Review: Supergirl: Being Super #1

supergirl-being-super-1Origin stories are tiring, played out, and usually reek of a cheap emotional grab. (See the dozens of times Martha Wayne’s pearls have fallen on the ground in various comics, TV shows, and movies.) However, Mariko Tamaki, Joelle Jones, Sandu Florea, and Kelly Fitzpatrick buck that trend in Supergirl: Being Super #1. The comic features a 16-year-old Kara living life in the small town of Midvale, which is where pre-Crisis Supergirl grew up and went to high school. It’s an authentic coming of age story that is divorced from most of the teen movie cliches, like the main character being a total outsider, pointless “jocks vs. nerds” battles, or the obsession with heterosexual romance.

For example, Kara runs track, but is also interested in feminist theory, falls asleep reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, and talks about being a part of revolutions. Her best friends are Dolly, a lesbian slacker/conspiracy theorist, and Jen, a driven future Olympic athlete. Her dad might nod off when she talks about feminism and not believe in celebrating birthdays, but gives her good advice and takes her out for ice cream. Her mom has a job with late hours, but also makes a mean spaghetti and gives Kara awesome pink shoes for her birthday. By the end of Supergirl: Being Super #1 and thanks to 50 story pages, Tamaki and Jones give us a handle on Kara’s dreams and aspiration as well as the personalities of her family and friends. A lot of Supergirl stories like focusing on her alien origins, but this only pops up as a mystery in the corners of the narrative with n’ary a word about Krypton or the House of El. Kara just wants to be normal.

Lady Killer artist Joelle Jones is one of the finest artists in comics, and she excels at making Kara and her friends look like actual teenagers hitting that sweet spot between cartooning and photorealism. Acne, freckles, bed head, and rad purple undercuts are all part of the equation, and Jones can evoke teen squabbles with pair of pointing fingers. Inker Sandu Florea, who inked my favorite issues of Batman and Robin Eternal, is the comic’s secret weapon adding texture and depth to cornfield vistas, track meet fans, piles of dirty clothes, and especially the laughs, smiles, and consternations of the character. Kelly Fitzpatrick uses a medium color palette with plenty of skin tones, browns, and tans. When she uses a brighter color, it’s to draw attention to a major story or character beat like Kara’s pink shoes she gets as a birthday gift from her mom, the weird green substance that pops from her acne (Kryptonian puberty is difficult.), or the blue track uniform that foreshadows her future superhero costume.

Supergirl: Being Super #1 is paced naturally and doesn’t skip to the superheroics instead showing what a typical day looks like in Kara’s life. There’s a funny subplot about the track team getting special Fit Bit-type monitors that Dolly isn’t a fan of and leads to some banter between her and Jen plus destruction of school property. Kara’s inner monologue is self-aware with just a dash of teenage sarcasm and plenty of uncertainty because she doesn’t know her “origin”. She knows that she has it good with friends, nice parents, and a peaceful town, but the creepy dreams won’t leave her alone. An inability to be satisfied is the human condition, and Kara truly embodies it in Supergirl: Being Super between bites of hamburger and awkward conversations with her mom.

Supergirl: Being Supergirl #1 is all about being a teenager in its epic, messy, and yet normal glory that happens to star one of DC Comics’ most iconic characters. I can definitely see it ending up in the pantheon of DC’s other great “origin” comics like Batman Year One, Superman Birthright, and Wonder Woman Earth One. It is also refreshing to see teenagers drawn like actual teenagers and have real teenage problems unhampered by heavy-handed metaphors courtesy of the creative team of Mariko Tamaki, Joelle Jones, Sandu Florea, and Kelly Fitzpatrick.

Story: Mariko Tamaki Pencils: Joelle Jones Inks: Sandu Florea Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Story: 10  Art: 10  Overall: 10  Recommendation: Buy 

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review