Supergirl: Being Super — a four-issue miniseries about a teenage Kara Danvers living in rural America with zero Kryptonian memories and confusing fluctuations in her powers — concluded this week. It’s been a really wonderful ride and, if it hadn’t taken such a misstep in the final pages of the last issue, it would have been not just one of the best Supergirl stories told, but one of the best Super-stories period.
Image: DC Comicss
The first three issues of Supergirl: Being Super were a tremendous exploration of the Super-mythos. The gender was bent, the story altered, but this was a retelling of one of America’s most popular myths, and nothing serves a myth better than an update to present times — and a twist.
Writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Joëlle Jones crafted a story so steeped in rural America you could smell the sweet burn of high grass under a hot sun. This wasn’t the fetishising Americana of Zack Snyder’s Smallville in Man of Steel. Nor was it like the town in CW’s Smallville that seemed to resemble no real small town out in the middle of nowhere.
Tamaki and Jones found my hometown: A small town with less than 15,000 people, where high school sporting events are the biggest entertainment of the weekend, and everyone sort of knows — or at least recognises — everyone else, and your friends are big and bold and weird even if you’re 50km from the closest Rocky Horror Picture Show showing.
Without the memories of a forgotten world that normally set Supergirl apart from Superman, this Kara Danvers felt human in that wonderful way Clark Kent can in the best Superman stories. She had friends, ate too much, and texted while her parents yammered. There were zero mentions of Superman in the first three issues of the comic and that led to me thinking that maybe, just maybe, this is the story of the Super-mythos when the lead is a woman instead of a man.
It was a wonderful conceit to cling to because, for the most part, things really didn’t change all that much. Kara has more friends in high school than teen Clark ever does, and she plays sports while teen Clark often avoids them, lest he hurt someone or lose control of his powers. But she and most iterations of Clark are remarkably similar — good honest kids who want to help.
The lack of big differences in a genderbent Super-origin story has only made Being Super feel more universal. So it was a big bummer when the latest issue introduced Superman and revealed that the guy has been floating around Metropolis for a while.
The last panel of the book is gorgeous — a nervous Supergirl, cape pinned to her backpack, floating in front of a surprised Superman. It speaks of a big payoff — a big story to come. The same with Lex Luthor revealing himself as the hand guiding the human villains of the story. The last few beats of Being Super feel like the very best moments of the pilot episode of a new TV series, which is not what the last moments of a four-issue miniseries should feel like.
I’m all for leaving readers wanting more — that’s critical to an engaging narrative. But Being Super ends with the story just beginning — Kara’s biggest questions and mightiest revelations don’t have the opportunity to breathe as the tale is too busy wrapping things up and hinting at the future, as well as leaving a couple of plot holes.
If Being Super part two is on the horizon, then this is the beginning of a really fantastic new series for DC Comics — an engaging Super-series that genuinely engages with the emotions that might afflict an extraterrestrial child refugee. I absolutely want that story. But, to date, this is all we’re getting of Tamaki and Jones’s tale, and it left me wanting way more than it should.