Written by: Mariko Tamaki
Art by: Joelle Jones
Publisher: DC Comics
Supergirl: Being Super is an example of how teenage drama is done right. No surprises seeing as it comes from Mariko Tamaki of the fantastic This One Summer fame. The book manages to be very sweet and relatable, while have a very distinct personality from anything DC are publishing at the minute.
The book is completely divorced from any of DC’s previous continuity, giving Tamaki free reign to do whatever she wants with the character. There’s no Superman, Kara has been on Earth since she was a baby and we’re not even in Smallville, but instead Midvale. With so many changes it may even bear asking why even bother making this a Supergirl comic, but I actually think it’s a great way to remove the character from the Superman shadow she always finds herself under.
I found myself drawn to this version of the character like no other version, mostly because of the absence of decades of mythos and continuity to weigh her down. The plot lets us spend a lot of time getting to know Kara and her friends and family, as well as some of the anxiety she feels over her powers. It’s a very slow paced slice of life type book, definitely one of Tamaki’s strengths, giving the book a plot that’s easy to get immersed in and which I found myself enjoying very easily.
The biggest strength is how well the book manages to portray teenage life without ever feeling out of touch of insufferably obnoxious. Tamaki manages to tap into a strong feeling of being the unimpressive one within a group of friends. Kara’s friends have very defined personalities, they know who they are and present themselves well, with Kara feeling like the outsider, not only due to her alien status, but due to standard teenage feelings of not knowing who you are yet. Tamaki manages to make well tread ground feel real in a way not many others can, she perfectly nails the voice of the awkward teenage face in a way that actually feels like genuine teenage problems, rather than what a 30 year old thinks teenagers talk like.
It’s a very blunt and realistic view of teenage life, stripped from the romantic quality often given to the time of adolescence. It helps that penciler Joelle Jones breaths so much life into the characters through their designs. Each character feels realistic and an accurate portrayal of teenage styles and trends. Her art style is very naturally suited to the down to earth story Tamaki is telling – there are so many subtle things you can learn from character body language that tell the story very effectively in the visual medium. Given how much of a visual storyteller Tamaki is I’m thrilled to see her paired with an artist able to breath so much detail and life into her script.
A few flaws hindered this for me though. For one, there were occasional moments where the pacing or structure of a joke had me a bit confused. It’s not a huge problem, but occasionally I’d feel like I skipped a panel or something which would briefly pause my reading experience. The ending too comes a little bit out of nowhere and a strange place to leave the book on. I’d definitely want to see what happens next, but a bit more context as to what’s happening wouldn’t hurt.
The other problem I hate was a super weird gross out scene in the middle of the book which felt pretty out of place and a little vomit inducing. The scene involved Kara bursting a large zit to the point where she gets puss all over her bathroom. It’s so bizarre in context of the rest of the book, I think the point was maybe about being a teenager and witnessing strange changes in your body, but it just felt so strange and grossly detailed, especially when it bears no weight on the rest of the book’s plot. Definitely uncomfortable, but these are minor blips.
Overall though, Supergirl: Being Super is a very promising debut. It’s got a great voice and some fantastic talent behind it, as well as the potential to tell a really great Supergirl story from scratch. I’d definitely recommend it, especially to people who the character has never really clicked with. It’s a very different book from DC and one that I’m excited to see more from.