It has been a long time since I read a graphic novel! However, the library had a display of “Girl Power” graphic novels and comic books up for Women’s History Month. This Supergirl comic caught my eye—I named myself after Kara Danvers from the CW Supergirl show! So I decided, why not? I have been mainlining the non-fiction lately. Maybe a comic will be a nice break.
Set during Kara’s high school years, Supergirl: Being Super is a coming-of-age adventure that examines the tension between wanting to be “normal” and fitting in versus, as the subtitle says, acknowledging one’s power. In Kara’s case, it’s the power she derives from the yellow sun of Earth. This graphic novel plays fast and loose with Supergirl’s canon and origin story: the way Mariko Tamaki tells it, Kara was sent away from Krypton at a much younger age (similar to her cousin, Kal-El) and therefore does not remember much about her origins. She experiences scattered, intermittent flashbacks to her parents on Krypton, but that’s about it. When an earthquake takes the life of one of Kara’s best friends, she sinks into depression and wonders how she can possibly reconcile having such abilities with no way to help those closest to her.
From my perspective this story was all a bit “meh,” but I want to acknowledge that I am not in the target audience. I think a teenager reading this would get a lot more out of the story, from Kara’s devotion to her friends to the ways in which her parents worry over her, love her, and protect her. This is a very different Supergirl from the one I saw on TV, but then again she is very different from the ones in the comics or other media. That is, of course, the strength of comic-book characters: they have a mutability that allow each writer to imagine them anew. So I will praise the interpersonal and internal dynamics of Kara’s journey here.
Where I can be more fairly critical, I think, is in the villain and basically the whole A-plot of the story. Without going too deep into spoilers, the villain basically thinks that she should just get to experiment on aliens, and if a few humans get killed in the process, that’s collateral damage. It’s a rather clichéd trope with very little originality applied to it. Tamaki tries to add some depth, granted, giving the villain a sympathetic goal so that we can understand she sees herself as helping humanity—the greater good, and all that.
I will say that I really enjoyed Joëlle Jones’s art! The style is crisp and very dynamic. My eyes lingered on the pages slightly longer than they usually do with graphic novels.
All in all, as ever, take my reviews of graphic novels with grains of salt because this is not the medium for me. There’s a reason it took a TV adaptation of Supergirl to get my attention—but I am happy that all these other versions exist to inspire younger generations of girls too.