If you’ve been following SUPERGIRL since the first issue, you’ll know that at the start of this series there was a small glimmer of something different.
SUPERGIRL seemed almost like it was set up to be a slice-of-life story, or if it wasn’t that it could’ve worked as a great example of that over time.
By the time the story was starting to head in a solid direction, her best friend almost becomes a supervillain and Kara got swept up in a giant crossover. It was hard to keep up with the entire series of events that DC pulled with the character He’l’s story, let alone the fact that it made Kara’s solo book a nightmare. Kara’s story feels collared very tightly by editorial, like someone thinks she can serve more as something to justify larger events in the DC universe more than she can justify the events of her own story.
SUPERGIRL #33 (Tony Bedard, Jeff Johnson & Emanuela Lupacchino) takes over from where we left off last month, of course: hot on the heels of her big battle where she tore through a space armada, Kara was told she was basically a Worldkiller, and then the bad guy turned out to not actually be dead. What a twist. There’s another story waiting to be told with Kara Zor-El, and like it or not I don’t think that story is going to be told for quite some time. There’s still hope to see that story get told, of course – the big news this weekend was the new direction for BATGIRL, so maybe we might see some of that more conscious storytelling rub off on Kara herself.
Kara is a very angry character. There are a lot of ways the issues have managed to state this – sometimes it’s more tell than it is show, but even so it’s usually handled with a bit of grace.
This issue opens with Kara plummeting to the Earth while Worldkiller-1 grips her in his terrifying embrace. The creative team really pulls it out with this opener by managing to juxtapose the fall to the Kryptonite irradiated Earth with Kara listing off the reasons she has to be pissed- while her Red Lantern ring slowly recharges.
That’s a solid way to showcase a character’s power set as really being a part of the character. I remember old GREEN LANTERN comics having these situations that Hal would have to will himself out of. I doubt the introduction to SUPERGIRL #33 is an intentional homage, but it’s nice to see them draw on the source of her Red Lantern powers like this.
But SUPERGIRL #33 isn’t a character study, and it doesn’t have to be. This is a Super Hero Comic, this gives us more of that theme that the last issues had. It also showcases Kara exhibiting a commitment to saving lives instead of the villain – something some of the main Superman books have lacked. Way to show Kal how it’s done. Lupacchino and Johnson do a great job making this issue fit neatly together like it was prepackaged this way. We go from the skies of Earth to a quick plummet into Brazil, showcasing the architecture of the suburban areas there with a high-rising background to contrast Supergirl and Worldkiller-1’s struggle.
Before you know it, we’re back in space and right in front of the sun itself. It’s a cool trick to take us to the street and back to the cosmos in a single issue, especially in a way that doesn’t feel paint-by-numbers.
Sure, this is a good superhero book. We still don’t know anything about Kara that we didn’t before. In a way, her attitude change at the end of the issue almost puts her right back where she was before she became a Red Lantern. There’s the problem with the crossover-centric world that Kara has lived in. She’s consistently used as a tool for stories, and they never focus on her. Even her tenure as a Red Lantern has been mostly about what Guy Gardner and the rest of the corps think of the Kryptonian.
At the end of this, Kara has some renewed sense of purpose. But it’s not because of the events she experienced as a Red Lantern, it’s because of the experiences she’s had in the last few issues of her own story. It makes the tenure as a Red Lantern feel like only a stop on the way to wherever this character is going, instead of being part of the road.
See, my beef with Kara Zor-El is that she’s constantly exhibiting these great traits that work for her: her temper works hand in hand with her empathy, her naivete tempers her pride. She’ll display those traits every time she goes off to face a villain- every single time. Readers have been told that these are the traits of Kara Zor-El about a hundred times now, but they hardly grow by the time a storyline featuring her has wrapped. She’s grown as a character since the first issue, sure, but that growth has happened at a snail’s pace, and sometimes not at all.
SUPERGIRL #33 is, like her tenure as a Red Lantern, a pit stop on the side of the road. I don’t feel like it is entirely instrumental to her character, as a story. I recognize these stories often build slowly, but they should tell us something new about our protagonist or her side characters. I know Guy Gardner and the Red Lanterns care for Kara, and I know what kind of person she is. Now, these stories can start being about that.