Overview

Supergirl #4

Review

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Supergirl #4

Credits

  • Words: Jeph Loeb
  • Art: Ian Churchill
  • Inks: Norm Rapmund
  • Colors: David Moran
  • Story Title: Girl Power, Chapter Four: JLA
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Feb 8, 2006

It’s Supergirls gone wild as Kara’s dark half takes on Lex Luthor and still has more than enough left for the JLA!

In league with Darkseid, Lex Luthor brought forth a Dark Supergirl when he exposed her to black kryptonite. But once she appears, he has to deal with a woman who lets no one tell her what to do and has more than enough to back it up—as Luthor discovers when she takes his best shots like mosquito bites. Making a run for it is just as futile—she catches up to him then tosses him like a bag of dirty laundry into the JLA’s satellite on the moon. From there, it only gets uglier when the JLA steps in between her and her prey.

The previous three issues in this wildly successful series have been light on plot and heavy on fight scenes. Supergirl #4 is no different, and Jeph Loeb’s banter-fight-banter-fight-then banter while fighting formula is in full effect throughout. And because the great bulk of the 88 pages offered thus far from Loeb and Churchill are so devoted to fight scenes, the only thing thinner than the plot is the characterization. To that, I, along with an apparent legion of readers, say "So what?" Supergirl has its appeal, and I’ve continued reading it with summer blockbuster entertainment the highest of my expectations. For the most part it’s delivered, and expecting profundity from it is like ordering steak in a vegetarian restaurant.

That said, this issue was not only entertaining, but even intriguing, with hints of complex developments ahead for the main character. But, sadly, this is only true of the first nine pages. By now we know that the Luthor in Supergirl is the real deal, but just why he wants to free Supergirl from her "false self" is still a mystery. Just as intriguing is the self he sets free, Supergirl’s evil twin oozing at kinds of hotness in bad-girl black, yet instantly lending Kara a psychological richness writers would kill to work with in a Surperman title. And though it’s often difficult to discern a writer’s role in crafting fight scenes, in Supergirl #4 Loeb makes his presence known with precisely timed panels and fluid choreography that itself tells a story. These are the best nine pages in the series thus far.

The wheels fall off the bus as soon as we turn the page. As Luthor crashes into the JLA’s HQ, the issue turns toward another one of the pointless, sometimes uninspired thump-fests we’ve seen in previous issues. After climbing to the top of the super-team food chain, Dark Supergirl goes after the JLA, who—very curiously—take her on one at a time. This sequence did nothing for me, as the gold-standard for super-teams in the DCU don’t fight as a team at all, but rather like a bunch of heroes who barely know each other and just happen to be in the same place at the same time. Given the cliffhanger, the bulk of Supergirl #4 seems little more than another plot point to move Supergirl on to the next fight.

Thankfully, the artwork is not as disappointing as the script. Every artist has his set of stylistic ticks—Ian Churchill’s, for instance, falling into the Lee/Silvestri mold in terms of power, scale, and how female figures are rendered. When Supergirl kicked off I found his artwork both off-kilter and distracting, the main character in particular a little too elongated, a little too exaggerated, and too often crowding panels. But here in issue #4, Churchill seems to be settling down and finding a rhythm. Consequently, I’m liking his style a lot more. His Supergirl is still elongated and slender, but she’s not emaciated-ly so and her proportions are more believable, even if they are still unrealistic. In fact, throughout this issue, Churchill has a tighter, more consistent technique that engages rather than distracts the eye. And because Loeb can choreograph fisticuffs with the best of them, he makes the most of what the script gives him with two stunning splash pages and some excellent shot framing.

Comic shops can’t keep Supergirl on the shelves, and there are plenty of good reasons why. However, the character’s potential for depth and richness remains untapped. That’s why I’m looking forward to Greg Rucka replacing Jeph Loeb soon. If even half of what he did for Wonder Woman can be done for The Girl of Steel, then her high place on sales charts will be well deserved.

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