Review: ‘The Adventures of Supergirl #1’
The Adventures of Supergirl #1
Writer: Sterling Gates
DC, $0.99 (digital)
DC has had something of a Supergirl problem for a while now. Not with the new TV show of that title airing on CBS, or, at least, not exactly. Everyone seems to love the show itself, which has proven to be remarkably high-quality for a non-Netflix, made-for-TV, live-action superhero show. No, DC’s problem has been that fans of the show and its title character who wanted to read some comic books featuring Supergirl have been pretty much out of luck. See, DC hasn’t been publishing a Supergirl comic in a while now…and hasn’t had a high-quality one with a tone approaching that of the TV show in even longer.
Good news? DC is working on that problem.
In what is surely the most baffling lack of corporate synergy, DC canceled their ongoing Supergirl comic due to poor sales last spring, so that by the time the extended trailer for the TV show started hitting the Internet, there were no new Supergirl comics on the shelves of comic book shops.
The other, even greater problem was that the Supergirl from the show wasn’t much like any of the many versions of Supergirl that have appeared in any DC Comics for a while now. A friend of mine who was so excited by the trailers for the TV show that she wanted to start reading Supergirl comics immediately asked me for some recommendations…and I couldn’t think of any to suggest. The character, like many secondary ones, tended to suffer whenever DC did their periodic, in-story cosmic reboots of their own history/continuity, making most iterations of Supergirl ridiculously complicated (like the post-Crisis shape-changing synthetic protoplasm Matrix version, or the flame-winged Earth-bound angel version). When DC gave the character a soft reboot in 2005, restoring her original origin as Superman’s cousin from Krypton, her origins were again simplified…but her new book began featuring the highly sexualized artwork of Ian Churchill, and the character was wearing the sort of tiny costume made fun of by the TV Supergirl in the pilot episode.
What DC should have done while the show was was in the later stages of development was put together a new creative team and a new direction for their floundering New 52 iteration of Supergirl, akin to what they did with their Batgirl in Batgirl #35.
They may have been slow to meet the demand generated by the TV show, but they’re trying and, hey, better late than never, right?
The attempt comes in the form of The Adventures of Supergirl, a new, 13-part digital-first comic being written by Sterling Gates (who wrote a big chunk of the 2005-2011 Supergirl series), and featuring art by Bengal, the one-named artist who has recently done some pretty great work on a couple of Batgirl comics (other artists will contribute work on future chapters). Their work on the title, at least based on the first nine-page chapter, is quite strong, although the strategy is a bit questionable.
Adventures isn’t set in the “real” DC Universe that the publisher’s superhero line shares as a setting, but in the world of the television show, making this akin to the comics based on past DC cartoon shows or, more relevantly, on the CW Arrow and The Flash television shows that DC has published in the past. This is, in other words, a comic book adaptation of a television show based on DC comics. Just as with the project’s timing (better late than never), this approach isn’t ideal, but better than no approach at all (or, in other words, this Supergirl comic is better than no Supergirl comic).
The major pitfall, however, seems to be that it is targeting a rather narrow audience–fans of the TV show that want to read a comic book as much like the TV show as possible–rather than seeking to address a wider range of potential readers that includes a segment of the TV audience. After all, if you like the TV show, you likely like it for reasons beyond its characters and plot; Gates can write well and Bengal can draw great, but they can’t replicate Melissa Benoist’s charisma, or Calista Flockhart’s delivery of a particularly sharp barb, or the physical appeal of Mechad Brook’s deep-voiced, tight-shirted Sexy James Olsen.
This nine-page chapter is narrated by Supergirl and opens in medias res with Supergirl performing the duties that the show’s Department of Extra-Normal Operations is set up to do: Track, fight, and capture aliens who aren’t Supergirl or her cousin. Here the alien menace is Rampage, a late-80’s John Byrne-created Superman villain who is basically an orange-skinned, female version of The Hulk.
Supergirl and Rampage duke it out, as the former demonstrates her various powers, and flashes back to her origin story (i.e. the opening sequence of the TV show). The cliffhanger ending involves Rampage damaging a DEO helicopter carrying Supergirl’s adopted human sister.
Aside from two panels of Hank Henshaw, Supergirl and Rampage are the only two characters from the TV show to appear in these first few pages, so it will remain to be seen how well Gates and his artistic collaborators capture the rest of the cast of characters and their interactions. With so little to go on, it’s very difficult to judge this new series, but, taken on its own, this chunk at least demonstrates competent if unambitious plotting by Gates, an adherence to the basics of the show with a willingness to break its narrative strategy, and all-around fine art by Bengal, in which the artist focuses on drawing his version of the characters, rather than attempting awkward likenesses of the actors playing them, as too many based-on-a-TV-show comics do.
It’s still not the best answer to the publisher’s Supergirl problem–a Gates/Bengal Supergirl comic book-comic that captures the spirit and tone of the TV show while adhering to the shared setting of the DC Universe would of course be better–but it’s an answer. And that is, of course, better than no answer.
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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