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Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Superman/Batman: Supergirl

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Michael Turner
Colours: Peter Steigerwald
Letterer: Richard Starkings
Publisher: DC

What's it about?
Most of you will have heard of Supergirl - Kara Zor-El, cousin to Superman, only other survivor of the planet Krypton.  You will probably have an image of her in your head, it may be this:

or this:

Well, the first picture is of the original Supergirl who no longer exists in the DC Universe - she was killed in a big crossover event in the 1980s which wiped her out of existence.   The second one is of Helen Slater playing Supergirl on the big screen - a film that is pretty much universally criticised.

Since the original Supergirl was killed there have been a few other women to carry the Supergirl title. for example here, and there have been alternative universe stories, for example here.  But until this book was published, since the mid 1980s there has not been a Supergirl as Superman's cousin.  Simply put, this book reintroduces Kara Zor-EL into the DC Universe.

How does she get there?  Well she was rocketed to earth in her spaceship which also kept her in suspended animation for many years.  She arrives, confused and scared, and has to find her place in the world.

What's good about it?
Pretty much all of it.  It's well put together, an excellent jumping on point for people unfamiliar with any of the characters, the story is strong and the characters are sympathetic.

This story takes place within the Superman/Batman series, which is a regular monthly book pairing up Superman and Batman and playing them off against each other.  Typically, Superman is portrayed as hopeful, outgoing and full of love, while Batman is portrayed as pessimistic, suspicious and distrustful.  It's a light vs dark type of analogy.  Despite their differences they trust each other implicitly and find shared ways to work together.  Ultimately they have more in common than you'd think and they make a great team.  Jeph Loeb has a great feel for these characters and writes some wonderful dialogue that pokes fun at the situations they are in yet always feels real.

The whole book is geared towards new readers - from the way the plot is put together to how new characters are introduced.  The introduction, written by Jeph Loeb, is a simple explanation as to who Kara Zor-El is, why they wanted to bring her back, and how this new character fits into the modern DC Universe.

The plot allows us to meet most of the major players in the DC Universe - Wonder Woman and the Amazons, the New Gods of Apokolips (a hell world of war), the Justice League of America, Teen Titans, Justice Society of America and others.  If you want to read more about nay of the characters featured in this book, let us know!  We'll be more than happy to point you in the right direction.

What's bad about it?
Towards the end, a few scenes come off as corny.  Although the book wraps up well, some scenes feel a little forced.  I have a feeling they were done this way to homage the original Supergirl's introduction, but this doesn't come across that well.

What's the art like?
Michael Turner is not to everyone tastes, I myself swing back and forth between loving and hating his work, but I have always liked his art in this book.  Turner certainly has a distinct style and he has spawned a lot of (inferior) imitators.

He doesn't go for big breasted super pouty blank faced women, rather he makes them waif like and impossibly tall.  This has earned his Supergirl the nickname of Supertorso.  On the positive side, he gives Kara a look of sacred, wide eyed innocence entirely appropriate to her at this stage in her life.  She is drawn to be aged about 15 years old and he gives her (and other characters) a lot of emotion and life.

The lettering deserves a special mention.  As is common with all Superman/Batman books both characters narrate the story - Superman's thoughts are in a yellow box, Batman's thoughts are in a blue box.  When Supergirl arrives on Earth her speech bubbles are in Kryptonese.  These little techniques throws you into the mindset of the character and helps immerse you in their world.

Other information
Price: You should be able to pick the paperback up for about £12.99 new.
ISBN: 1401202500

There are two ways you could continue your reading after this book.  If you go down the Superman/Batman books route, this is the suggested reading order:
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
Superman/Batman: Supergirl
Superman/Batman: Absolute Power
Superman/Batman: Vengeance
Superman/Batman: Enemies Among Us
Superman/Batman: Torment
Superman/Batman: The Search For Kryptonite
Superman/Batman: Finest Worlds
Superman/Batman: Night and Day
Superman/Batman: Worship

Note: Some of these may only be available in hardback.

If you want to read more of Supergirl it becomes a little more tricky.  The Supergirl run of books had a lot of different writers and artists on it over the first couple of years, and the book suffered for it.  The individual plot arcs didn't fit together, bits of history were ignored and overall it doesn't make a lot of sense.  However, from issue 28 there was one creative team that stuck for 5 issues, and from issue 34 writer Sterling Gates and penciller Jamal Igle started working together.   They really turned the book around and it became really really good.

So, the official reading order of the Supergirl books are as follows, I've asterisked and annotated the ones I recommend starting from:
Superman/Batman: Supergirl*
Supergirl: Power
Supergirl: Candor
Supergirl: Identity
Supergirl: Beyond Good and Evil
Supergirl: Way of the World * This trade collects the first good arc with just one creative team.  In it Supergirl concocts a ridiculously stupid plan to cure a young boy of his cancer.
Supergirl: Who is Superwoman * The first by Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle.  A tie in to the New Krypton books, but a self contained story.
Supergirl: Friends and Fugitives
Supergirl: Death and the Family
Supergirl: Bizzarogirl*
Supergirl: Good-Looking Corpse*

Running alongside this Supergirl series was the World of New Krypton event.  We've talked about this event here.

Post script: In September 2011 DC relaunched their books.  Some characters were rebooted and Supergirl was one of them.  She was brought back as a new character, with her first issue being about her arrival on earth.  This new series is very good, and the art is phenomenal, but it's a shame that we had to lose the last version of Kara Zor-El to get this new one.  Anyway, we will be reviewing this new series in the future, but if you want to try it out you can get digital copies from Comixology.  Issues are about £2 in UK money.

For more information on all trades the current Supergirl is featured in, and her history and different incarnations, see the Maid of Might website.


  1. Thanks for explaining the bit about there not being a Supergirl around since he 80's. I didn't know that!

  2. There also was that other Supergirl, you know, the one that should probably still be in continuity. She could shape shift and was the current SGirl during Doomsday and such~
    (what happened to her? Did she..die too?.. :/)

    I really liked this book!
    Quite fun and original.
    But to be honest...I'm not a super-fan of Michael Turner's art.. No disrespect, simply not my "taste"...

  3. @Liss: No worries!

    @Eyz - The one you are talking about was named Matrix and was the first one to bear the Supergirl name since the Crisis in the 80s. She was a shapeshifter and at the start of Peter Davids' Supergirl run she merged with Linda Danvers.
    The Supergirl in Many Happy Returns (first link in the review) is Linda Danvers, but by this point the Matrix element has departed.

    That was a really complicated era in Supergirl's history, but also very good. Sadly, DC hasn't seen fit to release the complete Peter David's run in trades. I will review the few that have been published.

  4. I'm kinda interested in this Matrix-Supergirl! Looked different from the usual Clark Kent-Kara-Powergirl krypton-powered trio :)

    I guess I'll have to find some back-up issues then!..

  5. Try looking on maid of might for info about the Matrix Supergirl issues:
    They also have some scans available.

  6. This book is one of my favourite, and I have nothing more to add to your complete comment, except one thing I had noticed : the scene in which Kara goes nude, at the beginning reminded me the introduction scenes in the James Cameron's Terminators. I wonder if it had been made on purpose or if it's a coincidence.

    The kryptonian dialogs, and alphabet were a great idea. Concerning mike Turner's art, I always regret the fact his characters looked often very similar, built on the same model I would say, but if you accept it like a kind of style, it works. But his Wonder Woman seemed to be just two or three years older than Supergirl, it's a little a shame. I'm always embarrassed when I tell this because he was an author and an artist I admired and still admire a lot. I loved Fathom so much !

    He was a great page composer, and a master in the use of panoramics, insertions, and page motion. As you said, he knew how to give purity to his female characters,and sensuality too.

    According to me, he has been one of the great masters of comic art, and had a big influence in the field.

  7. i'm a silver age fan but i've been reading the peter david run and it's fantastic. weird but really great and entertaining and different.

  8. Hi Will. It is a travesty that Peter David's run isn't collected into trade format. I loved his series.