I am on the back side of my forties and occasionally I still get the question 'why do you read comic books?'
I think the next time someone asks me that I am going to shove Supergirl #8 into their hands.
For Supergirl fans, the last dozen years have been an up and down affair. Kara Zor-El was back from being erased from continuity. But she was immature and angsty. But then Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle came along and she was a hero again, a part of the super-family. Then the New 52 happened and we took a step back. She was angry and angsty now. She hated the Earth and shunned her cousin. But then Tony Bedard, K. Perkins, and Mike Johnson came back and suddenly she was a likeable young hero again. Alas, nothing gold can stay and the book was canceled. Then the show hit the airwaves and Kara was in SuperheroGirls and DC realized she should have a book. And we got one with a young, eager hero who embraced her new home and was on a journey. And all seemed well again.
Except one thing ... where was Superman in all this?
Trust me, long time Supergirl fans know the big role Superman has played in Supergirl's life. In the Silver Age, he was like a shadow of doom, willing to hide her away and always ready to exile her from the Earth. But in later years, the two had a very good relationship ... as mentor and student or eventually super-partners.
Since the New 52, most Supergirl fans have been waiting for the two to get back to that sort of loving familial relationship. These two are the last survivors of their world and families. They should want to be part of each other's lives. They shouldn't be angrily avoiding each other. But storylines made it impossible. When Kara was heroic, Superman was Grounded, or powerless and angry, or aloof.
Thankfully writer Steve Orlando fixes all that baggage in one fell swoop. With Superman Reborn behind us, it is time to rewrite history a little and smooth over the rough patches. And so we get Supergirl #8, a book where the cousins hang out together, as family, and love it. But moreover, this isn't a Superman trying to guide Kara. It is a Kal appreciative and proud of all Supergirl has accomplished. She is an ally he will need to rely on. And Kara isn't put off by this. She is thrilled to have dinner, meet Jon, and play with her older cousin.
The art is by Matias Bergara. His style is very reminiscent of Brian Ching's so the book's overall feel remains intact. And some of his expressions and quiet scenes are done in a very charming way.
I can only show the highlights here but I honestly wanted to scan every page. On to the book.
The book starts with Superman showing up to National City to have a talk with his cousin. It shouldn't take a crisis to get them together. Excellent word choice.
Unlike the past where Kara might show anger or resentment, this Supergirl is thrilled that her cousin has visited. She puts her hands over her heart and beams a smile. And then she flits around him happily. There is something perfect about that top panel. Superman, the established iconic hero, rigid in his iconic superhero pose. And Kara, the energetic newbie flying circles around him and smiling. It shows who they are wonderfully.
Superman has come to celebrate The Day of Truth, a Kryptonian holiday and the perfect time for his family to get together and celebrate. I reviewed the Day of Truth here, the perks of having done this for so long.
But the celebration has to wait. An emergency has arisen. There is a great panel as the two cousins here the alert and look determined to head off and fight. I really wanted to put that one in.
It turns out that the Emerald Empress is trashing the city. She is angry at something Kara told her. It seems that the Empress has been tracking Saturn Girl (who we know is in Arkham) because she thought Imra ruined her life. But now that blame has been shifted to Kara.
And all of this seems odd to Supergirl because she has never met the Empress before today. Luckily, using old rules, cold iron can injure the magic of the eye. Kara throws an engine block at the eye and it causes the Empress to retreat, but not without vowing revenge! In fact she says others hate Supergirl just as much. (Could this be the realization ... finally ... of the story Sterling Gates wanted to write? The Supergirl Revenge Squad?)
The fight is brief and gives us the chance to see the cousins in action together, something we haven't seen much of in the last decade.
And I love the timey-wimey nature of this retort. I guess in the future Kara told the Empress something. This the Empress can hate Kara for something in her past but something that Kara hasn't done yet. Does this mean Supergirl will be in the Legion.
This is all too delicious!
With the Empress gone, the two cousins tour National City in their civilian identities and Kara can catch Kal up on her recent life. We hear about how Kara is still trying to fit in on Earth and working hard to. But she doesn't feel 'human' quite yet, unlike her cousin.
Again, another great scene where we see that Supergirl has been accepted as National City's resident hero. The kids are wearing her S-shield, not Superman's. Supergirl is bringing people together. She is a hero.
This is the Supergirl I want to read, not the one cursing Earth as a sweaty mudball and willing to team up with H'El to destroy the planet.
I don't want Supergirl to be perfect. For me, the backbone of her story is that she is on the journey to becoming one. She can fail, she can fall. But she needs to inspire and she needs to strive for good.
I love this scene.
Dinner time calls and so Superman brings Kara to the Fortress. There, Lois and Jon are waiting. Inside is an old fashioned train with a dinner car. And Clark is all up in the kitchen, cooking the meal!
Now the whole family gets to chat. There is a delightful scene where Jon peppers Kara with questions about school and bedtimes and television. She shows off her color changing glasses and winks. These two should be fast friends. And I would love to see her interact with Damien at some point (prior adventures in prior continuities with Robin have been excellent).
And there is a scene where Lois talks about Cat and Catco. It seems the professional rivalry shown on the show has permeated the DCU. Cat has an anti-Lois room. Lois claims she has bugged Catco.
After dinner, Clark and Kara head to the moon where they play catch with the Bronze Age Supermobile. (As most know, I love love love the Supermobile.) This just felt like a nod to the Silver Age when the two cousins would play tag in an asteroid field or juggle lava. They are just hanging out having fun together. And that is what they should be doing in down time.
Then Superman gets a bit heavy. He has to tell Kara the truth. As his closest living relative she deserves it. (I love the respect he gives Kara this whole issue.)
We then get a recap of the Reborn story and how the two lives have merged. How this effects the past we will all need to noodle on a bit. But Orlando has said that everything in Kara's New 52 timeline has happened.
Playing catch on the moon *AND* respect? Fantastic.
After a two page splash about Reborn, Superman tells Kara that he will need to count on her against the coming threat. He acknowledges what she did with Zor-El. He says her strength is immeasurable and impressive.
She says she will always be there for him.
I have waited a handful of years for these simple sentiments, these declarations of love and fidelity. I finally got them.
And then we get another splash page of the two flying in tandem, on patrol. Superb!
Put this or the title page on a t-shirt and I'll buy it.
The issue isn't all family affairs.
Orlando starts the next plotline up nicely. The DEO is worried that Kryptonian tech from Supergirl's phantom drive ship has been stolen. They feel that Tychotech is about to unveil it as a new energy source. The DEO wants Supergirl there to investigate. Meanwhile, Cat asks Ben Rubel there as part of the new app news source. And all the time Batgirl is observing. Her clean energy company from Burnside is also intrigued by Tycho.
The pages are split vertically so we see the two conversations roll out side by side. And Tycho was a villain in the early New 52 issues of this book so I am glad he (or his company) is back as a rogue.
I don't know what else to say. This issue was a much needed balm on the bruised and battered super-cousin relationship of the last few years. The very title 'The Super Family' shows just what this Rebirth universe is going for. This touched on all the topics - Supergirl trying to fit in, Superman being impressed and always being there for Kara, Kara always being there for him, and ready to save the universe together. Look, I don't need the specter of Superman in every issue. I don't want
her falling over herself to be like him. I don't want him controlling
her. But they are family and he is a good role model. They shouldn't be
strangers. They definitely shouldn't be adversaries.
So thank you Steve Orlando, Matias Bergara, and the whole Superman Reborn team. This is just what I have wanted.