Welcome to the final day of The Girls of Steel Weekhere at the Fortress.  For five days I want to celebrate the various characters that have been given the name Supergirl.  Instead of ranking them one to five I am going to go in chronological order, so sit back and enjoy the various Maids of Might that have been around DC Comics for over fifty years!

The Girls of Steel Week Day Five: Kara Zor-El 2.0

You know, I really feel bad for the current Supergirl.

Let me back that up a moment.  I guess the way I should have started this column was that I have had very mixed feelings about the current Supergirl pretty much since she was introduced back in 2004 in the story arc  The Supergirl from Krypton.  I’ll go so far as to say I enjoyed that story when it ran in Superman/Batman#s 8-13 and while it does have a problem or two plot and character wise it was a solid way to introduce the new Kara Zor-El.  In fact, if you want to read the reviews I wrote for the storyline back when I was sharing the reviewing duties on Superman/Batman over at the Superman Homepage you can find them here, here, here and here.

In any case the new Kara had a bombastic introduction and at the end of that story arc there was a new Supergirl for the DCU, which I thought was pretty awesome.  By that point I had let go a lot of the notions I had about Superman being the only Kryptonian.  If I am remembering my thinking correctly I thought the time was right for the concept of a Kryptonian Supergirl returning and more than anything else she wasn’t the Cir-El Supergirl that had been foisted on us a year or so before.  My buddy Alan wrote something to this effect in a comment he left this week here at the Fortress and I have to agree with him completely.  I would have accepted any version of Supergirl as long as it wasn’t Cir-El.

Kara’s next major appearance was in her “solo” issue of Superman/Batman.  Turns out I wrote the review for Superman/Batman #19 as well and you can read that here.  I just read through it myself and two things hit me, the first beingthat my early reviews were way too long and self-indulgent.  The second thing that hit me was how some of the opinions I had back in 2005 have changed but both of those are rather beside the point.  The point I actually want to make was that while The New Adventures of Supergirl, the Girl of Steel (the issue’s story title) was well written it and had a good cliffhanger type ending it was when Supergirl gained her own title that things got a bit dicey.  I recently re-read the first five issues of the ongoing Supergirl title and while I enjoyed the first  story arc a lot more now when I was able to read it all at once rather then back in 2005 when the book was somewhat monthly I also saw the writing on the wall as far as the problem Kara would have until just before New Krypton.

If you were reading the book as it came out monthly you know what I’m talking about.  If you missed out on all of that the best way I can describe the situation is that  after Loeb left the book Supergirl spent a lot of her time wandering aimlessly through her own title.  After issue six, which was solidly written by Greg Rucka, Joe Kelly took over the book and suddenly you didn’t know what you were going to get month after month.  I have no idea what Joe Kelly was thinking when he wrote the title.  She became a bad parody of the Paris Hiltons and Brittney Spears of the world; smoking, hanging out at clubs, dating the wrong guy, getting into trouble in public, etc.  The book was a chore to read and was the very definition of hit and miss, emphasis on the word “miss”  Every once in a while an issue would come along and I would like it, but in addition into trying to make the Girl of Steel into the Girl of Skank they also played out the ill-conceived notion Jeph Loeb started in his first and last story arc on the title.  In case you forgot what that was or blocked it out of your memory there was a time when Kara believed that she was sent to Earth by her father Zor-El to kill her cousin.

She was also a key player in Amazons Attack

Amazons Attack was worse that Genesis and Bloodlines put together.

There I said it and feel better for having done so.

After Joe Kelly left as writer the editor and the creators that followed him  tried to turn the book around and while it was definitely better than what had come before there was still something missing and that something was a purpose for the character.  This may be oversimplifying what happened but it seems that the main reason that a new Kara came into being was the Dan DiDio rode a DC themed roller coaster, saw the origin for the Matrix version of Supergirl and got a headache or something like that and because of that he wanted the iconic Supergirl back so people riding theme park rides wouldn’t be confused.  Pithy attitude aside it seems that the DC of the past six or so years has been about two things; bringing back the iconic versions of their heroes and then taking those icons and surrounding them with gratuitous sex and violence all in the name of being edgy.  The Powers That Be wanted a Kryptonian Supergirl, Jeph Loeb created a Kryptonian Supergirl and suddenly the new generation was faced with the same problem, from what I understand, that the Pre-Crisis creators had to deal with namely what in the hell do we do with this Kryptonian teenager?  In the Silver and Bronze Age the answer was to have a family adopt her or send her to college or put her on a soap opera or move her to Chicago.  In the All New, All Darker DC of today the answer was to have her in as little clothing as possible to the point where I was rather uncomfortable reading the book in public less I be labeled as a pervert.

It was a bad scene for nearly two years.

Then Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle came along.

I really liked issue 34 of Supergirl.  Liked it a lot as a matter of fact.  I thought it was solidly written and even though I was put off by how the various writers on the Superman titles mangled Cat Grant as a character I enjoyed the book for the first time in ages.  Gates gave Kara a purpose and a great supporting cast and I wonder what the book would have been like if Supergirl hadn’t gotten swept up into the events of New Krypton.  I mean I know she had to get involved.  You can’t have 100,000 Kryptonians show up and not have Supergirl get into the story.  In fact Supergirl and Action Comics were the two titles that I consistently enjoyed through the course of New Krytpon, so that says something about how much Gates and Igle finally turned Kara from a caricature into an actual character that I could care about and get attached to.

And that brings me back to my earlier statement that I feel bad for the new Kara Zor-El because she had such a rough time of it and it really wasn’t her fault.  Every once in a while I think about catching up on Supergirl and continuing to collect it because while I am unhappy with the other Superman related books I wasn’t unhappy with her title.  Still and all I am glad that Kara is out there and that she is, for the moment, in good hands.

And that is it for The Girls of Steel Week.  I hope you all had as much fun reading these posts as I have had writing them.  Next week I am going to have another five part series because of some comics I recently purchased and I just have to talk about them.  Until then I hope everyone have a nice weekend and I will “see” you on Monday.

More to follow…

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  1. Interesting… I was always pulling for them to get this Supergirl right, but my feelings mirror yours. The whole notion of Zor-El sending her to kill Kal-El was ridiculous and an instance where I was willing to accept any retcon that would erase it. I also agree that the book floundered until Gates came on board.

    Where you and I part ways is where you say Action Comics was one of the two titles you consistently enjoyed in New Krypton. I thought the Supergirl end of things was pretty good, but the Nightwing/Flamebird end of the storyline was so bad (and ultimately pretty insignificant to the War and the resolution) that I wish I could get back all the money I spent on it.

    I also notice you skirted her time in Legion of Superheroes, but maybe that’s best forgotten. Isn’t it strange how when she first showed up, Kara seemed to be turning up in every other book for a while?

  2. I don’t know, as your fellow Superman Homepage reviewer and the poor sap who’s been reviewing Kara’s book from day 1, I’m not all that impressed with Gates. He’s had a more consistent run than the other writers, and yes he had a lot of crossovers to deal with, but… I don’t know, maybe it’s not his fault and maybe he looks better by comparison to how awful so many of the issues are, but I still find it lacking.

    Cat Grant and Lana make for an anemic supporting cast, in my opinion, especially since Kara and Cat basically never interact. Lois was written drastically out of character (again, may have been crossover-mandated, but it still bothers me) and in general I find the character is still lacking any direction.

    If you asked anyone to describe the book and what it’s about, all you could say is “Superman’s cousin”. And what does Kara do? What’s the story?

    Who knows.

    And that’s the biggest problem with the book, IMO. Yes, it’s better than it was, but it still doesn’t seem like we know anything about Kara as a person, she has no life outside of punching villains…

    Eh, I’m rambling. The most recent issue was good. With no more crossovers for a while (supposedly) I hope Gates can indeed turn this book around. It’d be nice after 50+ issues to know who Kara is and what the book’s about.

    As an aside, hey Bitter Script Reader! My wife loves your blog, and I think you and she have talked some. Fancy meeting you here. It’s a small internet and all, yadda yadda. 🙂

  3. Alan Leach Jr. says:

    Another great column today, I learned a lot that I didn’t know because I didn’t read the Supergirl title for a good 3 years. For the most part I enjoyed the Supergirl from Krypton when it came out. I say for the most part because I was turned off by the naked for the first issue thing and the Darkseid’s “concubine” thing, I don’t even want to think about it. By 2004 I had been through Superboy and the Ravers (yea I have a full run,) Birthright, Steven Seagal, and Joe Casey, Zurg Zod and some really bad art on the main Superman books so Superman/ Batman was a breath of fresh air. I tried Supergirl at the begining, I was a bit annoyed that I bought Supergirl # 0 and it was the contents of Superman/ Batman #19, that was the first nail. I think I read the first couple of issues and then Loeb left and things stopped making sense, and I just dropped it. I started picking up the book again from time to time during New Krypton and the funny thing was Supergirl was the most “Superman” book of all the titles. Supergirl had all the supporting characters that I love, Perry, Lois, Jimmy, Lana and even Cat and Gangbuster. I’m still reading Action and Superman and now I’ve added Supergirl to my pull list. I really enjoy the writing and the art, and I look forward to Supergirl every month. I liked the Man of Steel idea that Superman was the last son of Krypton and that made him unique in the universe. As I’ve said before I liked Matrix/ Supergirl and hey her origin made more sense then Ben Reilly or even Wolverine, but by the time Kara came around I was dating my future wife and I guess I was ready for Kara, it was nice that another member of Kal El’s family survived. Then New Krypton came around and neither Kal or Kara were anything special. Happily that story is over and Kara seems to have the most readible Superman title. By the way Mike Clark Kent was back in Superman 702 for a panel or two, its a start I guess. I just can’t drop the book and I have to say its the best its been in years, lastly thanks for the shout out in the blog, that was cool.

  4. Bitter: You know, I totally forgot to mention Kara’s time in the Legion as it was the one book with a Superman character in it that came out on time and that I enjoyed while it was coming out. I can see where you had problems with ACTION, especially since it was a lot of stuff happening with no real meaning in the end, but I am a big fan of Greg Rucka, so I think that had a lot to do with why I enjoyed the book so much, but to each his own.

    Jeff: I see where you coming from with Gates and the fact that we really don’t know much about her. It’s a fair point. You are a real trooper for reviewing the book for so long. I’m in the same boat when it comes to SUPERMAN/BATMAN. Don’t want to give up the reviewing duties but damn that books sucks most of the time.

    Also glad you are reading the blog. Do you catch it through Live Journal?

    Alan: Hey, you have sent me a lot of cool stuff. The least I could do is a shout out on a blog.

  5. Yeah, I see all the posts on LJ and click through when feeling enticed. 🙂

    How’re your podcasts going? Got any kind of info on the number of listeners, etc?

  6. penfold says:

    My problem with Kara Zor-El (Pre-Crisis or now) is that a lot about her origin defies the odds. The only *other* survivor of Krypton just so happens to land on Earth and just so happens to land in America and just so happens to be Superman’s cousin and just so happens, etc.

    Plus, the S-shield is iconic. Anybody who wears it must, to some extent or another, meet the standard set up by Superman. However, a Supergirl who’s pretty much a female Superman makes both characters less interesting and less unique. A Supergirl/bad girl though betrays what the S-symbol is supposed to stand for. Writing her as rookie learning the ropes solves the problem in the short term but she can’t stay that way forever.

    The Matrix Supergirl, therefore, remains top dog in my book. Given her history, it makes sense that she’d have fallen in love with Lex Luthor II, be utterly blind to his true nature and have a real relationship with the Kent family given all Superman had done to give her a chance at having a real life. No, her origin is not easy to encapsulate. “Supergirl, a protoplasmic, shape-shifting clone of an alternate universe’s Lana Lang, fights a neverending battle”. But I’ll take that any day of the week over the way the new school Kara Supergirl has been portrayed through the majority of her run since being reintroduced.

  7. My problem with Nightwing and Flamebird is somewhat akin to your issue with Cir-El. Like her, they were just thrown into the books with little build-up and we were expected to be compelled by them. I like Chris Kent as a concept, but aging him effectively made him a brand-new character, while Thara had barely had any screentime before turning up as Flamebird.

    I usually love Rucka too. In fact, before this, the only thing of his I really didn’t like was his issue of Supergirl. Greg does great work with character, but anytime he dips into Kryptonian mysticism the results leave me underwhelmed.

    It’s interesting to me that back during the Triangle Era, the teams effectively managed to introduce four brand-new Superman replacements and got the audience invested in them immediately. I think the reason those characters took hold in a way that Nightwing and Flamebird (and Mon-El) didn’t for the audience is the faster pacing. All four replacement Supermen were introduced in issues released on the same day and then it was less than two months later that Coast City was destroyed and we were into the second act of the story. IMHO, New Krypton’s big error was in waiting too long to draw the replacement characters into the core narrative. (And I say this as someone who liked most of WONK.)

  8. Luke says:

    I did not read New Krypton while it was going on, but did buy the entire run off of eBay after War of The Supermen came out. And I have been working my way through it, and have been enjoying it to the point that I feel I would have liked at least some of the titles had I been buying it at the time.

    Obviously, part of New Krypton is of course Supergirl by Gates and Igle. So far (I’m right up to the end of “Who Is Superwoman?”), this book is fantastic. Kara is written in a very appealing manner. She’s still learning how to be the hero she wants to be but she is not incompetant or immature. She’s smart and brave but still vulnerable. Her conflicts with her mother are very believably depicted and her relationship with Lana Land is a lot of fun too. If I could afford it, I would be buying her title every month. As it is I intend to pick up the collections.

    Funny that you liked Action Comics during New Krypton — I have found that one to be the weakest of all 4 titles. Then again I really like Robinson’s stuff on Superman, with Mon-El, the Guardian, and the Science Police, so my opinion may be atypical.

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