The Good: Decent artwork, Good coloring, Good character work
The Bad: Surprisingly basic plots, Reliance on other Kryptonians undermines Kara Zor-El's character
The Basics: Supergirl: Volume 4 - Out Of The Past introduces Cyborg Superman and returns both Brainiac and Krypton to the narrative with mixed results.
As I have become more of a fan of Supergirl - on television and in print - I have started to recognize certain elements and characters as being iconic Supergirl or immensely popular in the Superman and affiliated characters corners of the DC Universe. So, when the Cyborg Superman appeared on Supergirl in "The Darkest Place" (reviewed here!), I was pretty psyched as I recognized the villain Hank Henshaw from (ironically!) the Sinestro Corps War from Green Lantern. The Cyborg Superman is an incredibly complicated and compelling villain in the DC Comics source material. As one going back to the Supergirl corner of the DC Comics universe, I was pretty excited when Cyborg Superman made his debut in Supergirl: Volume 4 - Out Of The Past.
Supergirl: Volume 4 - Out Of The Past continues after the traumatic events Kara Zor-El experienced in Supergirl: Volume 3 – Sanctuary (reviewed here!), but it opens with just enough of a recap to allow readers to feel the narrative is accessible. Unfortunately, Cyborg Superman popping up is far less engaging than it could be - arguably because it pushes a plot that undermines the power and horror of Brainiac - and Supergirl: Volume 4 - Out Of The Past then transitions into a Kryptonian team-up story that once again minimizes Supergirl as a character. The result is a decidedly mixed story.
Two days before she steals the KR-1 and heads into space, Supergirl returns home to see Siobhan and say goodbye. Siobhan is unsympathetic to what Supergirl has gone through recently as she has her own issues going on (including a sewage leak in their shared apartment!). Recognizing that she is dying as a result of her Kryptonite poisoning, Kara leaves Earth and is drawn to I'Noxia where the planet is under attack by a giant alien. Kara saves many lives and then stops the Crix, as part of the manipulations of Delacore. Delacore explains that I'Noxia is essentially a planetary model and he has Supergirl recreate a beloved Kryptonian statue from her memory. When she recognizes that the technology of I'Noxia and its N-10 metal represents a potential to recreate Krypton, the Cyborg Superman appears to ask her for help. He wants Kara to start recreating Krypton with her memories in order to try to spark something that would give him a clue as to his past before he was made into a cyborg.
Cyborg Superman soon turns on Kara, declaring he needs her body for his own to be made whole. I'Noxia recreates all of Supergirl's tormented memories and send them against Kara. When Kara's body succumbs to the Kryptonite poisoning, the Cyborg Superman is able to abduct her and prepares to take her body. But when Brainiac, the Cyborg's creator, arrives at I'Noxia, Cyborg Superman insists on taking control of Kara's body. The Cyborg is revealed to be Zor-El, Kara's father, and as Brainiac mercilessly attacks I'Noxia, Supergirl's consciousness fights to break free of the Collective and Zor-El comes to the painful decision to save his daughter's life. With the newly recreated Cyborg Superman doing battle against Brainiac, Supergirl turns her attention to saving Delacore and I'Noxia.
Supergirl: Volume 4 - Out Of The Past concludes with the crossover "Krypton Returns," which is a different story from the rest of the book. The Oracle is creating a crisis throughout the omniverse and Kara, Kon-El and Kal-El must stop H'El and the Oracle from saving Kypton and wreaking more destruction than if the planet was destroyed. Kara is trapped back in time on Krypton. There, she must defeat H'El again, while Kal-El and Kon-El prepare other points in time for Krypton's destruction. Kon-El has to save Kara from dying at the hands of the Eradicator a week before Argo City is destroyed and Kal-El witnesses his parents preparing to have him!
Supergirl: Volume 4 - Out Of The Past is important in the long arc of Supergirl in that it is another volume in which Kara Zor-El tries to save Krypton, opens her heart and is utterly destroyed emotionally for it. Kara is shocked and poisoned by H'El and when Cyborg Superman spins her a good yarn, she is susceptible to him. It is tough to make a protagonist a dupe and have them continue to be interesting, but Michael Alan Nelson pulls it off for the bulk of Supergirl: Volume 4 - Out Of The Past. Supergirl acknowledges that she is making a mistake again when she recognizes Cyborg Superman for what he is and she goes into the conflict with the clone army pretty well-prepared.
Supergirl continuing to be duped and having to take part in ensuring Krypton's destruction lays the framework well for the subsequent volume, but given that Kara has not fully fallen, it is not entirely satisfying.
What is good is the artwork in Supergirl: Volume 4 - Out Of The Past. The characters look consistently recognizable and there is good use of color for the I'Noxian replicants. Familiar superheroes who are replicated from Kara's memories are colored with faded colors to indicate their status visually and that is executed well.
Ultimately, though, Supergirl: Volume 4 - Out Of The Past is a fairly average graphic novel that progresses the Kara Zor-El's story well, but not in an exceptional way that allows Kara to truly stand on her own.
For other New 52 titles, be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Flash: Reverse
Green Lantern: Rise Of The Third Army
Harley Quinn: In The City
For other graphic novel reviews, be sure to check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the graphic novel reviews I have written!
© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.