Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Steve Orlando
Art: Brian Ching
Colours: Michael Atiyeh
Letters: Steve Wands
Release Date: 7th September 2016
It feels like we’ve been waiting a while since DC announced that Steve Orlando would helm ‘Supergirl’ in their new ‘Rebirth’ line. Following ‘Midnighter’ and his highly-regarded creator-owned work, we’ve been waiting patiently for the first issue to drop.
Opening with a three-page intro that riffs on Grant Morrison’s ‘All-Star Superman’ and the original ‘Superman: The Movie’, it instantly feels like it was worth the wait. We get a neat, quick glimpse of Krypton and Kara’s journey to Earth, and a two-page splash of our wide-eyed heroine swooping over the moon of Io.
The rest of the issue is a fish-out-of-water re-introduction to Kara Danvers, as she gets to grips with the antiquated Earth-technology that hinders her in science class. There’s a neat conceit at play here – Kara is, like all Kryptonians, physically far superior to Earthlings, yet socially and academically hampered by her inability to wrestle with a culture eons behind the one she grew up with.
It’s in this aspect that she differs from her cousin, Superman. He never knew Krypton, growing up in Smallville, and his powers were something he had time to get used to. He’s effectively a human waking up to his super-potential. Kara, in contrast, was a teenager by the time she escaped her home world, and now has to try to fit in.
She fails at that, pretty miserably. Her classmates diss her behind her back, Cat Grant (who’s a wonderful potential foil for Kara) dismisses her, and Director Chase chastises her. When it comes to her guardians, the Agents Danvers, Kara brushes off their attempts to help her feel at home, although Jeremiah’s attempts to speak Kryptonian and the outdated-by-two-hundred-years Kryptonian décor offer some bittersweet humour.
Kara often overhears the people in her life talking about her thanks to her enhanced senses, but either can’t seem to tune them out or has a morbid desire to listen to everything they say. It feels a little like she’s listening behind a door, waiting to hear what people think of her. Just so she can know she was right.
Through it all, Orlando reveals a Supergirl who is impatient, and a little haughty. A teenager, in other words. There’s no affectation here, just a girl trying to do the right thing in a world she’s at odds with, her powers and heritage separating her from her peers and others. Yet there’s an optimistic feel to the issue, in no small part thanks to artist Brian Ching, and colourist Michael Atiyeh, who bring a playful energy to the team.
There’s a panel where we close in on Kara as Director Chase grinds her down about Krypton’s “toxic culture”, and Ching shows us a young woman who looks like she’s trying so hard to live up to the ‘Super’ moniker in the face of misunderstanding and downright cynicism. We can see the grief and loss in her eyes as she remembers her father, and we’re reminded that she’s lost, out of place, a survivor – it’s exciting to see such subtlety in art that at first glance looks fairly broad.
Steve Wands’ letters deserve a mention too – Orlando likes dialogue, and Wands does a great job of using the space in a way that doesn’t ever let the lettering crowd the art.
A great team working on an exciting new book then. Supergirl is a character whose history is convoluted, and if Rebirth is about anything, it’s about making DC’s arcane universe accessible. Orlando and his team succeed in offering us a Supergirl that is both easily recognisable to DC die-hards and intriguing to a new demographic, who will hopefully be drawn in by his skilful handling of an awkward super-teen story that doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard.
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