Supergirl: Vol. 4 – “Plain Sight”

Written by: Steve Orlando, Jody Houser & Vita Ayala
Art by: Robson Rocha, Carmen Carnero, Jamal Campbell & Julio Ferreira
ISBN: 978-1401284879
Price: £12.99 (UK) $14.99 (US)

This Graphic Novel reprints the following stories:

  • Supergirl (2016 -) # 15 – 20

After losing the hearts and minds of National City’s citizens when her role in hiding her outlaw father was revealed, Supergirl has become public enemy number one and is now hunted by the organisation she used to work for. Steve Orlando’s fourth and final volume of Supergirl opens up with the Girl of Steel’s morale at its lowest ebb as she struggles to come to terms with her new status-quo as an enemy of the state. While the previous volume “Girl of No Tomorrow” was action-packed battle royale against the Fatal Five, this chapter sees Orlando adopt a slower pace and dwell on the psychological aftermath of that conflict as the DEO increases security around National City Technical High School in an attempt to discover Supergirl’s true identity. Pitting Supergirl up against her former organisation and its new villainous boss, Director Bones, raises the stakes and fuels the narrative towards its pulse-pounding conclusion.

For this volume, Orlando is joined by co-writer Jody Houser, and the pairing works really well as the writers complement each other’s styles. There seems to be a greater focus on Kara’s civilian life in this adventure, fleshing out that aspect of her character which felt underutilised in previous volumes in favour of superheroics. The relationship between Kara and her adoptive parents is also given developed further, positioning the Danvers as a realistic family unit instead of a cover story for Supergirl’s civilian identity. There’s also some character development on Kara’s friendship with Ben Rubel – a subplot that has been hinted at in the background of previous volumes, but not given much focus until now. Whether this more reflective approach is down to Houser’s involvement as co-writer is unclear, but I appreciated the better balance between the two sides of Kara’s persona: Kara Danvers and Supergirl.

Following on directly on from the last volume, Robson Rocha returns to provide the majority of the art for the “Plain Sight” arc, supported by Carmen Carnero and Julio Ferreira. Despite three artists working on the one story, the artwork is actually pretty consistent across the issues and suits the bleak tone to the tale. The darker colours and more mature design of the characters highlights the sense of fear and paranoia at the heart of the story, and the supervillians appear more brutal and unforgiving. I was particularly impressed with the encounter between Supergirl and Starshame aboard the yacht, and the dynamic sense of movement that Rocha’s artwork was able to bring to the sequence. It really captured the intensity of the fight – in fact, all of the fight scenes in this four-part arc were well choreographed by the artists and pulled no punches from panel-to-panel. I loved how the art maintained the tension between the supervillian encounters, especially during the scenes with Agent Ocampo snooping about inside the DEO-occupied high school.

After the intensity of the “Plain Sight” story-arc, there is a refreshing change of pace as Ben Rubel interviews Lee, a non-binary student struggling to come out to their parents. Orlando works with non-binary writer Vita Ayala in this issue to produce a very different Supergirl tale that not only showcases a minority, but also demonstrates Supergirl’s humanity. It is a beautiful written story, and it is great to see that the interview forms one of the key weapons in overturning the media hate campaign against Supergirl. Yet again, this issue demonstrated the importance of a slower, more character-driven narrative and strengthened the overall storyline of the graphic novel. This leads to a brilliant concluding episode where Supergirl confronts Mr Bones and his secret benefactor, with a thrilling multi-faceted plan to reveal the DEO’s misdeeds to the world. Orlando manages to wrap up his run on the title perfectly, bringing the character full-circle and leaving her as a beacon of hope for the people of National City.

Despite the inclusion of “ingredients” from Supergirl TV show, this run of twenty issues has been very distinct from the series and woven plenty of threats from the DC Universe into the story. Admittedly, there have been times where I have felt a bit lost when the series references other Superman titles, or the previous Supergirl volume, but on the whole, I found this DC Rebirth of Supergirl to be an accessible read for fans of the TV show. Steve Orlando’s love for the DC Universe is evident from his stories, although I think partnering with co-writers in this volume definitely improved the pacing of his stories and allowed the high-school student element to play more of a role. I also enjoyed how the artwork changed throughout the run, moving away from the bright manga-esque design of Brian Ching in the initial two volumes to the grittier, mature look of Robson Rocha. Despite the very different styles, I loved both artists and felt they suited the tone of the stories they illustrated.

Overall, “Plain Sight” is an extremely engaging end to Steve Orlando’s run on the title, tying up the various loose ends in a satisfying climax. With a more character-driven approach and a high-stakes conflict at its heart, this was the strongest of the DC Rebirth volumes so far, and provided a real sense of closure. I also really enjoyed the varied ‘tapas platter’ of supervillians that populated the series, introducing me to a whole new cast of characters I’d never heard of before. While some of the references to outside titles might have been lost on me, I never felt totally out of my depth, and honestly, it just made me want to grab some back issues and fill in the gaps. As a die-hard Marvel fan only familiar with DC through its TV shows and movies, this has been a fun run of stories that served me well as a glimpse into what the DC Universe can offer, and based on this series, I think I might stick around a bit longer.

Score – ★★★★

Supergirl: Vol. 4 – “Plain Sight” is available in 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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