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Michael Green, Mike Johnson and Mahmud Asrar’s Supergirl is my favorite superhero comic right now. What they’re doing on that series is remarkable. Asrar’s gotten a lot of credit for the unique look he gives the comic, and that’s justifiable: He gives the characters a lot of emotion that enhances Green and Johnson’s script. He also knows how to draw convincing teenagers, and I especially like his younger-looking Superman, who appears to be around the same age as Supergirl. I wouldn’t want that in the Superman series or Action Comics, but it makes the two characters look more like peers in Supergirl, which is important for the story these guys are telling.
The series begins with Supergirl’s emergence from some kind of pod/spaceship with no memory of how she got there. From her perspective, she was just on Krypton, getting ready to go through some kind of coming-of-age ceremony. Her cousin Kal-El was just an infant a few moments ago, so when Superman shows up at the crash site, she’s distrustful of him. He’s not so sure what to make of her either.
The rest of the series so far is largely a fish-out-of-water story in which Supergirl tries to figure out her place on Earth. Green and Johnson plot this out in a believable, kind of heartbreaking way, with Supergirl’s trying to avoid making Earth her new home. Twelve issues in and she still hasn’t mastered an Earth language. She even returns to what’s left of Krypton to test Superman’s claim that it’s been destroyed.
None of this is boring, by the way. Whatever Supergirl’s doing in her overarching struggle to come to terms with her new life, there are people for her to plausibly communicate with and colorful threats to make the journey difficult for her. Her inability to communicate with normal humans puts her at odds with the authorities, who don’t know what her motivations are. Some people think she must be a good guy because she wears Superman’s colors and symbol, but others are suspicious. After all, every time she shows up, she’s destroying property by fighting aliens or guys in robot armor.
Green and Johnson keep their arcs short but interconnected. Specific threats usually last just two or three issues, but they’re always linked to things that Supergirl is doing in her search for belonging. The first villain she encounters is a young industrialist who’s profiting from the privatization of space exploration by contracting his services to major nations. When debris falls from space, his company collects it and studies it, keeping whatever technology he finds so he can exploit it for later profit. Naturally he’s interested in Supergirl and her pod.
When Supergirl returns to Krypton, she encounters another survivor who also has questions about the world’s destruction, but is far more violent about the way she looks for answers. Then, back on Earth, Supergirl begins to fit in by making friends with a young Irish immigrant who turns out to be the New 52’s Silver Banshee. I’ve never liked Silver Banshee before this, but I’m kind of in love with her now, mostly because she’s the cure to Supergirl’s crushing loneliness. She has the power to learn any language after hearing only a few words, so she’s the only human Supergirl can actually have a conversation with. Seeds have been planted that would explain how she might eventually turn into a villain, but because of the groundwork laid by Green and Johnson, that will be a powerful, heartbreaking day if the story goes in that direction.
I’m also impressed with how they’re leading into the zero-issue event next month. While Supergirl’s character arc has mostly been about finding her place in the universe, she also has some obvious questions about how she got to Earth and why she has no memory of it. That quest for answers has ramped up in the past couple of issues, and Issue 12 ends with the promise of her finally getting them. That’s quite a nice lead-in to a zero issue that’s editorially mandated to provide an origin story. Rather than taking a break from their ongoing plot, Green, Johnson and Asrar are wrapping the event into it in what promises to be a clean, organic way. It’s just the most recent bit of impressive storytelling on a series that’s already pretty remarkable.