazilian comic reader wasn't prepared for such level of realism, I may say, and the series were cancelled just after a few issues -- I still keep these in my collection, even after almost 30 years they were released here. So that was my condition before my first contacts with manga -- yes, manga, the Japanese's comics -- I'm saddened seeing how and intelligent and critic person like you keep reading stuff that you yourself qualified as trash many times, so I decided to try talking to you a bit regarding manga. As far as I have read your posts, you never mentioned, much less reviewed any manga title released in US, and there are a lot of them, so I doubt the comic store you're a regular doesn't have some on sale, so I fear you have prejudice against them or, less probably, you never had the chance to read manga. But, even if you have prejudice or if you are ideologically compromised to not read any comics that aren't made in USA, try to bear with me till the end.

  2. Way before I had the chance to read any manga, I was a fan of Japanese animation, because the level of drama and realism inside the plots and the unique animation style. So I had high expectations when I finally was able to read the first titles that arrived here in Brazil -- and in US also. Those were: Akira; Mai, The Sensitive Girl; Lone Wolf and Cub and The Sword of Kamui. After these I knew I would never be able to give up reading manga from then on. US comics industry is big by any standards, it's undeniable, however it is dwarfed by the manga industry. Some of the Japanese titles sells over 3 million copies short after release. Manga authors aren't tied to models and fixed patterns like the mainstream superhero comics that is endless recycling the same old characters. There is a great number of authors -- mangakas -- releasing their stuff all the time and they have far more creative freedom, for the good or the evil, than any comics author would never imagined. Reading manga is a far different experience to those used to comics. Most of the stories aren't colored, have in average almost 200 pages per issue and, most important of all, deal with some thematics that we could never thought being possible. I can't go any further fearing my lack of skill to convey my thoughts in English can irk you. So I'll end suggesting you one of my favourite mangas ever: Battle Angel Alita. It started being released in US by VIZ comics by the second half of the 90's, now it is being released by the US division of Kodansha and reached 26 issues so far. If you want to give a try, and I really hope, you do, you can download the first nine full volumes here
    If you try and like it, I can suggest some other titles later. Thank you for attention.

  3. I have very little experience with Manga. But to be honest, before the last couple of years, I had very little experience with comics outside of Marvel and DC, period. It is my frustration with DC that has caused me to branch out into the other American "Indy" titles, which I never tried before. So, at some point, I may try some Manga.