Review: Supergirl: Being Super #4
Supergirl: Being Super #4 recently concluded the prestige format miniseries re-imagining Kara Danvers’s origin story. Writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Joelle Jones topped an all-female masthead for the final installment, an emphatic ending entitled Who I Am. ComiConverse’s Kryptonian correspondent, T. Kyle King, offers his thoughts on the concluding chapter.
(Warning: Spoilers follow!)
Supergirl: Being Super #4 Review:
Midvale teen Kara Danvers has just learned that she also is Kara Zor-El of Krypton. Will this revelation sever her ties to humankind, instill a new appreciation for what Earth has meant to who she is, or allow the young adult to forge a new identity uniquely her own?
Supergirl: Being Super #4 Synopsis:
Having made her decision to go away with Tan-On, Kara ignores texts from Dolly Granger and listens as her fellow Kryptonian explains how he was sent to Earth as an ambassador, only to be captured and turned into a test subject. Dolly goes looking for her missing friend, only to be kidnapped and used as bait to lure Kara into a trap at an apparently abandoned LexCorp warehouse. Kara arrives, is weakened by exposure to kryptonite, and finds herself strapped down in the lab for experimentation.
Tan-On comes to her rescue, indiscriminately employing his powers to slaughter the human scientists, and the aliens part ways when she insists on freeing Dolly and he demands they destroy the technology created using their otherworldly abilities. Tan-On throws Dolly from atop a tower and goes to start the explosion that will wipe out the area, but Kara saves her friend, foils the villain’s plans, and realizes the truth about why she was sent to Earth… which leads her to seek out her last surviving relative in Metropolis.
Supergirl: Being Super #4 Analysis:
Who I Am provided a powerful conclusion to a compelling miniseries. Because Tamaki expertly crafted this limited arc to have a planned beginning, middle, and ending, Supergirl: Being Super #4 links the issues together through the use of nuanced callbacks to the titular question from the first chapter and the employment of the contrapuntal salvation of Dolly Granger to balance narratively the death of Jennifer Bard. The writing is richly exquisite, combining dialogue, internal monologue, and text messages like musical notes to give an authentic tenor and timbre to the deliberately specific utilization of language. Tamaki’s wholly genuine Kara rings consistently true.
Jones’s artwork accentuates the subtleties of Tamaki’s script. Body language, facial expressions, and fine details give Who I Am a visual signature that is realistic without being gritty. Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colors manage, by turns, to be muted without being exactly bland, somber without being particularly bleak, and glowing without quite being bright. Shifts in mood are thereby finely attuned, guiding the audience along a journey that is made more emotionally moving by being somewhat shielded from the reader’s conscious awareness. The understated yet impressively impactful graphics of Supergirl: Being Super #4 thus build to a last-page splash that is at once a literally uplifting ending and destined to become an iconic image of the hero’s beginning.
Intricate characterization keeps the story credible and engaging. Kara has a core of clarity at the center of her confusion, allowing her convincingly to change her question marks into exclamation points over the course of her trek to self-discovery. Coach Stone and her former captive, Tan-On, both are coldly calculating and aloof from human concerns, but their motivations are understandable, even if their methods cannot be justified by their objectives. Dolly’s running commentary throughout Supergirl: Being Super #4 contributes illumination, humor, and heart to the proceedings (as well as a name for the protagonist). Who I Am succeeds precisely because of who the tale’s primary players are.
Tamaki, the award-winning author of earlier coming-of-age graphic novels, is in her element in this miniseries, which permits her to apply her considerable talents to highlighting the human within the superhuman. Having described herself as approaching the Last Daughter of Krypton “from a very John Hughes place,” the writer deftly examines the heroine’s adolescent emergence through a transformative vignette without being either sappy or cynical. Supergirl: Being Super #4 masterfully concludes an arc that sets the standard for Kara Zor-El origin stories.
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T. Kyle King is an Expert Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.