Tag Archives: Supergirl

Today’s Super Comic — Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 (1985)

An editorial decree killed Supergirl, but that didn’t stop her from going out in a heroic blaze of glory.

Crisis on Infinite Earths was DC’s first huge crossover series. It pulled together not only every DC character, but also characters inherited from defunct companies such as Fawcett and Charlton. The series’ real-world purpose was to obliterate all these other universes so DC Comics could move forward with a modern, streamlined continuity in a single universe.

And, by the way, Superman needed to be the only surviving Kryptonian in that new continuity. But no one said Supergirl needed to quietly fade away. (Spoilers ahead, of course.)

In Crisis #7, a multi-universal group of powerful superheroes wages a last-ditch campaign against the forces of the even more powerful Anti-Monitor. (“The Anti-Monitor” may not sound like a formidable threat, but he did already destroy all but five universes. I suppose that follows the rule of “show; don’t tell.”) The first part of the issue focuses on lots of cosmic exposition, which I found much more interesting as a kid, but there’s a nice parable within about the danger of excessive pride—it can destroy entire universes! You’ve been warned, kids.

The real heart of the issue is when the focus shifts to Supergirl. It’s unfortunate that she spends the first half in the background, but that’s mega-crossovers for you. When she leaps into action, though, the issue suddenly becomes great.

Naturally, Superman is the first to reach the Anti-Monitor. Everyone expects him to be their best chance of taking down the villain and saving the remaining universes.

But Superman fails. He gets beat, and beat bad.

So Supergirl steps in and steps up. She’s thinking entirely selflessly. She wants to save her only living relative, not only because she cares about him but also because of what he means to the world. Mind you, she’s spent her entire time on Earth living in his shadow, so she’s assuming she could never possibly measure up to his example.

But she does. She clobbers the Anti-Monitor, destroys his machines, saves those universes for the time being…and then she makes a mistake, but for the right reasons. While she’s got the Anti-Monitor on the ropes, she turns away to urge someone else to get to safety, and the Anti-Monitor exploits the moment to fire the fatal shot. She dies exactly as a hero should—putting others first and herself last.

DC would eventually introduce another Supergirl (as I’ve covered before), and then reintroduce a version closer to the original. But in this continuity, this was the definitive ending for this version of the character. This Kara never came back from the dead.

But in her final moments, Supergirl was better than Superman.

Writer: Marv Wolfman

Penciler: George Perez

Inkers: Dick Giordano and Jerry Ordway

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Crisis on Infinite Earths (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Solo #1 (2004)

Anthology series are a tough sell. It’s much easier to get invested in ongoing sagas than short stories (and comic book short stories are super-short). I’m plenty guilty of overlooking them, even knowing full well the gems that may be hidden within.

But I actually did pick up one anthology book when it was new—the first issue of DC Comics’ Solo. The series was designed to spotlight the talents of renowned comics artists, and each issue “starred” a single such artist. Tim Sale headlined issue #1, joined by writers Darwyn Cooke, Diana Schutz, Jeph Loeb, and Brian Azzarello (and Sale did some of the writing himself).

The issue’s stories span genres, from superhero to noir to ordinary slice-of-life, but they’re all love stories in their own way. Catwoman takes Batman on a “date” by having him chase her across Gotham, though she’s actually chasing him. Supergirl recalls her first love. Martha Kent narrates a story about Clark trying to be a good person on his prom night. A hitman remembers a dead lover and his current loneliness. And so on.

Throughout the book, Sale demonstrates the range of his talents, bringing kinetic energy to Catwoman and Batman’s “dance” across the city, innocence and sadness to Supergirl, quiet grandeur to a young Clark Kent, pervasive bleakness to a hitman, and more.

“Solo” may be a misnomer, given all the talent helping out. Name aside, though, it’s a solid anthology that allows you to appreciate not only the storytelling possibilities of the artist, but of the comic book medium in general.

Of course, foolish me, I never picked up another issue, and DC cancelled it after #12. (Clearly it’s all my fault…or DC’s for setting the price tag at $4.95. Probably the latter.)

Writers: Darwyn Cooke, Diana Schutz, Jeph Loeb, and Brian Azzarello

Artist: Tim Sale

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Solo: The Deluxe Edition (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Superman #423 & Action Comics #583 (1986)

There’s no such thing as a final Superman story.

But Superman #423 and Action Comics #584 pretended there was, and it’s a fitting conclusion to the never-ending battle.

DC Comics was saying good-bye to its Silver Age continuity and rebooting Superman for the modern era, but they gave the old-school Man of Steel one last hurrah in a two-parter called “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” The story featured top talent that bridged the gap between eras: writer Alan Moore, who had been bringing a new maturity to the medium, and classic Superman artist Curt Swan.

A sense of foreboding permeates these issues. Old foes are returning more dangerous than ever, with former pests turning into killers while the worst of the worst are waiting in the wings. An unknown menace is striking at Superman through his friends, so he gathers them in the Fortress of Solitude—Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Lana Lang, and Perry White and wife Alice…the whole classic gang. Even Krypto the Super-Dog returns after a long absence.

In the story’s most touching scene, Superman unexpectedly comes face-to-face with his dead cousin. The Legion of Superheroes visits from the 30th century (which Superman and Supergirl were frequent visitors to), and they bring along a very young, very optimistic Supergirl who has no idea how short her life is going to be. It’s both sad and ominous in just a few pages.

But where the book achieves perfection is in the climax. At what point does Superman stop being Superman?

The answer presented here is exactly right.

Writer: Alan Moore

Penciler: Curt Swan

Inkers: George Perez and Kurt Schaffenberger

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Supergirl #75-80 (2002-03)

At last we reach the end of Peter David’s excellent Supergirl series, and the final storyline takes everything in a totally different direction. I suppose that’s what impending cancellation will do.

The original Supergirl, Kara Zor-El, appears, and she’s ripped right out of her 1959 debut. Instead of her rocket bringing her to meet the Silver Age Superman, she instead arrives in the then-current DC Universe and meets its Supergirl, Linda Danvers.

David initially writes Kara exactly as a 1950s comic book character, utterly naïve in the modern world and totally ignorant about science. He mines Silver Age goofiness for plenty of laughs, giving us everything from Kara’s futile attempt to physically push the entire planet Earth out of the path of a meteor, to pink kryptonite having a peculiar effect on an old-school Superman.

But the story takes a serious turn as it brings us toward the series’ conclusion. By this point, DC Comics was relaxing its “No Kryptonians but Superman” rule that had been in place since the late ‘80s, so they were getting ready to bring Kara back into continuity one way or another. That meant it was time to dispose of Linda, one way or another.

I won’t spoil exactly how David writes her out, but I will give him credit for not going with the obvious.

These final last six issues are easily among the series’ best. The story delves into the nature of heroism in a compelling way, and there’s no better topic for a book starring Supergirl—any or multiple versions of her.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Ed Benes

Inker: Alex Lei

Cover: Rob Haynes

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Supergirl: Many Happy Returns (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #65 (2002)

Supergirl #65 is a change-of-pace issue with a couple of notable features.

Part of the issue is presented from the point of view of deaf children and adults, which requires the comic to rely more on the visuals…which works well, given this is a visual medium.

Supergirl, in trying to help out an imperiled school, acts similar to the earliest incarnation of Superman of the 1930s. No supernatural or sci-fi menace is at work here, just straightforward social injustice and corruption. She initially tries to resolve the matter the way 1938 Superman would—by being a bully to bullies and trying to force people to play nice.

Fortunately, writer Peter David has enough sense to realize such tactics don’t actually work, so Supergirl’s impulsiveness almost makes matters worse. But, with a little help from her super-friends, she manages a nonviolent solution, one that shows how superheroes can accomplish more than beating up bad guys.

Solid work all around.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Robin Riggs

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #51 (2000)

supergirl_vol_4_51Supergirl tries to find herself, literally. Previous events have split apart Linda Danvers and Supergirl, who had basically merged into the same person when this series began. The world believes Supergirl to be dead, and Linda is left with a portion of her powers as well as Supergirl’s overall good influence on her.

Linda believes Supergirl is still out there somewhere, and she’s been tasked with following a “Chaos Stream” to find her. Unfortunately for her, the only individual who can track the Chaos Stream is a depowered former demon named Buzz—the guy who convinced Linda to join a deadly cult right before she became Supergirl. So these two nemeses are forced to tolerate each other on their cross-country quest. It’s almost like a fantasy version of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Issue #51 sets up the new status quo with a trip to Metropolis. The humor remains as strong as ever, and Linda’s struggles to adjust to her lower power levels provide an excellent source of comedy. She’s basically set at Superman’s original 1938 levels (leap an eighth of a mile, faster than a train, no actual flying, etc.), and she hastily pulls together a new costume that matches the animated version of the character that was in circulation at the time.

The series has evolved into something different than it was in #1, but it all feels like a natural progression. This is certainly a title that never got stale.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Robin Riggs

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #50 (2000)

supergirl_vol_4_50A 50-issue saga reaches its climax as Supergirl saves Heaven and, in turn, everyone on Earth.

Writer Peter David pulls together various threads that have built up over the course of the series, and the result is suitably epic. Taking in the full scope, it’s impressive work. This could almost be a series finale, but it establishes a new status quo that promises ample entertainment going forward (or for the next 30 issues until it gets cancelled).

David absolutely succeeds in distinguishing Supergirl from Superman and giving her room to breathe as her own character (characters, technically). If anything, he goes too far in that direction, to the point where this story would have worked almost as well if he had created an entirely new super-heroine for it.

In any case, this has certainly been a memorable and unique Supergirl, and an engaging read from the start with consistently solid artwork.

And now for something completely different next issue!

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Robin Riggs

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #42 (2000)

supergirl_vol_4_42This series continues to build nicely. Again, you shouldn’t start in the middle, but it rewards you for sticking around from the beginning.

Writer Peter David juggles various plot threads and characters, making all feel important and organic, as demonstrated in issue #42. He plays around with familiar tropes, such as a secret identity interfering with a date, and he includes less common concepts, such as a new church that worships Supergirl as an angel. All are compelling, as is that fantastic cliffhanger.

I’ve neglected to compliment artist Leonard Kirk, who has drawn most of the series thus far. He’s got a nice, clean style that’s not the least bit exploitative. Whether she appears in superhero form or as regular Linda Danvers, Supergirl looks like a person, not an adolescent’s fantasy version of a woman. It’s a refreshing change of pace.

Some of the themes are too mature for younger children (i.e., religion), but you could comfortably show these comics to a middle school–aged boy or girl. And you could read them yourself and not feel the least bit embarrassed.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Robin Riggs

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #34 (1999)

supergirl_vol_4_34The problem with having two identities is sometimes they need to be on different continents at the same time.

The fun continues in Supergirl #34, which gives us not only secret-identity hijinks, but also a classic Superman villain, a cameo by some young super-whippersnappers, and major progress and a major setback for Linda’s professional life.

The issue kicks off on a creepy note, as a trail of desiccated rats leads law enforcement to the voracious Parasite, and then it’s on to art. Linda’s sculptures are debuting in a Parisian venue, which gives us a welcome reminder that Linda isn’t just a vessel for Supergirl—she’s got her own goals and interests that have nothing to do with superheroing. Unfortunately, however, Supergirl is also scheduled to give a speech in the U.S. at the same time. Hijinks ensue, along with the Parasite.

This particular incarnation of the Parasite serves as a nice counterbalance to this particular incarnation of Supergirl, as he also has absorbed someone else’s consciousness into his own. Between the two of them, they’re enough people to form a club.

Fun times indeed. I’m still enjoying rereading this series, though I certainly would not recommend starting in the middle.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Robin Riggs

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #23 (1998)

supergirl_vol_4_23As I continued reading through Peter David’s Supergirl series, I came across an issue that’s probably not universally adored.

David has never been shy about tackling controversial topics from time to time, and he does so in Supergirl #23, which makes the case that freedom of speech applies even to abhorrent speech.

A college has scheduled a speaker who holds blatantly racist views and justifies them through his academic research, so the students protest and demand the event be cancelled. Even special superhero guest star Steel shows up and endorses the students’ position, proclaiming in practically the same breath that he believes in the First Amendment but feels it is not absolute.

So Supergirl has to make a decision, and whatever she does, it’s going to be incredibly uncomfortable for her.

It’s tough to pull off a comic that tackles delicate subjects, but David succeeds by putting good people on both sides of the speech issue while making it clear no one supports the bigoted views (other than the one bigot himself). Plus, action and character development help minimize the preaching.

The comic entertains and makes you think a bit. Always a winning combination. And you don’t even have to agree with David’s stance on speech—you’re free to express your own position on the matter.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Robin Riggs

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up