Today, Drew and guest writer Mogo are discussing Supergirl 16, originally released January 23rd, 2013. This issue is part of the H’el on Earth crossover event. Click here for complete H’el on Earth coverage.
Drew: Supergirl really drew the short straw on this crossover event. She very quickly aligned herself with a villainous cipher whose motives and methods have yet to be fully explained, which makes her gullible at best, downright stupid at worst — traits we generally don’t associate with heroic figures. We could excuse some of this based on her desire to return to Krypton, but each moment she spends with H’el without asking for just a little more information strains credulity that much further. Supergirl 16 does well, then, to give Kara time away from H’el, reasserting that this character — and this series — might just have some agency after all.
The issue opens with the Herald discovering H’el’s body in the Himalayas, apparently right after H’el arrived on Earth, which is apparently what inspired (or is it forced?) the Herald to summon (or is it herald the arrival of?) the Oracle. Later in the issue, we see some space dinosaurs keep a wide birth of the Oracle as he makes his way to Earth (in a sequence that is far more boring than anything containing space dinosaurs has any right to be). Anyway, back in the present day, we catch up with Flash as he finally makes it through the crystalline wall of the Fortress of Solitude. He is very quickly engaged by Kara. A super-powered fight ensues, crashing through the Fortress’s space zoo and weapons room, where Flash finds something to turn the tides of the fight. Unfortunately, H’el arrives and quickly teleports Flash to the Watchtower, then reminds us of the icky end of issue 15 by touching Kara a bunch.
First things first, let’s talk about the wonky rules surrounding the Herald. Dude is called the Herald, which suggests that he might be “the person or thing that comes before; forerunner; harbinger” or “a person or thing that proclaims or announces,” which is to say, somebody who is sent ahead to let us know that someone is coming. Instead, we get this:
This makes him sound less like a herald and more like a summoner. At any rate, apparently, the Herald observes that a world is about to end and summons the Oracle to…what, exactly? Observe the world ending? Cause the thing the Herald has already observed starting? Also, I don’t care how big your alphorn is, nobody is going to hear it through the vacuum of space.
Look, I know that this Oracle business is part of some larger crossover stuff, so probably wasn’t Mike Johnson’s idea, so I’m pinning its inclusion here on Editor Wil Moss. I don’t care what these scenes are building towards, they wasted both space and space dinosaurs in this issue. The first offense is marginally forgivable, but the second IS NOT.
Okay, enough complaining — there was actually a lot to like about this issue. Much of it was devoted to the fight scene between Barry and Kara, which I enjoyed quite a bit more than I expected. We’ve seen the Flash as Superman race before, which I always thought was a cool concept, but it had never really occurred to me to wonder what would happen if they fought. Of course, Barry and Clark being two of the nicest guys in the DCU (though maybe not the DCnU), there isn’t often occasion for them to come to blows, but this issue allows us to explore that concept, just swapping one Kryptonian for another.
Between Barry’s speed and ability to vibrate through solid objects, Kara shouldn’t be able to land a blow, but Barry is already exhausted by the time he enters the Fortress. Moreover, there’s nothing Barry can really do to hurt Kara, which is why the weapons room comes in so handy. It’s not the smartest scene ever, but it was exciting to see Kara cutting loose again. She’s spent the last few issues wound around H’el’s finger, it was nice to see her making her own decisions again. It was also just fun. It’s hard not to read into the fact that both Kara’s agency and this issue’s sense of excitement dies the second H’el returns — perhaps Johnson is a little resentful of needing to participate in this event?
At any rate, I thought there was more fun to be had in this issue then previous installments, though I’m still frustrated by this crossover’s refusal to answer even basic questions. I don’t know, Mogo, do you think we’re ever going to get around to explaining H’el’s power set? Or why they can’t just incinerate an uninhabited planet to power their time machine? How about if they just explained where H’el’s shirt is?
Mogo: Thanks, Drew! I have more good than bad to say about this issue, so I suppose my opinion is “mixed-positive.” I’ll disclose that I’m a regular Supergirl reader and I’m a pretty big fan of the Mike Johnson/Mahmud Asrar run; I’ve followed the complete 17-issue run so far. This crossover, however, has derailed the book for me just a little bit.
You’ve covered the Herald/Oracle/Space Dinos all pretty well, and I can’t disagree; I’ll add nothing except that I actually get the feeling The Oracle will be the next Supergirl story once H’el On Earth is resolved, so maybe Johnson is responsible after all. I also think that story will actually become interesting once we’re dedicated to it.
The real story begins as Flash vibrates his way into the Fortress Of Solitude and we jump immediately into a Supergirl Vs. Flash bout. Flash wants to remove Kara safely from the Fortress so she can have some face-to-face with Kal and try to talk things out. Kal and Kara have had a few conversations in the New 52 thus far and none of them have done much to change her attitude, so I see this mostly as an act of desperation as Kal needs to take down the obviously nefarious H’el without hurting his last living family member. The page turn from page 3 to 4 gives a nice sense of speed and urgency to this super-bout.
For those who are unfamiliar with Kara’s New 52 origin it might be important to note that the reason she hasn’t aged a day in the last 20-some years is that, unlike Kal, she existed in a state of suspended animation as her pod orbited Earth’s sun for that extended period of time before releasing her on Earth. Why? To “supercharge” her with power via 20+ years of ultra-close proximity to yellow starlight. Basically it took Kal 20+ years of slow absorption of yellow starlight to power up to his current level, but the second Kara touches Earth soil she’s already fully charged (and thus stronger than Superman.) So when Kara thinks “He’s fast! Faster than Kal! Maybe even faster than me!” it’s not her self-important attitude which places her above Kal but actually just a matter of fact. On page 6 we get a nice shot of Flash’s classic hand-tornado-thing. This was a fun fight, I thought.
As far as Kara and H’el’s creepy romantic entanglement? I find it gross, but I’m supposed to… just like the douchebag Veronica Mars dates in Season 1 or that asshole Parker from Buffy’s freshman year at college. This stuff is meant to be cringeworthy. Am I the only one who can’t wait to see her eventually kick his ass?
I’m still buzzing from Krypto’s introduction in Action Comics #13, so any Krypto cameo is a good thing in my book – but it’s particularly useful here. Why? Well, with Kara teaming up with the bad guy (in her own book, even) and the sudden absence of her supporting cast (we miss you Siobhan!) it turns out reuniting Kara with Krypto was a perfect, succinct way to re-humanize her at this point in the crossover.
Even though my Supergirl has taken what I would consider to be a slight dip in quality due to its editorial obligations, it has actually been the highlight of a crossover I’ve not particularly enjoyed thus far.
I find myself not talking much about the creative team of Johnson and Asrar here, and it’s not that they’ve done a poor job of crafting this. It’s just that they allow the characters and situations to take center stage instead of calling attention to any over-stylization.
And to field Drew’s fun questions: H’el’s power set? Oh, I think we’ll get that. I think DC has big plans for H’el beyond this introduction. Alternate energy source? Easy: H’el is partisan to the Republican party 😉 And H’el’s shirt? Dude is no Backstreet Boy… if your abs and pecs are all you’ve got to work with, then flaunt ’em!
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?