Sent to Earth from the doomed planet Krypton, Kara Zor-El was meant to look after her infant cousin, Kal-El. Events conspired to delay her rocket, however, and by the time she arrived on Earth, Kal-El had already grown to adulthood. Empowered by Earth’s yellow sun, he had become Earth’s greatest hero, Superman. In time, the teenage Kara would follow in his footsteps and become Supergirl.
Now, Kal-El is dead, sacrificing his life to save his adopted home world, and Kara is rendered powerless. In a desperate attempt to regain what she has lost and insure that Earth still has a hero capable of protecting it from alien threats, Kara makes a bargain with the American Department of Extra-Normal Operations (DEO)—service in exchange for a way to restore her powers.
With that accomplished via another rocket-trip into the heart of Earth’s sun, Kara now leads a double-life. Under the supervision of DEO Director Cameron Chase, Supergirl continues to protect Earth. Likewise, under the aegis of the husband and wife team of DEO Agents Eliza and Jerimiah Danvers, Kara must try and live the life of an ordinary teenage girl and learn more about the culture of the people she’s protecting. This proves to be the more difficult of the two tasks, as Kara’s genius level intellect can barely handle the ‘remedial’ information she’s being ‘taught’ at a charter school for young scientists or handle something as primitive as an overhead projector!
Still, Kara’s intelligence does win her an internship working for media mogul Cat Grant. So as annoying as school and pretending to be an ordinary American girl might be, at least her future is looking bright. Unfortunately, Kara’s past will come back to haunt her in the form of The Cyborg Superman—a Kryptonian/machine hybrid who claims to have once been Kara’s father!
Reign Of The Cyborg Superman is an interesting read. Comparisons to the Supergirl television series are inevitable since the DC Rebirth initiative took steps to try and add some elements of the TV series into the new Supergirl comic in an effort to make it more appealing to fans of the show.
Are they successful? Well, partly. Writer Steve Orlando does a fantastic job of translating the show’s version of Cat Grant into the comic and Jeremiah and Eliza are better developed characters here than on the show. One curiosity, given the prominent role the relationship between Kara and her adopted sister Alex plays on the TV series, is that this element hasn’t been introduced into this comic. Even stranger, the blurb on the back of the book makes reference to Kara’s adoptive sister, despite her not existing! Methinks there was some confusion in the DC Comics marketing department.
Taken on its own terms, however, Reign Of The Cyborg Supermen is a good read. The best aspect of the story is Steve Orlando’s exploration of the culture shock Kara experiences in trying to adapt to life on Earth—an aspect of Kara’s story that has rarely been explored. Orlando does a fantastic job of capturing Kara’s frustrations with how primitive everything is compared to the life she lived on Krypton, creating an ironic humor as Kara’s awkwardness in coping with things that are literally beneath her are written off as her being clumsy or incompetent. Likewise, Kara’s attitude emulates those of every teenager who thinks that they are smarter than all of the adults around them, though in Kara’s case this is actually true.
The artwork, unfortunately, is largely disappointing. The opening chapter by Emanuela Lupacchino looks fantastic, featuring a bold aesthetic that mixes elements of shojo manga with traditional American superhero comic influences. Sadly, most of the book is illustrated by Brian Ching, whose blocky style proves a poor fit for Supergirl. Indeed, many of Ching’s panels look like rough layout sketches taken from a storyboard, which somehow got colored before they were finished!
The volume is rated 12+ and I consider that rating a fair one. There’s no sexual or adult content or cursing. What violence exists is the usual superheroic fare. I dare say more advanced tweens could handle this series without issue.
Supergirl, vol. 1: Reign Of The Cyborg Superman
by Steve Orlando
Art by Brian Ching and Emanuela Lupacchino
DC Comics, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 12+