Supergirl is one of DC Comics’ most iconic heroines, arguably just a notch below Wonder Woman and maybe Batgirl. But the publisher hasn’t always treated the character with respect. She was famously killed off in 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series, as a way of making Superman more unique. She eventually made it back into the DCU, but her New 52 reboot in 2011 was one of the worst of that initiative’s controversial reimaginings. Supergirl was always characterized by her innate sense of hope and joyful optimism, and the New 52 Supergirl arrived on Earth angry and confused, and wearing a costume that was trying way too hard to be edgy.
With Rebirth, DC is actively trying to bring back the classic elements that many of their most iconic characters have lost. Maybe no one needed a rebirth at DC more than Supergirl. Luckily, the editors at DC had an excellent template to work from, as the CBS (now CW) Supergirl television series is exactly the right formula for the character. The TV show incorporates the hopeful vibe the character originated with, but added tons of cool new stuff to the mythology that just works especially well for that character. For new Supergirl comic writer Steve Orlando, it’s not just “corporate synergy” to pull so much from the show, it’s the smart thing to do, since the show has nailed so much of what made Supergirl great in the first place.
This isn’t to say that the new Supergirl Rebirth series is a carbon copy of the TV show, because it isn’t. For starters, this version of Kara Zor-El is 16 years old, not 24, as she is in the show. Like the show, though, she’s living under the foster care of the Danvers family, but in the comics, both of her parents, not just her father, who are agents of the DEO (the Department of Extranormal Operations). Also taken from the show is Kara Danvers’ new home base of National City, as well as the fact that she’ll soon be working for publisher Cat Grant (here as a teenage intern, not an assistant). In the Supergirl: Rebirth Special we don’t see any signs of TV series characters like Kara’s foster sister Alex, or her friend Winn Schott, but I imagine they will appear before too long.
As the issue opens, we get a flashback to the last days of the Kryptonian Argo City: Supergirl’s original home and the one piece of Krypton that survived its destruction (at least for a short while). Zor-El, Supergirl’s father and Jor-El’s brother, is being tasked with exiling a Kryptonian citizen to the Phantom Zone for his own protection, and the protection of Argo’s other inhabitants. Although we see Zor-El send this particular Kryptonian to the Phantom Zone for his own good, due to his “condition,” we don’t see just what that condition is.
Cut to present day Earth, in the desert outside National City at DEO HQ. Supergirl is now working for the DEO, although Kara has recently lost her powers (though I’m not entirely certain how and when this happened) and the DEO is rocketing her towards the sun in the hopes that close proximity to Earth’s yellow star will jumpstart her abilities. The other option is far less appealing should this experiment fail, but Kara takes that chance, and before you know it, she’s back to her old self… and far more friendly and engaging than her New 52 incarnation was. She’s also wearing a more classic costume, which happen to reflect her TV look a bit more. (Supergirl has had some hideous costumes in her day, but her New 52 one took the cake. Good riddance).
This is where things get wacky and very classically DC, as Kara’s journey to the sun in a retrofitted Kryptonian pod, which uses a “Phantom drive,” accidentally releases the Kryptonian that Kara’s father had sent to the Phantom Zone all those years before. It turns out the reason that this individual, named Lar-On, was exiled is because he’s the Kryptonian version of a werewolf, and wouldn’t you have it, there’s a full moon out on Earth as he’s released. So for all of you fans out there that ever wondered if there were werewolves on Krypton, turns out that there are. And you get to see Supergirl (with help from the DEO) kick one’s ass. Isn’t stuff like this the reason we read these comics in the first place?
Aside from the fun “Supergirl fights a werewolf from space” storyline, the Supergirl: Rebirth special is mainly all an extended prologue to the upcoming ongoing series. In that capacity, it does its job. It’s all mostly exposition setting up the main character’s new identity as Kara Danvers, agent of the DEO and foster daughter of the Danvers family, but it’s done in a fun and efficient manner by writer Steve Orlando. Much like Lois Lane as Superwoman (read our review of Superwoman #1), we see that Kara is now mostly motivated to live up to her cousin Superman’s legacy, who recently died prior to the events of Rebirth (the Superman in the pages of DC Comics now is the pre-New 52 version of Kal-El, with a wife and son. I know, it’s confusing).
The artwork for the Rebirth special comes from Emanuela Lupacchino and inker Ray McCarthy, and their art is one of this issue’s highlights for sure. Lupacchino’s pencils look like a cross between Terry Dodson and Stuart Immonen, which isn’t a bad combination at all. The regular ongoing Supergirl series will be drawn by artist Brian Ching, but I have to say, I hope we see more Supergirl art from this artistic duo down the line. They are definitely the perfect pair to handle the Girl of Steel.
Ultimately, Supergirl: Rebirth doesn’t do anything spectacular or new, but like with a lot of the Rebirth stuff from DC right now, it’s about repackaging the old and familiar in a way that reminds fans of what they liked about these characters to begin with. This issue is just fun enough, and well drawn enough, for me to recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Kara Zor-El and have been missing a fun, lighthearted take on the character, minus all the angst. I genuinely look forward to the ongoing series.