Saturday, January 17, 2009

Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom

Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom - 5 issue mini series - Palmiotti & Gray, art by Phil Noto

I picked this up recently, and just had a chance to read it last night. It is another Palmiotti project that popped up on my radar recently (yes, my radar is notoriously slow to pick things up).

This mini series is basically Superman and Supergirl go camping and talk about stuff. There is another, almost inconsequential story that this is set within the context of, but that story carries no real weight at all, and I am not sure it needs to. This is less of a criticism than a statement of fact. I really enjoyed this series, and my reasons for that are several.

Superman and Supergirl are portrayed in a really great way in this series. Superman is closer to the George Reeves standard than he is sometimes drawn. He is not hyper muscled, and he looks like he has some age and some wisdom to him. He comes across as the embodyment of those things you want Superman to embody, and he is very interested in helping his cousin become the sort of person the world needs her to be. He also very obviously cares about Kara.

Supergirl is a teen(or there abouts). She is portrayed as such. She doesn't come across as a fembot or a sex kitten. One of the particularly great covers shows her in the midst of putting her hair up, and it has a 'humanizing effect' She also, at one point makes a remark about losing a cup size from not eating for days. Seriously, I know those things might seem a bit cliche, but you don't usually get that level of down to earth realism. It helps put the 'girl' in supergirl without resorting to cheesecake poses. She has the mid-drift top and supershort skirt, but still manages to look more realistic than overly idealized sexy. Most of the series is spent with her wearing basically something like a jumpsuit. All of those things stood out as underlining the idea that we were getting into her head and her character, not her super-skirt. This is a relationship comic, and a coming to terms with what you can and can't do sort of thing, and it works.

Here is the plot more or less:
We meet Maelstrom. She is from Apokolips, and her goal is to become Darkseid's wife or queen or whatever. She decides that in order to get his favor she will bring him the head of Superman. She goes to earth via a boom tube and unfortunately Superman is off planet doing good. Supergirl fights her and is bested and left disturbed about it when Maelstrom destroys a hospital full of people. Superman shows up in time to save Supergirl and send Maelstrom back to Apokolips. Maelstrom goes through a variety of punishments before getting a chance to try for Superman again, this time with an escort of the Female Furies.

Superman takes Kara on a camping trip to a planet where they have no powers, and during the course of the trip she learns a lesson about how her powers aren't the only thing she has going for her, etc. It is really the point of the story, and gives us a great look at compassionate Superman really trying to help his cousin learn and grow. Eventually, through Kara's growth, they get off of the planet and back to earth in time to defeat Maelstrom and the Furies, etc. The Maelstrom part of things really only exists to justify and frame the real focus of the story. It also shows us a good view of the differences between how good and evil operate.

The art is mostly awesome. There are a few places where things have issues in my opinion, but mostly it is great. For the record, I really think that Noto's Kal and Kara look a LOT like Adrian Pasdar and Helen Slater...

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