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Invulnerable Supergirl is appealingly vulnerable in this 2018 collection

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Plain Sight collects six issues of the current Supergirl comic, with exquisite variant covers by Stanley “Artgerm” Lau.

Supergirl Vol. 4: Plain Sight. Art by Stanley “Artgerm” Lau. Copyright DC Comics.

Review – Supergirl Vol. 4: Plain Sight

I’m not going to lie. Part of the reason I’ve been picking up back issues of this current run of Supergirl is the exquisite, soft-focus cover art by Stanley “Artgerm” Lau. My initial reason for getting into the title was Kevin Maguire, who drew a few recent issues.

Supergirl Vol 4: Plain Sight collects issues 15-20 of the title, before the new creative team of Maguire and Marc Andreyko took over. (According to bleedingcool.com, issue #20 was originally going to be the last issue before it was revived by the new creative team). The writers on this run are Steve Orlando, Jody Houser and Vita Ayala; interior artists are Robson Rocha and Daniel Henriques. All have experience on other DC titles, including Midnighter (Orlando), Mother Panic (Houser), and Wonder Woman (Ayala); and Green Lanterns (Rocha) and Justice League of America (Henriques). The volume also features, at the back, Lau’s covers (originally published on variant* issues).

Most of the art left me cold. Not that it’s bad; it’s just generic, slashy, bold and over-detailed (for my tastes)—i.e., Image Comics-like. An exception is Jamal Campbell. In his issue, #19, the panels are less busy, expressions more subtle, figures more real. I was unfamiliar with the work of any of the artists on these issues; the Toronto artist is the only one represented here whose work would inspire me to pick up a comic simply because his name was on it.

Enter Mr. Bones and the DEO

That said, all of the artists prove adept at illustrating the stories. Basically, Supergirl is under investigation by Mr. Bones. As per his name, Bones is a skeleton (though he wears a suit). He used to be a supervillain but now is semi-legitimate as director of an outfit called the Department of Extra-Normal Operations. In an effort to get Supergirl to reveal herself and come under his control, he keeps brainwashing super-powered beings into going into combat with her. “It’s past time the aliens and metahumans learned who is in charge,” he says at the start of this run.

He also has the DEO investigating the high school attended by Supergirl in her civilian identity as Kara Danvers. (Not sure if he’s investigating just this high school, or all the high schools in whatever this city takes place in; also have no idea how he knows Supergirl is a high school student, or why/how/if Kara Danvers looks different than Supergirl other than her hair colour; I suspect this is explained in previous issues.)

When she’s not fighting folks like Sharon Vance and Starshame, Supergirl/Kara is attending high school, beginning a romance and having dinner with her foster parents. Typical teen girl stuff, except for, you know, that she’s also Supergirl.

I enjoyed Plain Sight (the collective name for this six-issue run) well enough. It’s a well-written if somewhat formulaic collection (three issues in a row end with the appearance of a new super-baddie) and occasionally superlative art (thanks to Campbell and Lau). Mostly though I enjoyed it for the character of Supergirl herself. For an invulnerable hero, she is an enjoyably vulnerable human.

*What the heck is a variant?

For any non-comics-readers readers out there, these are the same comic but with different cover art and (usually) less obtrusive text; instead of a big splashy title at the top, it’s found in a more demure font at the bottom to showcase the art. Speaking of which; remember the bad old days when publishers would fill comics covers with dialogue, usually atrocious, and hype boxes? Seventies Marvels were especially good for this, if I recall.

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