SUPERGIRL #32 (Tony Bedard, Emanuela Lupacchino & Ray McCarthy) is the payoff for all of this waiting in line we’ve been doing. Now that I’ve gotten to follow SUPERGIRL for a little while, I know how the series ‘flows’
Unlike how Azarello has crafted a consistent, forward moving story arc from the moment WONDER WOMAN started, the creative team behind SUPERGIRL has given us a ton of one off stories connected by a larger myth arc, which would be The World Killers.
If you’re just coming into the series, the World Killers are some of the first villains we ever saw Supergirl go up against. They’re a race of genetically engineered Kryptonians who were meant to go out and depopulate worlds. Call them Krypton’s Innocent Sin. Rather than the in-your-face type of Villains, The World Killers are a lingering threat. They loom over the heads of the protagonist and readers during the rest of the story. What’s a very, very common storytelling technique has actually been used to great effect in maintaining a consistent level of suspense throughout SUPERGIRL.
SUPERGIRL has a clear idea of where it’s going and what it wants us to accomplish. In making this the angriest iteration of the character, we’ve gotten a character moving beyond misplaced youthful anger. Kara is legitimately frustrated with the world around her and her role in it. Her rage marked her for the Red Lanterns to be sure, but it was also her rage that causes the reader to take her seriously when she makes statements about being the most dangerous thing in the galaxy.
I’ve enjoyed the narrative arc of seeing Supergirl shed her naivete and exchange it for rage. Making a character like SUPERGIRL the angry one plays out organically, as opposed to the tired efforts that have been constantly used to try and craft Superman into a compelling character while turning him into the Upset Alien. Give us more of this angry Supergirl and let Kara’s anger not be misdirected. Have more characters lie to her and betray her and feel betrayed by her. That’s how you set up for seeing if Kara is worthy of the name Supergirl.
Kara effortlessly tears through a group of the ‘head’ Worldkillers space fleet like they’re made of paper. Bedard employs one of my favorite plot devices involving a Kryptonian: The moment they realize they’re up against isn’t a living creature, and can suddenly cut loose. Queue our favorite red lantern cutting loose as best as she can. The highlight of a story when you’ve got a character like Supergirl is building up to the moment when she can, and the artists here make it look messy and angry.
I’ve never read a series of comics more dependent on last minute twists than the kind of stuff DC’s putting out right now. Comics feel like bad daytime television in how manipulative the storytelling has become. SUPERGIRL’s tension seems to reach a climax, and then springs back only because there’s a twist at the end of the issue.
Normally, a twist ending isn’t a negative. Pulled off well, a twist ending reveals new and often information that’s difficult to predict, and recolors our previous assumptions about the story. Having the villain turn out to be able to jump bodies is cheap and it’s something you could use at the onset to make that villain more of a threat, instead of saving it to the last possible minute.
Where SUPERGIRL appears to be heading is building up Kara as a sort of one-true World Killer. This would be a great dramatic shift on top of her nature as a regular born Kryptonian, but what’s the point of having that dramatic struggle if outside of this one instance she’s been so good at fighting the Worldkillers and resisting joining them?
If you want readers to take a group of villains seriously, they all have to be credible threats. Otherwise, you’ve just wasted all of their previous appearances so you could suddenly make their boss seem even more dangerous. In an effort to build up a larger villain, SUPERGIRL’s creative team damaged its long-term arc as a downfall of building a strong narrative base out of self contained story lines.
SUPERGIRL #32 is being told you were standing in the wrong line the entire time. You’re waiting and waiting, and when you finally get to the end – it’s not for the counter you wanted.
I’m not sick of The Worldkillers by any means, but I want this storyline to finally intersect and tie itself back together. Oddly enough, where SUPERGIRL is at is also where WORLDS’ FINEST and WONDER WOMAN are at, plot wise. We’ll probably be all finished with stories that started when The New 52 rolls around – just in time for the ‘Band-aid‘. Think about that.