So this seemed like a good idea to talk about the Rebirth series of Supergirl. The first story arc, “Reign of the Cyborg Superman,” came to an end last week and the show (which the Rebirth series takes a lot of elements from) is back from hiatus. But first, a history lesson.
Supergirl first appeared in 1959 (technically, a version appeared in 1958, but she was a magical construct made by Jimmy Olsen and not actually “Kara Zor-El”) and got her own backup stories in Action Comics, Superman, and Adventure Comics until she finally got her own self-titled series in 1972. It...didn’t go well. At the time, DC was implementing a strategy where they cancelled the lowest selling books, but with the middle-selling books (like Supergirl), they simply consolidated them into giant anthology books. Supergirl lasted only ten issues before it was turned into Superman Family.
Supergirl finally got another self-titled series in 1982, starting off as The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl and then simply changing its name to Supergirl. It lasted longer than the first series, but sales fell so far by the end that the book was cancelled even though the Supergirl movie was just about to come out. (DC came out with a Supergirl movie adaptation, but the film ended up bombing and Kara herself died in Crisis on Infinite Earths a year later.)
Then, for the longest time, Clark was considered the “Last Kryptonian” by DC. Sure, they eventually introduced Superboy and Supergirl, but Superboy was a partial clone of Superman and Supergirl turned out to be a protoplasmic creature called “Matrix” who eventually merged with a woman named Linda Danvers and became an “Earth-Born Angel” (it’s better than it sounds and written by Peter David, so that series was pretty awesome).
In the end, however, Kara Zor-El didn’t come back until 2005. She was brought back in the pages of Superman/Batman by Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner and quickly got her own book. It...wasn’t good. Eventually, however, it began to get better and better until...the New 52 came out and the universe was rebooted.
The New 52 Supergirl book was slightly better, but it still suffered from mixed writing. Kara herself was a lot angrier and bitter than she had been before, a lot less heroic. She refused Clark’s help and even ended up becoming a Red Lantern for a while, but the book did become better and show her improving until....it was cancelled due to low sales.
Yeah, Supergirl has not had the best luck with her own books. Especially since her own book was now cancelled several months before her own television show premiered. Luckily, unlike the movie, the show became a success and reinvigorated interest in Supergirl. Unfortunately, DC had no ongoing title for at the time.
Enter: DC Rebirth and Steve Orlando.
Orlando brought a ton of aspects of the show into the main DC continuity: now, Supergirl was living in National City, working for the DEO and CatCo Media, and her adopted parents were the Danvers, agents of the DEO. Say what you will about “media synergy,” but it was a great idea. It provided a structure to the book that the previous runs had lacked.
Except, of course, that this Kara isn’t the Kara of the show. The Kara of the show lived thirteen years of her life on Earth, while comics Kara has lived only the past few years and is still having trouble adapting to life on Earth. Without her Superman around, she is now the only survivor of Krypton...except for her father, Zor-El, who was turned into the Cyborg Superman.
Orlando and artist Brian Ching carefully set up the “Reign of the Cyborg Superman” as not just an establishment of Kara’s new status quo, but also as a confrontation of her worst fears: her father coming back and forcing her to watch as her new home dies, replaced by the dead Argo City. But unlike the previous books, this Kara is not angry or bitter — she has gone past her anger and reached a point where she wants to be like her cousin, to be a symbol of hope.
In fact, while fighting against her father and his army of zombie Kryptonians (seriously), she gets a moment that I might qualify as one of her greatest moments:
I don’t want to spoil too much of the first six issues, because there is some very awesome stuff in there, but I have to just include the ending, because it is just that good.
In addition to the image of Supergirl pulling open her shirt to display the S-symbol being powerful, having an image like this be so unsexualized (if that is the right term) is pretty great, especially the 2005 Kara suffered from being drawn by Michael Turner, an artist well known for his cheesecake. Brian Ching’s version of Kara, on the other hand, looks a lot more like a fifteen year old girl and I can’t count any moments in the first six issues where she was sexualized at all.