The Good: Engaging story development, Decent character work, The artwork
The Bad: The artwork makes some of the character elements very hard to swallow.
The Basics: The return of Kara Zor-El to the DC Universe nets a solidly entertaining book with Superman/Batman: Supergirl!
I have, for the most part, pointedly avoided the Supergirl franchise. Truth be told, I am not a fan of Superman and Supergirl seems less about empowering women and much more about providing a masturbatory fantasy for men. Given that Supergirl is a teenager, that’s just wrong. But, boredom at work during my breaks and my library being slow to get in new books for my Flash Year has led me to occasionally pick up a Supergirl book. The latest one I have found myself reading is Superman/Batman: Supergirl.
Before I say how good it is, I want to strenuously disagree with author Jeph Loeb, who wrote Superman/Batman: Supergirl. In his foreword for Superman/Batman: Supergirl (ever wonder who reads those things? Well, it’s me!), he is describing the work of his good friend Michael Turner, who did the artwork for Superman/Batman: Supergirl. Loeb comments, “What made them [Michael Turner’s women] sexy wasn’t the typical pinup shot of adolescent male fantasies” in his foreword. I could not disagree more. Having only (to my easy recollection) read Michael Turner’s Fathom (reviewed here!) by the artist before now, I can easily and authoritatively say that all Turner does with his women is make pinups! His Supergirl is no exception and if the book had page numbers, I’d easily cite a dozen (but, sufficed to say the artwork of Kara Zor-El walking beside Clark Kent in Metropolis features jeans so low, thong straps so high and breasts so unrealistically curvaceous that all it is is an adolescent male fantasy! In fact, given that Superman/Batman: Supergirl came to me via my local library system where it was mischaracterized as “Young Adult,” I’m shocked none of the pages arrived stuck together! If that’s gross, my apologies, but that’s the artwork of Michael Turner without and within Superman/Batman: Supergirl and when the subject is a minor, even a fictional one, it’s enough to make an adult queasy).
Opening following the events of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Bruce Wayne is exploring Gotham Harbor for remnants of a meteorite from Krypton. At the bottom of the Harbor, Batman discovers a ship and when a girl attempts to steal his Batboat, he uses Kryptonite to stop her. Kal-El (Superman) arrives when she awakens and is convinced that she is Kara Zor-El, his cousin, though her own memories are somewhat limited. While Bruce works to verify she is who and what she claims to be, Kal-El drops his guard and lets Kara into his life entirely.
Seeing no other way of keeping the world safe, Batman and Wonder Woman stage an abduction to take Kara to Themyscira. There, the Amazons train Kara until Darkseid’s forces attack the island. In the attack, Harbinger is killed and Kara Zor-El is abducted. With Superman furious, the trio is joined by Barda and they make a trip to Apokolips to get her back and thwart Darkseid.
Superman/Batman: Supergirl may be one of the most character-filled books featuring Superman that I have ever read. His role in Superman/Batman: Supergirl is a decent one and in this book, he is deeply interested in creating a family. Kara Zor-El represents that for him and as a result, her abduction stings in a way that allows him to credibly evoke Jason Todd to Batman and Donna Troy to Wonder Woman. In Superman/Batman: Supergirl, he is not simply the highly moralistic “Boy Scout” type character. Instead, he has enough depth to be hurt and compelling for his anguish.
Bruce Wayne, despite appearing for the vital plot points, is very much a secondary character in Superman/Batman: Supergirl. The book uses his suspicion to set him apart from Clark exceptionally well, though thathas been done in other books frequently as well. Here, Bruce trusts in Wonder Woman and I like that aspect of the story because it justifies Diana’s latent love for Bruce revealed in Blackest Night. So, Bruce is along for the ride.
As for Supergirl in Superman/Batman: Supergirl? Well, she’s a pinup. She functions as a pawn, a source of conflict between Kal-El and Bruce and a tool for Darkseid. But beyond that, Supergirl is less an entity of her own in Superman/Batman: Supergirl and more a way to express Kal-El’s deep desire to have a family beyond just Lois. In the process, Kal-El illustrates his dark side, like tossing Wonder Woman like a rag doll in order to be able to fight Darkseid. Supergirl has no real character, no habits, ambitions or likes of her own in Superman/Batman: Supergirl. Instead, she is introduced and much of her important character development – the training on Themyscira, her friendship with Harbinger, etc. – happens “off camera.”
Outside the artwork in Superman/Batman: Supergirl being a radical departure from the styles of most DC Universe books (but entirely in the style of Michael Turner), it is good. However, things like Kara asking Superman what he thinks of her outfit and not getting a “well, it’s pretty damn short for a minor” seems odd.
In the end, though, Superman/Batman: Supergirl is a pretty compelling resurrection story that is enjoyable and well-assembled (though it does ask for some significant suspension of disbelief near the end). That makes Superman/Batman: Supergirl very easy to recommend.
For other graphic novels featuring Supergirl, check out my reviews of:
Crisis On Infinite Earths
Supergirl: Death And The Family
The Brave And The Bold, Volume 1: The Lords Of Luck
For other graphic novel reviews, be sure to check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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