Supergirl: Vol. 1 – “Reign of the Cyborg Supermen”

Written by: Steve Orlando
Art by: Brian Ching & Emanuela Lupacchino
ISBN: 978-1401268466
Price: £14.99 (UK) $16.99 (US)

This Graphic Novel reprints the following stories:

  • Supergirl: Rebirth # 1
  • Supergirl (2016 -) # 1 – 6

I’ve always been a bit daunted by DC Comics because of its multiverse and its various reboots. While I love the characters of Batman and Superman, I’ve never been able to enjoy the universe’s continuity and instead tend to read one-off story arcs that don’t rely too much on the rich tapestry of the DC Universe, such as “Hush”, “Arkham Asylum” and the original Batman/Superman series. I dipped my foot back in the waters when DC launched the New 52, although this was a soft reboot and seemed to be more confusing for new and old readers instead of wiping the slate clean – as it is, DC seems keen to revisit its pre-Flashpoint universe whenever possible. So, when the company rebooted all of its titles again as part of its DC Rebirth event, I was a little bit reluctant to give it a try, but still intrigued by the promise of a fresh status-quo for its iconic characters. Having started watching the wonderful Supergirl TV show on The CW and invested in that world, I was tempted to try out the DC Rebirth version of Supergirl which seemed relatively removed from the more complicated trappings of the wider DC Universe.

Having recognised the success of the Supergirl TV show, DC Comics have clearly attempted to replicate the same formula in the comics by providing Supergirl with a civilian identity and foster parents, borrowing the same name as her television counterpart and even sharing the same dual-career working with the DEO and CatCo media. Despite these attempts to harmonise continuities with the TV Show, the comic maintains enough differences to stand apart and take the status-quo in fresh and exciting directions. While some knowledge of the character’s adventures in the New 52 continuity provides added context to this adventure, writer Steve Orlando ensures that the series is new-reader friendly and fills in the blanks in Supergirl’s origins as a refugee from Argo City and her prior encounters with the Cyborg Superman.

The Supergirl: Rebirth prologue deals with some loose ends from the previous series, with the DEO restoring Supergirl’s lost powers in exchange for her help as a field agent. This chapter is the weakest aspect of the collection, predominately dealing with tidying up the leftover plot threads from the New 52 series and establishing the new status-quo before the series launches proper. The chapter introduces Lar-On, the Kryptonian werewolf, who judging from the cover of the next collection seems to be a vital part of the next storyline, but has little impact on this initial collection. Emanuela Lupacchino handles art duties for this opening installment, bringing a maturity and strength to the central character. Her artwork is striking and really accentuates the dramatic potential of this prologue as Supergirl tests her returned powers against a feral enemy. It’s a fun chapter, but largely targeted at long-time readers to transition them between the previous volume to the next.

The “Reign of the Cyborg Supermen” story-arc forms the bulk of this collection and sees series artist Brian Ching enter the fray with his dynamic and energetic art style, expertly coloured by Michael Atiyeh. Juxtaposing slightly with Lupacchino’s style, Ching highlights Kara’s youthfulness with his art and his anime-esque style feels reminiscent of iconic artists such as: Adam and Andy Kubert, Marc Silvestri and Randy Green. It captures the tone of Steve Orlando’s script perfectly, suiting the change in status-quo to position Kara as a teen girl with a secret identity. Ching’s artwork will no doubt appeal to younger readers, the target demographic for the series, and it feels similar to the very stylised approach seen with Batgirl when Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr took over the title with “The Batgirl of Burnside”. Definitely not lacking in personality, Ching’s artwork is an integral part of this series’ charm and he also demonstrates a keen understanding of storytelling and choreographing action sequences. As events unfold and intensify, Ching raises the stakes multiple times, such as depicting an alien robot zombie invasion on National City with ease.

Steve Orlando’s script focuses on the familial relationships that Kara has in her life, contrasting her new adoptive Earth parents against her Kryptonian birth parents. The character of Cyborg Superman is the main villain of the piece, and I love the way that his robotic body is depicted by Ching, highlighting the inhuman nature of this reanimated corpse. Orlando hits all the right emotional beats, dealing with Kara’s grief and homesickness alongside her disgust at the way the memories of her parents are tarnished. While this is a departure from their depiction in the TV series, I would love to see this story-arc adapted for Season Three of Supergirl as Melissa Benoist would do a fantastic job with the emotional roller-coaster of a script. My only criticism would be that we don’t get too see enough of Supergirl interacting with the supporting cast (DEO, The Danvers and CatCo), although as this is story-arc is firmly focused on her parents, it is understandable why the Earth cast are somewhat sidelined in favour of the Kryptonians. Hopefully future storylines will balance Kara’s Earth life with her role as Supergirl, much like how the TV show weaves action amongst the soap opera melodramatics.

As a fresh slate for the character, “Reign of the Cyborg Supermen” succeeds in reinventing Kara Zor-El and providing her with a strong foundation. No longer stuck in her cousin’s shadow, Supergirl has her own supporting cast and raison d’etre with the DEO. It seems a no-brainer to replicate the success of the TV series, tinkering with the format to suit the comic universe. Obviously, characters like Jimmy Olsen and Martian Manhunter aren’t necessarily available for the series, but Steve Orlando does a brilliant job at capturing the spirit of the TV series onto the printed page. It’s rare for a series to be so clearly defined by its creative team, but Brian Ching owns every panel he draws on this book and helps DC Comics create one of the best printed incarnations of Supergirl yet. If you have a passing interest in the character, this is a brilliant jumping-on point that blends all the best bits of Supergirl mythos into one solid and enthralling adventure.

Score – ★★★ ½

Supergirl: Vol. 1 – “Reign of the Cyborg Supermen” is available in paperback from all good comic-book stores, as well as online at Amazon. Digital copies are available through the DC Comics app or directly through Comixology and Amazon Kindle.

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