It was with a heavy heart last week that I picked up Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle’s last issue of Supergirl. I’d like to say in protest that it was the last issue I’m ever going to pick up because I loved their work so much and don’t want to think about anyone else on her book but I can’t because I love the character Supergirl even more.When my mom first rented the Supergirl film starring Helen Slater from our local library I doubt she had any idea the monster she was about to create. I wore my Supergirl pajamas as my Halloween costume that year and never looked back. I know a lot of people will say that movie was terrible but it captivated me as a young girl and it will always be one of my favorites. Just like Gates and Igle’s run.
Supergirl was reintroduced to the DC Universe after her sacrificial death in Crisis on Infinite Earths in issue #8 of Superman/Batman from 2004. The story arc by Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner was unlike anything I expected but it certainly got my attention. Of course it also got some negative attention, mainly because of Kara Zor-El’s body image but the strength of that story could not be denied. In fact, it was so good DC decided to make an animated feature out of it. You know, that one called Superman/Batman: Apocalypse instead of Superman/Batman: Supergirl? It was an excellent adaptation of Supergirl’s introduction and featured tons of great DC women.
From the end of the Superman/Batman arc it was only natural Supergirl would get her own ongoing series. Loeb continued his work with artist Ian Churchill until Joe Kelly took over on the second arc. Loeb’s run was still like an introduction with Supergirl crossing paths with just about every super team in the DCU. I enjoyed it but critics still complained about how skinny Kara was or the length of her skirt. All I cared about was that I was reading Supergirl on a regular basis. Then Kelly took us to the Bottled City of Kandor, or at least what we thought was the Bottled City. She tried out some secret identities, flirted dangerously with Captain Boomerang Jr. (Yeah, I know some people thought it was creepy, I still say they would have been cute together.), was stalked by Powerboy, fought with Cassie Cain and had crystals protrude from her body. Quite the ride for being back such a short time.
As if she wasn’t busy or confused about life enough by that point, Supergirl guest-starred in both Amazons Attack and Countdown and then took on a new writer, Kelley Pucket. This is where I started questioning the sanity of what was going into this book. Her dealings with Reactron were okay but when Puckett decided in issue #26 to have Supergirl tell a young boy with cancer she was going to cure him, I was pretty much done. I kept reading in the hopes that things would right themselves but that wouldn’t happen until issue #34.
That’s when Gates and Igle came on board.
They had one issue to start laying groundwork before the New Krypton storyline (spanning all the Super books) was their main focus. It may not have been the best circumstances for a jumping on point but Gates and Igle did have one advantage to help bring Kara back to normalcy – she got her family back. And what better way to prove you’re a real teenager than by having an argument with your mom? Gates didn’t let Kara having her family back mean happily-ever-after though. Their reunion was fraught with conflict almost from the get-go and ended up the worst way imaginable. Seeing Kara give up her life on Earth to please her parents was heartbreaking yet truthful to who the character is and hoped to be. Gates has loved this character most of his life and always made sure she had the most realistic reactions possible in his book. Even if that meant being a spoiled brat.
On the artistic side of things, a definitive move was made by Editor Matt Idleson to now have Kara wear biker shorts underneath her skirt. Most critics were thrilled and while I never had any particular problems with her costume before, I have to admit it was a nice change of pace to finally see Kara looking like a normal girl. Igle himself was glad to not have to draw Supergirl as his mother described, “like a hooker.” When Igle started, Supergirl went from that sexier image you weren’t comfortable reading in public to a respectable heroine you could begin to look up to. Of course, Supergirl isn’t perfect.
Gates certainly placed an emphasis on building up Supergirl’s Rogues Gallery, Superwoman being one of her main antagonists in his run. Not only was she tough, she made Kara’s life extremely difficult just by her mere identity. The writer also took the so-so villain Reactron and made him the heroes’ worst nightmare. Silver Banshee, Cat Grant, the Insect Queen and most recently, the Dollmaker were all thorns in her side at one point, though it was Bizarro Supergirl who turned into my favorite villain of the series. Admittedly, she was fairly harmless once Kara did her heroic duties. Despite the fact that that character was seen once briefly in Supergirl’s early years, I thought the decision to utilize her was one of Gates best moves.
Although Supergirl is cool with pretty much everyone in the DCU, she’s yet to have many close friends in her time back. That also changed with Gates run. Lana Lang, became not only her friend but her roommate, mentor and surrogate sister at times. Kara was reunited with her childhood friend Thara Ak-Var on New Krypton and though they had their differences it seemed they’d continue being the best of friends. That is, until Thara’s duty as Flamebird took her life. Through both of those interactions, not to mention any time spent with her cousin Kal, Gates showed us that although Kara is an alien, she’s as human as any one of us.
Nick Spencer who’s been writing the Jimmy Olsen co-feature was announced as taking over Supergirl with artist Bernard Chang on issue #60. Unfortunately, it was then announced that he is co-writing that issue, and not going any further with it from there, replaced by James Peaty. Regardless of who is writing, there’s always room for something new obviously but I still go by the age-old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And Supergirl was not broke. She was finally becoming whole again. Igle is moving onto artist duties for Zatanna soon, which, if it couldn’t be Supergirl, is a great substitute in my opinion. I am very much looking forward to seeing his work with her, especially after this stunning teaser .
Gates has yet to reveal his next project but wherever he lands I’m looking forward to him making his characters have real hopes, feelings and flaws just like he did with Supergirl. I think nothing can sum up Gates and Igle’s work on Supergirl quite like the last words Gates wrote for her in their final issue, “When it comes down to it, lives can be boiled down to just a few things: Our families...both the good and bad parts...the people that hate us...the ones who love us...and the work we leave behind. Some of us try hard to make the world a better place than it was when we found it. I know that’s what I try to do. I know I won’t always be successful, but that’s life. I’m Supergirl. This is my life...and you know what? I’m pretty happy with it. (For now at least.)”
So this is me saying, thanks for an outstanding two years of Supergirl. Kara is better for having you two lead her on her journey and she won’t be the same without you.Did you enjoy Gates' & Igle's flight with Kara?