Since her return to comics in 2004, the Kara Zor-el Supergirl has gotten the bad reputation of being kind of an airhead. Personally, I blame some of the writers for not being able to deliver on the promise of a modern take on the Girl of Steel.
So, imagine my surprise when one of the major turns in this issue featured Kara outsmarting the villain and escaping from a "test" he created to keep her occupied. And it was completely believable for her character and didn't feel like a cheat. In other words, this is a Supergirl I can get behind.
Having missed the first few issues of writer James Peaty's story, I was coming in cold. But there are three narrative tracks in this issue. First, the aforementioned sequence with Kara attempting to escape and figure out what happened to her friends, the Teen Titans. The second plotline follows the mystery villain as he uses his mental powers to learn the secrets of the Justice League from his captive Titans. And finally, Lois Lane interviews a woman who released the villain in the first place and manages to come into danger herself.
The pacing for all three storylines was well done, with each getting just about the right amount of page time. Robin actually got one of the best moments in the issue when he resisted the mental probe and we see the thing that he is most afraid of in a brilliantly rendered splash page.
Which brings us to the artist, Bernard Chang, who is bringing his A-game to this book. I've liked Chang's art before, but I've never seen him cut loose like this before. His sequential panels are very clear and dynamic and it made the issue even more enjoyable to read. More impressively, his Kara actually looks like a 16 or 17 year old girl, instead of the stereotypical Supergirl we usually see.
I also really enjoyed the less chatty, more brainy Supergirl that we got in this issue. I guessed what she was doing before she actually did it, but I believe that we were meant to make that cognitive leap with Kara as opposed to having her gain a step on the audience. This issue also went a long way towards establishing the idea that Kara can be a major superheroine now instead of years in the future.
As for the villain, I recognize who it is (although I think he is most likely a clone of the original), but I do wonder if relatively new readers are going to know who he is just from his name. There's a strong tie-in to the Superman mythos, but the character has never played more than a small supporting role before. However, he could potentially be a formidable villain judging from his actions in this issue; which may be a better use for the character.
The Lois Lane subplot was also fun despite being saddled with the exposition behind the villain of the piece. But as with Kara, Peaty has a good handle on Lois and he gives her a distinctive voice. Of course, putting Lois in jeopardy is pretty old hat for the Superman titles. And the conclusion does leave every hero either in danger or at the mercy of the unmasked villain.
As a cliffhanger for next the next issue, it's hard to argue with that. So, if you're looking for a good superhero book this weekend, pick up Supergirl. This may be DC's sleeper book of the week.