In the pages of the Batman/Superman ongoing the titular protagonists are up against The Batman Who Laughs, who has infected several heroes. To go along with the current Batman/Superman arc, DC is publishing one-shots to explore what each infected hero is going through. Although not a separate one-shot like the others, Supergirl #36 does tie in with the Infected event. The main questions I have going into this are whether these issues will actually add anything to the Batman/Superman story (either in terms of plot or character) and if these issues will be able to deliver a solid story that can stand on its own (even if it’s open-ended to tie into Batman/Superman). In this review I’ll answer those questions based on my own subjective views. Let’s have a look!
Before I get started I should say that, like the Hawkman series, I haven’t been reading the Supergirl ongoing. I remember hearing good things about it when it first launched as part of Rebirth, but this title kind of fell off my radar, even though I think Supergirl is a pretty cool character. In any case, this means I’m missing some context as to what’s going on with Brainiac in this issue. That said, this is marketed as an Infected tie-in, so I’m reviewing this anyway.
The first thing that comes to mind while reading this comic is that it seems like whatever arc was running in Supergirl either got interrupted or cut short because DC editorial has decided that this book should tie-in with the event. There’s obviously something going on with Brainiac, and the way the book opens feels like we should be getting an episode that centers around that Brainiac plot, what with Kara being held captive by said villain. This makes for a bit of a rocky start, because, rather than continuing that Brainiac story, the narrative abruptly switches to the Infected stuff, which then completely takes over the book. Yes, there is a brief return to Brainiac further down, but this mostly just hammers home that Brainiac really does seem to be left behind and that this book is from now on going to focus on Kara’s infection. Whether my assessment here is accurate, however, remains to be seen when the next issue of Supergirl comes out, but that doesn’t change anything about the experience of reading this issue, which feels unfocused at best.
There is a flipside to this, though, because Supergirl’s creative team has managed to put Kara in the Fortress of Solitude so that her story can line up with what’s going on in Batman/Superman #4. And her story does line up pretty well—too well, perhaps, as a total of 7 pages repeat almost exactly what’s happening in Batman/Superman #4, only from Kara’s perspective. We see her uttering the same lines, punching the same opponents, and catching the same batarang that carries the toxin that ultimately turns her into one of the Infected. So there’s a lot of repetition here, but this issue doesn’t add a lot to the main Infected story. In fact, this issue seems to solely exist to get Kara from point A to point B without truly developing her personal arc or giving us any new insights. In other words, this feels like a middle of the road issue that might be good for those who only read Supergirl to see how she ends up as one of the Infected, but is entirely skippable for Infected readers who are not interested in Kara’s continued adventures.
That said, this comic does get something right that I feel some of the other Infected-related books have, so far, failed at. What I have missed in previous issues is more of an exploration or insight into an Infected character’s motivation. Being infected, as I’ve explained in my Batman/Superman #4 review, is not a motivation, but a condition. We have already seen a character like Batman or Superman struggling against the infection, fighting it with everything they got, whereas other characters appear to succumb to it easily and, in some cases, almost willingly. When I saw Kara get infected for the first time in Batman/Superman, and again in this Supergirl issue, I couldn’t help but wonder why she was unable to resist the infection like Clark—she’s also Kryptonian, after all, and back in Batman/Superman #3 it was explained that Clark’s Kryptonian physiology was able to fight off the infection.
However, in this issue we are privy to Kara’s thoughts, and reading the lines “The voices of the Kryptonian dead—finally silenced! I am free of doubt! Free of weakness!” does help a lot. Like I said, I haven’t been reading Supergirl and I wasn’t aware that she is struggling with being haunted by the dead, but I can imagine that this must be quite a heavy burden to bear. If this infection has stopped those voices, I can see why she would give in to it. Some more exploration of her current state of mind would be nice, though, but at least I think that Supergirl accomplishes with a single line what previous tie-ins have failed to do with a total of twenty pages, and that’s got to count for something.
I just want to point out an inconsistency before I talk about the art. Over in Batman/Superman, when Kara gets infected, she transitions from her true self to her corrupted self really fast and both Batman and Superman are right there to witness her transition. In this Supergirl issue, we see her pass out and then we see Shazam waking her up and welcoming her to the Secret Six, and neither Batman nor Superman is there anymore. Granted, there’s an editorial note that references a fight that will come up in Batman/Superman #5, but the fact remains that these issues, which are meant to depict the same event, contradict each other to a degree.
The artwork is brought to us by the amazing team of Eduardo Pansica (pencils), Julio Ferreira (inks) and Chris Sotomayor (colors). I have had the pleasure of reviewing Pansica and Ferreira’s work back on Suicide Squad, and their work really stood out to me then, but I think that it’s even better here. Especially the opening pages are beautifully rendered. Take a look at page one, for example. It starts very claustrophobic as we zero in on Kara’s eye. As we zoom out we see her terrified face, which is being poked at by what seem to be small mechanical insect legs. We continue to zoom out and Kara’s face gets buried in these mechanical things, but as we turn the page we are presented with a powerful double page spread where Kara breaks free and unleashes her heat vision. The build up from claustrophobic horror to this outburst of super strength is excellent, and on seeing it, I’m hooked.
What I appreciate the most about the art in this issue is not only how nicely sequential it is, but also how much personality the artists have put in their work. Kara’s expressions are very human and by simply looking at her panels we know exactly how she’s feeling. The colors are mostly muted, but Kara’s blond hair and bright outfit are a good contrast to her darker surroundings and make her stand out as a superhero (until she gets infected, that is). The sequential aspect is also pretty good; for example, there is a sequence of panels where we see Kara raising her fist; then we see her fist colliding with Donna Troy’s jaw; and finally we see Kara swinging her fist in the air and Donna flying away. It hammers home just how powerful Supergirl really is, and if she can do this with ease, just imagine what an out-of-control infected version of Supergirl can do.
- You have been reading the Supergirl series.
- You are determined to collect every single Infected tie-in, even if said tie-in doesn’t really add much to the main event.
- You fondly remember Red Lantern Supergirl, and want something similar again, including a shot of her throwing up!
Overall: This comic really isn’t bad by any means, and in some ways it’s even better than the core Infected issues or some of the tie-ins that I’ve written about up until now. However, it still doesn’t add a whole lot to the main narrative in Batman/Superman as it mostly repeats what happened in that title, and there is a small inconsistency with how the same event is depicted. The art is absolutely stellar, though, and Kara’s inner monologue intrigues me and makes me wish there was more of an exploration of her state of mind while being infected. Hopefully the creative team will pick up on these things in the next issue. As for a recommendation, I don’t see why readers of the main Infected story would need this issue, but it might clarify some things for fans of the Supergirl ongoing. But then again, if you’ve already been reading Supergirl for a while, you’re probably going to pick this up anyway.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.