Best Shots Review: SUPERGIRL #1 Has A 'Sense of Optimism' Lost In Recent DC Titles

"Supergirl #1" page
Credit: Brian Ching (DC Comics)
Credit: Brian Ching (DC Comics)

Supergirl #1
Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Brian Ching and Michael Atiyeh
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Credit: Brian Ching (DC Comics)

”Context: To live as Kara Danvers, relatable high school junior, you have to endure the crushing anxiety of your road test, same as your classmates.”

With a single line, Steve Orlando sets up the baseline plot for new initiates, following the new era established in August’s Supergirl: Rebirth #1. Undoubtedly influenced by the CBS/CW television series, Orlando is more interested in having fun with the character, emphasizing the teen aspects of Kara Zor-El and creating something that’s a bit of a throwback to the Silver Age of comic books. More than anything, it’s just nice to see a DC book with a major character that’s got a sense of optimism to it.

Going straight for the “fish-out-of-water” market, Orlando sets up a story of contrasts between Kara’s life on Krypton and her new life on Earth. Her successes as a bright and promising scientist revered by her peers on her home planet bang up against her role as an outsider struggling with the “backwards” nature of Earth science. In a lot of ways, this dichotomy gets to the heart of the fundamental differences between Superman and Supergirl. Where the former had a lifetime of growing up and learning Earth culture, Supergirl came into her powers as a Kryptonian-influenced teen. Orlando’s contention that Kryptonians are viewed as a cold, superior, and self-destructive race is espoused on page by D.E.O. Director Cameron Chase, and this exacerbates the identity crisis Kara is going through.

Credit: Brian Ching (DC Comics)

While this series carries over a number of elements from both the "New 52" and the TV series (especially the relationship with the D.E.O. and Cat Grant), not to mention continuing on from Supergirl: Rebirth #1, Orlando has designed a terrific jumping-on point for readers. Neatly setting up the origin story, a group of local minders, and the dual identities of the main character is no mean feat in a mere 20 pages, but it speaks to the terrific work the broader DC Entertainment has done in the last few years of consolidating the disparate versions of the character into a shorthand pop-cultural reference that is accessible by relative novices.

Credit: Brian Ching (DC Comics)

Supergirl has found a perfect artistic companion in Brian Ching, as his angular-jawed and wide-eye Supergirl wastes little time in double-splashing her way onto the page and into our hearts. The slightly manga-inspired artwork is energetic and vibrant, in perpetual movement, even in the most conversational of frames. Ching’s design for Supergirl is a classic one, lifting elements from what has come before but remaining wholly recognizable as the iconic red and blue. Kara’s alter ego is completely different in design again, wearing huge glasses and sporting darker hair and a hoodie. Springing into action, speed lines and Michael Atiyeh’s vibrant colors make this a dynamic tome.

One can’t begrudge Orlando for bringing Supergirl in line with her small screen counterpart, and he has mentioned in a number of interviews that there is a lot that the CBS/CW series gets right in terms of tone and flavor. Put simply, Supergirl draws on the best that the character has to offer, and serves it up in a package that fans of the broader super family can dip in and out of. This is definitely one to watch going forward, especially with that diabolically self-referential cliffhanger.

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