REVIEW: Supergirl #20 (Girl of Tomorrow)

In the final issue of the series, Cameron Chase and Lar-On break into DEO headquarters to save the captured Dr. Shay Veritas, Supergirl must fight Apokoliptian villain Mokkari and the mystical Viking Judge – all while trying to protect Dr. Bones!

 

Writers: Steve Orlando & Jody Houser
Pencils: Robson Rocha
Inks: Daniel Henriques
Colors: Michael Atiyeh
Letters: Steve Wands
Cover: Rocha, Henriques, and Atiyeh
Variant Cover: Stanley “Artgerm” Lau
Editor: Jessica Chen

What You Need To Know: 
Director Bones has kicked Cameron Chase out of the DEO and has been leading a manhunt for Supergirl, trying to discredit her and get her to work for him. Cameron Chase has been actively working against Bones, trying to prove that Mokkari, his current right-hand man, has his own nefarious plans, and is trying to stop his hunt for Supergirl while trying to save Dr. Veritas. Supergirl has reached out to her classmate and love interest Ben Rubel for help against the DEO, though he’s as yet unaware that Supergirl and Kara Danvers are one and the same.

What You Will Find Out: 
Director Bones and Mokkari are travelling through National City in broad daylight, using image inducers to mask their military transport as an ordinary car. They’re on their way to the Blade, National City’s local DEO headquarters, when their transport is suddenly smashed and sliced open by a mysterious someone bearing a golden axe that’s emitting mystical green energy.

Meanwhile, at Ben Reubel’s apartment, Supergirl fills Ben in on what she, Cameron Chase, and Lar-On have been working on – namely collecting evidence on the DEO’s illegal activities, which includes the selling of their own advanced technology on the black market. Meanwhile Insight, another ally, had allowed himself to get captured so that the nanotech in his blood could data-trawl the DEO for their secrets. While Chase and Lar-On work on freeing Insight and Dr. Shay Veritas, and while Supergirl herself goes to confront Bones and Mokkari, she wants Ben to take the data that they have uncovered and unveil it all to the public through CatCo’s networks. No pressure, Ben quips, though this is clearly the sort of work he’s wanted to do at CatCo all along.

While Kara fills Ben in on their plan, inside the Blade, Dr. Veritas struggles against a brainwashing apparatus that threatens to burn memories of pain into her mind while wiping away her other memories – including those of Cameron Chase. Outside, Chase and Lar-On let Supergirl know that they are in a position to break in and save Dr. Veritas and Insight.

It turns out that Bones and Mokkari are being attacked by someone who announces herself to be the reborn version of Turid Goldenaxe, also known as the Viking Judge. (It will shortly be revealed that her real name is Agnes.) The Viking Judge’s word was law for many centuries, and she’s gunning to have it be law again, first by taking down Mokkari and Bones before setting her sights elsewhere. Bones tries to get Mokkari to run with him and save himself, but Mokkari is from Apokolips and therefore not to be trusted. He tries to backstab Bones, because of course he does, but Supergirl swoops in to save the day. She had heard was going on from Ben Rubel’s apartment – and had smelled Bones’ sweat cyanide, which isn’t disgusting at all – and had sped off to rescue, because saving lives is more important than letting the guy who’s been trying to bring you down for months die.

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Supergirl quickly realizes that she’s up against magic, one of her few true weaknesses, when Viking Judge’s axe, named Bright Marshall, cuts her hand open. She distracts the Viking Judge by causing the woman to lose her footing, and what follows is a battle between Supergirl and the Viking Judge for Mokkari. They both want to capture him, but by their own methods.

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Meanwhile, having been given the signal by Supergirl, Chase and Lar-On break into the Blade. Chase tells Insight to start broadcasting the data he has gathered while Lar-On frees Strange Visitor, who was also being kept down there by Bones and Mokkari. Chase saves Veritas and after sharing a victorious kiss, the two start working to get the DEO under Chase’s control again.

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While they working on righting Bones’ many wrongs, Bones tries to convince the Viking Judge that they are on the same side, so that she won’t harm him. Supergirl slams into Viking Judge, taking her away from Bones, telling her that she won’t let her harm Bones. The Viking Judge is surprised when she can’t see Supergirl’s reflection in the axe, because the axe’s face is meant to reveal the crimes of everyone – it’s never not shown a reflection before. Supergirl asks for the last time that Viking Judge looked into the axe, considering her own wrongdoing at the moment.

In the meantime, Ben Rubel manages to type out the story from the data he’s been given by Insight before rushing out to help Supergirl in any way he can.

Mokkari tries to escape the scene of the battle, but Bones tackles him down. Viking Judge tells Supergirl that she’s not going to stand in her way, whether or not Supergirl bears any guilt, and once again, another person tells Supergirl that she’s not from Earth, so this isn’t her world to do anything on. Of course, those are never words that are going to dissuade Supergirl from fighting for her adopted planet, and so she continues the fight with Viking Judge, stopping her axe from hitting Mokkari and Bones. As they enter a philosophical debate, punctuated by punches and the self-righteous swings of an axe, they’re interrupted by Ben’s story hitting media everywhere. Still, everyone having knowledge of Bones’ guilt isn’t enough for Viking Judge, and she’s going to kill him any which way she can…

…at least until she’s interrupted by someone named Neon, an associate of hers. Though a brief appearance, Neon is able to dissuade Viking Judge from her action and gets her to leave Supergirl, Bones, and the others behind as they continue their own quest to find someone named Quench.

While Mokkari escapes to Tartarus, Supergirl stops Bones from escaping, telling him that it’s over. Bones reaches for Supergirl, thinking he can use his cyanide touch to go through her, though much to his shock, she takes his hand and he realizes that she was far stronger than he gave her credit for. He realizes he needs more time to bring her down, but Supergirl reiterates the fact that whatever he was up to is over. Sure enough, right behind him are Lar-On, Strange Visitor, Dr. Veritas, Insight, and Chase, who is bearing handcuffs for Bones.

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Later that night, Ben comes to Kara’s home for dinner and meets the parents, and while Eliza and Jeremiah give Ben the acceptance that he’s always craved from his parents, he realizes that he’s late to help Supergirl with something, still not having learned that Kara and Supergirl are the same person.

That something is Supergirl, on a live feed through CatCo, addressing National City in a final speech where she reiterates her mission statement – that she’s going to work hard to earn their trust and be there for them when they need her, without expecting anything from them. Still, she carries the hope that they will one day believe in her the way she believes in them.

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What Just Happened?: 
One of the strengths of this Supergirl run has always been the fact that Steve Orlando (as well as the writers he teamed up with over various issues, Jody Houser and Vita Ayala) always knew who Supergirl was – warm, powerful, compassionate, considerate, with a strong moral code and the will to do whatever it takes to protect her home planet. All of that continues in this issue, and some of the best stuff is the philosophical debate between Supergirl and Viking Judge about how they view the world and criminals. Supergirl holds on strong to the belief that people can change and get better, while Viking Judge believes that it’s far simpler than that, and that criminals and villains can never reform. It’s a good argument worth visiting, but the fact is that due to the nature of comics, very few villains can ever actually rehabilitate into better people. There are handfuls of examples sure, but there are just as many examples where the next writer comes in and snaps the character development away, turning the character into a villain again. While Supergirl’s argument is definitely the more philosophically and morally superior one as far as these things go, it is unfortunately Viking Judge’s argument that rings truer in the world of comics. Characters like Mokkari and Bones are not likely to become better people or rehabilitate. The fact that Supergirl believes it and holds onto it so strongly says so much about her as a character, and you really do find yourself rooting for her to be right.

Cameron Chase has, since her inception, been a fascinating character in the DCU, and that has continued on in this run. Orlando really had a knack for writing her, and I hope that she somehow manages to be a presence in any of his other books. Given the nature of the DEO, it’s not impossible to believe that she could pop up again, and under his pen, that would definitely be a welcome thing.

Robson Rocha as always does a great job on art. Clean, steady, easy to follow and understand, it’s right in that DC Comics house art style that works so well. His Viking Judge especially comes off as tough and full of vigor and strength.

Having said that, though, while this is a good issue of Supergirl – and it truly is a good issue of Supergirl – it’s not a good final issue of Supergirl. Beyond the lip service of the last two pages, the issue doesn’t get a chance to focus on her family or her friendship with Belinda Zee or do much with her romance with Ben Rubel. Cat Grant doesn’t even make a single appearance, which is a pity because Steve Orlando is so good at writing her. The book seems to serve, if anything, as a backdoor pilot for Orlando’s next series, The Unexpected, which stars Viking Judge and Neon. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because writers who write more than one series to tend to have their books crossover, such as  Gail Simone when she was writing both Birds of Prey and Secret Six. If anything, this issue feels in some way rushed, as though the rug was kind of pulled out from under Orlando’s feet, and he had to end the book right away because of the seismic shift that the Superman books are about to undergo, what with Brian Michael Bendis coming aboard the franchise.

The fact of the matter is that this has been one of the better takes on Supergirl in recent years, and it’s a pity to see this book end so soon. Because new writers like to come in and change up the status quo, it’s difficult to see where Supergirl’s journey will take her next, but it’d be great if they allow her to hold on to her setting, her current supporting cast, and above all, the humanity, grace, and compassion that she’s displayed over this twenty issue run.

Rating: 6/10

Final Thoughts: While a solid issue of Supergirl, this installment falters greatly as the final issue of a series which, up until this point, had been a gem.


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