By Jonathan Edwards
I'll be forthright; I don't know much about Supergirl. Of course, I know that she was originally the Kryptonian cousin of Superman with more or less all the same powers, and she died during Crisis on Infinite Earths. But beyond that (and knowing she was replaced by a shapeshifting alien or something for a while), I'm a blank slate. And really, that's why I wanted to check out this book. I mean, what better way to learn about a character than with an origin story? Even if it takes the character in a substantially different direction than previous iterations, a good origin story can still generate enough interest in a character to inspire further and continued reading. That's what happened with me and Supergirl's cousin a couple years ago. I don't think I'd been all that interested in Superman since I was a kid. But after reading Superman: Secret Origins, I was intrigued enough to check out Superman: Birthright and then Kurt Busiek's Superman: Secret Identity. Okay, admittedly that last one isn't exactly an origin story, but I only sought it out after reading the other two. So the question becomes, will this book encourage something similar from me for the "Girl of Steel"?
Perhaps most immediately noticeable going into Supergirl: Being Super is the tone. It's definitively contemporary, taking cues from the likes of mumblecore films in its pacing and prioritization of dialog and characterization over traditional action. It's an interesting and, in my opinion, somewhat risky approach to take. Because, generally speaking, if prospective readers don't completely buy in to the characters being compelling and/or empathetic, there really isn't much else for them, so they don't really have a reason to keep reading.
In this case, with Supergirl, it's fine. No more, no less. The supporting cast is all expectedly quirky, special mention going out to Kara's friends Dolly and Jen, who each seem to represent different extremes of self-identity. Come to think of it, Jeremiah, Kara's adoptive father, probably does as well, based on his ramblings and the brief flashback sequence he's in. All of which makes a whole lot of sense, considering that this series is, at its core, about Kara figuring herself out, as a person and as Supergirl.
As I'm sure you've inferred by now, the actual plot of this issue is very decompressed, which is a debatably good or bad use of prestige format. We follow Kara through the day before and day of her birthday, as well as the day after, where Kara, Dolly, and Jen participate in the track meet they'd been talking about throughout. There's also a subplot about Kara getting a zit that I honestly don't know how I feel about.
The art is pretty solid. Characters all look pretty distinct, there's no shortage of good detail and the colors are fine, if nothing special. However, a handful of the character expressions do just miss their mark, at least for me, and I feel like the use of gradient backgrounds is a bit too liberal for my tastes. Although, those are both probably more nitpicks than anything.
I could see how the end of the issue might hook someone, but for me it honestly fell a bit flat. I couldn't help but feel like not quite as much happened as I would've like, and I don't think I liked the characters quite as much as I'm sure they would've liked. I get why Kara is characterized the way she is, but I can't say it makes her all that interesting to follow. Despite that, will I read the second issue? Sure. It's a slow start, but it feels like it can go somewhere interesting. Would I recommend picking it up? Only if the premise sounds particularly interesting. Otherwise, maybe hold off on this one.
Supergirl: Being Super #1
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Joëlle Jones
Publisher: DC Comics