Girl Power—Plain Sight, Part 3 (Supergirl #17)

Deceilia brings the pain and only Supergirl can stop her before she sinks a ship filled with innocent civilians! Intrigue continues behind the scenes at the D.E.O. as Director Bones fights to capture Supergirl while others secretly move to stop him!  Maybe Kara can relax and just go to her prom? Surely nothing bad could happen there…

Supergirl 17_standard cover

Supergirl 17_variant cover

Writers:  Steve Orlando & Jody Houser
Artists:  Robson Rocha & Julio Ferreira
Inkers:  Daniel Henriques & Julio Ferreira
Colorist:  Michael Atiyeh
Letterer:  Steve Wands
Cover Artist:  Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques & Michael Atiyah
Variant Cover:  Stanley “Artgerm” Lau
Editor:  Jessica Chen
Publisher:  DC Comics

What You Need to Know:
The D.E.O.  (Department of Extranormal Operations) has brainwashed a superpowered alien named Deceilia into fighting Supergirl as part of their plan to capture her when she comes to save innocent lives.  Supergirl swoops in to stop Deceilia from destroying a cruise ship and killing all the rich and powerful people aboard.

What You’ll Find Out:
The first page is the origin of Deceilia who comes from the planet Kravison.  Apparently, her physical appearance was so unusual on her world that other people labeled her a freak.  Her parents tried to reassure and comfort her but died when they lost control of their flying car and crashed into another one.  Deceilia flies into a rage and kills the occupants of the other car, then is convicted in court, branded an outcast and banished in a rocket ship.  So, she vows to punish all “those who use their power and position to destroy the lives of those below them.”

And just as with last issue, the artwork by Rocha and Henriques is beautiful…

Supergirl 17_pages 2 and 3

Supergirl tries to reason with her and appeal to her compassion to no avail.  Deceilia rips the ship in half.  Back at D.E.O. headquarters, Mister Bones berates Mokkari because Deceilia was supposed to be under their control so she wouldn’t actually kill anyone.  Mokkari retorts that Bones refused to let him use total mind control on her.  All he could do was implant mental suggestions to try and manipulate her into working for them.  Bones orders D.E.O. agents to go after Deceilia.

Supergirl saves the cruise ship and grabs Deceilia lecturing her that the people of Earth did nothing to her.  Deceilia is enraged and shouts at her that she was ripped from her ship and tortured.  The D.E.O. agents show up and gas Deceilia, calling her by name and bark at Supergirl that they’re here to arrest them both.  Supergirl puts it together that they know who Deceilia is so they must have sent her.  She melts their guns with heat vision and announces that she now sees the bigger threat is really the D.E.O.

Back at the D.E.O.’s Scabbard tower, Doctor Shay Veritas talks with Cameron Chase.  Shay tells Cameron she’s trying to de-program the false memories the D.E.O. implanted in Strange Visitor to make her attack Supergirl.  Chase replies she’s trying to get Bones removed from the D.E.O., but Shay warns that he has one more superhuman left who has willingly agreed to hunt down Supergirl.

Now Supergirl is in her secret identity as Kara Danvers and back at National City Technical High School.  Some mean girls are talking smack about Kara when her friend Belinda shows up and hugs her, asking if she is okay.  Kara shrugs it off and then Belinda asks if she’s going to the prom.  She hesitates before answering…

Supergirl 17_page 14

Supergirl 17_page 15

These scenes of Kara, Belinda, and Agent Ocampo are quietly powerful.  The compassion and encouragement Belinda offers Kara after seeing her being bullied by other girls are meaningful.  Ocampo wants to follow orders like a good soldier, but her conscience is bothering her and she is wracked with guilt.  Add in Chase and Veritas trying to help those victimized by Bones and Mokkari while discussing how to help Kara by stopping Bones and you’ve got several powerful women empowering each other.

None of that rang false.  The camaraderie between these women feels authentic.  It’s uplifting to see such thoughtful characterization of female protagonists in Supergirl—and it’s very disappointing not to see that happening in James Robinson’s current hackneyed run on Wonder Woman.  At least one of DC’s superheroines is giving us a good storyline with women helping each other and acting with the agency instead of standing in the shadows of powerful men.

Belinda asks Ben to the prom and he says yes.  Kara overhears this and is shocked at how much she cares about Ben’s well-being.  She talks to her adoptive mother Eliza who encourages her to do what makes her happy.  Kara decides to go to the prom by herself.

As she sees Belinda and Ben begin to dance, a new super-villain bursts into the auditorium.  She’s called The Evolutionist and she disparages Kryptonians as a threat to Earth, demanding Supergirl reveal herself.

What Just Happened?

Steve Orlando and Jody Houser are proving themselves to be the perfect co-writing team for the Girl of Steel.  This book keeps getting so much better!

The female protagonists are strong, empathetic and competent.  They’re driving the story here.  What makes this a much bigger and more important deal is that Orlando & Houser’s plot here is the exact opposite of what James Robinson is writing for Wonder Woman.

If you want to read a book that gives fans solid characterization and a compelling plot with smart and powerful women who aren’t playing second fiddle to male characters?  Skip Wonder Woman and read Supergirl.

It helps that Orlando & Houser have significantly improved the dialogue in the high school scenes.  There’s no excessive melodrama.  The writers wisely understate moments like the mean girl’s scene and play up the caring friendship between Kara and Belinda.  It isn’t a cartoonish catfight; it’s just 2 young women trying to help each other survive high school and become successful in their lives.  Ben isn’t a prop or a prize to be won; he’s simply someone both the girls care about who also happens to be an eloquent and interesting male lead.

The villains in this book are greatly improved, too.  From Deceilia to Agent Jagger of the D.E.O. to Mister Bones and Mokkari and now the Evolutionist, Orlando & Houser are giving us formidable antagonists with engaging back-stories and real shades of gray in their motivations.  They aren’t cardboard cut-outs.

It should be noted that visually Supergirl is knocking it out of the ballpark!  The art team on this book from Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques and Julio Ferreira to the cover art by both Rocha and superstar Stanley Artgerm Lau have lifted this series to all-new heights.  This is a beautiful comic book with strong visuals both inside and out.

Rating:  7.6 / 10

Final Thought: 

Steve Orlando and Jody Houser have revitalized Supergirl.  Their writing improves with every issue.  The dialogue reads smoother.  The plot is filled with curious turns as Veritas, Chase, and Ocampo begin to figure out how to stand up to Bones.  Kara’s struggles to do her job as Supergirl while wrestling with fitting in at school and working at Catco are engrossing.  The splendid artwork on the covers and in the pages make Supergirl easily one of DC’s top titles.

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