In Review: Supergirl #4

The story could have sped up and the art be more consistent.

The covers: Kara struggles to escape from her chains as the Cyborg Superman patrols National City. I love the classic theme of the hero — or heroine — trying to escape. Brian Ching has done an excellent job on both characters, with Supergirl looking anxious, while Cyborg Superman looks like an indifferent god. It’s neat to see that Ching has also put a vertical line going through the center of the image to separate the two characters, yet Kara’s arm intrudes into CS’s visuals. Michael Atiyeh provides the necessary bright colors to have the heroine shine on the page, but since the villain has the same color scheme, he, too, draws the reader’s eye perfectly. This is a solid cover. The Variant cover has nothing to do with this issue’s story; instead showing the title character in action, and this was the frontpiece I purchased. Supergirl is raising a semi-truck on its side to rescue a cat that’s in the middle of the road. She looks young and incredibly happy she’s saved the feline, oblivious to how she’s wrecked the vehicle and spilled its contents on the road. This is such a cool composition from Bengal and it’s refreshing to see something so positive on a comic book. And — Hey! — that cat has a specific marking that will tell longtime fans the identity of this wayward animal. So cool! Overall grade: Regular A and Variant A+

The story: The fourth installment of “Reign of the Cyborg Supermen” by Steve Orlando opens with Benjamin Rubel walking into the Catco Building to help Ms. Grant launch Catco as a streaming service. She tells him to find out what the multi-platform of The Daily Star is missing, but first he tells her to look out the window where hundreds of Cyborg Supermen are coming out of the sky. Speaking of the devil, Cyborg Superman lands on the ground and states, “Earth. I’ve returned. And my true eyes, Zor-El’s eyes, show me what you truly are. An impostor home for my daughter. And you do have a purpose. To re-create her true home…” and he adds in Kryptonian, “I need your help.” What that means is left for later, because the point of view then goes to three human characters in the city dealing with the invasion, while on Argo City in the Inner Solar System, Alura In-Ze is being verbally accosted by her daughter Kara for letting Eliza die. Will Kara escape bondage, stop her cybernetic mother, save Eliza, AND get to National City to stop Cyborg Superman and his minions? That’s a lot to handle and not all of these problems are solved, but Kara does something that’s become a hallmark of her character over the past few years and one that her cousin Kal has mastered — she uses her words to turn a villain’s heart. Pages 11 and 12 nicely show that the Maid of Might doesn’t need to rely on her super strength to be victorious. This is always welcome to see in a hero, as all too often fists seem to be stronger than words. So, big kudos to Orlando for having this happen. For those that do want to see Supergirl use some of her strength, no need to worry — she does. The last two pages remind the reader that not every problem has been addressed and the book ends with a teaser that will of greater action next issue. Knowing that, this issue does come off as a bit stretched, especially after Page 12. The actions that follow could have been accomplished in half the pages and gotten the reader to the villain a little quicker. That’s not a compliment when about of the third of the book could have been sped up. I enjoyed this story, but I wish it had moved along more quickly. Overall grade: B-

The art: I really like Brian Ching’s style. I want Supergirl to look young and Ching has got a definite youthful look to the character. In fact, his style resembles one of my favorite artists who did several books for DC years ago, Ian Gibson. The title character isn’t even seen for the first five pages, so Ching has to bring the same energy to the supporting cast and he succeeds. The book begins establishing National City, moving to Benjamin, his walk into Catco, his entrance into the building, Cat’s intro, and ending with something surprising occurring behind them. Everything looks great. The double-paged splash is a highly detailed skyline with the Cyborg Supermen streaming in from the sky. Benjamin and Cat are in the foreground and look good, the city looks great, but it’s with the invaders that it falters. There’s not a lot of details in the characters: no faces on most and their arms and fists looking like sketches, rather than finished pieces. Sadly, this happens often in the book. Characters close to the reader are wonderful, but should they appear from a distance, they don’t even receive slits for eyes, noses, or mouths. This is very disappointing. This is very evident on Page 5: the character in the first panel has only slits for eyes, but in the second panel he is fully rendered because he’s in close up. The character in the fourth panel is a bit better, receiving a nose, but still having only slits for eyes and no mouth. The final panel has her looking sensational, which begs the question why couldn’t she have been just as smashing in her first appearance? The first panel on Page 8 really is minimal in its details on the villains, when they should be much better rendered to make the horror of the moment greater. I really like 11 and 12, and 15 looks amazing, but it’s the panels that are light on the details that I unfortunately remember. Overall grade: C

The colors: The coloring should be as bright and bold as the title character and Michael Atiyeh is extremely successful. The opening setting is comprised of stark white letters with red to set them apart from the cool blues of the waters that surround the city. Benjamin is a stand-out to the reader for his mustard colored sweater which is unlike any other character on the page. I like that when the action gets intense, he puts bright red around character’s outbursts and the background changes, such as the yellow in the final panel, to heighten the intensity of the scene. The double-page splash of 2 and 3 has the characters in the foreground darkened to have the reader focus on the invaders in the sky; even the city has been done in neutral colors to make the aliens stand out. Supergirl is a stand-out on her pages not only for her iconic costume’s colors, but her blonde hair and incredible sky blue eyes. As beautiful as her eyes are, it’s Alura’s eyes that really steal the scene. Atiyeh has put another feather in his cap for a job well done. Overall grade: A

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, telephone dialogue, the story’s title, the book’s credits, the sensational font of the cyborgs’ dialogue, Kryptonian speech, yells, sounds, and the tease for next issue are provided by Steve Wands. I can’t say enough how cool the cyborg dialogue is; the more this is shown, the better. I also love the brief Kryptonian speech and the cool sounds throughout the book. My favorite work by Wands is the tease for next issue on the final page: it’s a classic looking font that matches the text and just screams classic comic book to me. Overall grade: A+

The final line: The story could have sped up and the art be more consistent. I’ll continue to read this book because I love the character, but I’ve got to see some improvement to continue buying it. Overall grade: B

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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