Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Too Much Missing To Be Satisfying: Supergirl: Volume 3 - Sanctuary Is A Partial Crossover!

The Good: Moments of character, Moments of story, A few good panels of artwork, Intriguing beginning to the next story
The Bad: Missing story parts, Abrupt ending, A lot of mediocre artwork
The Basics: Supergirl: Volume 3 - Sanctuary is committed to the issues that comprise it, which makes for a terrible anthology as it only tells a fraction of the H'El on Earth story and its follow-up.

It seems that I have gotten into Supergirl (the latest episode, "The Darkest Place," is reviewed here!). I realized after watching the television series that it has been awhile since I went back to the source material and gave it a fair shake. Given that I have been generally enjoying the way Supergirl has been standing on its own, without living wholly in Superman's shadow, I figured it was a good time to go back to the books and see if I enjoyed them any more now. I resumed where I left of in The New 52 incarnation of Supergirl with Supergirl: Volume 3 - Sanctuary.

Supergirl: Volume 3 - Sanctuary picks up after the events of Supergirl: Volume 2 – Girl In The World (reviewed here!) and the context clues are more than enough to allow new readers to pick up Volume 3 and not feel truly lost. Unfortunately, the fractured nature of the crossover event that the chapters in Supergirl: Volume 3 - Sanctuary contain make for a much less satisfying read than they ought to. Apparently, the chapters in Supergirl: Volume 3 - Sanctuary are alternating chapters from a crossover with Superman and Superboy called "H'El On Earth" and these chapters do not tell nearly enough of a story to be satisfying, either on their own or even for Supergirl's character arc in them!

Opening at a facility at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean where the half-alien, half-remnants of human Simon Tycho are attacking Supergirl, when Tycho convinces Kara to stop fighting him. He plays her a recording that seems to indicate Kara's mother killed her father when she learned he was experimenting upon their daughter. Quickly learning the nature of the Kryptonian structure Sanctuary, Kara is able to neutralize Tycho and contact Siobahn. After helping Kal-El neutralize a Kryptonian dragon, Kara returns to Sanctuary where she falls asleep and encounters H'El. H'El is another Kryptonian who has the ability to teleport instantly and tells Kara he wants to return home to Krypton before it was destroyed. After giving Kara the ability to understand English and the choice of whether or not to kill the cloned Kryptonian (Superboy), H'El teleports Kara to Kal.

Reuniting, H'El and Kara visit Kal-El's Fortress of Solitude, where Kara is oblivious to Kal being locked out by H'El! H'El miniaturizes Kara and teleports her into the bottled city of Kandor, where Supergirl encounters remaining forces from Brainiac. Removing the power crystal from Kandor and giving it to H'El puts Supergirl in the crossfire from the Justice League. The Flash vibrates into the Fortress of Solitude to rescue Kara, but Kara does not allow him to help her, as she is determined to rewrite time with H'El and save Krypton. With the Star Chamber ready to be activated, Kara squares off against Wonder Woman. While the Oracle that H'El summoned to Earth is wreaking havoc, Wonder Woman and Kara fight to a standstill . . . when Diana is able to convince Kara of the truth. In the aftermath of stopping H'El, Supergirl is severely wounded, Kryptonite poisoned and sent off-planet to recover. Returning to Earth, though, puts Kara in jeopardy from both Lex Luthor's ally Appex and the Kryptonite poisoning she is suffering!

On the plus side, Supergirl: Volume 3 - Sanctuary opens with an intriguing character. Kara Zor-El exhibits quick thinking against Tycho and that sets up an engaging potential story with a protagonist who seems to be worth following. As the story with H'El gets going, Kara Zor-El remains interesting and the progression of Supergirl's character arc is initially very well-executed. In Supergirl's story, H'El is a potential savior who comes to Kara saying all of the right things needed to make Kara believe him. While readers have a pretty good feeling that Kara is being duped - simply by the larger continuity in the DC Universe where Krypton is destroyed and the consequences of saving it would be catastrophic to the overall comic book universe - the progression is surprisingly well-handled by writer Mike Johnson. Johnson has a realistic development for the seduction of Kara Zor-El, so the reader is able to invest in her journey.

It is a shame that journey - including the apparent grand act of sacrifice by Kara - is not fully included in Supergirl: Volume 3 - Sanctuary!

Fidelity to the original issues of Supergirl leads to a narrative gap when Kara and Kal-El have already killed the Kryptonian monster from the first chapter at the outset of the second chapter. Similarly, the second chapter ends with Kara walking in on Kal and Lois Lane, but the third chapter opens with a flashback to Kara and her best friend on Argo City. The entire incident at the end of one chapter disappears before the beginning of the next chapter! Throughout the volume, readers are left lost as the book leaps forward without the actual story being told of how H'El is doing what he is doing. While it helps Kara Zor-El's character arc to be duped for so long with Wonder Woman having to deliver exposition to Kara about what is actually happening, it is unsatisfying to read only a portion of Kara and H'El's storyline.

The artwork in Supergirl: Volume 3 - Sanctuary is generally all-right, though the quality is fractured. Near the end of the book, the panels that contain aliens and both Power Girl and Supergirl together are well-drawn and colored. But The Flash is incredibly poorly rendered when he appears in the alien weapon he attempts to use to take down Supergirl and much of the fight between Supergirl and Wonder Woman is presented with a mediocre sense of movement to it.

Ultimately, there is little purpose to Supergirl: Volume 3 - Sanctuary. Most of the issues in this volume are a part of the book Superman: H'El On Earth, which seems to be a more complete version of the story than the one told in this book. The result is a disappointing volume on its own that will underwhelm those who are fans of Supergirl . . . or those who just want to be able to follow a story about the character!

For other New 52 titles, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Harley Quinn: Power Outage
Red Lanterns: Blood And Rage
Wonder Woman: A Twist Of Fate


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.
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