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Saturday, 22 May 2010

Supergirl: Many Happy Returns

Writer: Peter David
Pencils: Ed Benes
Inks: Alex Lei
Colours: Brad Anderson
Letters: Comicraft 
Publisher: DC Comics

What's it about?
In short, two Supergirls collide, potentially causing the end of all existence.
In long, it's a bit more complicated.

We have one Supergirl, Linda Danvers (in the white top).  She is not Kryptonian, or Superman's cousin or anything like that.  She does have invulnerability, super strength, the ability to fly and a form of psychic telekinesis.  Linda is brash, has a dirty mind, is straight talking and cynical.  She got her powers through some sort of miracle and earned the right to wear the Superman colours.

The second Supergirl is Kara Zor-El.  She is Superman's cousin, as written in the 1950s comics.  Kara is sweet, naive and utterly ignorant of all science.  She is from the age of comics where you could alter a planet's orbit by doing a handstand and pushing on the ground really really hard.  Her universe has no swearing, no drugs, no litter and everyone has a white picket fence with 2.4 children.  Superheroes' main jobs may well include rescuing cats from trees.

Kara is diverted from her time line and her rocket crash lands into Linda's hometown.  She expects to find Superman, instead she finds Linda who doesn't believe a word she says.  Eventually they become friends and everything goes fairly well - Kara even starts to learn basic physics.  Then we discover that all Supergirls from all time streams are being murdered, and that Kara must return to her proper dimension, or else all Universes and all timelines are doomed.

What's good about it?
Peter David wrote this arc as a swansong for the character of Linda Danvers.  He knew the series was getting cancelled so he wrote the most spectacular storyline he could.

The juxtaposition of a modern 90s Supergirl with one from the 1950s provides a lot of the humour in the book.  There are in jokes galore but all are easily understood without knowing the original Supergirl strips.  This comic quietly makes fun of the faux science from the 1950s, whilst retaining the ideals and responsibility that goes with taking the 'Super' prefix.

When we reach the conclusion of the story we really feel the difficulty of the choices facing our Supergirls and we grieve for the losses facing each one of them.

Like other Peter David penned books, this has somewhat snappy dialogue.  It wouldn't really be out of place in a Joss Whedon written show (Buffy, Firefly etc).  The good thing about this is that it hasn't dated at all.

What's bad about it?
On the whole, I like the art, a lot.  The colours, the inking and the way the characters are drawn.  It's all so vibrant and uncomplicated.  I particularly like the way Benes draws eyes.  However, like a lot of his fellow artists, he has this tendency to draw the women with really short skirts and gives us a few more bum shots than is truly necessary.  For example, this strategically ripped skirt on Linda:

It's a bit much, but at this stage in his career it's not too bad.  Certainly, in this book I feel that it is more than made up by the quality of the plot and the characters.  However, in later years it gets ridiculous (books containing art like that will not be featured here, I can assure you).

On the plus side, Kara's costume is not designed by Ed Benes at all, he is producing a faithful copy of her original costume.  I'm not convinced that makes it ok (it is very short for a 14 or 15 year old), but I will leave the ethics of that to the you readers to decide.

What's the art like?
I mentioned it's vibrancy earlier, it is also passionate and there is such a feeling of joy that comes off the pages.  There are iconic poses aplenty and plenty of pages that show a flair for layout, symmetry and composition.  I love reading this book and just looking at the art.  The two Supergirls are given different body language and poses which solidify their personalities and cement the storytelling process:

There is one panel where Kara is positively seething with anger and we see how dangerous a Kryptonian's powers could really be:

Other examples as follows:

Other information
ISBN: 1401200850
Price: £9.99
There have only been two trades collecting issues from this particular Supergirl run, featuring this version of Supergirl.  The other trade collects the first 9 issues and is simply titled Supergirl.  It is now out of print but you should be able to pick up a used copy from places like Amazon.  Please follow this link for more details.

EDITED TO ADD: You can download all the issues from this run, except for those in Many Happy Returns, here: http://supergirlproject.wordpress.com


  1. It's a bit off topic, but appropriate for me to post here on a Supergirl review.

    I wanted to pass along that I have nominated this blog for a Kreativ Blogger award.

    Information about the award and why I chose this blog are available over at my blog at:

    I think this is a great blog for new readers. I find the breakdown of the comics insightful. I think the reviews are written in a manner that is very helpful for the uninitiated. And, even though I am far from a new reader, I come here to see if there is something I should pick up that I haven't.


  2. Thank you Anj! As I've said elsewhere your kind words are much appreciated. :D

    If anyone is interested in finding out more about the Supergirl character I strongly urge you to head over to Anj's blog:

    It really is one of the best sources of Supergirl info on the web.

  3. The art looks great and quite dynamic^^
    I kinda want to find this book now, thanks to you!

  4. You can download more Linda Danvers issues here: http://supergirlproject.blogspot.com/

  5. Actually now it's http://supergirlproject.wordpress.com
    , Saranga. ^_^-ealperin

  6. Thanks for the hat tip ealperin! I've now changed the link in the post.