In June, DC Comics kicked off the start of its Rebirth initiative. After a wave of criticism surrounding the way they have treated their characters’ rich histories since 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC has decided to rebrand. They hope that by restoring their characters’ pasts, they will restore readers’ faith in them as well. Do they succeed? That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu and entertainment editor Kyle Pinion are here to discuss. Book by book. Panel by panel.
Welcome to month three of DC Reborn!
Note: the review below contains **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on this book, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Supergirl: Rebirth #1
Writer: Steve Orlando
Penciller: Emanuela Lupacchino
Inker: Ray McCarthy
Colorist: Michael Atiyeh
Kyle Pinion: Happy New Comic Book Day Alex! I hope your few days off were as action-packed as mine. I did a little traveling for work, went to Nashville for the first time ever, and then came back and played tons of No Man’s Sky. But man, I did have enough time to read a little bit of DC Rebirth, including the issue I was most excited to dig into, Steve Orlando’s first-go with Kara in Supergirl: Rebirth. If I remember right, you were a big fan of Midnighter, yes?
Alex Lu: I was! I really enjoyed Steve Orlando’s and FCO’s take on the character. In particular, what drew me to the story was how seamlessly it mixed visually intriguing action sequences with moments from Midnighter’s complex personal life. His relationships with his lovers were just as important as his relationship with The Gardener. The book particularly stood out in the era of pre-Rebirth DC Comics where there was a much heavier emphasis placed on the action side of most stories to the neglect of their more human cores. I had high expectations that we’d see Orlando strike a similar balance in Supergirl: Rebirth #1 as he did in Midnighter. Would you say he succeeded here, Kyle?
Kyle: I would say so. I echo your sentiments about Orlando’s strengths as a writer, and I think a good deal of those positives pop up in this initial issue, particularly when dealing with the interpersonal relationship present between both Kara and her adoptive parents. One of Orlando’s great gifts is that he has a knack for vernacular and a natural, breezy approach to conversation. Even when he has to force in some tougher exposition that has to explain away the new status quo for Kara and how it shifts from the New 52 iteration of the character, it mostly works due to the strengths inherent in Orlando’s scripting style. With that said, there’s a tiny bump or two in the road, as whenever it turns its focus to action it never quite gels together as well as the quieter moments that surround it. I think this is particularly prevalent in the big slug-fest between Kara and Lar-On (a Kryptonian Werewolf, how cool is that?), which is hamstrung a tad by the need to converse and relay shared experience and ends up making those small moments stiffer than they really should be. But I think it’s a good issue, just somewhat stuck in the need to be a prologue to the “real” run, like they all do, blah blah blah, did you enjoy it?
Alex: I didn’t dislike Supergirl: Rebirth #1. I liked it fine in many respects. I think the creative and editorial team made an interesting choice to diverge so fully from the CBS TV show here, as that’s where a lot of new readers will be coming in from. Superficially we get some of the same elements such as Kara getting adoptive Earth parents and her working with the DEO, but a lot of the relationships here are much fresher than they were in the television adaptation of Kara’s story. I think that’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I like the choice because it means Orlando and his artistic partner Emanuela Lupacchino have much more room to make this Supergirl story the one they want it to be. De-aging her back to high school means we could see a Peter Parker-esque origin story play out for her (we saw some jocks and emo kids hanging out in the school hallway scenes so the entourage is around). On the other hand, a lot of the emotional resonance in the TV version of Supergirl came out of the fact that she already had a number of established interpersonal relationships to springboard from. In this comic, Kara’s adoptive parents are simply pushed upon her by the DEO and while they share a moment in the wake of the fight with Lar-On, you get the sense that neither one quite knows what to make of the other yet. Not having Kara’s TV adoptive sister Alex around also feels like a big loss.
Anyways, that’s my perspective as a newbie. I think Supergirl: Rebirth #1 has a baseline, but I dunno Kyle– do you feel like Kara is missing some connective tissue here? Would you rather have that built into the series or see it built up over time?
Kyle: Usually, my answer to this question is that I’m perfectly happy to catch up to the creative team’s plans and get thrown in head-first. Being superhero comics, it’s never going to be that difficult to get the handle on just why the status quo is set the way it is, and what led to this, that, or the other. But, as an issue in of itself, I liked its potential. I like the DEO as a homebase for Kara and place where she can report to, and have scientific jargon explained to her, and I think that is enough of a similarity to the television series (that I don’t watch of course, so take my opinion with a grain of salt) that new readers shouldn’t feel too locked out of home. The high school setting could be fun, I remember when Jeff Lemire took over the Superboy title and placed my long-lost Kon-El at Smallville High and produced some of the most fun stories I’ve read with that character. I think Kara has similar potential here, and perhaps much like you say, it can run with a Peter Parker/Kamala Khan-vibe that has a lot of appeal to a not insignificant portion of the market.
Also, it’s hard for me to not get really excited about the arrival of Cyborg Superman, who is absolutely my favorite Superman bad guy of all time. The usage of the Tony Bedard written New 52 origin as a backing for this character makes sense, and will surely provide some sense of parental drama when her two households collide, as it looks like good old Zor-El has (maybe?) resurrected his wife/Kara’s mother for her own cyborg-ness? (I’m assuming, it’s probably more likely he’s resurrecting all of Argo City) Please don’t ask me why Zor-El is a Cyborg Superman, as I definitely do not remember those events at all. Villains Month was a big blur, okay?
We haven’t talked about the art yet. It sounds like we’re on a bit of a divided train of thought with the writing and overall presentation of the issue, but how much did the art affect your enjoyment and perhaps that’s the major culprit or am I assuming too much?
Alex: No, I think you’re right on the money here. I like Emanuela Lupacchino’s aesthetic but believe she has certain limitations that are readily apparent throughout Supergirl: Rebirth #1. Reading this issue, the problem that stood out to me most is the way that Lupacchino draws facial features. For those of you who followed Lupacchino’s work on Starfire, you’ll understand what I mean when I saw that Lupacchino’s art lends itself to “pretty people.” That worked fine for Starfire because so much of it was meant to be cheesecake. However, Supergirl has a much more serious conceit and demands a little more reach from Lupacchino’s style than it is able to give. Kara’s assigned parents are supposed to be some of the oldest characters in the book, but their faces are just as ageless as high-school-age Kara’s. The same is true of the head of the DEO, who has a waist so small you could almost see through it!
I certainly think Lupacchino’s art has its moments. The book looks quite polished most of the time and polish goes a long way towards pleasing an audience. However, underneath Supergirl: Rebirth #1’s veneer, I feel like there are some pretty big, lupine scratches. Would you agree, Kyle?
Kyle: I think Lupacchino is very good in places, but those places tend to be the panels and/or pages are where she channels her inner cover artist more so than any sort of clear sequential storytelling. In fairness, I really like the way she renders faces and characters reacting to situations. These are a bunch of pretty people and it’s hard to not want to take a look at that, and as it stands Lupacchino creates a fairly decent cast of “actors”. But it’s those aforementioned fights with Lar-On that drag things down a bit for me. The issue presents the somewhat odd choice of placing these battle scenes in relatively small rectangular panels that in turn undercut the energy present in this sequence. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to see my superheroes punching werewolves in as big a canvas as possible. And given that I can’t remember ever seeing a Kryptonian werewolf, I wish we could have gotten a little better sense of his scale and his menace.
I’m still excited to see what Brian Ching contributes as a counterpoint to Lupacchino’s more pin-up influenced style.
Really, I think there’s a lot of fun potential here to be had, just as always, the prologue nature, and the tremendous heavy-lifting that Orlando has to do to get Kara over to this new evolution of the character stall it slightly, but what’s new with a Rebirth issue? If it ain’t Deathstroke, they all have that same problem. Overall, this was fun, and I’m still very jazzed about Orlando (one of DC’s *best* writers) doing something really awesome with Kara, especially if the Silver Age vibe I’m getting continues to grow – something that has sorely been lacking in the Superfamily line for some time. I think it’s an issue worth buying, but maybe you’re less generous with your comic dollar than I am, Alex?
Alex: I certainly think this book is at least worth a look. There are some critical metrics Supergirl: Rebirth #1 doesn’t successfully pass the bar on, but on a pure metric of enjoyment I think I got my money’s worth. I’d say this book is a browse.
Final Verdict: Kyle recommends a buy, Alex recommends a browse