Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #18 (1998)

supergirl_vol_4_18Comics get a bad rep for printing covers that have nothing to do with the contents of the story, and that’s often deserved. But with Supergirl #18…yes, she does sprout fiery angelic wings while battling classic JLA villain Despero.

You can’t say Peter David’s Supergirl series doesn’t distinguish itself from Superman’s multiple titles. Spirituality is a major theme, and one that doesn’t play well in Superman stories (personally, I’ve never been a fan of applying Jesus imagery to Superman). It works excellently with this version of Supergirl, though. David gradually unveils the series’ mythology over the course of the run, leaving plenty of room for mysteries and surprises.

Fans of David’s X-Factor no doubt recall Layla Miller, the ultra-precocious young girl who “knew stuff.” Well, this series gives us her precursor—a friendless orphan named Wally who claims to be God. It’s been a long time since I’ve read this, and I don’t recall what exactly the deal was with him, but I’m curious to rediscover that answer. Issue #18 features a wonderful moment that humanizes the boy (who, under a lesser writer, could easily have become insufferable).

This issue also further develops the familial relationship between Supergirl and Linda Danvers’s father. Though, yes, Supergirl technically is Linda, but not exactly…and they also seem to be something else…

So it’s not the most accessible title, which explains why this version of Supergirl eventually faded away in favor of the original. (Also, the original version always returns…maybe a few months later, maybe a few decades later, but always. It’s one of the immutable laws of comics.) Nevertheless, if you read this title from the start, it will reward you.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Cam Smith

Cover: Gary Frank and Cam Smith

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #14 (1997)

supergirl_vol_4_14One of the problems with these all-positive daily reviews is I wind up sampling a great series I haven’t read in years, and then I want to re-read the entire run. I can’t re-read them all, but I am enjoying rediscovering whatever full runs I can squeeze in.

And one I’ll want to make time for is Peter David’s excellent Supergirl series. For evidence of its strength, observe issue #14, in which Supergirl endures a tie-in to a subpar company-wide crossover without any dip in quality. (“Genesis” was a late-90s DC crossover that will not appear among these all-positive daily reviews.)

David doesn’t bog the book down in “Genesis” details—that story is just where Supergirl is coming from and where she’s going to. But her own book’s storylines continue apace, and we get good forward momentum here. A new character (derived from a classic one) is hinted at, and Supergirl makes an important decision involving all four of her parental figures.

A rewarding aspect of this series is that it truly feels like one large story told over many issues. It strikes a nice balance between novel and episodic storytelling, and David has plenty of experience with both. Throughout the series, both Supergirl and Linda Danvers grow as a single entity much more than either would have as separate individuals, and in this issue the character development progresses with the decision to tell the Kents and the Danverses about her dual identity. Both couples love her, but their reactions are worlds apart, setting up drama to follow in future issues.

So yeah, this may be one of the series I have to see through…

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Cam Smith

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #1 (1996)

supergirl_vol_4_1Peter David’s terrific run on Supergirl wasn’t like any other Supergirl before or since. This Supergirl wasn’t Superman’s younger cousin from Krypton—only one Kryptonian allowed at this point in DC’s history. So instead, she was a, um, blob of alien proto-matter that fashioned itself as Supergirl. She also spent some time as Lex Luthor II’s girlfriend before coming to her senses.

As a blob of alien proto-matter, she didn’t have much of a life. So David gives her one in #1—someone else’s. Supergirl merges with a young woman she failed to save from an evil cult, acquiring all her memories as well as influences from her personality. The blob of alien proto-matter essentially solidifies into Linda Danvers, and Supergirl’s life is now hers and vice versa. Problem is, Linda might not have been a purely innocent victim.

Yeah, not the easiest version of Supergirl to market, but still a great run of comics nevertheless. You need to start with #1, though, which does an excellent job doling out just enough exposition to intrigue the reader as it introduces us to Supergirl’s new secret identity, leaving ample room to cover in future issues. A focus on mysticism and religion helps to distinguish Supergirl from Superman’s titles, and it truly is a unique incarnation of the character. She’s two people in a single body—one person good, and the other considerably less so.

It’s not what you’ll see on television this fall, but it’s a compelling Supergirl in its own right.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Gary Frank

Inker: Cam Smith

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Supergirl by Peter David vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Superman #415 (1986)

Superman 415Supergirl died a while back, and since DC’s continuity rebooted shortly thereafter, that original version of her technically stayed dead.

But Superman #415 gave her a nice little epilogue, revealing a “happily ever after” she had experienced (for at least a short while). The issue also allows Superman some time to mourn his cousin when he meets the alien husband he never knew she had.

Admittedly, Superman was in need of a reboot at the time. Things were getting kind of stale by this point, but writer Cary Bates and legendary Superman artist Curt Swan were in top form with this issue, paying proper respect to a great character DC decided it needed to sacrifice so Superman could truly be the last of his kind.

Fortunately, DC wised up years later and realized its fictional universe needed the Last Daughter of Krypton, too.

Writer: Cary Bates

Penciler: Curt Swan

Inker: Al Williamson

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up