In Supergirl #23, series writer/savior Michael Alan Nelson continues to confront the criticisms of his title character in a manner so candidly that in this issue, the enemies of Supergirl’s past have come alive and are lobbing those disparagements directly at her. From Superman telling her that she doesn’t listen to Silver Banshee calling her a “pouty, selfish, blonde brat,” Nelson’s script stings and singes with each passing dialogue balloon. It can get a bit overwrought to hear so much hate spewed at our title hero but I know it’s for a reason: Nelson is aware of Supergirl’s fall from the readers grace since the start of the DC New 52 and he intends to fix her by letting her punch all her past mistakes in the face.
It is throughout this action-packed installment that Kara Zor-El is pitted against visual representations of her memories, all of which take the form of a figure of Kara’s past or a former foe. It’s all just an excuse to showcase Supergirl’s power set of heat vision, freeze breath, and super-strength, all drawn in stunning clarity by Diogenes Neves and Chad Hardin. Despite the flood of memories Kara exhibits, there’s never a panel in which the action is difficult to discern. Best of all the art is consistent despite the presence of two artists. There’s a two-page spread toward the back of the book depicting the arrival of a new threat that is worthy of the caption that accompanies it.
Yet I can’t look past the fact that this is still a book about Kara fighting all of her old enemies while a brand new, more promising villain in Cyborg Superman just stands around talking about his plan, just as he’s done in the last two issues. There are two worthwhile reveals regarding this new villain but these both arrive as a one-two punch to close the book out. It’s initially fun to watch Supergirl tangle with Wonder Woman or Superboy, but once mistakes like H’El or Tycho join the fray, it’s a reminder of what this series used to be. Cyborg Superman, certainly not yet in the pantheon of Supergirl villains, is at least a representation of what this series is now.
In just a few short months, Supergirl has undergone a remarkable rehabilitation and while this issue still ties Kara to her old life, the series as a whole has greatly improved beyond once it once was. It is my hope that while moving forward in this arc, the enemies of Supergirl’s past remain behind her. Leave Tycho behind. Leave Reign behind.
Please, dear God, leave H’El behind.