Supergirl: Being Super by Mariko Tamaki, Joelle Jones

Supergirl: Being Super Cover

Information

Goodreads: Supergirl: Being Super
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2020 re-release

Summary

Sixteen-year-old Kara Danvers has pretty great parents and great friends. She should be happy. But she also possesses powers she cannot explain–and now they seem to be going rogue. Then an earthquake strikes her small town. Will Kara embrace who she truly is? Or will she continue to hide away from the world?

Star Divider

Review

Supergirl: Being Super is a phenomenal introduction to the Girl of Steel. Kara Danvers has wonderful adoptive parents and two great best friends, but she is still troubled at night by her strange dreams and how she cannot remember her past. Worse, her alien powers seem to be malfunctioning, but she is afraid to talk about it to her parents, because they fear what would happen if their small town found out Kara is different. Supergirl: Being Super introduces readers to a teenage girl who has not yet decided to become a superhero, but whose story of self-discovery is as gripping as it feels relevant. Readers will fall in love Kara, and cheer her on as she decides what she wants out of life.

Supergirl: Being Super is so wonderful in part because Kara feels so relatable. Even though she has super speed and super strength, she feels like the average teenager. She loves her parents, but does not want to admit it to them. She feels a little ironic about school. She is worried about her future and trying not to think too hard about things like impressing college scouts. Her weird fluctuating powers may be a big concern to her, but readers may feel Kara is not so different, after all. She really wants the same things most people do: a loving home, a certain future, a general sense of safety and stability.

This message of common longings is the subtle heart of the story. Mariko Tamaki never says it explicitly, but Supergirl: Being Super is about who embraces or does not embrace the stranger, the refugee, the person who is different. Some of Kara’s relatives love her unconditionally, but others do not. And there are some who believe that Kara does not deserve protection or dignity simply because she is not from Earth. Kara herself grapples with these issues, sometimes fearing to reveal her true self in case of rejection, but also sometimes clearly fearing that she might, after all, not really belong. Her story is about reminding others that she is worthy, but also about reminding herself.

I fell in love with Kara from the start. Though she doubts herself, she possesses bravery and a true heart. Even if she never decided to be a superhero, she would have been enough. I think most readers will fall in love with Kara, too. So if you were wondering where to start with Supergirl, or even if the Supergirl comics were for you, Supergirl: Being Super might just be the book you were waiting for. The book that will show you we all need a little bit of Supergirl and her love in our lives.

4 stars

Supergirl at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee

DC Supergirl Novel

Information

Goodreads: Supergirl at Superhero High
Series: DC Superhero Girls #2
Source: Library
Published: March 2017

Official Summary

Get your cape on with the DC Super Hero Girls™—the unprecedented new Super Hero universe especially for girls! Readers of all ages can fly high with the all-new adventures of Wonder Woman™, Supergirl™, Batgirl™, and some of the world’s most iconic female super heroes as high schoolers!

Supergirl is the new girl in school—and she just also happens to be the most powerful teenager in the galaxy!

After losing her home planet of Krypton and everyone she knows, Supergirl has made a new home on Earth, but she’s isn’t so sure that Super Hero High School is the right place for her. Wonder Woman, other new friends, and a kindly librarian make her feel welcome, but breached inter-dimensional portals, invading alien armies, and bad dreams shake her confidence. It’s not easy being a super hero and a high school student all at once!

Review

The DC Superhero Girls series is a collaboration between DC and Random House that introduces young readers to some of DC’s most popular superheroines—who are all teenagers attending Super Hero High together!  (You can read Krysta’s review of the first novel, which features multiple protagonists instead of focusing on just one, here.)  Considering I am a fan of both superheroes and middle grade novels that imagine classic characters in school together (such as the Grimmtastic Girls series, featuring fairy tale characters at school), I assumed these books would be right up my alley.  I was not disappointed.

Although Wonder Woman’s novel come before Supergirl’s, I haven’t read it and did not find that to be a problem.  Though the novel references some minor details I assume were introduced previously, the book functions primarily as a standalone.  Even better, Supergirl is entering Super Hero High as a new student in the middle of term—so some of the basics of how the school functions are helpfully explained to both her and the reader.

Supergirl in this series is characterized as friendly and eager to learn, but also nervous about fitting in and incredibly clumsy.  There were some times I felt as those the author were hitting me over the head with Supergirl’s concerns and I kind of wanted to shout, “I get it!  She doesn’t believe in herself!”  Overall, however, I thought she was a realistic character, and I think many readers will be able to relate to her conflict between wanting to excel while worrying she won’t be able to.

Other superheroines round out the cast, and readers get a good sense of their personalities, as well.  The author also sneaks in a few “mean girls,” not a small feat since these characters do all seem to consider themselves heroes and not villains.  (It’s worth noting that boys also attend this school, which was not immediately apparent to me from the marketing.  They also have distinct personalities and do make reappearances, though they tend to be more minor characters than the girls.  There’s also not really any focus on romance.)

I do wish that this series came with some illustrations in the novels.  I do like that all the pages have cool comic book dot designs on the edges, and I understand that these are novels and not graphic novels.  Yet something about superhero-inspired story does seem as if it would lend itself to at least a few sketches at the beginning of chapters, particularly because the author’s descriptions of what certain heroes look like or what they are wearing are often awkward and hard to envision if you are not already familiar with the characters.  I love the cover art and would have been very pleased to see the author do a bit more work for the inside of the books.

A fun read recommended for those who enjoy superheroines or young readers who might be meeting them for the first time.

3 Stars Briana

Why the World Needs “Supergirl”

SupergirlAs I write, CBS has not yet renewed Supergirl for a second season.  News releases indicate that the ratings were a bit low, though that does not necessarily mean the show will not return.  Cancelling Supergirl, however, would be a huge disappointment because the show does work the entertainment industry desperately needs.

Feminism on the Small Screen

Supergirl is great because it obviously features a female superhero (and we’re still waiting for a female to get her own lead movie, despite the domination of superhero films at the box office).  However, the show does more than throw a female at audiences, give her powers, and call her “strong.”  It features a wide array of women (indeed, they often outnumber the  men!) meaning that it can showcase women as people rather than relying on one or two to represent their entire gender.

Furthermore, the show consistently addresses feminist issues such as women struggling to receive credit in the workplace, the struggle to balance home and work and “have it all,” the need for women to support and mentor each other, and even the question of what it means to call a woman  a “girl.”  These are ongoing conversations society is having and needs to have–and the show is making them more mainstream.

Teamwork

Supergirl’s real strength is her ability to ask for help and her reliance on her team.  While Superman works alone, Supergirl realizes that she is stronger when working with others.  The women in this show do not need to compete against each other for recognition or, worse, men.  They support each other.  They mentor each other.  They respect each other–even when they dislike each other.

Sisters

Frozen was supposedly the Disney movie about sisters, but Anna and Elsa barely interact with each other in the film.  I think a great sister movie would have shown the two of them going on an adventure, instead of Anna teaming up with a man and his reindeer.  Supergirl does what I wanted Frozen to do–puts sisters together on a team so they can save the world.

Flawed Heroines

So often the media gives us a “strong female protagonist” meaning a woman in a skin-tight suit who can punch people.  Supergirl does punch people, but she’s also allowed to be vulnerable, unsure, afraid, and even dead wrong.  But that doesn’t undermine her value or make her weak.  That just makes her a person!

Joy

Stay on the Internet long enough and you’ll find the complaints about DC’s dark world view.  Supergirl breaks this pattern by giving us a heroine who’s young, perky, and full of life.  Her real superpower is hope–which is less corny in practice than it sounds.  The show embraces its campiness, its laughter, and its bright and bubbly protagonist to give a show that makes  you feel good after you watch it.

Going Forward…

Supergirl has so much to offer going forward.  I expect it will continue to address feminist issues and I also hope that it brings on more characters of color because right now its feminism looks a little white.  As the show continues to find its voice, however, I have hope that it will continue to do good work bringing important issues to the attention of viewers, and making it more common to discuss ways to promote positive change in society.  After all, stories are more than entertainment; they are inspiration.  Supergirl inspires me, and I hope it can inspire more of us in a second season.

Krysta 64

Supergirl Review, Ep. 8 “Hostile Takeover”

SupergirlSUMMARY

Astra returns in the midseason finale to convert Supergirl to her side–or take her down.  Meanwhile, Cat Grant deals with the fallout from an email scandal.

*Supergirl returns Jan. 4, 2016.

REACTION

Though episode eight tries to balance Kara’s superhero and personal lives, the epic showdown between Supergirl and Astra takes a backseat to the more pressing drama occurring at CatCo, where Cat Grant is facing an email scandal and the possibility of having to step down from her own company.  The relationship between Cat and Kara has grown so much over the course of the season that Cat feels more like Kara’s family than Astra does.  The confrontation between Kara and her aunt felt thus felt like an afterthought–the necessary superhero component of a show that otherwise is all about workplace relationships.

And, frankly, I didn’t mind the emphasis on Cat Grant. I find her character the most compelling one in the show and I have loved watching her come to know and appreciate Kara.  Watching her overcome the forces trying to tear her down ended up feeling more higher stakes than watching Astra attack the city, simply because I still don’t know or understand Astra and her motivations.  In fact, I kind of wish Astra would just go away.  I’m fine with monster of the week–this show is really about Kara and her development, so no dramatic, overarching plot is needed to keep me in my seat.

Besides, it does seem like the show is trying to balance a little too much right now in terms of characters and plot.  I keep forgetting Maxwell Lord even exists until he pops up again to fit the demands of the plot.  And Lucy Lane?  I understand her job gives her an excuse to come and go, but it still feels like she’s only half a character.  If the pacing slowed down and Astra and the rest were saved until later, I think that the development of several of the characters would be better served.

Still, I love Supergirl and its bright, shiny passion for life.  I’m willing to overlook a few pacing problems.

Krysta 64

Supergirl Review, Ep. 7 “Human for a Day”

SupergirlSUMMARY

After fighting an android, Kara finds she has lost her powers until they can be recharged by the sun.  Then an earthquake hits National City and an alien escapes from a DEO prison.  Can’t the world go just one day without Supergirl?

REACTION

“Human for a Day” packs a lot of action while still focusing on the emotional development of its characters.  From Kara’s attempt to try to find value in herself as a “normal” person to Alex’s attempt to figure out the truth about her father, this episode delivered a lot of heartfelt and exciting moments.  I found myself tearing up over the city’s struggle to remain positive during a natural disaster.

I’ll be upfront in that I think I loved this episode so much in part because Lucy Lane is missing.  I haven’t found her character that compelling so I enjoyed being able to focus on Alex’s growth and Kara’s relationship with James.  The plot felt evenly split between the sisters, which added nicely to the idea that anyone, even those without superhuman powers, can be a hero.  (When Cat Grant’s and Supergirl’s responses to the crisis were juxtaposed, I think I cried a little.)  Alex was given what she needed to move on from her grief over her father’s death while Kara, still struggling to keep her friendship with Jimmy, was also given a shove by–surprise–Winn to keep her perspective.

I’ve shipped Kara and James from the beginning, so it was sad to see James choose Lucy instead.  However, I think Winn said something valuable when he told Kara that Lucy would return.  It’s not fair to Kara, Jimmy, or Lucy for Kara to so obviously be into James.  Even if Winn was mean about it and even though he clearly  has his own motives for sabotaging a James/Kara romance, he’s not wrong in telling Kara to try move on for everyone’s sakes.  I hope Kara can become stronger through this experience and that she can become great friends with both James and Lucy.  A Kara/Lucy team-up would be amazing.

Once again an episode delivers a lot of plot development at once, but the pacing still feels right.  I think the emphasis on the relationships balances out the big reveals and makes the show feel grounded in the every day while still addressing aliens and superheroes.  I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Kara and her team.

Krysta 64

Supergirl Review, Ep. 6 “Red Faced”

SupergirlSUMMARY

The military arrives in National City to order Supergirl to test a new robot.  When it goes rogue, however, Kara realizes she might not be able stop it–not unless she can manage her own emotions first.

 

REACTION

A robot acts as the catalyst for this plot, but the episode really focuses on anger, from Cat’s frustration with her mother’s disinterest to Kara’s feelings that she does not belong.  The show is strongest when it focuses on relationships and uses the sometimes serious-sometimes silly superhero heroics as a backdrop to Kara’s navigating life as a young woman, so this proves the perfect episode to redeem the show after “How Does She Do It?”

The episode alludes glancingly to the continued fear Kara inspires in the populace (because she could destroy them with her powers), but, as usual, this issue remains unresolved; even the major life decision of one character, that could have been motivated by an encounter with Supergirl, is described as being motivated by something else.  So viewers are left with nothing more than Cat Grant’s (really great) speech about women and work–that is, women can never be angry in public if they want to be taken seriously and to keep their jobs.  So basically Supergirl has a life-long fight to be taken seriously and one wrong move will finish her career.  It’s realistic so I’ll accept it, even if I just want everyone to love Kara as much as I do.

I do want to know why no one in this world is concerned with what the military is up to, however.  The military arrives with an indestructible robot they have no way to control and then it goes rogue, but no one questions whether the government should be creating this kind of technology.  Maybe things are different in a world where superheroes exist and citizens approve of actions like this, but I would have thought that Supergirl’s friends at least might have questioned what the government was up to a little more.

Altogether, however, this episode was really strong and it played up a lot of what makes it great, from Kara’s continued development as a young woman making in way in the world to Cat Grant’s evolution.  I’m so pleased that extra episodes were ordered!

Krysta 64

Supergirl, Ep. 4 “How Does She Do It?”

SupergirlSUMMARY

Note: CBS chose to switch the release dates of episodes four and five in light of the recent events in Paris.

Kara attempts to balance work, love, and heroics, but is it really possible to have it all?

REACTION

I have to admit that this episode fell flat for me.  The fact that the CBS skipped over it to air episode five first and the storyline barely suffered (aside from a seemingly unexplained development in the life of James Olsen) suggested to me that this episode might not be key, but I love spending time with Kara and her friends so much that even a “filler” episode would be welcome.  The emotion just didn’t translate to me, however, and I found myself relatively uninvested in what was happening.

Perhaps I didn’t care about Kara’s problems because I did know, thanks to episode five, how she would begin to deal with or resolve many of them.  However, I think the real problem for me was the focus on Olsen and Lane.  I like Olsen a lot, but I’m not interested in his previous relationship woes and I’m having difficulty relating to Lane, who doesn’t open up very much.  Plus, in a way, she seems to take Olsen for granted, even though she’s arrived in National City specifically to try to win him back.

(Though this weird sense may also be because I watched episodes five, six, and then four–so I’d already seen Lane in her military role, which made me detest her a little.  She’s involved in operations that seem beyond the scope of the law and that could endanger citizens, but she acts kind of snotty about it.  Her jealousy of Supergirl doesn’t excuse her attitude.

I want to like Lane so much, but her character right now seems all over the place.  It’s like the writers aren’t entirely sure how to make her both strong and vulnerable, confident and human.  Yet all the other ladies do this well!)

I really wanted to episode to focus on Carter, who seems like a character worth getting to know, but his story was pushed aside to focus on the romance.  If he makes a reappearance, I’ll be happy, but I think this was a missed opportunity for us to get to know him better.  He acted mostly as a token character to believe in Supergirl when others didn’t and he was the inspiration for some more feminist talk, but he as an individual character could have received more development.

I know my thoughts here  random, but it felt like the episode was, too.  I’m just glad we got the Olsen/Lane dilemma out of the way so we can focus on other things.  Like Kara being awesome.

Krysta 64

“Supergirl” Review Ep. 3 “Fight or Flight”

SupergirlSUMMARY

On Monday, October 26, 2015, CBS released the pilot episode of its new series Supergirl, which follows the adventures of Kara Zor-El, cousin of Superman, as she learns what it means to be a hero.

When Reactron shows up in National City determined to exact revenge on Superman by destroying the last of his family, Kara believes this is her opportunity to prove her worth as a hero.  But is she strong enough to take on an enemy even the Man of Steel couldn’t best?

REACTION

I’ll admit I did not feel as invested in this episode as I did in the previous ones.  The focus remains on Kara’s need to prove herself as a hero, one in her one own right and not one that is just a “lesser” version of Superman.  But somehow the continual references to Kara’s cousin often make the show seem like it really is about Superman rather than about Supergirl.

Kara makes progress a hero relatively quickly, however, (for example, we were able to bypass completely the whole debate about whether she should embrace her powers or not), so I have hope that Superman will in time fade from the show.  In the meantime, her insistence that no one contact her cousin to help her (though, really, he’s left her alone for thirteen years, so I have to wonder if he would even bother) is particularly interesting in light of last episode, when she sought to distinguish herself from Superman by asking for help when she needed it and acting as part of a team.  However, no one brings up the apparent contradiction between her inspiring words about accepting help and her subsequent refusal to do so.

I was disappointed by this as it seemed a prime opportunity to explore Kara’s character.  Why does she feel comfortable accepting silent help from her sister and her friends, but not publicly working with Superman?  Should she allow public perception of asking for aid being a weakness to influence what she does publicly?  Most likely we will never see answers to these questions; the show instead just has Kara reiterate that the public needs to know she’s “as good” as Superman and wraps up with a feel-good ending that comes too easily and too soon.

I was also disappointed by the focus on Kara’s love life.  It’s tiresome enough that we have to endure another awkward love triangle, but I hoped that, since Kara is so obviously interested in one man and not in the other, that we would move past it without the usual drama.  Instead, the show chose to throw unnecessary baggage into the mix, so I guess we can look forward to a pointless soap opera to play out behind all the superhero-ing.

Even though parts of this episode annoyed me, however, Supergirl’s continued exuberance and dedication toward helping others makes me want to continue watching.  Her joy for life is infectious and it feels incredibly fun and freeing to have a superhero who delights in life and isn’t serious all the time.  Right now the show is finding its footing.  I’m willing to keep watching to see if it really can find its way.

Krysta 64

Supergirl Review, Ep. 2 “Stronger Together”

SupergirlSUMMARY

On Monday, October 26, 2015, CBS released the pilot episode of its new series Supergirl, which follows the adventures of Kara Zor-El, cousin of Superman, as she learns what it means to be a hero.

Having newly embraced her powers as Supergirl, Kara Danvers anticipates serving National City as a hero–but it seems that every time she attempts to help, she only creates a mess.  With popular opinion turning against her, Kara begins to lose faith in herself.  But aliens from a crashed space prison are loose are on Earth and they seek domination.  Can Kara convince herself that she is worthy of her cape before it’s too late?

REACTION

Supergirl continues to impress with its fast-paced plot, its focus on characterization, and its commitment to exploring the gender issues that arise when a woman dons a costume typically associated with a man. The show expertly balances the serious issues with lighter moments to keep viewers thinking and engaged. Not for a long time have I enjoyed a show this much (and dare I suggest that this is, in part, due to its treatment of its women?).

It might have been easy for Supergirl to rely on the fame of Superman to sell itself, but though the show throws out constant references to Kara’s cousin, this episode dedicates itself to differentiating Kara definitively from Clark Kent.  From the beginning (indeed, from the title), the episode announces Kara’s commitment to teamwork–and it is that network that will ultimately define her.  Superman works alone, Kara notes, but she finds power in the people around her.  The ability to accept help, she says, is not a sign of weakness but one of strength.

Kara’s network and her gradual acceptance of her need to rely on them warmed my heart, particularly in light of her relationship with her sister Alex.  Understandably, the two have found their bond tested by recent events, and I feared constantly that the show would ultimately pit the two women against each other.  But, in a surprising move, the show recognizes the strength of sisterly love, allowing time for the plot to focus on matters more important than a forced cat fight between females.  This moment may be one of the more subtle feminist moves made by the show, but it is by no means the most insignificant.  Supergirl demonstrates that action and drama can still unfold in a show when women work together.

Notably, even the testy Cat Grant proves inspirational to the show’s hero in a moment that suggests the root of her bitterness.  Women, she announces while discussing Supergirl, have to work twice as hard as men to receive the same recognition–one understands she is also referring to the trajectory of her own career.  But she continues on from her bitter statement, offering pertinent advice to other women who want to follow her and chart their way through the world.  Start small.  Work hard.  One might have expected the show to depict the formidable Cat Grant as utterly heartless at this stage of her career, but instead it shows her as standing in solidarity with other women.  I wanted to stand up and cheer.

So far Supergirl has done right by its female superhero and by the rest of its cast.  My one complaint is that the show still relies too heavily on allusions to Superman, but I have hope that as the season progresses, Supergirl truly will be allowed to stand on her own.

Krysta 64

Supergirl Review, Ep. 1 “Pilot”

SupergirlSummary

On Monday, October 26, CBS released the pilot episode of its new superhero series Supergirl, which follows the adventures of Kara Zor-El, cousin of Kal-El (that is, Superman), as she struggles to embrace her powers.

Kara Zor-El’s  original mission called for her to follow her baby cousin to Earth and protect him, but her space pod went off course, leading her to arrive on Earth twenty-four years late and still only thirteen years of age.  With no need to protect a now-grown Superman, Kara, adopted by the Danvers family, has attempted to embrace a normal life.  At the age of twenty-four she  now works for media company CatCo, but feels disappointed that she only fetches lattes.  When her adopted sister’s plane runs into trouble, however, it’s up to Kara to save the day.  But is she ready for the world to know who she is?

Reaction

I’ve been waiting with great excitement for this new series, both because it features a female superhero and because the show seems keenly aware of its need to address feminist issues, such as the consequences of naming a woman Supergirl.  It could have been easy to hand viewers a female superhero and act as if that were enough to appease the fans still clamoring for a Black Widow or a Captain Marvel film, but, of course, the problems with the representation of women in media today goes far beyond the small percentage of female-led films and television shows.  That Supergirl is choosing to face these problems head-on gives me a lot of hope for the future of the show.

The first episode balances these serious feminist issues expertly with its lighter tone, giving a tongue-in-cheek nod to the objectifying outfits given to many female superheroes before clothing Kara in the outfit she–and not her male coworker–prefers to wear, and allowing media conglomerate founder Cat Grant to give a defense for the title of Supergirl in a tense scene that is immediately followed with an amusing interruption.  The character of Kara herself helps to maintain this lighter tone, not only because she possesses an awkward charm in her daily life, but also because she possesses such a sunny and upbeat personality.  Her love of life and her desire to live it to the fullest is inspiring.

I have seen criticisms both of Cat Grant’s defense of “Supergirl” and of Kara’s character, but I don’t think anyone needs to agree with  Cat’s attempt to reclaim the word “girl” in order to acknowledge the effort made by the makers of the show, and I don’t think it’s valid to claim that a girl who is bubbly and likes fashion somehow isn’t a serious superhero or a strong woman or a good representation of women.  Women, surprisingly enough are people–and that means they come with all kinds of interests and personalities and definitions of what being a girl means to them.  That viewers think Kara needs to represent her entire gender is exactly why we need more women onscreen.

The episode succeeds as entertainment as well as feminist commentary, expertly introducing Kara and her world, setting up the plot for the series, and providing a mini arc that showcases Kara’s desire to help others and to accept her powers.  Kara’s willingness to embrace her abilities so quickly is refreshing and one of the reasons I found myself drawn to her–the idea of a character knowing what is right and choosing to do it despite difficulties seems so unusual in a media landscape attracted to moral grey areas.  This willingness also allows the show to move forward with the action, rather than get bogged down in a somewhat ridiculous “dilemma” (There’s not really a choice here, right?  Kara has superpowers and can save lives.  Why would she think it was better to let innocent people die?).

With its fast-paced action, its nods to feminism, its bright lead superhero, and its amazing supporting cast full of women, Supergirl seems poised to become one of my new favorite shows, right up there with Agent Carter (though I’ll admit Agent Carter gets bonus points for big band music and fashion).  I’m excited to see where this show goes.

Krysta 64