January 16, 2012

REVIEW: Superman/Batman: Supergirl

Veteran comic book readers know that the original Supergirl was killed in DC Comics's now legendary Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985.

Fast forward to 2004. Nearly 20 years later in DC's Superman/Batman series, the character of Kara Zor-El, better known as Supergirl, is reintroduced back into the present day DC Universe. Written by Jeph Loeb with art by the late Michael Turner, the collected issues are available in one trade paperback titled Superman/Batman: Supergirl. The book is a great introduction for those unfamiliar with the iconic character, and for veteran readers a nice welcome back for the Girl of Steel. Although DC's New 52 initiative "undoes" this origin, it's very much still a worthy read.

Honestly, I never cared for Kara/Supergirl up until I read this arc way back when it first appeared. Simply put, its a great origin story, and Loeb successfully adds the perfect elements of the personalities of Supes and Bats into the mix. It's just as much a character study of Superman and Batman as it is the origin of Supergirl. In a nutshell: Superman welcomes Kara with open arms. As the nurturing relative, he wishes nothing but care and protection for his cousin. Meanwhile Batman is purely skeptical of Kara's arrival, and has doubts whether or not to trust her, especially with her powers. Wonder Woman also plays a pivotal role in the story, as she too has her own agenda for Kara and her abilities.

The book's main villain is Darkseid, as he wants Kara and her powers for himself. There's a nice brawl between Superman and Kara and Darkseid that is beautifully drawn by Michael Turner, but I particularly enjoyed when Batman took on Darkseid one on one. (On Apokolips in Darkseid's throne room. One on one.) Without spoiling the fun, their confrontations are always obviously unique, and being a big Batman fan it was a definitely a highlight. :)

As good as the story is, Michael Turner's art in Superman/Batman: Supergirl deserves just as much praise, if not more. Unfortunately this was the only interior work Turner ever did for DC Comics, and much of it is frame worthy. He definitely had a very unique style, and I love his versions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. The covers alone he did for each issue are amazingly beautiful.

The one real complaint I have about the book overall is a major detail in the climax, which turns out being a twist revelation near the end. I have to admit I DID NOT like it, and it could have been done much differently or left out all together. (The good news is this seems to be addressed in DC's animated adaptation.) Fortunately it doesn't really take away too much from the overall story but was still annoying.

For some, seeing the likes of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Darkseid may seem a bit overwhelming. I admit on paper it may seem a little crowded with so many big names, but it's surprisingly a very smooth read and never goes outlandishly over the top. A great, simple story with great artwork. Kudos to Mr. Loeb and Mr. Turner.

Be sure to pick up Superman/Batman #19. Also written by Jeph Loeb, this issue serves somewhat as an epilogue to the story.

THE GOOD: A great reintroduction to the Supergirl character, and another simple but excellent story by Loeb. Nothing too over the top, just how I like it. A good and deep look into the character of Superman as well as Batman. I also love that Loeb included Wonder Woman in Kara's origin. Love the standoff between Batman and Darkseid.

THE BAD: Without spoiling the details, there's a major detail that is involved in the book's climax which turns out to be a twist at the end. It could have been done differently, and maybe left out entirely but oh well. Coincidentally, the animated movie seems to address this.

THE ART: Simply awesome, and definitely needs to be praised. The late Michael Turner is a legend and his art here is but a sample of his talents. Its unfortunate because this arc is the only interior DC artwork he ever did. If you're the slightest fan of his work you're in for a huge treat.


Don't want to read the book? Fans of DC's Animated Universe can also rejoice, as Warner Bros. adapted the collected arc into a full feature animated film in 2010, albeit retitled Superman/Batman: Apocalypse.
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