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Review: Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, No. 1

Katherine Dacey

Among the comic industry’s worst-kept secrets is that most superhero fare is too adult for young readers—the very audience for which characters like Supergirl were originally created. The recent success of kid-friendly titles such as Tiny Titans, Super Friends, and Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, however, demonstrates that younger fans want more than just action figures and lunchboxes celebrating their favorite characters—they want actual stories, too. DC Kids recently gave Supergirl the same makeover that they gave Wonder Woman, Beast Boy, and Robin, transforming her from sex kitten with superpowers to perky junior high student just discovering what she can do. The new series is a joy to read, striking a good balance between action and character development and offering readers a fresh, funny introduction to one of the most enduring teen superheroes.

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, No. 1

By Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones
DC Comics, 32 pp.
$2.50
Ages 8 and up

supergirl1 Review: Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, No. 1Issue one is an old-fashioned origin story that explains how Supergirl (a.k.a. Kara) first came to Earth. In the opening panels, we see her spaceship burst through the atmosphere, ricochet off skyscrapers, and slam into a giant robot piloted by none other than Lex Luthor. Kara’s crash landing proves fortuitous, saving Superman from Luthor’s grasp and introducing her to her famous uncle. When she realizes that she can’t simply climb back into her rocket and return home, Kara bursts into tears, perking up only at Superman’s suggestion that she become his apprentice. There’s a catch, however: Kara needs to learn enough about Earth to blend in with the population, so Superman equips her with a disguise—naturally, it includes glasses—and enrolls her in the eighth grade under the pseudonym Linda Lee.

Though a little short on action, issue one delivers plenty of laughs and moments of “truthiness” (to borrow a term from Stephen Colbert) as Kara adjusts to middle school. Writer Landry Walker has a talent for snappy dialogue, supplying Kara with off-the-wall questions about cows, tubas, and other terrestrial mysteries that both tickle the reader’s funnybone and make the reader cringe in recognition—who among us doesn’t harbor bad memories of asking a “dumb” question in Spanish or Algebra? Walker’s script also does a good job of capturing the tween-age mindset, as his heroine gushes and sulks, picks fights with authority figures, and acts impetuously, all while sounding like a real eighth grader (and not an adult’s idea of what an eighth grader sounds like).

Eric Jones’ artwork, like Walker’s script, is another reason I think Cosmic Adventures will be a hit with younger readers. Jones employs a bright, cheerful palette that compliments his angular character designs; if anything, Kara resembles Judy Jetson more than the curvacious star of Jeph Loeb and Ian Churchill’s recent Supergirl series. Kara’s costume, like her physique, has also undergone a “modestification.” Though her trademark miniskirt and cape remain, her midriff and legs are now covered, giving her a more sporty, less sexy appearance that will resonate with aspiring gymnasts and soccer players alike.

Much as I enjoyed Cosmic Adventures, $2.50 seems a little steep for a 32-page booklet that’s loaded with advertising for action figures, Cartoon Network shows, and video games. My suggestion: wait for the full, six-issue run to appear in trade paperback form, then purchase it for your favorite budding feminist. She’ll appreciate the smart dialogue, snappy artwork, and sassy-yet-vulnerable heroine, and you’ll appreciate the lower price tag and more durable binding.

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Katherine Dacey About Katherine Dacey

Katherine Dacey has been reviewing comics since 2006. From 2007 to 2008, she was the Senior Manga Editor at PopCultureShock, a site covering all aspects of the entertainment industry from comics to video games. In 2009, she launched The Manga Critic, where she focuses primarily on Japanese comics and novels in translation. Katherine lives and works in the Greater Boston area, and is a musicologist by training.

Comments

  1. Mark Parsons says:

    Nice review! I have an issue salted away for my 7 year old daughter. We have to get through an issue of Tiny Titans and the new Wizard of Oz adaptation from Marvel and Eric Shawnower first!

    And while $2.50 might seem steep, this is an industry where even Marvel and DC are moving to $4 price points. Alas, alack.

  2. Katherine Dacey says:

    Thanks for the feedback, Mark! I know you’re right about the price point–I’m just used to buying TPBs and tankubons, which have always seemed like a better deal to me. Hope your daughter enjoys “Cosmic Adventures.”

  3. Desktop Gremlins says:

    Nice review. I recently spotted issue one of Supergirl and bought it on a hunch it would be great. I was right. I think I am going to go ahead and get the trade paperback instead of the single issues. Curiosity question though… you intro said something about a ROBIN makeover for a similar audience? Can you point me in the direction of a link for that? Thanks! -David, creator of http://www.desktopgremlins.com

  4. Katherine Dacey says:

    Glad the review was helpful! The TPB was released in December 2009, so you don’t have to wait if you want to read the full six-issue run of “Cosmic Adventures.” (I’d share a link to Amazon, but the SLJ spam filters will balk at the inclusion of a URL in the comment field.) As for Robin, he hasn’t gotten his own all-ages comic (at least as far as I know), but he is the undisputed ring leader of the “Tiny Titans” — that’s the project I alluded to in my intro. Any superhero fans have some intel that I don’t?

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