Sometimes a comic is wonderful, and I take a lot of joy in sharing why I love it so much. Sometimes a comic is pretty awful, and I take great pains to explain exactly why it didn't work for me. But more often than not, a comic is somewhere in between. There's good, there's bad, and I do my best to portray its strengths and issues in a balanced way so that readers can make up their own minds on whether or not it's for them. And then, every once in a while, there's a comic like Supergirl #1.
Here's the thing- Supergirl #1 is good. The comic itself is well-written, and this Kara seems likable and relatable while still feeling very alien. Mahmud Asrar turns out some beautiful art, full of realistic facial expressions and body language. There are some really neat moments and a few really nice lines, and the comic ends on a decent cliffhanger. It has what seems to be a good female lead- writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson have said that the comic is aimed at female readers- and it's the kind of comic you could give to a younger reader without worrying. There's so much I want to applaud here.
But after 20 pages worth of story, we're still on the opening scene. I read this panel to panel, and it was a genuine shock when I realized I'd already reached the end. There's some nice characterization, even if not much else is happening, but I feel like that's hampered by the fact that this largely appears to be the same origin story Supergirl's had time and time again. And when that story was originally told back in 1959, the writers did it in only two pages. As good as the little we got was, it's a struggle for me to give something like this a positive review.
Supergirl is an especially unique position in that I think she's lost more readers than any other single character in recent years. Her August 2005 debut sold over 123,000 copies- fantastic sales by any measure, and even more impressive considering that she's a female character. In June of 2011, the month the relaunch was announced, she had lost more than 100,000 of those readers. DC has stated that one of the major goals of the relaunch is to lure back lapsed readers, and if they even managed to convince half those readers to give Kara a chance again, she'd be in a great place. I think they really missed the mark opening with a story paced this way, and I fear this won't be enough to convince fans to come back to the character.
I do want to give the creators credit, because in spite of the pacing issues, everyone involved does some great work. The panel in which Kara hears out of context lines from other comics is absolutely brilliant, and it was a lot of fun to read issues later and see those lines crop up. Sterling Gates did such a great job writing Kara that there was bound to be some animosity towards this new take, but she seems so real and so genuinely sympathetic that I can't imagine fanboys hating her for long. This introduction is miles above the fanservice laden one she had back in 2004.
And the comic really is beautifully drawn. There's a softness to the backgrounds that contrasts with the sharper lines used on Kara herself, and helps illustrate her feeling that she's in a dream. Asrar is a skilled visual storyteller, especially when it comes to action scenes, and while he gets some chances to show that off here, I think he's going to really shine when the book picks up its pace. Most importantly, he succeeds in making Kara actually look like a teenagers, something that most comic artists without an overly cartoony style struggle with. I think he's a great choice for the book
This comic is a primary example of writing for the trade, and when this arc is finished, I believe it'll be a really good read. I plan on picking it up, and I hope I can give the story the review it deserves then. Green and Johnson are obviously talented writers, and I really think that if they compress their stories a little more, Supergirl could go big places. Right now, I recommend this only to fans of decompressed storytelling- there must be some of you out there- and suggest that anyone else read this comic one story arc at a time. I'll definitely be talking about this comic again later, but right now, it's just not something I can justify spending $2.99 an issue on.