Supergirl #36 was a nice break from the standard beat-em-up or mystery comic. The plot was very dialogue heavy, we get to see Supergirl’s character flushed out as she tries to integrate herself into normal life as a coffee shop employee. The break in the action doesn’t last long though. Just as Supergirl finishes declaring that she “wants to live around real people, living real lives”, she is abducted and put to the test by an intergalactic superhero school called the Crucible Academy.
This was a particularly fun issue. It reminded me of that classic line from Rambo: First Blood (1982) “Back there I could fly a gunship, I could drive a tank, I was in charge of million-dollar equipment. Back here I can’t even hold a job parking cars! “. Upon returning from her stint with the Red Lanterns Kara is still trying to find herself. At the beginning of this issue we find her trying, and failing to hold down a job at a coffee shot. There, she encounters her cousin Clark (Superman) and they have a discussion about the implications of being a Super-powered weapon and Kara basically announces her retirement from superheroing. She seems set on living her own life and walks away, brooding about her powers. Then, suddenly she is suddenly transported into a strange jungle with a new Supergirl uniform, and is instantly attacked by an ape like creature. The fight ends as quickly as it began and as soon as she defeats the man-ape, she is transported to yet another world where she fights a woman in an active volcano, then another where she races through a asteroid belt chasing a mysterious stranger. Finally, she is warped to a beautiful world where she meets Lys Amata, the head of Crucible Academy. The comic ends with the discovery that Lys set up the whole situation as a test for Supergirl to enter the Crucible Academy, basically the equivalent of Hogwarts for Superheros.
I Like that Supergirl #36 was a different kind of superhero comic. It was interesting that the bulk of Supergirl #36 was dedicated to breaking down the concept of a Superhero itself. It reminds me of one of my favorite Superman comics Superman: Grounded, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superman:_Grounded) Where Superman takes some time to stop fighting and just connect to humanity. It brought up some interesting questions like: Does having Superpowers mean that you have a responsibility to use them for good? What happens when a Superhero simply doesn’t want to live the life of a Superhero? Is it actually better for Superheros who have a huge potential to cause a havoc if they ever lost control to just live in obscurity? I am not saying that all Superhero comics should use this format, but it is a nice break from the ordinary.
The art in Supergirl #36 was pretty cool. I liked the new, futuristic Supergirl outfit. The visor really is a nice little change, and the fact that the suit looks more tactical than the standard spandex jumpsuit is a neat touch.
The backgrounds were also really well utilized in Supergirl #36. Each setting, like the brightly colored alien jungle, and the lava pits were very well detailed. It is always a plus to see the background actually given relevance to set the stage for a scene instead of just being an underutilized, flashy, blob. The jungle and lava pits were as important to setting the stage for the fight scenes, as the busy coffee shop was for setting the stage for the conversation between Supergirl and Superman.
I am getting a little sick of that trope from every fantasy ever where the hero is forced to perform some kind of test to see if they are “worthy” of being a part of some secret club or school. (In case you were curious, this trope is referred to as a “False Crucible”. Look it up, there is actually a nerd somewhere keeping track of these things.) If the goal was just to see if Supergirl would be able to survive training, there is no reason to take the trouble of transporting her to another world against her will. They could easily just have asked her and she could have made a decided if she wanted to opportunity then and there.
The ending with Superboy seemed forced. It basically ended with Superboy saying “I am working on myself”, then giving one of those ubiquitous heroic poses. This would have been a lot more compelling if it actually ended on some kind of Superboy cliffhanger, rather than just scene about Superboy’s random inner dialog.
Supergirl #36 was a great comic. Even with the lack of a cliffhanger and the overused tropes I would give this a read.