Usually in the world of comics, an annual is a one-off issue. Sometimes it’s a team-up between two superheroes, whether they’re very different, or fairly similar. Sometimes it’ll be a collection of smaller stories. It’ll often tie to plot elements in the main series, but it’ll be a one-off story or a couple of those in one. Today’s Supergirl annual is a direct continuation of the current story arc in Supergirl – just an extra-long entry. By no means am I complaining about that, but it’s worth mentioning in case you wanted to use this as a jumping on point.
In the last couple of issues, Supergirl just returned from Earth from the Negative Zone to be blasted by some sort of energy weapon. That energy weapon is causing Supergirl’s powers to go out of control. She’s stronger and faster than before, to the point where she’s accidentally damaging buildings all over the place, and her senses are being overwhelmed. To add to the complicated situation, a team of villains called the Fatal Five are splitting up to cause all sorts of problems for Supergirl.
Written by Steve Orlando, this issue takes a lot of time to explore what’s going on with the story. We learn that whatever is causing Supergirl’s powers to act up is spreading, and it will eventually kill her if it’s not dealt with. We learn what the Emerald Empress’s motivations are, and what she did to convince the other Fatal Five members to join her. There are a couple minor reveals here and there, and there’s rising tension throughout the comic. And all of it works really well.
Even if the Empress’s goals are twisted, and perhaps misguided, you at least know why she’s after Supergirl. It’s a harsh plan designed to take apart Supergirl’s life on every level, and at this point it seems to be working. All the story development and action is balance out with bits of drama here and there. It’s not as dramatic as some of the earlier story arcs, but it’s nice that it’s there, and it could easily be expanded on in the aftermath. If I’m being a bit vague, it’s because part of the fun of this comic is watching the Emerald Empress’s plans in action. Not that there are any huge surprises or plot twists.
The art by Steve Pugh is great. The opening fight scene between Supergirl and a giant called Grundy is intense. Grundy keeps ripping up streets and smashing up buildings, while Supergirl is flying around so fast that she’s shattering windows and flipping cars just from her wake. The explosions are highly detailed, and so are the varied buildings in the background. The detail continues throughout the comic, like all the magical energy thrown around by the sorceress member of the Fatal Five. Facial expressions do a great job at conveying emotion, like Supergirl’s distress when edited leaked footage makes her look bad to the public and the warm smile her foster parents give her when they meet up to take back the DEO base. The colouring by Michael Atiyeh is also great. The comic is bright and colourful throughout, with brilliant use of lighting when various powers are thrown around.
I was somewhat disappointed with most of the comics I picked up this week. This isn’t one of them. There’s a lot of storytelling in this Supergirl Annual, but it’s balanced out well with touches of drama, some great action scenes and an intense cliffhanger ending. The Fatal Five feel like a threatening enemy for Supergirl and her allies. Because this is in the middle of a somewhat complex story arc, it’s not the easiest jumping on point (Supergirl 12 from earlier this month would be a better jump-on point). That said, it does contain a lot of what makes this series work. It’s not a lighthearted series, but it’s not dark either. If you’re interested in checking out Superman’s Kryptonian Cousin, I would recommend this series. And if you’re a regular reader of the Supergirl series, this is an important issue to pick up.