Thursday, April 05, 2007

Kara's Dad, and His Daughter the 'Oklahama' Prop (Supergirl 16)

Characters: Major Heroes: Zor-El
Minor Heroes: Supergirl

Major Villains: Jor-El, Phantoms

(Supergirl having that "not so fresh" feeling)


After an unexplained Power Boy Red-splosion, Kara is transported into the previously unknown Exposition/Flashback Universe ("E/FU"), where apparently nothing exists except for Zor-El, but numerous overlapping plot points are revealed in a manner that has minimal credibility, except that I think we are supposed to believe it on the basis of internal plot construction.

In the E/FU, we see Jor-El (the Marlon Brando version from Superman I) explaining how great the "Phantom Zone" is, and lots of bad guys get trapped there. Concurrently, urban blight starts appearing, spurred by apparitions that only Zor-El can see. Zor-El soon gleans that these apparitions are "phantoms" who are travelling to our world through the Phantom Zone projector, and begins a crusade to shut down the Zone and fight the phantoms.

Over the next few months or years, Kara is drawn into her father's world -- both a victim of his experiments to create a defense for the phantoms, and as a weapon to destroy individuals who have been taken over by the phantoms -- including her schoolmates and eventually her mother. Meanwhile, the phantoms recognize the Zor-Els as related to the Jor-Els, and attack on familial grounds.

Understandably disturbed by the matricide, Kara has some mental breaks, and we learn that the whole Zor-El clan is to be banished to the Phantom Zone just as the time that Krypton starts to break apart.

Jor-El is planning to send his son (Superman) to Earth, but Zor-El believes that the phantoms will follow him there. Unable to convince anyone else that the phantoms are real, Zor-El will send Kara after Kal-El to Earth to protect the new world from falling prey to the same plight as the old one.

("Poor Zor-El is Dayd . . .")


Issue number one here is: Do we have a credible narrator? Our story so far seems to point to "No." First of all, Zor-El is dead, so how do we know our narrator is, in fact, the body in question? Second, all we know about Zor-El in the story so far is that he was this evil, evil man who hooked up his daughter to a death spike machine, ordered her to kill Superman, was considered evil on Krypton, encouraged her to kill school children, etc. Third, there was the whole evil-Kara black-Kryptonite thing. Fourth of all, even if we have the real Zor-El telling the real story from his perspective, how do we know that he was right in the first place? The phantoms could have all been his hallucinations, and Jor-El and the others could have been right.

And yet, the way the evil flashback scenes are woven in to this narrative of "Zor-El as misunderstood hero" makes me think we are supposed to believe it. It just seems to complicated to come up with two completely distinct narratives in which the flashback scenes flow. It also allows the plot to project forward with Kara the possible savior of Earth. So, let's assume that we're getting a "real" story here.

Issue Number Two is: Assuming a real story, how long are we going to have to wait to figure out what the heck else is going on with Kara. I mean, if we can't even figure out why there's "Supergirl" Kara and Candor Kara and League of Superheroes Kara in the E/FU, what hope to we have of ever finding it out?

Which brings us to:

Issue Number Three: Here's the big one. Let's assume that this is a perfectly fine plot-line. I've got no issues with fighting phantoms from the Phantom Zone, or casting doubts on the brilliance of Super-Dad, or anything else. When the heck is Supergirl going to start being about -- you know -- Supergirl? It looks like at least one more issue will take place in the E/FU, sending yet another "FU" to fans who want to read about the actual character in her books, instead of her dad.

You know, I was trying to remember who it was that Kara was reminding me of, and it finally hit me. It wasn't a "who" -- it was a "what." No surprise there, I guess. Have you seen the musical "Oklahoma"? Remember the bad guy, Jud Frye? He's in the market for pornographic pictures one day, and the traveling salesman offers him a novelty item. It's a little view-finder thing where you look in a little hole, and see a pornographic picture on the far side. Hours of entertainment for the lonely farmhand, right? Except this particular model has a button on top that if you press it a knife shoot out into your eye. Jud buys the items with the intent of using it on his romantic rival, Curley.

Well, that's Kara for you. A pretty picture with hidden blades in her. A means rather than her own ends. Even if we believe the "good Zor-El" version of events, he still used his daughter as a weapon and loaded her with pointy crystals, which can't be good for your overall well being.

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