Supergirl #32

I really liked this storyline when it started. No one knew what to do with the returned teenage cousin of Superman. She was brought back to pacify older fans, who wanted the “real” one, but there was no future-looking purpose for her, only a nostalgic one.

Supergirl #32 cover

So various writers have been thrashing around looking for something to make her different. And Kelley Puckett found one: that her youth made her idealistic, with her abilities giving her a way to act on her dreams.

In this story, she made an accidental promise to a boy dying of cancer that she would save his life. That was different: instead of fighting the same old franchise supervillains on the same old never-ending merry-go-round, she took on a threat that was real and understandable to the reader, one where being a superhero could maybe truly make a difference. Why couldn’t a superbeing use their powers for something more than beating someone up?

Only, well, this is Puckett’s last issue as writer, because the corporate master had other ideas (such as a Supergirl-branded global fashion line that includes “silk party dresses” with subtle logos on buttons or snaps) so it’s time to wrap up the ends neatly and in a completely unsatisfying way.

The imagery, such as Kara’s opening nightmare of waking up in a coffin, is powerful, and Puckett does a good job of showing how patronizing statements like, “You did everything you could” sound, but everything else is abbreviated and resorts to that ridiculous genre cop-out of time travel.

The last message, “if I did this, I’d be as bad as the villain”, is absurd reductionist thinking. If a bad guy uses a gun, does that mean that everyone that uses a gun is a bad guy? No. Heroes are supposed to be better than us; that includes not succumbing to temptation.

Once again, hope to see something different from a big-label superhero book is demolished. And it’s a declining circle. Every time a reader is disappointed this way, they have less faith to give the next story that tries something unusual.


9 Responses to “Supergirl #32”

  1. Dave Says:

    I agree Supergirl has had its ups and downs (mostly downs) but there are a few titles where the creators are expanding beyond the standard storylines with the support of their publisher. Captain America by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting comes to mind.

    The story has been a fun, exciting ride – where I’m regularly surprised and waiting for the next issue.

    It seems the gems are few and far between regarding established characters (they usually are), but there are a few out there. It’s worth the hunt to find them.

  2. david brothers Says:

    I really, really dug this run, and this incarnation of Supergirl in particular. It was a great way to portray what’s basically a teenaged protagonist, and an offbeat superhero tale. I kind of wish it’d stuck around, but no such luck.

    I definitely plan to pick up the trades, though. It won’t do much good since it’s already gone, but I do want to reward quality.

  3. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Aug. 18, 2008: Unkillable Says:

    [...] one, but there was no future-looking purpose for her, only a nostalgic one.” – Johanna Draper Carlson on [...]

  4. KET Says:

    “So various writers have been thrashing around looking for something to make her different. And Kelley Puckett found one: that her youth made her idealistic, with her abilities giving her a way to act on her dreams.”

    Idealism is one thing, but acting against simple common sense is another, and that’s exactly what hampered the bizarre “Supergirl tries to cure a kid’s cancer” story arc from the start. When the heroine finally succumbs to the obvious end game that everyone she encountered had already predicted, there was no drama to it, only FAILURE. And after several false starts to this series (and coountless ‘creative team’ changes), illuminating failure isn’t really what this character really needs to exemplify right now.

  5. Raymond Tate Says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this storyarc, and I found Puckett’s ending to be a very clever means of preserving his run of Supergirl in amber. Check out the reviews I did for Comics Bulletin if you’re interested.

    I don’t see why people objected to this story. It was well written, different and it allowed for Kara to be likeable, heroic and intelligent.

    I loved her interactions with Batman, treated as her eccentric Uncle, and I liked how Superman was given dignity while still being shown as more human in his thinking than Kara, the more imaginative alien who grew up with the advanced technology of Krypton.

    Puckett drew this version of Supergirl far closer to the original incarnation than any other writer did. This character I really recognized as Supergirl.

    Even the cure for cancer theme is an echo of the original Kara attempting to find a means to immunize Kal-El from kryptonite, and what better way to symbolize “the never-ending battle?”

    I don’t begrudge Supergirl for not being able to save Tommy, because she kept trying. She did everything in her power and imagination to succeed. Fifty years later, she’s still attempting to find the cure. I also liked that Tommy’s parents finally realized that Kara was bending over backwards to save him.

    I think Puckett addressed several methods that theoretically should have worked but didn’t. The idea of nanomachines simply not functioning in a corpse because they haven’t any energy to run for instance.

    Supergirl basically did a helluva lot more for Tommy than was done for Barbara Gordon, who can be healed about a hundred times over if the powers that be would just make it so.

    Who knows? Had Puckett stayed on the title, maybe he would have had a different ending in mind.

    Maybe Kara still wouldn’t have found a cure for cancer, but she would have found a way to bring Tommy’s specific cancer into remission. I figure he rejected this idea because he knew that the writer after him would probably ignore his conclusion and kill Tommy to exemplify the lack of hope in the DCU.

    Maybe Puckett would have used this as an ongoing theme. Supergirl would have different future stories–she would battle maniacs and villains of course, but her “hobby” would now be to cure cancer.

    The stories would start with she in a lab working on her latest elixir. An emergency would interrupt her endeavors. Some tales would be focused on Kara using another DCU character’s powers as curative, consulting with Batman, finding new insights into the disease.

    I would have certainly liked to see a more scientifically minded female super hero in comics. With added research that I think Puckett was willing to do, Supergirl could have been it.

    I’m likely to drop this title when the new writers come aboard. I’ll give them a try, but I doubt lock-stepping with the Geoff Johns Superman is a good direction for any hero, especially Kara.

    I fear that the new writers will attempt to exterminate every hint of Puckett’s whimsical, determined, optimistic characterization for the Girl of Steel.

    Ray

  6. Johanna Says:

    KET, in the DCU, ignoring death is common sense, based on experience. The failure I see here is, as I said, the unsatisfying ending of the story. The premise was just fine.

  7. KET Says:

    “KET, in the DCU, ignoring death is common sense, based on experience.”

    Only if one is a superhero. However, mortals in today’s DCU are almost always cannon fodder, so your overgeneralization doesn’t hold.

    Basically, Tommy was a NON-ENTITY as a character, so there wasn’t any compelling ‘fate hanging in the balance’ which justified how severely dragged-out this story arc became. Whether this cardboard cutout lived or died simply never amounted to any event of significance.

    The arc’s premise was NEVER fine. Its basic eye-rolling absurdity merely made its self-centered protagonist appear even MORE ‘bubble-headed blonde’ than usual, especially when already confronted by her peers. The ending to this arc was already a foregone conclusion from the start, and the fact that it played out the way it did merely underscored the ONLY constant this series has proved right from its FIRST story arc: Supergirl, at her core, is still a LOSER.

    It’s no wonder this misbegotten series is getting yet another reboot. The current SG still has yet to live up to her moniker.

  8. KET Says:

    “I would have certainly liked to see a more scientifically minded female super hero in comics. With added research that I think Puckett was willing to do, Supergirl could have been it.”

    Doubtful. The idea of the current SG mastering science would have about as much credibility as “Denise Richards as nuclear physicist Christmas Jones”. :)

    “I’m likely to drop this title when the new writers come aboard. I’ll give them a try, but I doubt lock-stepping with the Geoff Johns Superman is a good direction for any hero, especially Kara.”

    Agreed. Actually, I don’t think lock-stepping with ANY Johns title is a particularly good idea creatively, as the books he doesn’t write always look like ‘the runt of the litter’.

  9. Johanna Says:

    Tommy wasn’t intended to be a character, as I read it, but a symbol. You may call “superhero takes on death” absurd; I call it inspirational, and what I find absurd is wanting her instead to be even more standard superhero (yawn). But you seem to have issues with Supergirl as a character that are playing into your analysis, so I’ll back away now.

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