Supergirl: Being Super, from what I can tell, doesn’t have a
tpb release date. For a story by such an incredibly talented team (including indie
supeerstar Mariko Tamaki), it boggles my mind that this story isn’t getting collected in time for Supergirl’s third season starting this fall. But, even more importantly, I have no idea why DC wouldn’t be pushing this book based on its incredible story and strength.
Supergirl: Being Super #4. Art by Joëlle Jones and colours by Kelly Fitzpatrick.
Perhaps if they had simply gone ahead and called it Supergirl: Earth One, we would see a glorious hardcover collection, one that gives artist Joëlle Jones and colourist Kelly Fitzpatrick’s beautiful art the treatment, and longevity, it deserves.
Supergirl: Being Super could easily go down as this year’s sleeper hit. A beautiful origin story that perfectly blends the familiarity of the Superman myth with a modern sensibility, one that is disinterested in hitting the usual beats of a superhero origin story. Tamaki’s vision simply isn’t cut from the same cloth. Supergirl doesn’t even don a costume. She doesn’t punch as
single person. Instead, the series charts her emotional development through the grief over losing a friend and coming to bear on just how different she is from everyone else. Save, of course, Tan-On, the resident evil Kryptonian.
If the series has a weak point, it is Tan-On, a Kryptonian scientist who was sent to Earth to study it, only to be captured and tortured to figure out how to turn him into a battery. Despite the extra space given in these super-sized issues, he still comes across as one-dimensional. Even Tamaki struggles to figure out his motivations, using Supergirl to voice concerns over his thought process. He is set up to be a complicated tie to Kara’s former home but the dilemma she undergoes while thinking through his ideas comes across as insincere.
Thankfully, he doesn’t actually take up that much page space because the series is much more interested in Kara and her friend Dolly than any sort of rogues gallery. Her fight with Tan-On is always grounded as an internal struggle outwardly expressed, and the moment she is finished with that struggle, Tan-On is defeated, somewhat unceremoniously.
That isn’t to say the issue is without action. In fact, it’s mostly action, but the action is grounded in horror and internal struggle, which means the actual punching never really happens. Instead, artist Joëlle Jones illustrates a fight with flashbacks, pulling so far back during the final moments of the confrontation that the outcome and action
is obscured. The internal takes precedent and Jones’ tendency to slam mundane realism with the superhuman continues to be beautiful and compelling.
Joëlle Jones & Kelly Fitzpatrick's detailed art helps ground the story and make the superhuman details feel more, well, alien.
tl;dr review: What started out as a retelling of Kara’s origin story with heavy borrowing from Superman turned into a thoughtful meditation on what it truly means to be a teenager discovering oneself through tragedy. Tamaki’s thoughtful writing never played teen angst for cheap laughs or melodrama, but for genuine if awkward expressions of humanity. And while this story has been told before, it hasn’t with this sort of style and disregard for the tropes, all to its benefit.