Supergirl #7 came out this week, the first issue since the opening Cyborg Superman arc ended. Written by Steve Orlando with art by Matias Bergara, the issue is a nice breather after the intensity of that opening storyline. If you want an episode to give someone to let them see who this #Rebirth Supergirl is, this is a fine primer.
From the very beginning, Orlando said that his take on Supergirl is of a young hero who will stop you from committing crime but then check in on you to make sure you are getting better. She is someone who will throw a punch but also someone who cares deeply. We have already seen it with her visiting a the crook she threw into jail. In this issue, Orlando gives us the follow-up to his Supergirl Rebirth #1 story of Lar-On. In that issue, Kara promised she would help Lar-On. Here she shows she meant it.
The story takes place in Lar-On's mind which means it is something of a fever dream. The landscape is chaotic, ever changing, and the frightening. But it also gives Kara the ability to look into Lar-On's psyche and try to help alleviate his troubles. Lar-On's issues resonate somewhat with Kara's life which gives the book an extra level of emotional weight.
And Orlando has clear respect for the DCU history as well. We get the usual dose of references and homages which just show how rich the mythos is.
The art in the issue is by Matias Bergara. His style is semi-similar to Brian Ching's so there is a nice sense of continuity in the proceedings. Bergara really gives a sense of movement with his work. There are plenty of panels where you can feel the action play out.
On to the book.
The issue starts at the DEO where Supergirl and Shay Veritas are talking about their plan to help Lar-On.
Initially, we hear that The Wild Huntsman (a villain from the brief Liefeld-esque Manhunter book from the 90s) had escaped the DEO earlier and needed to get corralled by Kara. With no life outside of her work, Veritas is concerned she isn't succeeding. Supergirl reassures Veritas that Shay is doing a great job and everyone respects her.
Then Kara runs into the Danvers who are very worried about Kara's plan of delving into Lar-On's mind. Kara reminds them she promised Lar-On she would help. There is no reason why moonlight should change him. It has to be something else.
These opening scenes show just how mature this Supergirl is. She is a voice of reason for the adults around her. I don't want this Supergirl to be perfect. I like a Kara on the journey. But this is an improvement from more recent incarnations of Kara where she was angsty and angry.
The plan is easy, using tech from Dr. Ecks (the villain Dr. Double X), Veritas can make an 'energy twin' who can walk around Lar-On's mind. Again, nice use by Orlando of DC history. This tech makes more sense when it is a derivative of prior similar tech.
Inside Lar-On's mind, Kara witnesses the cold existence of the young Lar-On. We learn that Lar-On's mother died when he was young leaving him to be brought up by his father.
Whether overwhelmed by grief or simply depressed or just a pessimist unprepared to raise a child, we hear this man constantly tell Lar-On that life is difficult and often horrible. Lar-On shouldn't be dreaming or thinking of greatness. That attitude trickles all the way down to the food they eat. Don't expect 'great', expect 'good enough'.
Now as someone who quotes Voltaire at work all the time, saying 'perfect is the enemy of good' when trying to implement change and progress, I think that you have to occasionally be a realist. But it is clear that Lar-On's father is taking it to a dark, unremitting level.
Kara is spied by the young Lar-On who shoots her into a Phantom Zone area of his mind. There she sees a young, frightened wolf version of Lar-On. Clearly scared, Lar-On runs away from her despite her screaming she is there to help.
Here is a good example of Bergara's art conveying movement. Look at that Lar-On. You can feel him running, fur flying, limbs swinging. And then, the floor disappears from under Kara and she falls. The surprise on her face, the cape, her hands, all while only seeing some of her. It screams a sudden drop.
It turns out that this werewolf form is a manifestation of all of Lar-On's hopes which have become twisted and monstrouns. His hopes were 'poisoned' and these monsters are there to wreak revenge on those who squelched them. One of those people is Zor-El who banished Lar-On. The werewolf has an S-shield to mark his target.
Again, the art is great. I love how small Kara look compared to this brute and yet she is there holding her ground. Her expression there is a mix of fear and determination. And then the second panel has her hand to her mouth either nervously or as an homage to her Silver Age quirk.
The monsters end up chasing a now human version of a young Lar-On. I suppose they want to overtake him so they can take control of his life.
But Supergirl is there to defend.
In a nice page with plenty of small inset panels, we see her declare she is Supergirl! I like the weird panels conveying the weird dreamscape. And again, what little we see in the panels let us feel the frenetic aspects of the fight.
With the wolves at bay (!), Kara sees more of Lar-On's life. As a child, Lar-On was obsessed with the moons of Krypton (Wegthor is still intact, giving us some sense of when this took place). He wanted to be an astronaut like Bar-El and Lilo (a nice nod to Morrison's All-Star Superman). He aches to be out there amongst the stars.
But once again, his father just pushes his child down, extinguishing those dreams. Lar-On hears that he isn't that smart. He isn't like his mother who was intelligent. He should just plan to be a Kurvan (ecologist) like his father. And then, in a cutting statement, he tells Lar-On he won't shine ever.
I grew up with loving parents who nurtured my dreams. I can only imagine how much this never-ending emotional sabotage would effect me.
But Supergirl is there in this memory. She tells Lar-On that she knows what it is like to have a parent that isn't perfect. Zor-El certainly hurt her. But Lar-On's father shouldn't stop his dreaming.
She grabs him and flies him up to the moon. (Cue Sinatra.)
I always say that big moments deserve big art. This is a double page splash of Kara taking Lar-On closer to his dreams, the moons of Krypton huge in his eyes. This is the biggest moment in the book. You could have devoted more page space to the dream battles. But I think this deserved this. This is Kara fulfilling her promise to help Lar-On.
The moons mocked him, a reminder of how he would never get there, a reminder of how life is horrible, and it made him angry. That is why he changed.
Maybe this will ease that pain.
And Bergara sells it with the expressions. That is pure joy on young Lar-On's face.
With the mind mission over, Kara comes back to reality.
In a nice moment, we see that there are repercussions of the Argo City attack last issue. A monument has been placed in National City. Kara gives a touching speech dedicating it. A shard of Argo has been etched with the names of all those who fell. It shows what can happen when everyone works together to overcome evil. And it marks a final resting marker for Alura.
The press is there!
I just have to say again that I love this take on Kara. Think of the Loeb version, the Kelly version, the initial New 52 one, the Nelson arc. There have been so many versions of Supergirl who has turned her back on Earth, wanted to be left alone, was feared or hated by everyone. Now we have one dedicating monuments and giving speeches about unity. Hurrah!
But this is still a moment for Kara to reflect on loss. We see her lost in her thoughts in the clouds in a panel that has to be an homage to the cover of All-Star Superman #1.
This would have been a fine moment to end on. But Orlando had one more 'boom'.
Superman arrives to talk to Kara.
What an ending!
I have been waiting for this Superman to have an interaction with this Supergirl for a long time. You would think that Superman would have reached out to her before this. And you might think she might have thought to reach out to her cousin as well.
Anyways, I am just glad it is happening. I am hopeful that after Superman:Reborn we get a loving, supportive super-family in the DCU once more.
So overall, this was a great issue. We got to catch our breath after the Cyborg Superman arc. We got a little bit of closure in the Lar-On arc. And we get to see just who this Supergirl is. She is optimistic, seeing the best in everyone. People look to her for guidance. But she is still young and her life isn't perfect. That moment on the cloud shows that she is still working some things out herself.