“Finding the Mission”

Written by: Jeph Loeb
Drawn by: Ian Churchill
Published by: DC Comics

One of the things you want in a “number one” issue is an easy jump on point for new readers (as well as something satisfying for long time readers in the case of a title re-starting itself). There have been several iterations of Supergirl, her continuity not helped by Crisis on Infinite Earths or Zero Hour or Infinite Crisis, or whatever crossover event that serves to disrupt/re-start the superhero universe. Supergirl #1 attempts to reconcile some of the confusion in her origins.

“It was all at once my life ended.” –Supergirl

Back in 1996, Peter David (Incredible Hulk, Stephen King’s Dark Tower), began an 80 issue run reimagining the mythology of Supergirl. Her alter ego, Linda Danvers merged with a shape-shifting being from an alternate universe which had been Supergirl and she became an earth-born angel (many speculated that she took on the name Lee and he continued telling her story as Fallen Angel).

With Supergirl currently being seen on this season’s Smallville, it was time to properly place her in the center of DC continuity, reintroducing her as Kara Zor-El cousin of Kal-El (Superman’s true, Kryptonian name as opposed to Clark Kent, his Earth name). Debuting in a story arc in Superman/Batman, also written by Jeph Loeb, Supergirl has tired of being confined to Paradise Island (homeland of Wonder Woman) and has ventured out into the world to learn more about herself. She begins her journey by trying to make a connection to Power Girl, currently known as … Superman’s cousin.

Yeah.

Power Girl’s convoluted history also has shifted several times to allow for changes to established continuity. So, Power Girl’s powers fluctuate and wane in Supergirl’s presence which leads to that age old super hero tradition of a slugfest, in this case, between Supergirl and Power Girl. Unfortunately, it feels like a distraction from the thin feel of the story being told.

Supergirl faces the very human sense of isolation, desperately in need to connect with others, to find purpose in her new situation. She struggles to answer the first questions we all have to ask ourselves: “who am I?” and “why am I here?”. Our identity determines not only how we see ourselves and how others see us, but helps shape our choice in mission and how we live our lives

“You wear that ‘S’ – it comes with, I don’t know … obligations.” –Stargirl

In Supergirl’s case, her search for identity revolves around the obligations of wearing the “S” insignia. The example of her cousin looms large, not only in her world, but is a standard that all heroes measure themselves against. In finding a mission in the idea of Superman, she has a legacy to live up to and feels the need to earn the right to bear the “S”. While anyone can call themselves a hero, a hero is defined by their actions. It’s similar to how Christians choose to follow Christ. People can call themselves what they want, but it is what comes out of their mouths and lives that truly defines who and what they are.

As far as the art goes, Ian Churchill, he of the Rob Liefield school of art, loves to draw female superheroes. Or I should say, he knows what horny fanboys want (Supergirl’s costume was never practical, but come on. And at this point, Power Girl’s bosom simply defies the laws of physics). In some ways, his long, heavily muscled bodies are a metaphor for this launching point. Supergirl #1 is lean and action packed (gratuitously so), and every bit the empty vessel our heroine is. She is rife with potential conflict, her youth and inexperience balanced against the legacy she has to live up to. It takes a nuanced writer to take advantage of it. In light of her ties to Superman, Loeb fights an uphill battle to make her a distinct character. This first issue shows promise, one that will hopefully be soon realized.

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